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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • “Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on December 4th, 2010

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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    Hi Blog.  Speaking again today in a few hours, so let me post this one again for comment.  I’m not one to take CNNGo all that seriously as a source, but try this article on for size.  Arudou Debito


    Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?
    Government statistics suggest multiculturalism is on the rise, but social organizations for mixed-race Japanese say ‘hafus’ still face challenges
    By Tracy Slater 1 December, 2010, courtesy PKU

    Japan, which closed its borders from 1639 to 1854 and later colonized its neighbors, has an uneasy history with foreigners, national identity, and multiculturalism.

    Yet government statistics and grassroots organizations say multiculturalism in the famously insular country is now on the rise.

    Japan: The new melting pot?

    Japan’s national government recently announced it is turning to travelers in a foreigner-friendly mission to boost diversity — at least in tourist spots — by paying them to provide feedback on how to increase accessibility for non-Japanese speakers.

    David Askew, associate professor of law at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University, identifies more profound changes.

    In 1965, a mere 1 in 250 of all marriages in Japan were international, he notes. By 2004, the number had climbed to 1 in 15 across the nation and 1 in 10 in Tokyo.

    According to Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government, by 2005, foreign residents in the city numbered 248,363, up from 159,073 in 1990.

    According to Askew, the upswing in diverse residents and mixed marriages has led to another phenomenon: between 1987 and 2004, more than 500,000 children were born in Japan with at least one foreign parent.

    Celebrating diversity

    A handful of new organizations are tied, at least in part, to the increase in multicultural marriages.

    Groups such as Mixed Roots Japan and Hapa Japan, founded by children of mixed-Japanese couples, aim to celebrate the broadening scope of Japanese identity, both nationally and globally.

    “There is a real need now to recognize that Japan is getting more multiracial,” says Mixed Roots founder Edward Sumoto, a self-described “hafu” of Japanese/Venezuelan ethnicity. “The Japanese citizen is not simply a traditional Japanese person with Japanese nationality anymore.”

    The issue of the identity of hafu is also being explored in a new film titled “Hafu,” currently under production by the Hafu Project.

    In support of multiracial families, Mixed Roots holds Halloween and Christmas parties, picnics and beach days.

    The organization also sponsors a monthly radio show on station FMYY, and “Shakeforward” concerts in Tokyo and Kansai, accompanied by youth workshops and symposia.

    “These events feature mixed-roots artists who promote social dialogue with their songs,” says Sumoto.

    The next “Shakeforward” concert will be held on November 27 in Kobe.

    One of Sumoto’s primary goals is to “enable mixed-race kids to meet and talk, so they know there are other people like them.”

    Despite the statistics, achieving widespread recognition for Japanese diversity has been a struggle for Sumoto and other grassroots organizers.

    “Mentally, do the Japanese think the country is becoming more multicultural?” asks Sumoto. “Possibly more than 20 years ago, because you see more foreigners, but people are still not sure what to do with it.”

    Multiculturalism on the margins

    Like Sumoto, Erin Aeran Chung, assistant professor of East Asian politics at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, sees the issue of Japanese multiculturalism as multifaceted.

    Chung has written extensively on Japan, ethnicity and citizenship, especially as relates to Zainichi Koreans, descendents of pre-war immigrants, many of whom were brought to Japan as slave labor.

    Zainichi literally means “staying in Japan temporarily.”

    “The concepts of ‘multicultural coexistence’ (tabunka kyōsei) and ‘living in harmony with foreigners’ (gaikokujin to no kyōsei)” — catchwords for multiculturalism used by local government officials and NGOs — “are based on the idea that Japanese nationals, assumed to be culturally homogenous, can live together peacefully with foreign nationals, assumed to be culturally different from the Japanese,” Chung said in a series of interviews.

    “Rather than expand the definition of Japanese national identity to include those who are not Japanese by blood or nationality,” Chung argues, “the concept of kyōsei suggests that Japanese nationals must rise to the challenge of living with diversity,” instead of as part of a group of diverse citizens belonging to a truly multicultural nation.

    A recent move by the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) suggests not even citizenship guarantees acceptance as “truly” Japanese.

    At a meeting last February, the JSA administrative board mandated limiting foreign-born wrestlers to one per stable. The upshot: even if a competitor born abroad becomes a Japanese citizen, he’s still considered the stable’s token foreigner.

    The myth of mono-ethnicity

    Underneath the debate over Japan’s willingness to embrace multiculturalism lies the question of how mono-ethnic the nation ever really was.

    According to Ritsumeikan’s David Askew, “The idea of Japan as mono-ethnic is actually a postwar belief.”

    The Ainu and Ryukyuan ethnic groups, engulfed by Japan during its prewar colonial movement, are examples.

    As for Taiwan and Korea, they “were part of Japan until 1945, so you could hardly talk about a homogeneous population before then.”

    “The conversation about multiculturalism today is one that focuses on accepting ‘foreign’ cultures, ignoring the broad range of cultural practices within Japan itself,” says Askew.

    “Unless the Okinawas and Osakas of Japan are accepted as different cultures, the discourse will continue to promote the idea of a homogeneous Japan,” says Askew.


    58 Responses to “ “Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?””

    1. Eido Inoue Says:

      In 1965, a mere 1 in 250 of all marriages in Japan were international, he notes. By 2004, the number had climbed to 1 in 15 across the nation and 1 in 10 in Tokyo.

      While I don’t disagree with the point that internationsl marriage is on the rise, those numbers seem awful high. The numbers I usually see bandied about is somewhere between 1 in 25 to 1 in 20 optimistically. What’s this Guy’s source?

    2. Misti Says:

      I would be glad to tell the government what I think about how accessible Japan is to foreigners! Where do I sign up?

    3. Eido Inoue Says:

      >Zainichi literally means “staying in Japan temporarily.”

      I sure would like to know what dictionary he’s using, because that’s not what my ja2ja kokugo dictionary says. Nor do I think it has this nuance on the street, according to my very unscientific straw poll.

      To the CNNgo Tokyo editor: you remember when you told your predecessor, when asked about your Japanese ability, that you didn’t really have a need for it in Tokyo?

      Turns out you need it.

    4. James Says:

      An increase in the number of NON JAPANESE living, marrying and interbreeding in Japan does not equate to “A Melting Pot” or “multiculturalism”.

      Whilst Japanese society in general, the law and the common mindset allows for rampant discrimination, demonization and flagrant disregard for international treaties/agreements and the rights of NON JAPANESE, the increase in numbers of said NON JAPANESE and the HALF (half what btw?) offspring they produce results in nothing more than an increase in targets for the corrupt prejudicial police force, scapegoating by the media and the continuation of the “soto uchi” mindset that is still so prevalent.

      It’s going to take a lot more than a few more boat loads of NON JAPANESE landing on these shores to undo 200 years of secluded anti NON JAPANESE societal development.

      Japan will never be a melting pot.

    5. J.J. Says:

      While this is a great article, I do think the literal translation for Zanichi is open to other interpretations:
      在 is like “to reside” in a sense, so it does not mean “temporary.” I want to stress that this does not make the word anymore insulting to people of Korean descent in Japan: Zainichikankokujin 在日韓国人 means “Koreans who reside in Japan.” This is still a misnomer, though.

    6. newbiefront Says:

      Well I hope that the “halfu” community in Japan will succeed in finding acceptance. Ive worked with several, and to be honest, there was some tension sometimes. I think they felt that they were looked at differently by the other Japanese if they had to speak English. The ddint want to be seen as foreign, so they hesitated to speak English. Probably had been teased about it growing up. They also seemed to have identity problems, arrising from their upbringing here in Japan. One individual told me that he couldnt find a job or get a house back in the 80s. He seemed to have a complex around the other Japanese. The halfus that were brought up in an international enviroment seemed to do much better, from my observation anyway. I really hope things change for them.

