Hafu: movie about mixed-race people in Japan

I’d like to introduce a movie called “Hafu,” which I watched when I was an undergraduate student in Japan. It’s a movie about mixed-race people in Japan, featuring the different experiences of five individual “hafu”s (a Japanese word used to describe a mixed-race person, which originates in the English word “half”) who have racial connections to Japan in some ways. I like this movie because it depicts the unique experiences of each half-Japanese individual (half- Korean, half-Mexican, half- Ghanaian, half- Venezuelan) very well, and conveys their inner voices of how they feel being half in Japan. They talk about their own experiences from various perspectives, including some negative aspects like getting bullied, not being treated equally, etc. I think this movie is worth watching also because it provides some positive aspects of being hafu in Japan in the latter half of the movie, not just focusing on their life struggles. I could definitely see myself using this movie in my future classes. Since it addresses many essential questions about race, such as “What does it mean to be hafu in Japan?” “What does it mean to be Japanese?” “What can we do to be inclusive of all races or hafu people?” I could have my students discuss those questions with each other after watching this movie.

Here’s the trailer of the movie if you are interested šŸ™‚

Mari Morooka

6 Responses to “Hafu: movie about mixed-race people in Japan

  • Jeanne Bufalino
    10 months ago

    Hi Mari! Thanks for sharing. This looks very interesting. It definitely has a very inclusive tone to it while also highlighting the challenges the “half-Japanese” population experiences. I am curious what reactions and personal experiences your students would share in the the discussions following the video. When you initially watched the movie, was it for a class? And if so, did you have a similar discussion? Did students share personal accounts?

    • Mari Morooka
      10 months ago

      Hi Jeanne, thanks for your question! It was actually a movie for the movie night we had in order to study further for a course about intercultural communication. I remember discussing the problems that mix-raced people face in Japan in small groups and some of the people in my group were also hafu themselves (half-Ghanaian, half-American), so they shared similar experiences related to the descriptions in the movie. I think they were both saying they didn’t feel welcome in Japan and no matter how people around them were kind to them, they still felt some kind of isolation from the society. I think this could be also evidence that racism exists in Japan (not just an individual level but institutional/systemic level).

  • Deniz Ortactepe
    10 months ago

    Hi Mari,

    Thanks for sharing this! I will see if I can request it through ILL.
    I agree with Jeanne’s questions. Can you tell us more about the course/context in which you were presented this material as a student?

    • Mari Morooka
      10 months ago

      Thanks for your question, Deniz! The course I was taking at that time was called intercultural communication, and we learned about general topics of how different cultures interact with each other and how to behave appropriately across cultures, etc. (pretty much like ICC courses in MIIS!) In addition to hafu people, we also talked about who we call “returnee students” (those who spent a large amount of time abroad in their childhood or teen, mostly because of their father’s jobs and came back to Japan) and how they feel about where they belong. It depends on each individual, but it is a recognized problem that many returnee students feel isolated or feel like having nowhere to belong (neither of the countries) to some extent, and they face certain identity crises. I hope I answered your question!

  • Hi Mari – thanks for sharing! I know pretty much nothing when it comes to Japan – I will definitely watch this movie. The preview itself is really powerful.
    I have to ask… what was the part of the clip (1:22) where the girl is smashing a watermelon?

    • Mari Morooka
      10 months ago

      haha yes, I’d be happy to answer your question, Kate! I’m actually surprised that you don’t have this watermelon event in the US! It’s a very common activity associated with summer in Japan. One person covers up his/her eyes and tries to smash a watermelon with a wooden stick or a baseball bat when others help the person by telling him/her where to go or what to do. Kids and adults all love to do this!

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