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We interviewed the filmmakers, Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi, for the Hafu Documentary back in July. Since then, they completed their last shoot for the project and commenced a fundraising campaign to finance their post-production phase. As of right now, they surpassed their goal of 10,000$ USD. More about the documentary’s progress is soon to come. (Update): Megumi and Lara have posted a video expressing their gratitude towards those who have helped them reach their goal. They’re still accepting donations until December 11th, 2011. Any contribution will help make the documentary all the more greater.
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  Asia is changing. I wrote previously that Japan’s ethnic sociology is shifting. However, Japan isn’t the only country in Asia coping with evolving demographics. According to a recent article from The Diplomat, South Korea is finally acknowledging the permanent settlement of foreigners, international marriages, and their children. This is just one of the many sociological issues that South Korea shares with its continental cousin. The other is the ethno-nationalism that persists in both countries. This blood-based nationalism has, as the article suggests, restricted South Korea from sublimating its definition for what it means to be Korean in the 21st century. What the article overlooks is that this race-based brand of politics is directly related to one of its historical enemy. Scholars and commentators like B.R. Myers have argued that the myth of Korean exceptionalism traces back to Japan’s annexation of Korea. According to Myers, the concept of tanil minjok (단일 민족) didn’t appear until the Japanese brought it to Korea. The Japanese implemented a European inspired brand of race theory to co-opt a developing nationality ensuing in reaction to the Japanese occupation. Except in this instance, the Japanese occupation taught Koreans that they were both of the same “Yamato race.” The only difference, in the eyes of the occupation, is that the Japanese saw most ‘Koreans’ as subordinate due to distinctions of class according to Sociologist John Lie’s book, Multiethnic Japan. What came about is the ethno-nationalism that people see today. The reason why I bring up the shared historical ideologies of Korea and Japan is because, as I stated earlier, both countries are facing shifting demographics. The days in which someone who is born in Japan is always of “100%” Japanese are long gone. The myth of homogeneity in Japan and its discriminatory practices against foreigners is the recurrent narrative in The Land of the Rising Sun. A similar type of story is surfacing where non-Koreans and their biracial inhabitants face identical prejudices. Furthermore, Japan’s reluctance to tackle these issues could offer a framework for what South Korea should avoid. So far, I’m under the opinion that the Japanese government has done little to ameliorate the problems their immigrants face. In certain instances, some of the comments from their various Prime Ministers and politicians have done more exacerbate sentiments against its multi-ethnic residents. (See Taro Aso and Ishihara Shintaro). Similarities aside, the stark difference between the two nations is that South Korea seems to be taking the issue seriously. The only education based multicultural program in Japan that I can recollect at the top of my head is the JET Program and that’s proving to be a bungling failure in its own respect. It’s not just this, but Japanese politicians have been more than stubborn to the U.N.’s calls for legislative reforms on the matter. The creation of a multicultural program catered directly towards its inhabitants is unprecedented in its economic big brothers like China and Japan. Like Japan, China is defensive of its domestic practices. I spoke to Michelle Gamboa,...
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From left to right: Megumi Nishikura, Marcia Yumi Lise, and Lara Perez Takagi. Photo credit: Ryu Kodama.





Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi are two filmmakers living in Tokyo, Japan. Their next project, The Hafu Documentary, focuses on a lesser-known part of Japan’s demographic: biracial individuals. Hafu is the Japanese loan word for half-Japanese. The documentary features a Mexican-Japanese family (the Oi’s), a Ghanian-Japanese model named David, a Venezualan-Japanese community organizer named Ed, an Australian-Japanese expatriot named Sophia, and lastly, an unannounced Hafu of mixed Japanese and Asian descent. Both Nishikura and Takagi are half-Japanese themselves and I last interviewed them before the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. Once again, they take time out from their busy schedules to discuss their documentary and its progress since then.

Lara and Megumi in action. Photo credit: Michael Connolly.
















Giant Robot: How has production progressed so far?

Megumi Nishikura: “Sophia” is the fourth person. We put up a new image for her on the website. [When we first met her] it all came naturally. She wanted to show that she was part of this movie. She has her own blog and started writing about her participation in the film, and she tweets about us now and then. Her story is on the website and she grew up in Sydney, [Australia]. She spent a few summers in Japan here and there visiting her relatives, but doesn’t have too much experience in Japan. Last year, she decided that this was her last chance. If she didn’t take it now then she would never come and live here. She moved here and is tried to find a job, take Japanese lessons, and figure her way out while abroad.

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