    7. Futureal Says:

      The true test of internationalization is finally being able to disassociate yourself from national identity altogether. This also seems to me to be the one thing Japanese young people are dissuaded from doing, though they may be encouraged to do a lot of surface-level “international” things. They might, for example, be encouraged to learn English, but implicitly have it understood that they are doing so in order to be able to explain Japan to outsiders. That is, they can venture out and interact with the world, but only while wearing the hazmat suit of national identity.

      It’s also nice to see a mainstream media source openly declaring the fact that ethnicity can only be THOUGHT more or less homogeneous; it never actually is so.

    8. Mumei Says:

      > Zainichi literally means “staying in Japan temporarily.”

      That is a rather odd and inaccurate definition. It just means for foreigners to live or reside in Japan; there is no semantic notion of duration in the word. I wonder if he is confusing this with zairyū (在留), which specifically does mean temporarily or for a fixed amount of time. (Off topic, but that is why I think the new replacement cards should be named 在住 cards instead.)

    9. Chris B Says:

      Those marriage figures do look a bit high.

      People need to remember that Japan has been a melting pot for most of its history, just as the UK has been. Genetic evidence, as well as archaeological and linguistic evidence show that Japan is an island that has been colonised by waves of immigrants from Siberia, China and Korea and South East Asia. The whole homogenous race thing is a modern myth.

      — Links to sources please.

    10. ThirdObserver Says:

      A good article on the origins of Japanese people is the article “Dual origins of the Japanese: common ground for hunter-gatherer and farmer Y chromosomes” from the Journal of Human Genetics (2006) 51:47–58 ( ). The overall finding is summarized in the last paragraph which states:

      “[O]ur data suggest that Paleolithic male lineages entered Japan at least (12,000–20,000 years
      ago from central Asia, and were isolated for thousands of years once land bridges between Japan and continental Asia disappeared at the end of the last glacial maximum (~12,000 years ago). More recently, Y chromosomes that originated in Southeast Asia expanded to Korea and Japan with the spread of wet rice agriculture.”

    11. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      Of course, we will know that Japan is truly internationalised when we see “haafu” disappear from mainstream usage. Half what? Not-half what? One parent was a man, the other was a woman. Is the offspring “haafu”?
      A label we will all be better off without.

    12. Oliver Says:

      Data for marriages in Japan is here (2009, from Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare):

      So the total number of marriages was 707 734, and of these:
      673 341 (95.1%) marriages, both partners were Japanese
      34 393 (4.9%) marriages, one partner was foreign.

      Looking at the latter category, in 26 747 cases the husband was Japanese and the wife foreign, and in 7 646 cases, it was Japanese wife and foreign husband.

    13. Eido Inoue Says:

      @Mumei: if you are a special permanent resident, they won’t be called or labeled 在留カード {zairyū kādo}; they will be called and labeled 特別永住者証明書 {tokubetsu eijūsha shōmeisho} (Special Permanent Resident Identification Card). From a size and an internal IC chip specifications point of view and other points of view, they are exactly the same as the new IDs taht replace the ARCs.

      Don’t ask me why non-special “regular” permanent residents don’t also get different labeling; I don’t know. (FWIW, both regular & special permanent residents do get “special” treatment with the current 外国人登録証明書 {gaikokujin tōroku shōmeisho} (ARC) in that they don’t need employer information on it)

      Special permanent residents will continue to be handled differently from all other NJs in that their card has less info on it than everybody else. OTOH, non-PR NJs will get a little more privacy that until now only PRs (e.g. no need for employer info) have enjoyed in that the new IDs have less information on them than the current ARCs. And also for PRs, the amount of info on the new cards will be less than their current ARCs.

    14. Iago Says:

      Quote: I want to stress that this does not make the word anymore insulting to people of Korean descent in Japan: Zainichikankokujin 在日韓国人 means “Koreans who reside in Japan.” This is still a misnomer, though.

      Possibly splitting hairs, but if they do hold Korean citizenship and are residing in Japan, albeit permanently, I don’t see why this would be a misnomer. Not sure I see why it would be insulting either, though obviously I am not they.

    15. adam Says:

      Even with marriage numbers of 5% – 1 in 20 – we’re talking about a significant effect. There are some questions this raises in my mind… How many of these couples stay in Japan (as opposed to going to live overseas)? If they end up living overseas, or move a lot, it’s not quite the same thing as putting down roots in Japan and having those people from overseas become part of the community. What about the children of these couples – are they educated in Japanese schools? If they are, and assuming an equal fertility rate of these couples, then kids today would be growing up with an average of one of these kids in their classes… That’s actually a bit off if mixed marriages are more common in Tokyo, but in any case, it means this generation will be more accustomed to multiculturalism whether or not the older generations ever “get it”.

      On the Zainichi issue, I have mixed feeling because I kinda feel like some portion are a lot like the Japanese in reverse. The use of special Korean schools, the avoidance of citizenship – there is a point where you go from holding on to your identity to actively rejecting the place you live in. If you don’t even speak Korean, have always lived in Japan, and expect to always live in Japan, why DON’T you take citizenship? I know it’s not a simple issue, but still.

    16. Joe Says:

      Don’t see the problem with “haafu”. My kids are half-Japanese, half-English. They’re happy with that, so are myself and my wife. What’s there to be unhappy about?

      — Er, methinks we’ve had this discussion before. If you’re not convinced by the arguments against “haafu” and wish to make a case as to why not by addressing those arguments, please do so. Avoid these kinds of open-ended questions, please.

    17. cstaylor Says:

      Look at the numbers: mostly chounan living with their parents in the countryside with few Japanese marriage prospects, so they’re marrying mail-order Chinese, Phillipines, and Vietnamese girls. Same thing is happening in Korea right now.

    18. Joe Says:

      Okay. I’m not convinced by arguments against the word “haafu” because they seem to be based entirely on the premise that there is something belittling about the word. This is a result of people thinking illogically, both linguistically and scientifically. Linguistically there is the idea that “half” implies “less than whole”, which of course it does if we talk about half an apple or a half-finished piece of work. But “haafu” is merely an abbreviation for “half Japanese and half something else” equalling exactly one whole human being. It does not imply less of a Japanese citizen than somebody who’s DNA happens to be entirely from Japanese parents, how could it? Because in that case Debito would be what? A “zero”, perhaps, despite the fact that he’s one hundred per cent a Japanese citizen?
      And scientifically, every child gets half of its DNA from its mother and half from its father, so everybody is technically a “haafu”. This isn’t noticeable when both parents are from the same racial group, but when they’re not, it becomes so, justifying absolutely the use of the word. The idea that my kids are “double”, as some folks would have it, is ridiculous both linguistically and biologically.
      A final point: I understand completely that some people don’t like the “haafu” epithet, for whatever reasons, and in deference to their feelings I would never use it to them or about them, but I find it interesting that I’ve never, ever heard anyone object to it after twenty years in Japan, despite knowing dozens of couples who’ve produced “haafu” kids.

      — I object. Always have. So it’s no longer never, ever.

      Too tired today right now to argue, so others, feel free. Thanks for elaborating your arguments, Joe.

    19. Doug Says:


      I also know dozens of couples of mixed marriage (Japanese and other) and I have heard at least half (no pun intended) tell me they strongly object to the term haffu

      The term sucks and is totally unnecessary to describe another person! period! There are plenty of other descriptors


    20. Allen Says:

      Well, I am obviously not a father yet, so my comment may not hold any water, but to me, I feel that if I were to have a mixed race child, I would let the child be proud of both sides of the family, but at the same time have him or her understand that he or she does not need to identify as “half this” or “half that”, but instead focus on the him or herself as a WHOLE. You are you. Let yourself be known through personal idenity instead of your ethnic identity. A country does not need to point out the racial differences since we are human after all.

    21. OG Steve Says:

      In my opinion, the word ‘Haafu’ DOES imply less than whole, in terms of human status.

      Shall we start describing Obama as ‘a mix’, ‘a mongrel’, ‘a half-white’, or ‘a half-American’?

      It sure would be great if most Japanese people actually thought to themselves, “Haafu means half-Japanese and half-Non-Japanese, and Non-Japanese are equal in both rights, and status, compared to Japanese, so Haafu has no belittling connotations.”

