We’re picking up my daughter’s first passport this week. It’s a Japanese passport. She has a Japanese first name, an English last name, and a face that shows mixed heritage, but brown hair. I’m sure she’ll get some second looks at the airport.
In Canada, she may get some curious looks when they see her passport, but otherwise, she’ll be fine. Canada is a multicultural country where Asians make up the largest minority groups. No one will think she’s not Canadian. She’ll be completely accepted. When she starts school, her mixed language of Japanese and English may raise some questions, but as she does understand English, she’ll quickly adapt. She has Canadian and Japanese citizenship, and dual citizenship isn’t uncommon in Canada. It’s Japan where she will encounter some issues.
I read an article on the Japan Times website by Debito Arudou, who is a naturalised citizen of Japan. He’s had issues with immigration and customs when they look at his Japanese passport and Caucasian face and has even missed connecting flights because they didn’t believe him. But what about my daughter? She’ll be able to use both Japanese and Canadian passports when we travel up until she’s twenty years old. In Japan, you cannot be a dual citizen after turning twenty. Will she be scrutinised?
In Japan, mixed kids are called haafu, or “half.” Half what? There are many people in Japan who think of them as incomplete Japanese. They are not fully Japanese, merely half Japanese. Even if they’re born and raised in Japan, speak Japanese as a first language, and have Japanese citizenship, they’re still considered foreigners or at least not worthy of being called Japanese. They’re often stared at, thought of as novelties, and lots of people will ask if they can touch their hair, or say that their Japanese is very good. Of course their Japanese is good, it’s their native language!
Although my daughter hasn’t encountered this kind of thing yet, it’s quite likely it’ll happen in other parts of Japan. Kanagawa is one of the most multicultural areas in Japan, as it has three American military bases and lots of foreign residents, including Chinese, Filipino, Brazilian, and Indian. It also attracts a lot of tourists. But my issue is that she’ll always be considered only half Japanese, despite the fact that she is 100% Japanese citizen. There is no half about that. She’s totally Japanese by birth, language, and citizenship. She’s also 100% Canadian. But because of the European part of her ancestry, people won’t think of her as Japanese at all.
Well, she is Japanese. She is Canadian. She is both.