Japanese ‘hafu’ talents
Japanese pop culture talents like Rola, Becky, and Jun Hasegawa are Japanese citizens despite being ethnically “half.” The Nationality Law does not recognize half citizens. A person is either a citizen or not. Since 1984 daughters of bi-racial couples as well as sons have been permitted to hold dual citizenship. Contrary to the popular misunderstanding one citizenship does not diminish or discredit the other. But that is an impossible lesson to communicate, I think. These hafu talents are entirely, completely Japanese. And yet a considerable amount of their publicity seems predicated on a fascination with how Japanese they sound and behave. But they are Japanese, so how should they behave? My own two Japanese children are often and constantly praised for how good their Japanese speech is. It seems to bother me more than it does them. Maybe they should become media talents.
Citizenship, nationality and race are all separate things, not one thing. But in Japan the confusion of nationality and race is common, firm and metastatic. But I expect educated, urbane people to be mentally nimble and subtle enough to know better. So I am disappointed that an educated person like sociologist Takashi Miyajima makes exactly this error by appearing to call Rola a “foreign entertainer” (“Rola altering DNA of pop culture,” Japan Times, Monday, July 14, 2014). I want to grab the Japanese nation by the lapels and shake it fiercely while screaming “Wake up!! These people are not foreigners!
It’s not that I think Japanese need to change, reform or adjust their ideas of what it means to be Japanese. It’s that I think Japanese need to change, reform and adjust what it means to be human. Japan is already a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society. It has been for a long, long time. But that reality is neither recognized nor admitted.
Rola is right when she is quoted saying “Nationality isn’t important,” but I can’t be sure if her motive for saying so is the same as mine. For me nationality is mostly a matter of administrative convenience, documentation and bureaucratic procedure. My nationality says nothing at all about my loyalties, convictions, preferences or behavior. I do not represent any country, although for employment purposes I usually pretend that I do.