      The unfortunate truth (in my opinion of course, there are no official studies to prove my radical opinion) is most Japanese people unconsciously think to themselves, “Haafu means half-Japanese and half-Non-Japanese, and Non-Japanese are NOT equal in rights, nor in status, compared to Japanese, so Haafu HAS absolutely belittling connotations.”

      We should stop calling the nice boy playing in preschool, “A nice black boy.” He is a nice boy. Period.

      We should stop calling the nice boy playing in preschool, “A nice ‘half-white’ boy.” He is a nice boy. Period.

      And we should stop calling the nice girl playing in preschool, “A nice ‘half-Japanese’ girl.” She is a nice girl. Period.

      But realistically, if we humans really feel the need to continue categorizing people with labels based on their race when discussing them, then how about stopping the use of the term ‘half’ and stopping the use of the term ‘double’ and starting the use of a positive, factual, term: ‘hybrid’. :-)

    22. TJJ Says:


      Joe, you may think that you’re making revelations here with what you are saying, but you’re not. We’ve heard all the arguments and they are weak.

      “Haafu” is just another way to marginalize a minority based on appearance. But the truth is that the people using the term don’t know, by sight alone, what percentage of a person’s hereditary is from where. That is the truth. The problem with all of these words, even with “gaijin”, is that they are imprecise, inconsistently used and they are only concerned with looks (a form of lookism). To people who value accuracy, they are insulting.

      If one of your grandparents was a westerner, why should you have to go through life being called, incorrectly, a haafu? Should the onus be on that child to explain themselves to everyone?

      I have an idea. How about we call all the kids who need to wear glasses something different from the kids with normal vision? Because they look different, right? Let’s call them glass-eyes, or glassies for short. What do you think of that?

      In my case, our child would be born to a Korean mother and a western father, but living in Japan will no doubt be called a haafu. If haafu means “half-Japanese”, as you say, then in what sense would it be true to call him/her a haafu?

    23. Eido Inoue Says:

      @Adam: my daughter is in the public school system and while the total percentages I’ve seen with my own eyes don’t add up to 5% or one in every classroom, biracial / dual national kids are so not uncommon now that the teacher laughed at me when I asked before enrollment, in whispered voice, if she had experience with “half” children — in other words, “yes, and it’s no big deal.”

      Indeed, in her 1年A組 class, there were two other obviously (Black + Japanese) biracial kids, and I was introduced to a Taiwanese mother who had her daughter in the school but a different 組 The inclusion of my Eurasian daughter brought the international factor to 4 kids.

      I’m embarrassed to say this, but my daughter’s elementary school is actually far more diverse than my U.S. public elementary school in the 70s in the suburbs was.

      Other than their skin color, the only thing that’s different about the kids was the names on the desks: they put a piece of tape of the desks and write the child’s legal full name on it in hiragana (no katakana or kanji; you don’t learn rōmaji until 3rd grade). The two Black-Japanese kids had long western names, complete with middle names (e.g. Joseph Alexander Robertson aka ろばっとそん じょーせふ あれくすあんだー) which meant their names ended up being two lines of tape on their desks with lots of characters. For literacy practice, they make the kids copy their full names, verbatim, on virtually every handout they get. They must’ve missed out on 40 seconds of every activity due to the time it took for them to write their names.

      Other than that, I couldn’t discern that the kids were treated any differently from what I saw on parents days, the playgrounds, festival days and what my daughter tells me about each day after school. All of them speak Japanese as their first (and sometimes only) language, and grew up on a diet of Japanese television shows, movies, and food, so their classmates can “relate” to them.

      I don’t know how well a kid that can’t speak the language or grew up with a different culture would fit in; I imagine they’d have as difficult a time as they would not understanding English in a U.S. public school.

    24. Kimberly Says:

      I don’t like the term half/haafu either. I sincerely hope that my children grow up thinking that their nationality is a legal matter, and something that can be changed if they don’t like it the way it is. The passport(s) that a person holds does not define who they are as a person, either inside or out. It just means that those are the countries they’re allowed to live in indefinitely without applying for a visa. Where they choose to live and what kind of culture and community they choose to be a part of, that’s up to them and will be affected by their own personalities, opinions, and experiences.

      There are two children with NJ mothers in my son’s preschool, if you count my son with a naturalized mother, that’s three. There was another girl whose mom was Korean, but she moved. So at MOST, that’s four kids out of two hundred or so. The other three all have Asian moms. Only one of them has a longish katakana name.

      I don’t know how multicultural that is… on the one hand, we’ve got three (used to be four) dual citizen students. On the other hand all of them are pretty much being raised the same way as the other kids, except for learning mom’s language… and another kid in my son’s class is also learning English, just because he and his mother enjoy it, so passport’s no requirement for that.

      It kind of seems that, in my experience at least, most “bicultural” families in Japan either live a more or less “normal Japanese” life, not really different from anyone else in their community, or live in a very international community with an international set of friends, maybe not getting much exposure to a “typical” Japanese upbringing. Especially with a huge percentage of those foreign spouses Asian women who do learn the language and do their best (usually quite well) to assimilate into their husbands’ communities, even those rising numbers of kids may not really mean internationalization when it comes to lifestyle and attitude.

    25. Chris B Says:

      Oops, got it trouble for not giving sources again….
      Here are some sources which chart the original colonisation of Japan:

      Hanihara, K (1991) Dual structure model for the population history of the Japanese. Japan Review 2:1–33.
      Hanihara K (1992) Dual structure model for the formation of the Japanese population. In K Hanihara (ed.): Japanese as a Member of the Asian and Pacific. Populations. International Symposium Vol. 4, Kyoto:

      Rosenberg NA, Mahajan S, Ramachandran S, Zhao C, Pritchard JK, et al. (2005) Clines, Clusters, and the Effect of Study Design on the Inference of Human Population Structure. – This is worth looking especially.

      Nei, M., In : Brenner, S. and Hanihara, K.(eds.), The Origin and Past of Modern Humans as Viewed from DNA. World Scientific, Singapore, 71-91, 1995

      Origins: Human Evolution Revealed – Origins: Human Evolution Revealed

      The absolute exact timings of migrations, as well as proportions and exact origins are still being pinned down, but it is well established that Japan has been colonised by waves of immigration from different parts of Asia. In any event we know that all people whose recent ancestors lived outside Africa have, in relative terms very little genetic variation (compared with the original African population), meaning they are all descended from a small group of humans who very recently, maybe as little as 40,000 years ago, left Africa and went on to populate the rest of the world. And all humans originate from a single woman who lived about 100,000 years ago in Africa. There’s simply not enough difference genetically between humans to support any kind of idea of race.

    26. Joe Says:

      We obviously move in different circles! As I said, I’d never use the term about or to anyone who didn’t like it, but I’ve never met (in the flesh) anyone who objected. You say the term “sucks”, but on what grounds? What descriptors would be better? Mixed-race? That to me has definitely negative overtones having grown up in the seventies and eighties in England. Cheers, anyway.

      I agree with you utterly. No-one should be judged or labelled by race. We’re all members of the human race. But when it comes to discussions specifically about race, then we need the vocabulary to be able to communicate with each other. Example: I have a Canadian friend with a rather strange-looking (to English-speakers) family name. When people ask him about it, he replies “I’m half Dutch.” Simple. No-one’s offended. Now, I know for a fact that he considers himself 100% Canadian (I’d get a punch on the nose for suggesting otherwise!), but “half Dutch” is his choice of explanation, and it works fine.

      If you think that “half” in this context implies less than whole, the we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I agree with you completely about the “Nice black boy.” nonsense. I’d never refer to anyone as “A nice half-Japanese girl”. Any references to race should be reserved for when race is relevant, or in answering specific question related to race. Otherwise I wouldn’t mention it. “Hybrid”? Sounds a bit to me like a word a rather intelligent, nasty bully might use in the playground to taunt a “haafu” kid. :)

      Certainly don’t think I’m making any revelations, I was just responding to Debito’s invitation to elaborate my argument against people who disapprove of the use of “haafu”.

