Culture January 3, 2019
Furusato / Mixed
Identity is closely bound to memories of a homeland, ideas of a homeland, and the structures of our ethics and moralities linked with it. In a sense, this would often be the difference, I’ve found, between Amerasians and mixed-race Japanese who currently debate many aspects of their likeness, what is weird or normal or not, and what political and cultural allegiances they express. Also, it traces loss, absences of memory and experience, and also power relations between Japanese, Americans, Japanese-Americans, and points to the illusion of unified identities.
I feel that there is a useful identity difference between calling myself “Amerasian,” and to say that I am linked with mixed-Japanese identity, but not completely the same as what is normally considered Amerasian. Certainly we, as these identities, are all hāfu. However, placing ourselves in nations and histories, if we meet in the United States, a whole host of experiences of language, memory, the self and its ways, and how one considers oneself in the world, and the types of racisms experienced, are markedly different. In addition, there is the experience/question of whether one is adopted. And adopted into a Japanese family? White-American family? Black-American family?

Okinawa, being a colony that is heavily controlled by both Japan and the United States, plays a critical role in the continuation of postwar histories alive in the present. Japan has done a sufficient job at almost annihilating these histories from Japanese national memory, save for the “nostalgic” stories popularized by living Amerasians in Japan.
Firstly, mixed-Japanese born after, let’s say—1980, would less likely have experienced being called names such as混血児konketsuji, or 愛の子ainoko. Additionally, many more recent condescending names for American-mixed hāfu are linked more with Okinawa, since the residues of the “mixed-race issue” in postwar Japan lasted longer and its problems being played out even in the present with the rapes of Okinawan women by U.S. military men. Okinawa, being a colony that is heavily controlled by both Japan and the United States, plays a critical role in the continuation of postwar histories alive in the present. Japan has done a sufficient job at almost annihilating these histories from Japanese national memory, save for the “nostalgic” stories popularized by living Amerasians in Japan. Almost nothing is known about those like myself, and others who made their way to the United States somehow on their own, or who were adopted out, or who came with mothers who re-married with someone with reasons to be in the United States.

The points of unity that may be desired in identity, would come only through an acknowledgement of general bi-national U.S-Japan experiences. The two national cultural aspects of identity and the mixed-ness of it, would, then, be the factors that position “mixed-race” people outside of dominant monoracial ways in which mainstream national identity performs in the world, and structures assumptions regarding identity and the world.
Hāfu born and raised in the United States, would by the very nature of identity formation, take on the systems, worldviews, and ways of being that would be their primary cultures in the United States. Japanese hāfu would be Japanese. Of course after national cultural identity, there would be the particular experiences of adoption, caste/class levels, single parent or nuclear family, neighborhood and city, and a whole host of factors that would differentiate people further. The points of unity that may be desired in identity, would come only through an acknowledgement of general bi-national U.S-Japan experiences. The two national cultural aspects of identity and the mixed-ness of it, would, then, be the factors that position “mixed-race” people outside of dominant monoracial ways in which mainstream national identity performs in the world, and structures assumptions regarding identity and the world. This is what I feel is the “special” quality through which all so-called mixed-race people can play a positive role in intervening on notions of race, nation and culture that maintains certain forms of racism and nationalism.

When understanding between different hāfu is more of a struggle, it is usually due to cultural-political implications embedded in the ways in which we see ourselves as mixed-race, Japanese, American, white, Black, Latino(a), etc.
The idea of home is often a single place in people, including hāfu. What would indicate multiple homes in a single idea of home, would be whether a person was born and raised for years—enough to have repetitions and move into the depths of memory, in both the United States and Japan, or not. For community unity, these differences may or may not depend on these differences. When understanding between different hāfu is more of a struggle, it is usually due to cultural-political implications embedded in the ways in which we see ourselves as mixed-race, Japanese, American, white, Black, Latino(a), etc.

In Europe, or the Middle Eastern nations, and in Asia, the construction of difference are not the same as the way Americans label and use racial terms and their significance. I’ve seen and almost participated in extensive arguments between hāfu, on that terminology, versus others used in the United States, and the meanings of such terms.
Mixed-race is a term that makes sense within the structure of the way Americans and Europeans trace and repeat the idea of race. It is a European invention that is not real, but racism is real and makes the term “race” operate. In Europe, or the Middle Eastern nations, and in Asia, the construction of difference are not the same as the way Americans label and use racial terms and their significance. I’ve seen and almost participated in extensive arguments between hāfu, on that terminology, versus others used in the United States, and the meanings of such terms. Usually, the divisions of thinking are divided between those who are heavily Americanized and have lived in the United States for most of their lives, and those whose identity-memory has more investment in Japan. The worldviews—and therefore, structures of social life and languaging reality—are not the same.
Nowadays the idea of a furusato (homeland/heart), for the “newer” Japanese, is an old-fashioned concept. People are more transient. For Americans, it has been out of fashion for a long time, except for those who think of childhood memories in a specific place. Usually this involves, perhaps, some kinds of food a mother made, a certain season of the year that is remembered wistfully, or a certain freedom or innocence that is fondly remembered. For myself, furusato has a strong link to having a safe place amidst being ostracized, terrified, and violated. Also, this was my mother’s experience in Japan at the same time. Therefore, the pleasurable memories—the smells, the food, the falling leaves, the mist in the forest, the deer, the sound of steam train whistles, the smell of tatami---are among the strongest and enduring qualities of Japanese-ness that are cherished deeply as I live as an anonymous American in San Francisco.
Featured Image by Edward M. Haugh