Monday, October 9, 2017

"A mission to capture the full range of half-Japanese experience — in 192 photos"

Photo and text borrowed from The Japan Times, 10/8/17.

The son of a Japanese father and Belgian mother, photographer Tetsuro Miyazaki grew up in a multilingual and multicultural environment.

“My younger sister and I were raised in Dutch-French-bilingual Brussels, where our dad would speak Japanese to us, our mom would speak Dutch, and they would communicate in French between themselves,” says Miyazaki, now 39. Annual summer vacations spent in Japan and Saturday school helped him connect further with his father’s culture.

Reflection on his own cultural heritage was a catalyst for the “Hafu2Hafu” project, a collection of portraits of other bicultural Japanese people.

“As a half-Japanese photographer, living in Amsterdam at that time, I wanted to take on a personal project that would force me to pick up my camera and meet people,” Miyazaki says.

He began by speaking with Dutch hāfu.


After interest in his initial sessions with Dutch hāfu led to invitations to present his work at symposiums overseas, Miyazaki came up with an ambitious plan to photograph a hāfu person with one parent from every other nation in the world.

“Since there are 193 sovereign countries, there are 192 possible different combinations. The idea behind this is that I want to show how diverse being half-Japanese can be and I want to understand the different aspects of it. What influences the way we experience the ‘half-Japanese’ side of our identity?”

Miyazaki says he has been humbled by the willingness of his subjects to open up and talk about their personal feelings. While each one has a unique story, some common themes have emerged.

“One topic that always comes up is about the sense of belonging,” he notes. “What also struck me is that most hāfu people find themselves to be quite empathic. While I can’t say for sure, I believe it has a lot to do with having to interpret two different languages, the corresponding nonverbal communication, cultural backgrounds and, sometimes, religious differences.”

Miyazaki’s interviews with participants who grew up in Japan reveal the sometimes ambivalent attitudes that bicultural people may encounter in this traditionally homogenic society.

“Both those raised abroad and those raised in Japan want to ‘belong’ to Japan more than most of them do. But this is more ‘painful’ when one is living in Japan. Even if you understand the Japanese language or the customs very well, you may not be considered Japanese and often do not get treated as such,” Miyazaki points out.

“Another difference is what ‘the other half’ is. There are Western hāfu, hāfu with African heritage or a Latin parent and then Asian hāfu. They all have very different experiences, both in Japan and abroad,” he says.

Some foreign parents of bicultural Japanese kids dislike the connotation of the label “half” and advocate for such people to be called “double.” Based on his interviews so far, however, Miyazaki says that most bicultural adults do not share this view.

“Although some dislike the label half/hāfu, most of them embrace it. It has also struck me that the dislike comes from the parents, who do not want to refer to their child as ‘half.'”

Read the whole article:

Hafu2Hafu web page:

Hafu2Hafu Presentation and Workshop
Sunday, October 15 at 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
at Sophia University, Tokyo
More information:

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