      Your one western grandparent argument is interesting, but it’s not really directly relevant. You’re complaining that people assume the child in question is the product of a western parent and a Japanese parent when that isn’t in fact the case. That seems to me to be an argument against making assumptions about others, rather than against the use of the term “haafu”. It’s similar with the Korean/western scenario. When I walk into my university classroom at the beginning of the semester and see thirty students all with black/dyed hair and dark brown eyes looking back at me, I assume they’re all Japanese. Very occasionally it turns out that one of them is Korean or Chinese. But I don’t think that makes me a bad person for making an incorrect assumption. I was recently approached by a mildly frantic mother at Frankfurt airport who asked me if I’d seen her daughter. I speak not a word of German (understand a bit) and couldn’t help, but it would have been a bit churlish of me to get all upset and demand just what made her think I was a German, wouldn’t it? :)

      What worries me about this whole “haafu” issue is the way the use of perfectly good, useful word becomes a contentious issue for no real reason. Look at America: they’ve gone from “negro” to “colored” to “black” to “person of color” to “African American”.

      In England we’ve pretty much stuck with “black” for all time. No-one’s offended, no-one’s embarrassed, it’s just a word. Seems to me “haafu” should be no different.

      — Let me take up one point. In your response to @Allen above, you said, “…100% Canadian (I’d get a punch on the nose for suggesting otherwise!)” Right. Problem is, people here DO suggest otherwise — under the paradigm of haafu in Japan. And since reprisals against noses etc. are discouraged in this society, the alienated party has to suck it up and take it on the chin. This dynamic is not good for kids (or anyone for that matter), and it’s perpetuated by the unchallenged use of the othering term haafu.

    27. Rob Says:

      I asked my students to name 5 famous Japanese people in class yesterday. Two girls were struggling to think of any famous Japanese women, so I suggested Ren Ho. They looked at me like I was crazy and said “no, she’s Chinese.” I explained her background, and they said “Oh, haafu?”.

      The next time I checked the two of them they had not written her name down. I asked why, and they said “She’s haafu, not real Japanese”.


    28. Mark Says:

      This is a report written last year by Peter J. Aspinall. He has worked as principal and co-investigator on studies of mixed race identity and on the history of mixed race. He was national convenor for the ethnic group question in the Office for National Statistics’ 2001 Census Development Programme.

      His report discusses appropriate and inappropriate terms for children with parents of different backgrounds.

      The message which comes across (re:the term ‘half’) is that the people it referred to either found it offensive, derogatory or demeaning, and it is a word that they would like to see removed from official forms.

      As a British primary school teacher I was taught to use ‘dual heritage’ as ‘dual’ can have positive implications whereas ‘half’ can be construed as negative, due to links to ‘half-caste’ or ‘half-breed’.

      In the UK, we tiptoe around sensitive subjects such as this due to the large numbers of foreigners living there. Here in Japan, where the numbers are much lower, (percentage-wise) there is simply no debate. Nor do I think there will be until the number of mixed/dual/half race/heritage greatly increase.

    29. adamc Says:

      your post below is so bizarre its untrue.
      can people really think this in the 21st century?

      #What worries me about this whole “haafu” issue is the way the use of perfectly good, useful word becomes a contentious issue for no real reason. Look at America: they’ve gone from “negro”

      no real reason why haafu or negro are contentious words???good grief.
      if this is what really worries you then I think you need to have a good look at yourself.

    30. Giant Panda Says:

      Rob I’ve heard very similar comments about the studly Japanese hammer-thrower and Olympic gold medalist Koji Murofushi (who has a Dutch mother apparently). Notwithstanding that the guy has, as far as I know, only ever held Japanese nationality, was born and raised in Japan and has won a gold medal (and several silver and bronze) for Japan for goodness sake, my (highly educated and professional friends) discount him as a Japanese, because he is “haafu”. And I think that is entirely the problem. “Haafu” equals “not-Japanese” in too many people’s eyes.

    31. newbiefront Says:

      Most of the foreign community in Japan that defend the use of the word “hafu’ also see no problem with the word “gaijin” Ive heard both words used in derogatory situations many times. This can provoke a defensive feeling from the person they might be refering to, who would rather not make waves and say nothing about it but instead suffer quietly. I say bullshit. Halfu and Gaijin are both words that have power over others in certian situations. A group of Japanese high school students on the train – “Ano onna mita? Kawaii? Are wa nani? Ah, are wa halfie!” How many times have I heard this. Its perfectly acceptable to those who dont experience it when in their comfort zone. When you arent in that zone, its always different.

    32. TJJ Says:

      “In England we’ve pretty much stuck with “black” for all time. No-one’s offended, no-one’s embarrassed, it’s just a word. Seems to me “haafu” should be no different.”

      So in England do you have people claiming that “you’re not British because you’re black”? Do people casually and frequently refer to people as “that black boy”?

      You see, Joe, the point you are not getting is that the word haafu (and gaijin, for that matter) is used in Japan in a way that is way out of the ordinary for people from countries like you and I. The word itself is, I can more or less agree, fine in an abstract sense. But when you look at the way it is used, it becomes not fine, at all. In our own countries we wouldn’t walk around calling people we didn’t know “Mr. Foreigner” based on the way they looked, or calling our classmates a “half-Italian” would we? I think that would be considered rude, because you are drawing unnecessary attention to their genetic background/nationality.

      The people who don’t get why the word haafu is obnoxious are the people who haven’t thought it through all the way, or are just blithely unaware of what’s going on around them.

    33. HO Says:

      OG Steve
      >We should stop calling the nice boy playing in preschool, “A nice black boy.” He is a nice boy. Period.

      I am wondering where this argument leads to.
      Why do you use the sexist word “boy”? We do not need to discriminate boys from girls, do we? How about “he is a nice child”?
      Oh, wait. We should not discriminate the old from the young. The politically correct expression should be “he is a nice human being.”

    34. jonholmes Says:

      A lot of dual heritage people (haafu) I meet in Japan act and look completely Japanese, or only a little bit different (hard to tell with the amount of cosmetics some women wear anyway), and they keep their background quiet. They tend to “come out” to me as I m a foreigner, maybe they feel they can say it. To other Japanese, they re not discussing it if they can help it.

      Others, usually celebrities, don’t have that luxury. Ditto people who look a bit “foreign”. One guy I knew had just one foreign grandparent but he looked a bit Caucasian, and it was a nuisance for him as he felt he had to constantly explain to restaurant staff, shop keepers etc that he was in fact Japanese and therefore the one they should speak to (as they invariably ignored me, presuming I could not speak Japanese).

      I find this typical and it hasnt changed much since the 1980s. Ie. if you are a tarento then its “ok” to be a half, maybe, but not so in a serious job like the one Ren Ho has.
      And as usual, in general for ordinary people there is no discussion, it is kept a secret. A few younger resident Koreans I know proudly use their Korean names, but their parents are still answering the phone with “Hai, (Toyokawa) desu” even if they havent naturalized.

    35. jonholmes Says:

      ps. @Rob. Please don’t give up with your sad (ignorant) students who don’t recognize Ren Ho as a Japanese. You are in a unique position as an educator to keep drilling it into their heads that Ren Ho IS a Japanese.

      A follow up to “famous Japanese women” might be famous Japanese Sumo wrestlers. I bet they think Konishiki or at least one naturalised wrestler is “Pure” Japanese, and if they do, don’t correct them! Or, do correct them to make the point that they are as Japanese as they are, maybe more so by participating in a traditional Japanese sport.

      If your students are teenagers, then try the “famous pop singers who are in fact of a multi-cultural background”. It ll make them rethink their prejudices when confronted with the fact that their beloved idols are in fact not “100% Japanese”, as in the case of Crystal Kay, and even Kim Taku.

      — First I’ve heard about Kimura Takuya.

      Might also mention Miyazawa Rie. Most youth I talk to do not realize she has any international roots.

