Am I Japanese Haafu or Amerasian?
A discussion on the mixed Asian term I describe myself. Do I use the popular Haafu term or a more traditional Amerasian term?
Early days with Hapas.com
AmerasianWorld.com was a website I created back in 2003 to help promote being Japanese Amerasian while sharing my experiences living in Central Asia. Both were deeply influenced how I perceive myself as a mixed Asian today.
My website was the opposite of the now-defunct Hapas.com, an early community site that promoted a non-Hawaiian definition of Hapa. Hapas.com contended anyone who was mixed Asian could use the term Hapa. Hawaiian Hapas, on the other side of the argument, disagreed. The resulting schism between the two sides led to the disfavor of Hapa by non-Hawaiian mixed Asians. I reposted the article I wrote online in 2004 regarding the term Hapa:
Oddly enough, I was a moderator for Hapas.com. Before publishing the article, I got banned from the forum. The site owner never explained though several moderators later did. The site owner's girlfriend and several moderators posted anonymously to attack (online bullying) members they did not like. Usually, the victim was a pretty girl or a true Hapa with Hawaiian roots.
The issue they had with me involved my usage of the term Amerasian. One of the moderators messaged me privately to discuss the term Amerasian. She told me that "Amerasian" makes people think our mothers were prostitutes. I kindly mentioned to her that "the majority of" Amerasians in the US have mothers who were not bargirls or prostitutes to no avail.
Thus, I continued calling myself "Amerasian." In the last several years, I have noticed a more general acceptance of the use of Haafu, or Hafu, by the mixed Japanese community.
Amerasian or Haafu?
So why do I call myself Amerasian? For starters, I used to run the Amerasian Foundation and worked with Amerasians both in Vietnam and the Philippines. Amerasians are a community that tends to stick together. We were "children of war," a term common in the early 2000s (I will explore this in a future post). I even liaison with Amerasians in Okinawa, South Korea, and Thailand. Those days seem far away now.
I am Japanese Amerasian, though, since I graduated from the University of Washington in 1997, I have not met one Japanese Amerasian in person. Those mixed Japanese I knew online identified as Haafu. I joined a couple of active Haafu online groups, but to be honest, I felt I could not relate to them.
Many of the Haafus seem weak to me. I understand this is a general naivete on my part. I had been bullied in school but I eventually fought back. That is what you do in America. Fight back. In Japan, you never see Haafus fight back.
So I revert to calling myself a Japanese Amerasian. Now I decided to be that nail that sticks out.
I will be straightforward while living in Central Asia I got a different perspective of being mixed. When you live in a region where being mixed is the majority, it will change you.
Videos on mixed Japanese (half Japanese)
Hiroko does a great job covering mixed Japanese issues in Japan. Her perspective helps the Japanese get a better understanding of what mixed Japanese go through in Japanese society.
Black in Japan | MFiles
Black Experience in Japan is the best Expat vlog in Japan. BEJ is straightforward as well. When we hear the term, Haafu, it normally means "white" Japanese Haafus. Those who are not white see a different Japan.
AlJazeera | The Stream
AlJazeera looks at the issue with Haafus in Japan. Naomi Osaka is one of the well-known Japanese Haafus though I am not sure she ever used the term to describe herself.
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