The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I am not a hafu.
My parents are both Japanese and I was only born in the United States so I don’t know what it exactly is like living as a biracial person in Japan. I do like to think I can understand some of their struggles as someone that was a part of the international community. When I lived in Kansai before coming to Tokyo, I was a part of the international community in the Kansai area. If you know one person that goes to an international school, you know everybody your age that has experience abroad, family with diverse background or goes to an international school in Kansai. In this community, the hafu community, as they called themselves, was an especially tight nit group. I had a couple of friends who were a part of the “hafu community” and I remember talking about the merits and demerits of being biracial in Japan with them. One of the demerits I hear a lot was that sometimes it was hard to find genuine friends and partners because people would come up to them because of how they looked rather than caring about who they are inside.
「ハーフが好きです 」(my type is hafu)
A couple of years ago, I was obsessed with a romance reality show on Abema, an online TV streaming website, called オオカミには騙されない (Who is the wolf?). This show features eight to ten young up-and-coming influencers and documents their journey of finding true love, but there’s a twist. One or two members are called オオカミ (wolf) and they will trick other members to fall for them but cannot reciprocate those feelings. So at the end of the show, when members ask the person they’re interested in to go out with them, the wolves cannot say yes and will end up breaking people’s hearts. The show’s concept is to find true love and also to figure out who the wolves are so that you don’t get heartbroken.
The last season, 虹とオオカミには騙されない, aired from August to October featuring 11 members, five guys, and six girls. There were famous influencers such as Shuzo, a fashion model, Katou Noa, TikToker, and Taki from the Japanese dance-vocal group. Out of the six girls, Sakura (American-Japanese), Seira (Filipino-Japanese), and Taki (roots in Japan, Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines) are what we call ハーフ (hafu) in Japan. Shuzo who has modeled for many prestigious brands tells Sakura that he likes “hafu” and that “hafu” is his type.
The term “hafu” refers to someone who has a parent that is Japanese. According to hafufilm.com hafu comes from the English word “half” to point out how biracial people are half foreign and half Japanese. While the word hafu is still popularly used, it is slowly being recognized as unpolite and rude. People have started to replace the word hafu with “daburu” (English word: double) to indicate that people are more than just Japanese and have two roots.
Hafu as a Beauty standard
However, the term hafu is often still used when talking about appearance. ハーフ顔 (hafu face) and ハーフ風 (hafu like) are terms used by beauty clinics, plastic surgery clinics and makeup introducing websites such as @cosme. On hafufilm.com it is explained that in modern Japan, “the Hafu image projects an ideal; English ability, international cultural experience, western physical features – tall with long legs, small head/face.” However, hafu cannot be too foreign, which hafufilm.com also points out. Hafu is expected to look Japanese enough to fit in with the “majority” but has accentuated features that make them look “foreign.”
People with various racial/ethnic roots in Japan are put on a pedestal that is established by stereotypes and society molds that image by pushing terms like ハーフ顔 (hafu face) and 外国人風 (foreign like). Biracial celebrities are often introduced as ハーフモデル、ハーフ芸能人、ハーフタレント and they are always haunted by the word hafu.
The power media has over creating stereotypical images towards biracial people is immense. ViVi Magazine, a Japanese fashion magazine, has eleven models who exclusively model for ViVi, and eight are models who come from diverse backgrounds. While there is no denying how beautiful these women are, the magazine establishes what beautiful is. This creates an impossible challenge for Japanese women because they will idolize or look up to these ハーフモデル but cannot physically look like them. Women and men who find these models attractive will admire biracial people more, pushing the hafu stereotypes.
To me, “I like Hafu” or rather “Hafu is my type” just seems like a strange thing to say. It’s like saying “Foreigners are my type” or “French people are my type.”
At the end of the day, what people like and prefer is none of my business. However, I was disappointed to hear Shuzo say it because it makes young girls seeing this show idolize “hafu” more, and people with diverse roots are portrayed as a category when their background is more than just that. Although, I don’t know what Shuzo intended to say with “I like hafu” and “Hafu is my type” I wish he had chosen different words.
I am not biracial myself and not a part of the show so I cannot speak for the parties involved. However, as I was looking to write about this “hafu” issue, I found an article on HuffPost that talked about how words on appearance as a hafu, had made Maya Ishii, admin of Twitter account Gray Pride, feel depressed as she constantly compared herself to the biracial celebrities and how she didn’t look like that. When a guy told her he was interested in dating “hafu” because he was a fan of a famous biracial celebrity, Maya felt like she had to live up to those stereotypes and standards.
The word “hafu” is not a beauty standard or a category for appearance but it is someone’s identity. It is not only pressuring Japanese women to look a certain way but the stereotypical image also can be the cause of low self-esteem for biracial people. There should never be a “right way” to look and I feel that Shuzo’s “Hafu are my type” can be quite controversial.