    36. Netko Says:

      HO… when you see a girl, you call her a girl, when you see a boy, you call him a boy. You emphasize or notice their gender in the same manner.

      But, when you see a Japanese child, do you call her/him Japanese? Why then emphasize ‘black’ (boy/girl)?
      Or, in Japan, ‘white,’ ‘haafu,’ or ‘black,’ if you don’t emphasize the phenotype and skin color of anyone who appears to be Japanese or “Asian”

      — I’ll allow this line of discussion to continue for the time being, but I think that HO is just trolling here.

    37. jonholmes Says:

      They dont think of Miyazawa Rie because she looks “Japanese”. Its all about looks.

      My apologies-Kimura Takuya and Kudo Shizuka are just “rumored” to be resident Koreans, there is no reliable source for this, other than the gossiping of people on the street. It partly goes like this-“He only married her because they are both in fact resident Koreans.” Yada yada.

      — As if it matters anyway. Is the point.

    38. OG Steve Says:

      @HO – Yeah, even if your point was being facetious, as it happens, yes someday we should take it so far to stop talking about gender or age. While typing my post above, I wondered if someone was going to bring that up. So yes:

      First we can stop mentioning race.
      “Look at that nice boy.”

      Then we can stop mentioning sex.
      “Look at that nice child.”

      Then we can stop mentioning age.
      “Look at that nice human.”

      Of course why stop there?

      Then we can stop mentioning species.
      “Look at that nice animal.”

      Then we can stop mentioning kingdom.
      “Look at that nice eukarya.”

      Then we can stop mentioning domain.
      “Look at that nice living being.”

      Then we can stop mentioning life.
      “Look at that nice collection of molecules.” 😉

      Regardless of how far one can take this, the point remains:

      When talking about people, let’s stop mentioning race. OK?

      @Joe – Debito’s point was perfect: if you understand that calling someone half-Canadian would deserve a punch in Canada, then you should clearly understand why people born here in Japan don’t want to be called half-Japanese.

      And re-read what Giant Panda’s colleagues said about Koji Murofushi.

      And re-read what Rob’s students said about Ren Ho.

      And re-read what Newbiefront’s students said about a “half” on the street: “Are wa nan datta? Are wa half.”

      If they saw a regular-Japanese woman who looked exceedingly beautiful they would say “Ano hito wa nan datta? Ano hito wa moderu mitai!

      Instead they said, “Are”. “Are” means “that thing” (NOT a human) and it seems that many Japanese folks sub-consciously (and often even consciously, but they won’t admit it out loud, of course) feel that gaijin or halfs are sub-human things.

      Time to take off the rose-colored lenses Joe, bro.

      Maybe in Hiroo, Nishi-Azabu, Setagaya, or in “your circle”, people are less racist, great, but the rest of Japan is still surprisingly racist.

      To the average Japanese mind, the word Nihonjin equals “pure Yamato-blood insiders”.

      Non-Japanese, Naturalized-Japanese, and Half-Japanese, equal “un-pure outsiders”.

    39. James Says:


      The issue isn’t with the word itself, it is with what it means to those who are using it. You need to remember that to many Japanese there are two types of people, the Japanese (100% pure Yamato blood line) and there are others (not 100% pure Yamato blood). In the eyes of many Japanese you cannot become Japanese through legal processes as being Japanese requires you to be composed of DNA from two pure Japanese parents. It is a birthright not a legal one. (sorry Arudou )

      When a child is born of mixed race parents, clearly the genetic prerequisite for being Japanese is not met, hence the exclusionary term “haafu” is used. Although by simply observing a person’s behavior or language there may be no way of telling their nationality it is of paramount importance to the Japanese to distinguish between that which they consider to be pure 100% yamato and that which falls into the category of “other”. It is absolutely necessary to do this to maintain the homogeneity which is this nation’s binding force.

      Let’s look at your moot example with your friend. You were speaking on the understanding that you both knew his legal NATIONALITY was Canadian, your prejudicial judging of his name being “strange” led you to query his heritage. His looks had nothing to do with it, his name did, he explained that one of his parents was of Dutch descent hence the name you found so “strange”.

      Now what I don’t understand about you Joe is, why you are perfectly happy to have mixed race children all across Japan (including your own) labeled as “haafu” EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE JAPANESE NATIONALITY and a variety of ETHNIC heritage but you refer to your friend as being 100% Canadian and don’t dare push the argument that he is “haafu” even though he has mixed parentage? I can’t follow your logic…..

      Anyway let’s move past that.

      I’m going to be a little presumptuous and suggest that you are white (白人)a gaijin (apologies if you are not, but any skin color discrimination works just fine for this example). So let’s have a look:

      Your kid is a “haafu” as you say, half what? Half Japanese and half any of the following?

      * Ethnic groups in Europe
      * White people
      * White American
      * European American
      * White Hispanic and Latino Americans
      * European Australian
      * White Latin American
      * White Argentine
      * White Brazilian
      * White Mexican
      * White Africans of European ancestry

      Could be any one of a hundred countries each with unique individual traits and attributes. Does it not matter to you that your half of the “investment” is not recognized? That half the ethnicity and cultural heritage passed on to your child is simply dismissed and bundled into one general “gaijin” misnomer?

      [Let’s not mention the origin of gaijin eh 😉 ]

      Would you be happy for your child to attend a British school and be referred to as “half caste” as was the case 40 years ago?

      It comes back to the simple fact that the term “haafu” is used for no other reason than to clarify whether one fits the Japanese ideal of “being Japanese” or not, just like cars, clothes and gairaigo, it has to be made patently clear what is “made in Japan” and what isn’t.

      Argue any which way you like (I think you’re just trolling tbph)”haafu” is used for no other reason than to differentiate between Japanese and not Japanese.

    40. OG Steve Says:

      Of course, I see the irony here: I say we shouldn’t mention race, but at the same time I say, “Most Japanese people blah-blah-blah.” :-)

      I guess the difference is: when having a discussion about race, and about what people in this country do, as we do here on this human rights forum, making generalizations with the goal of improvement is necessary.

      In a normal, non-race-related, non-country-related, everyday discussion, mentioning someone’s race is not necessary and should not be done.

      PS – my wife tells me that the modern Japanese do use the word “are” even when describing a Japanese person, so using “are” to describe a non-Japanese or half-Japanese person is not an example of racism, my mistake.

      Still, my overall point remains true: there is a lot of racism hidden within national-pride here in the Japanese culture, just as there is a lot of racism hidden within religious-pride in the Judaic culture.

      For example, in Israel: you can convert to Judaism and gain Israeli citizenship, but… these “converts” are never really accepted as “real” (=descended from Jacob’s 12 children) Jews, just as in Japan: you can try to become Japanese as Debito has done on paper, but… these “converts” are never really accepted as “real” (descended from the Yamato tribe) Japanese.

      As a matter of fact, the right-wing folks in Israel are pushing a new law which will reduce the rights of such “citizens who merely converted” to officially be labeled “second-class citizens” with less rights than “real Jews = people born to a real Jew mother.”

      I call it like I see it: racism is racism, even when “my ” people are doing it.

    41. jaz Says:

      It seems odd, as to why people care so much about who is half or quarter. It seems like the Japanese think of it as some sort of handicap or something.

    42. Joe Says:

      One more go at this, then I’m retiring.

      The point with my Canadian friend is that he’s half-Dutch genetically-speaking, but 100% Canadian when it comes to citizenship. I’m trying to emphasise the difference between the two. “Haafu” is a meaningless comment in regard to someone’s nationality.

      No! Sorry, I re-read my post and realised I hadn’t made myself clear. Of course “negro” is an utterly unacceptable word. What I wanted to say is that once “negro” was no longer an option (both in the UK and the US), the word “black” replaced it in the UK, no problem. In the US, due to their extreme sensitivity to racial issues, they’re constantly trying to re-invent an acceptable term and constantly failing.

