Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Hafus: Mixed Race People in Japan (Part 1)

The population of mixed-race people in Japan is increasing, thus, “one out of every 50 babies in 2012” are the offspring of a non-Japanese parent (221). The Japanese government has worked to create the narrative of a “mono-ethnic society,” but mixed-race people, known as hafus, threaten this identity (222). Rachael Burke argues this in her article, "Embodying A Multicultural Society?: Mixed-Race (Hafu) Children In Japanese Early Childhood Education," and explores the ways the government uses education as a way to shape the minds and bodies of hafus, so that they can assimilate into Japanese society. 

The parent’s of hafu children have admitted to worrying about their children’s foreign names because of the pressure for hafus to assimilate into Japanese society. True to the Foucauldian idea of self-regulation, the author reports that non-Japanese parents reported giving her children Japanese names “so they wouldn’t stand out on the class roll” (229).  A traditional Japanese name carries power and protects the person from being ostracized because it allows them to “blend in” (229). Similarly, hafus with Japanese features feel more comfortable because they are able to “pass” (229).  Yet, physical appearance is one piece to the puzzle of Japanese national identity.
Japanese schools are a tool that “normalizes children’s bodies,” which allows all children to feel a tie to the nation and gives the state power (230). Subsequently, this supports the idea that bodies are shaped by culture and not biology. This means that non-Japanese, hafus, and "pure Japanese" children can be disciplined to behave like native Japanese citizens.

Works Cited:

Burke, Rachael S. "Embodying A Multicultural Society?: Mixed-Race (Hafu) Children in Japanese Early Childhood Education." Embodiment and Cultural Differences. Eds.
Bianca Maria Pirani and Thomas Spence Smith. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016. 221. Web. 

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