Other 'hafu' in the public eye

Judo Olympic gold medallist Mashu Baker is American Japanese.
Judo Olympic gold medallist Mashu Baker is American Japanese.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, REUTERS
Sprinter Asuka Cambridge has Jamaican roots. Beauty queen Ariana Miyamoto has an African American father. Politician Renho is Taiwanese Japanese. Tennis star Naomi Osaka has a Haitian American father. Indian Japanese beauty queen Priyanka Yoshikawa r
Politician Renho is Taiwanese Japanese.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, REUTERS
Sprinter Asuka Cambridge has Jamaican roots. Beauty queen Ariana Miyamoto has an African American father. Politician Renho is Taiwanese Japanese. Tennis star Naomi Osaka has a Haitian American father. Indian Japanese beauty queen Priyanka Yoshikawa r
Sprinter Asuka Cambridge has Jamaican roots.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, REUTERS
Sprinter Asuka Cambridge has Jamaican roots. Beauty queen Ariana Miyamoto has an African American father. Politician Renho is Taiwanese Japanese. Tennis star Naomi Osaka has a Haitian American father. Indian Japanese beauty queen Priyanka Yoshikawa r
Beauty queen Ariana Miyamoto has an African American father.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, REUTERS
Sprinter Asuka Cambridge has Jamaican roots. Beauty queen Ariana Miyamoto has an African American father. Politician Renho is Taiwanese Japanese. Tennis star Naomi Osaka has a Haitian American father. Indian Japanese beauty queen Priyanka Yoshikawa r
Indian Japanese beauty queen Priyanka Yoshikawa represented Japan in Miss World 2016. Judo Olympic PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, REUTERS
Sprinter Asuka Cambridge has Jamaican roots. Beauty queen Ariana Miyamoto has an African American father. Politician Renho is Taiwanese Japanese. Tennis star Naomi Osaka has a Haitian American father. Indian Japanese beauty queen Priyanka Yoshikawa r
Tennis star Naomi Osaka has a Haitian American father.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, REUTERS

TOKYO • Many Japanese hafu in the public eye have faced backlash for not being Japanese enough, even if they are Japanese by nationality.

However, Japan has been quick to claim as their own any pure-bred Japanese who has won acclaim despite holding foreign citizenship, like British Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, 63, who had moved to Britain when he was five.

Sociologist Lawrence Yoshitaka Shimoji told the Mainichi daily that there is a tendency among the Japanese to classify people by "how Japanese" they seem, and that biracial people still get bullied or discriminated against in schools and at the workplace.

The Sunday Times looks at some Japanese hafu who have made waves in sports, entertainment and politics.

SPORTS

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, 20, became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam when she defeated superstar Serena Williams at the US Open last month. The daughter of a Haitian American father and Japanese mother follows other biracial athletes who have made waves in recent years.

They include 25-year-old Jamaican Japanese sprinter Asuka Cambridge, born to a Jamaican father and Japanese mother, who was part of the 4x100m relay team that won a surprise silver at the Rio Olympics.

At the same Games, 24-year-old Mashu Baker, born to an American father and a Japanese mother, won a gold medal in judo.

ENTERTAINMENT

Ms Ariana Miyamoto, 24, the daughter of an African American father and Japanese mother, became the first biracial woman to represent Japan at the Miss Universe beauty pageant in 2015. She made it to the top 10, but suffered a backlash, with some claiming that her look was not Japanese enough.

She inspired Ms Priyanka Yoshikawa, 24, to follow in her footsteps a year later, when the Indian Japanese represented Japan at the 2016 Miss World contest.

Many other hafu have found success in entertainment, including Taiwanese Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro (better known as Jin Chengwu), 44, and Belgian Japanese rapper SoulJa, 34.

POLITICS

Aside from Mr Denny Tamaki, 58, who was elected by Okinawa last Sunday to become Japan's first hafu governor, another high-profile biracial politician is Taiwanese Japanese Renho, 50, who commonly goes by one name.

She made waves when she was elected Japan's first female leader of the now-defunct Democratic Party. An Upper House lawmaker for 14 years, she now belongs to the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 07, 2018, with the headline 'Other 'hafu' in the public eye'. Print Edition | Subscribe