      Regarding your comment:
      “So in England do you have people claiming that “you’re not British because you’re black”? Do people casually and frequently refer to people as “that black boy”? ”

      I would have to say “yes” to both. Ignorant, stupid people in the first case, but completely normal people in the second. Maybe I was just lucky to grow up in a part of the world where “black”, “Asian”, or “blonde” were just ways of describing people, without any secondary negative implications. Which is maybe why my kids are quite happy to call themselves and certain of their friends “haafu”. And if I were to tell them they were “demeaning” themselves or their friends, they’d laugh at me. So when you say:

      “The people who don’t get why the word haafu is obnoxious are the people who haven’t thought it through all the way, or are just blithely unaware of what’s going on around them.”
      I’d like you to meet my kids and their friends. Because they’d certainly disagree with you.

      An absolutely final thought: it seems to me that Americans take a lot more interest in this argument than English people, and that people living around the main cities in Japan
      are a lot keener than those in the sticks. This leads me to suspect that, as an Englishman living in the wilds of Kyushu, I see the whole argument differently to a New-Yorker residing in Tokyo.
      Anyway, I’ll certainly not be using “haafu” without a lot of thought in future. Though it still seems okay to me…. peace and love.

    43. Joe Says:

      Sorry, your comment only just appeared after I’d posted my previous one.
      I’m absolutely not trolling,please believe me. I’m usually on the Guardian-reading, trendy-lefty side of any argument, and I’m not sure how I got here . (Debito, do you keep records of everyone’s posts? Can you vouch for me?)

      In your own words: “The issue isn’t with the word itself, it is with what it means to those who are using it. “That’s exactly my point, “haafu” is simply a technically correct, scientific term in regards to DNA. If people choose to use it incorrectly in order to further their hateful, racist agendas and apply it to nationality then that’s their problem. I don’t see why the rest of us should have to change our language to accommodate them.

      — I can vouch for Joe. He’s not trolling. I asked him to elaborate on his opinions about the word, and he has, and is participating constructively in the discussion. Thanks.

      As for the technically correct, scientific term, haafu is hardly that. People cannot be “half” anything when DNA pairings are not 50-50 anyway (cf. how siblings can differ immensely phenotypically despite the same parentage).

      Moreover, haafu is not merely a word — it is an epithet. And the fact that people use it to further exclusionary agendas is precisely why we should change our language (and encourage them to change theirs) to discourage that from happening.

    44. OG Steve Says:

      @Joe, it seems we’re being too harsh on your initial opinion, I apologize. I notice you did write an opposite opinion which sums-up the point we’re trying to express, you wrote:

      “Mixed-race? That to me has definitely negative overtones.”

      Look, the majority of folks on this forum are simply trying to say the exact same thing:

      “Half-Japanese? That to us has definitely negative overtones.” :-)

    45. Kimberly Says:

      I think the difference between race and gender is that MOST people consider themselves to belong to one gender or the other. Might not be the gender they were assigned based on physical appearance at birth but I think the number of people who truly would prefer not to be assigned to either gender is incredibly small (this based purely on personal experience, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, I can think of two transgendered individuals that I know as opposed to dozens of people of mixed racial background, and they both identify as a single gender, just not the one on their birth certificate), while the number of people who who consider themselves “mixed” or “half-Japanese, half-white” or “multiracial” or “multicultural” or “none of the above” is fairly large, and varied when it comes to what they would prefer to be called.

      It’s also a by-product of language. “Look at that nice boy.” and “Look a that nice black boy.” are both natural-sounding English sentences, the sentence doesn’t lose anything by omitting “black.” But change “boy” to “human being” and you do have a problem. Yes, you can use “person” or “kid” or something appropriate to their profession, etc, if you’re really not sure, but using man, woman, girl, boy, is at this point an almost unavoidable function of the English language (hey, at least Japanese doesn’t require the use of pronouns?)

      There are so many people in the world today who don’t FIT into one category when it comes to race, or who maybe DO, but don’t want to be defined by that. As far back as I can research, all of my ancestors are Caucasian… but I don’t consider “white” to be a group that I belong to in the same way that I belong to my family or my city or my circle of friends. Some people obviously DO have a strong sense of identification as a member of an ethnic group or race… but enough people DON’T (or do, but for multiple races) that I think it’s inappropriate to define someone by those terms, until and unless you know how the individual prefers to be defined.

    46. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      I just had a friend stay with me from overseas. He has a deep respect for Japanese culture and people, but often uses the word “Jap” in casual conversation.
      I was wondering if and when some passer-by would overhear him and pull him up on it.
      Yet, that is how many of us (gaijin) and our kids (haafu) are labeled.
      I don’t need someone telling me that my daughter looks “haafu” – what’s wrong with saying that they can see that she takes after me? I don’t need to hear in reference to my kids that “Haafu ga kawaii” – it’s my kids that are cute, not some abstract (What if I was ethnic Chinese? Bet my kids wouldn’t LOOK “haafu” – and then the comment would be nulled)

      @ Rob:
      I hope your students didn’t think Akiko Wada is a famous Japanese woman.

    47. James Says:

      @OG Steve could you elaborate on what you mean by the following?

      [Of course, I see the irony here: I say we shouldn’t mention race, but at the same time I say, “Most Japanese people blah-blah-blah.” :-)]

      I don’t understand what the blah-blah-blah insinuates….

      @Joe, I’m pleased that you are not trolling.

      Yes, we could argue that words are just a grouping of sounds, however, we imbue those sounds with meaning. We have a meaning in mind before we give it a vocalization. The meaning that was applied to the sound “half” was “less than whole”, the meaning of the word “Japanese” was “100% Japanese blood”.

      If I child is born in Japan, has Japanese citizenship and behaves just like any other 100% Yamato, could you explain the following for me:

      1: Why Japanese (100% Yamato blood) would need to identify the Japanese nationals who aren’t 100% pure blood with the differentiating “haafu”?

      2: If it is so important for 100% Yamato to differentiate a 100% from a not 100%, why is in not equally important for them to identify the origin of the non Yamato %?


    48. jonholmes Says:

      about Akiko Wada, if that was an attempt at humor I m afraid it was lost on me, sorry. I hope Rob’s students do regard her as a Japanese. Surely she is for all intents and purposes. Her Korean ancestry is both distant, irrelevant, and commonplace.

      I’m far too cynical to be a teacher but if I was I might play a game of having beloved Japanese celebrities’ names and asking the students to “spot the non Japanese”.I d include Debito’s picture and say that he was Japanese, and I d include a picture of Alberto Fujimori (with family nametag) and say that he wasn’t.

      It might open their eyes to the multi cultural reality.

      Final answer: ALL of them have ancestry from outside Japan- “According to Hanihara, modern Japanese lineages began with people in the Jōmon period, who moved into the Japanese Archipelago during Paleolithic times from their homeland in southeast Asia. Hanihara believed that there was a second wave of immigrants, from northeast Asia to Japan from the Yayoi period (300 BCE – 300 CE).”
      (wikipedia, etc).

    49. Rob Says:

      I actually design and teach a university English course with a focus on comparative cultural studies. The aim is to hopefully give the students a broader understanding of the world beyond their borders. Thanks for the suggestions of other Japanese stars the students might know. I’ll try to incorporate a lesson dealing with these issues into the syllabus for next year.

    50. OG Steve Says:

      @James – I simply was pointing out that it is ironic, and slightly hypocritical, for me to say we shouldn’t mention race, but at the same time I make generalizations about the Japanese race all the time. And I was then making the distinction, racists are mentioning race for no good reason, I’m making generalizations about the Japanese race for a good reason: the goal is to open up people’s eyes to the reality that many Japanese (and many Jews) are secretly holding on to the idea that their race is superior.

      And yes, intelligent people understand that neither the Japanese nor the Jews are pure races at all, they are mixes of Black, White, and Asian, as we all are.

      @JonHolmes – Yes, to put it simply, the Ainu arrived 14,000 years years ago from Russia, and then much later a second wave of settlers arrived from China and Korea and kicked the original settlers’ asses up to Hokkaido and then these latecomers proclaimed themselves to be the “real Japanese”.

