Blackness in the ‘Pure’ Japanese Mind – “Hafu” vs. Cool Japan 2020?

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In 2020, hundreds of thousands of Olympics fans from around the world will ignore Japan’s daily earthquakes and enjoy Japanese welcoming bows. Before the universe descends on Haneda and Narita airports in all its colors, Japan must look at itself on a big mirror. At a time when Japan is promoting a global ‘Cool Japan 2020’ campaign, unfortunately, Japan is not cool as far as blackness is concerned.

According to the Japanese government, the three core concepts of Tokyo 2020 vision are, “striving for your personal best (achieving personal best), accepting one another (unity in diversity) and passing on legacy for the future (connecting to tomorrow) (Tokyo 2020, 2015). Maybe this vision should be applied now so that Japan learns to accept a beautiful Miss Universe Japan 2015. After her biracial friend committed suicide, Ariana Miyamoto decided to join the Miss Universe Japan beauty pageant.

She is 21 years old, born in Sasebo city, Kyushu, Nagasaki of an African-American father and a Japanese mother (Black Tokyo, 2015). Seven Japanese judges selected her and she is poised to represent Japan in the Miss Universe 2015 competition. Just as Barack Obama was not black enough for some voters (The Guardian, 2007), Ariana Miyamoto is not Japanese enough for some Japanese though there is a sense that she is more acceptable to young Japanese. Some Japanese have criticized her of not being a pure Japanese and she has been ignored by Japanese media (Mcneil, 2015).

If Japan cannot accept one of its own now, why should I expect Japan to accept ‘different’ people in 2020? In Japan, mixed-race people are referred to as “hafu” from the word ‘half’ and they are prone to prejudices. Miyamoto has received massive global media attention and she says that "I want to start a revolution, I can't change things overnight but in 100 – 200 years, there will be very few pure Japanese left, so we have to start changing the way we think" (Himmer, 2015).

In fact, there are no pure Japanese. Japanese purity is a myth and various studies on human genetic history of East Asia indicate that Japanese people carry genomes also found amongst other Asian populations like Koreans, Tibetans, Tungus, Chinese, Eskimos, Taiwanese etc. (Matsumoto, 1988). According to Ariana Miyamoto, Japan hardly has black models or TV personalities and she sees favoritism towards ‘hafu’ who are related to Caucasian or Eurasian origins (Daily Mail, 2015). Such celebrities include: Rola born to a Bangladeshi father and half-Japanese, half-Russian mother; Becky - British-Japanese; Yu Shirota – Spanish-Japanese: Algerian-French Japanese. Apart from Miyamoto another Afro-Japanese biracial celebrity is Mendy Sekiguchi born to a Nigerian father and a Japanese mother (Arama Japan, 2015).

The Japanese government has noted that „the Tokyo 1964 Games completely transformed Japan.“ Japan hopes that, „the Tokyo 2020, as the most innovative in history, will bring positive reform to the world. If Japan does not bow at Miyamoto as she carries Japan’s flag today, a section of the world might not bow back in 2020.


Arama Japan 2015: Rola and other Haafu Stars are changing the entertainment landscape

Black Tokyo 2015: The Face of Japan

Daily Mail 2015: Not Japanese Enough?

Himmer, Alastair 2015: Black Miss Japan Fights for Race Revolution

Matsumoto, Hideo 1988: Characteristics of Mongoloid and neighboring populations based on the genetic markers of human immunoglobulins, in Human Genetics, Volume 80, Number 3, Page 207.

Mcneil, Baye 2015: Meeting Miss Universe Japan, the ‘half’ who has it all

The Guardian 2007: Is Obama Black Enough?

Tokyo 2020: Vision




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