This past weekend, I made an off-island excursion to Osaka to take part in the Mixed Roots Japan Academic Forum, which was part of a two-day series of events devoted to raising awareness of and promoting studies of individuals with mixed roots in Japan.
I made it to Osaka in time for a live music event featuring, among others, accordionist/rakugo performer Katsura Sunshine and GeneZ, a hiphop trio with Ghanian, Okinawan, American Filipina, Irish, and Japanese roots.
On Sunday morning, the academic forum was held. To start off, USC Professor Duncan Ryuken Williams, who organized the Hapa Japan Conference held at UC Berkeley this past spring, spoke about the history of hapa identity in the United States. This was followed by a presentation on multiculturalism and mixed identity by renowned playwright Velina Hasu Houston. She then led participants in a theatrical workshop, which went well.
In the afternoon, we heard presentations from Hyoue Okamura, who made me rethink the use of the word “mixed” in describing my children; Laurel Kamada on Mixed-Ethnic Identities and Adolescents in Japan; linguist Tim Greer on “Accomplishing Multiethnic Identity in Mundane Talk;” and Shizuyo Yoshitomi on “Identity and Heritage Languages: Initiatives in the Community.”
I gave a brief presentation on my experiences of raising mixed children in Japan. (Not being an academic myself, I was kind of nervous. I was intimidated by all of the linguistic jargon and I’m not accustomed to presenting in Japanese. However, some attendees approached me afterward and seemed to have gotten something of value out of my talk, so I was glad to have presented.)
Finally, Marcia Lise and Natalie Willer talked about The Hafu Project, which includes a traveling photographic exhibit, a book-in-progress, and a film-in-progress. I was surprised to learn from them that one in ten marriages in Tokyo are between a Japanese and non-Japanese.
It was invigorating to see so many hafu individuals in their 20s and 30s involved in exciting projects, and made me feel hopeful about the future of my children in Japan. I was also impressed by the mad organizational skills and aplomb of Edward Sumoto, who, along with Dr. Yoshitomi of Osaka University’s Global Collaboration Center, made the whole thing happen.
If you live in Japan, consider checking out this event next year.