    51. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      @ Jonholmes:
      No humour meant, and you’ve brought up an excellent point.
      Whereas I was refering to Wada’s Japanese status (or rather,lack thereof) in legal terms while so many people embrace her as Japanese by appearance, language and culture (to whatever extent that may be), you’ve concluded that she IS Japanese except legally, and that she SHOULD BE Japanese.
      Agreed, her Korean ancestry shouldn’t matter. Just as my ancestry shouldn’t make my kids any less Japanese than the Ishiharas and Hiranumas of this world.

    52. TJJ Says:


      You said: “I’d like you to meet my kids and their friends. Because they’d certainly disagree with you.”

      Well, then I’m very happy for your kids and their friends – I hope they go on to have successful lives. But I trust you’re not assuming that I don’t personally know many kids who have one Japanese parent and one non-Japanese parent, because I do. And what I’ve noticed is that as they grow up they tend to leave Japan for greener pastures. Your children might be perfectly happy but I’d like to remind you that a school of goldfish spending their lives in a fishbowl may not see anything wrong with life in a fishbowl – that’s all they know. They may be perfectly happy with what they have – it’s safe, comfortable and they know their place in the world: to be stared at as a curiosity.

      I’m also not American, and I feel you’re reaching when you try to characterise this as a ‘thin-skinned, mainly-American’ gripe and vaguely imply that most British people feel the same way you do. I don’t believe that’s the case.

      I don’t have kids myself but I can’t help be vocal about this topic because I really do care about it and the way it effects some people, even if they don’t realise it. If Japan wants to be ‘international’ they really have to make a change in the way they view the world. If they don’t want to be ‘international’ then that’s fine too, but make it clear. It’s fundamentally dishonest to, on the one hand, proclaim that Japan is completely open to foreign people, but deny them equality with the other hand.

    53. OG Steve Says:

      Hi Debito and everyone :-)

      About “the Japanese race”, what do you all think of this 2009 chart:

      created by this scientist:

      from this scientific study:

      with these references:

      Here are some gems from the PDF:

      (Note to Debito, if any of the following paragraphs seem uninteresting, please feel free to delete them, I promise I won’t complain this time.)

      “This review addresses the distribution of genetic markers of immunoglobulin G (Gm) among 130 Mongoloid populations in the world. These markers allowed the populations to be clearly divided into 2 groups, the northern and southern groups. The northern group is characterized by high frequencies of 2 marker genes, ag and ab3st, and an extremely low frequency of the marker gene afb1b3; and the southern group, in contrast, is indicated by a remarkably high frequency of afb1b3 and low frequencies of ag and ab3st. Based on the geographical distribution of the markers and gene flow of Gm ag and ab3st (northern Mongoloid marker genes) from northeast Asia to the Japanese archipelago, the Japanese population belongs basically to the northern Mongoloid group and is thus suggested to have originated in northeast Asia, most likely in the Baikal area of Siberia.”

      “The results obtained from Japanese populations living in Japan are shown in Table 1 and Fig. 1. The Ainu population and the 8 island populations (Sadogashima, Kamishima, Tanegashima, Yakushima, Amamiohshima, Miyakojima, Ishigakijima, and Yonakunijima) were not included for the calculation of the mean frequencies in the general Japanese (17 populations, general Japanese), because the Ainu are indigenous Japanese people and the 8 islanders are isolated and small in number. The mean frequencies of the Gm genes observed among the 17 Japanese populations were 0.458 for Gm ag, 0.176 for Gm axg, 0.260 for Gm ab3st, and 0.106 for Gm afb1b3. These 17 Japanese populations were shown to be genetically homogeneous, when compared with each other.

      Heterogeneities, however, were found when the 17 Japanese populations were compared with the Ainu and with the Miyakojima population; whereas homogeneity was observed between the Ainu and the Miyakojima populations. In other words, the Ainu and the Ryukyu islanders (Miyakojima, Ishigakijima, and Yonakunijima) differed from the general Japanese populations in Gm gene pattern. Both Ainu and Miyakojima populations showed a more remarkable northern type, characterized by a higher frequency of one of the northern genes, Gm ag, and by a lower frequency of the southern gene, Gm afb1b3.

      In particular, the frequency of the other northern gene, Gm ab3st, was much higher in the Ryukyu islanders than in the general Japanese populations. Another view of this is that the general Japanese populations have a higher frequency of the southern afb1b3 gene than the Ainu and the Ryukyu islanders, resulting from some admixture at rates as low as 7 – 8% with south Asian populations having the Gm afb1b3 gene in high frequency, but yet all of these Japanese populations studied had the Gm pattern of the northern Mongoloid.

      On the other hand, in sharp contrast to the 3 Ryukyu Islanders, a native tribe in Taiwan, theTakasago, and a Taiwanese population (descendants of people who migrated from southern China about 300 years ago) showed a typical southern Mongoloid pattern, as dipicted in Fig. 1, in spite of the fact that there is only an 80-km distance between Taiwan and the southwestern-most inhabited island of Japan (Yonakunijima). This difference in pattern was reflected in heterogeneities observed between the Yonakunijima islanders and the Takasago population and between the Ainu and Takasago populations.

      Based on these Gm results, it is hard to consider that peoples from the south migrated through the Ryukyu islands northwards to mainland Japan.”

      “Regarding the roots of the Japanese, Hanihara1 proposed the “dual structure model”, which suggests that the Jomon (12,000 – 2,300 years ago) and Yayoi (2,300 – 1,700 years ago) peoples originated from South Asia and North Asia, respectively. This model assumes that people of the South Mongoloid lineage settled Japan first, later followed by a considerable number of immigrants of the North Mongoloid lineage and that the Mongoloid of both lineages mixed with each other to form the present-day Japanese people.

      Furthermore, the Ainu are assumed to be Jomon people of the South Mongoloid lineage that had evolved with little or no mixture with other races. This model was based on the computer multivariate analysis of the results of osteometry, an outdated, uncertain method. It is known that such physical measurement values easily change with nutrition, environment, and culture in a short time, as is well understood from the physique of the present young generation.

      Instead of morphological studies, polymorphic markers harbored in macromolecules such as proteins and glycoconjugates including blood group systems have been widely applied during the last century to studies of genetic variation in human populations because of their simple Mendelian inheritance. Among them, Gm types are unique genetic markers that can define a Mongoloid population in terms of its origin by the combination pattern of the gene types and the ratios of them, even though Gm is a classical marker.

      In sharp contrast to the “dual structure model”, our data on the geographical distribution of Gm gene types throughout the Asian and American Continents, and Pacific islands show that the Japanese population belong basically to the northern Mongoloid group; that the Ainu, as well as the Ryukyu islanders, are genetically closer to the northern Mongoloid group than to the general Japanese population; and that Taiwanese have a Gm gene composition characteristic of the southern Mongoloid group. The extent to which Japanese were admixed with the southern group is estimated at as low as 7 – 8%, assuming the admixture with southern groups having the highest frequencies of the Gm afb1b3 gene.

      The results of a population study by Bannai et al. who analyzed HLA polymorphisms, suggested that the Ainu might share the same ancestor in eastern Asia with native Americans (Tlingit and Amerindians). Their findings indicate that the indigenous Japanese people, i.e., the Ainu, belong to the northern Mongoloid group, and are in good agreement with our results that the Ainu have the northern Mongoloid Gm genes at higher proportions than the present-day Japanese people.

      Tokunaga et al. recognized that 20 Mongoloid populations could be divided into 2 major groups (north and south) by phylogenetic analysis on the basis of HLA systems and indicated that the Japanese belong to the northern group. Phylogenetic analysis by Nei, using gene frequencies of many conventional blood group systems, found that all 3 Japanese populations (Ainu, main-island Japanese, and Okinawans) originated from northern Asia, thus invalidating Hanihara’s dual structure model.

      Nei also described that the Japanese are essentially descendants of northeast Mongoloids rather than southeast Mongoloids. Therefore, one may call this the “out-of-Northeast” theory. This view is similar to my earlier conclusion, although mine is based on the geographical distribution of only the Gm genes in eastern Asia and the Pacific.

      Recently, analyses of mitochondrial, Y chromosomal, and autosomal DNA markers have rapidly accumulated, the former two defining maternal and paternal lineages, respectively. Harihara et al. showed from analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) polymorphisms that the Ainu are closely related to East Mongoloids, and claimed that the Ainu are descendants of ancient Mongoloids who lived in the Japanese Islands in the Paleolithic and Jomon periods.

      According to Shinoda and Kanai and Shinoda, many of the human skeletal remains excavated from the Nakazuma Jomon site had the mtDNA M10 gene, which is present in 1.3% (a low frequency) of the Japanese, and had a nucleotide sequence identical to that of the DNA of the Buryat living in the Baikal area. In addition, cluster analysis of mtDNA gene frequencies showed that the gene composition of the mainland Japanese was almost the same as that of northeastern Chinese and Korean populations.

      On the other hand, the gene composition of a southern Chinese population closely resembled that of indigenous Taiwanese, and obviously differed from that of the Japanese. Okinawans were completely different from indigenous Taiwanese and the southeastern Mongoloid, suggesting that it was from mainland Japan, not from the south including Taiwan that people migrated to the Okinawa Islands. More recently, based on the comparative analyses of a voluminous number of complete and partial mtDNA sequences, Tanaka et al. described a striking coincidence of their results with our northern origin of Japanese.

      Similarly, Hammer et al. outlined the peopling of the Japan on the basis of Y chromosomal lineages, inferring that 3 major groups, D, C, and O-47z, began expansions ~20,000, ~12,000,and ~4,000 years ago, respectively. They hypothesized that the primary candidate region of Paleolithic Japanese founding Y chromosomes having C and D groups should be placed in the area between Tibet and the Altai Mountains with varying levels of admixture between these and other Y chromosomes carrying O-47z group from Southeast Asia. Further Japanese samples would remain to be analyzed for drawing conclusions from Y chromosomal data.

      Evidence from both mtDNA and Y chromosomes indicates that earlier Japanese came from around northern Asia, not from the South, which is not inconsistent with our Gm results indicating that the Japanese including the Ainu and the Ryuku islanders belong basically to the northern Mongoloid group with a little additional admixture of the southern gene, Gm afb1b3. Genome-wide analyses of autosomal DNA markers at about 640,000 sites among 17 Asian populations demonstrated distinct latitudinal changes in the ratio of their northern and southern ancestries in proportion to the north-to-south localities of the populations, and in addition homogeneity and a higher proportion of the northern ancestry in Japanese.

      Grubb, who first disclosed the Gm system, stated that the Gm genes were characteristic enough for discriminating between Mongoloid and Negroid, making it possible to clarify the process of migration of ethnic groups. Further, quoting our distribution map of the genes, he pointed out that Gm ab3st was characteristic of northern Mongoloids and varied gradually in its frequency among them and that many interesting relations between those populations were well shown on the map.

      He expressed his scientific approval of our data and conclusion that the Japanese population belongs basically to the northern Mongoloid and originated in the Baikal area and furthermore indicated that our study represented excellent probes of the Gm system.”

      “As mentioned above, abundant DNA evidence has been reported in recent years. None of these data oppose the Gm data; rather, they support it. Mongoloids generally have northern and southern ancestries in each population with varying ratios depending mainly to their latitudinal locations; northern populations have a unique gene, Gm ab3st.

      Although data from mtDNA and Y-chromosome polymorphisms differ from the Gm data in the extent to which a southern contribution has been made to the Japanese, the geographical distribution of the 2 northern Gm genes leads us to conclude that the genes flowed from northern Asia even to the most southwestern island (Yonakunijima) of Japan, followed by culturally great but genetically small streams from southern Asia.

      In summary, our results demonstrate that the Japanese race belongs basically to the northern Mongoloid group and originated in northeast Asia, most likely in the Baikal area of Siberia. In the case of migrations of human populations, migrants would not have been allowed to escape from changes in a wide range of habitats and climates, and thus would have to have adapted to their new environments.

      Such adaptation would have been expressed in the very phenotypes of Gm since immunoglobulins play an important role in environmental adaptation. Further accumulation of DNA data on much more samples from both modern and ancient humans and the interdisciplinary scientific approach will provide the evidence needed to test our model to explain the origins and dispersal of the first Japanese.”

      PS – For those interested, I found a Japanese translation here:

      done by Toshiyuki Itō who put together this very interesting site:

      here is an additional chart he made based on Matsumoto’s data:

      and here is a subsequent chart showing how complicated reality is:

      the 2 charts shown directly above can be found on his conclusion page:

    54. James Says:

      Nice one OG Steve,

      and for those with internet only attention spans [ 😉 ]:

      a nice video explaining it with pictures and English subtitles.

      Enjoy! especially the bits that show the Japanese have the least unique DNA of the Asian races.

    55. OG Steve Says:

      Nice video James :-) Should be required viewing at schools. It proves that “the Japanese” are the most “mixed” and “un-pure” race in Asia. And I loved how at the end it said, “If you look at the blueprint of human beings through mitochondrial DNA, there are absolutely no racial or national differences amongst us, the only thing we see is a human being living inside mother nature.”

      The only slightly disappointing thing is… while the English subtitles idealistically translated the speaker’s words to “when you look at DNA there are no differences” the guy actually said in Japanese “when you look at DNA the differences can’t be seen.” 😉

    56. James Says:

      I know Steve but you know the old saying…….

      you say “tsure-kaeri” I say “tsure-sari”

      ah the joys of me, myself and I my……………..

    57. Giant Panda Says:

      This discussion immediately sprang to mind when one of my colleagues brought her brand new eurasian baby to the office. Amidst the clucky gathering of coo-ing secretaries, someone excitedly said “ah – Nihonjin no ko janai yo ne!” and they immediately started pointing out any features they could identify which were (to their minds) non-Japanese. The child is less than a month old, was born in Japan to a Japanese father, holds only Japanese nationality, and from the moment of his birth the society around him is already telling him all the ways in which he is not Japanese. I think that is pretty damn sad.

      — Same thing when my second daughter was born — my former sister-in-law (who in retrospect was quite an unsophisticated thud) made much the same kind of remarks not 24 hours after emergence from the womb. Granted, this was 1995, but…

    58. Ben Says:

      I think the core issue here is the conflation of ethnicity with nationality.

      I have no problem with the usage of the word “hafu” in the former sense, but in the later sense it is deeply troubling.

      In the West we generally understand that someone can be of one ethnicity and another nationality (Italian-American, Chinese-Australian), and that the former has no bearing on the later. That when someone was born and raised in a certain geography, a different ethnic background is by far the more minor influence on that person’s development.

      The more interesting point is that ethnicity is a matter of fact, but nationality is a constructed concept enforced by a central power. The geographical scope of a nation-state is too wide — it seeks to marginalize (also erase) cultural differences born of geographical separation, and overplay (also introduce and enforce) cultural similarities.

      I might venture to say that “nationality” extends from our instinct to form in-groups and out-groups; but that it is a manipulation of that instinct which turns decentralized, real shades of grey into a centralized, artificial black and white — thereby particularly hurting those groups at the margins of the center who “don’t make the cut”.

      But this is not a problem unique to Japan (though the force is strong here).

      See this book review about the construction of French nationality
      (Item 83):

      “The Discovery of France (Graham Robb, 2007). As someone suspicious of government and state control, I was wondering how France did so well in spite of having the mother of all “l’ état”. This book gave me the answer: it took a long time for the government and the “nation” to penetrate the depth of deep France, “la France profonde”. It was not until recently that French was spoken by the majority of the citizens. Schools taught French but it was just like Greek or Latin: people forgot it right after they finished their (short) school life. For a long time France’s villages were unreachable by the central government. The book has wonderful qualities that I am certain will be picked up by other reviewers. But I would like to add the following. This is the most profound examination of how nationality is enforced on a group of people, with the internal colonization process and the stamping out of idiosyncratic traits.”

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