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H?fu (, "half") is a Japanese language term used to refer to an individual born to one ethnic Japanese and one non-Japanese parent. A loanword from English, the term literally means "half," a reference to the individual's non-Japanese heritage.[1][2][3][4] While Japan remains one of the most homogeneous societies on the planet, h?fu individuals are well represented in the media in Japan and abroad and recent studies estimate that 1 in 30 children born in Japan are born to interracial couples.[5]

Related terms

In Japanese

  • Ainoko (, lit. child in-between) - An ainoko is a Japanese person with a non-Japanese or gaijin (, lit. foreigner), parent. It was historically often associated with discriminating sentiment. Almost never used today in Japan.
  • Konketsuji (, lit. mixed-blood child) - A konketsuji is a Japanese person with one non-Japanese parent. It is considered a derogatory term.[6]
  • Kw?t? (, lit. quarter) - A kw?t? is a Japanese person with one non-Japanese grandparent. The term is a loanword, based on the English word quarter and refers to an individual's 25%, or one quarter, non-Japanese ancestry.

In other languages

  • Afro-Asian (also Blasian) - An Afro-Asian is an individual of Black African and Asian ancestry. Blasian, a portmanteau of Black and Asian, is a slang term and is regularly used among English speakers in North America.
  • Ainoco (f. Ainoca) - An ainoco is an individual with one Japanese parent. The term is a loanword, based on the Japanese word ainoko (, lit. multiracial) and is used by Portuguese speakers in Brazil and Pohnpeian speakers in Micronesia, both countries with a sizable Japanese populations.
  • Amerasian - An Amerasian is an individual of American and Asian, especially East Asian ancestry. Historically, the term referred to children born to local women and American servicemen stationed in East Asia during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. It should not be confused with Asian American, which describes an American citizen of full or partial Asian ancestry.
  • Eurasian - A Eurasian is an individual of White European and Asian ancestry.
  • Hapa - A hapa is an individual of mixed Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, East Asian and/or Southeast Asian heritage. The term is a loanword, based on the English word half, as h?fu is, but, unlike h?fu, the term does not imply an individual is 50%, or half, of a certain race or ethnicity, only that they are mixed race. It is a Hawaiian term, used by English and Hawaiian speakers in Hawaii and California.
  • Mestiço de japonês - A mestiço de japonês (lit. Japanese mestiço) or miscigenado de japonês is an individual, usually an eurasiano, with one Japanese parent, i.e. a nipônico citizen, or a nipo-brasileiro. They are Portuguese terms, used in Brazil, but enjoy less popularity than ainoco and h?fu.
  • Mestizo de japonés - A mestizo de japonés (lit. Japanese mestizo) is an individual with one Japanese parent. It is a Spanish term, used in Argentina and Mexico.


Prehistoric to feudal Japan

H?fu refers to a person who has one ethnic Japanese parent and one non-ethnic Japanese parent. The term ethnic Japanese refers to the Indigenous Japanese people of the Japanese archipelago. Over the course of centuries the minority ethnic groups such as the Ainu and Ryukyuans were mostly assimilated into the Yamato population. Mixed race couples and thus h?fu people were rare in feudal Japan. There were mixed Asian couples between ethnic Japanese and other East and Southeast Asian peoples.

The most well-regarded theory is that present-day Yamato Japanese are descendants of both the Indigenous J?mon people and the immigrant Yayoi people.[7] The Yayoi were an admixture (1,000 BCE-300 CE) of migrants from East Asia (mostly China and the Korean peninsula).

Modern mainland (Yamato) Japanese have less than 20% Jomon people's genomes.[8] In modern Japan, the term Yamato minzoku is seen as antiquated for connoting racial notions that have been discarded in many circles since Japan's surrender in World War II.[9] The term "Japanese people" or even "Japanese-Japanese" are often used instead.[10]

Genetic and anthropological studies indicate that the Ryukyuans are significantly related to the Ainu people and share the ancestry with the indigenous prehistoric J?mon period (pre 10,000-1,000 BCE) people, who arrived from Southeast Asia and with the Yamato people.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17] During the Meiji period, the Ryukyuans distinct culture was suppressed by the Meiji government and faced forced assimilation.[18]

Early modern period

Edo period (1603-1867)

Koxinga was a Chinese monarch and h?fu

English sailor William Adams, a navigator for the Dutch East India Company, settled in Japan in April 1600. He was ultimately granted the rank of samurai, one of the few non-Japanese to do so. He wed Oyuki (), a Japanese woman and together, they had two children, Joseph and Susanna, who were h?fu.[19]

Chinese military leader Chenggong Zhenga, historically known as Koxinga (1624-1662), was h?fu, born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Chinese father and raised there until the age of seven, known by the Japanese given name, Fukumatsu.[20]

Modern period

Meiji and Taish? period (1868-1926)

Since 1899, the Ainu were increasingly marginalized. During a period of only 36 years, the Ainu went from being a relatively isolated group of people to having their land, language, religion and customs assimilated into those of the Japanese.[21] Intermarriage between Japanese and Ainu was actively promoted by the Ainu to lessen the chances of discrimination against their offspring. As a result, many Ainu are indistinguishable from their Japanese neighbors, but some Ainu Japanese are interested in traditional Ainu culture.[22]

Contemporary period

Sh?wa period (post-war) (1945-1989)

The presence of the United States Armed Forces in Japan and Asia saw the birth of many children born to American fathers; these children were called Amerasians. It's estimated that by 1952, anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 Japanese children were fathered by American servicemen, with many of the children placed for adoption by their Japanese mothers due to the stigma of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and miscegenation and the struggles of supporting a child alone in post-war Japan. One orphanage, Seibo Aijien (, Seibo Aijien, Our Lady of Lourdes Orphanage), in Yokohama, run by Franciscan nuns, opened in 1946 and, by 1948, staff members were caring for 126 children fathered by American servicemen, by 1950 and 136 children.[23][24] A letter, dated 1948, detailed an incident of a malnourished infant born to a Japanese teenager whose American father refused to support for fear his wife would learn of his extramarital affair.[25] Another orphanage, opened in ?iso by a Japanese woman named Miki Sawada, cared for more than 700 Amerasian children, none of whom were visited or supported by their American fathers.[25]

Heisei period (1989-2019)

Fashionable images of the half Japanese people have become prominent especially with the increased appearance of h?fu in the Japanese media.[26]H?fu models are now seen on television or fill the pages of fashion magazines such as Non-no, CanCam and Vivi as often as newsreaders or celebrities. The appearance of h?fu in the media has provided the basis for such a vivid representation of them in the culture.[27][28]

One of the earliest terms referring to half Japanese was ainoko, meaning a child born of a relationship between two races. It is still used in Latin America, most prominently Brazil (where spellings such as ainoco, ainoca (f.) and ainocô may be found), to refer to mestizo (broader Spanish sense of mixed race in general) or mestiço people of some Japanese ancestry. Nevertheless, it evolved to an umbrella term for Eurasian or mixed Asian/mestizo, Asian/black, Asian/Arab and Asian/indigenous heritage in general. At the same time it is possible for people with little Japanese or other Asian ancestry to be perceivable just by their phenotype to identify mostly as black, white or mestizo/pardo instead of ainoko, while people with about a quarter or less of non-Asian ancestry may identify just as Asian.

Soon this, too, became a taboo term due to its derogatory connotations such as illegitimacy and discrimination. What were central to these labels were the emphasis on "blood impurity" and the obvious separation of the half Japanese from the majority of Japanese. Some English-speaking parents of children of mixed ethnicity use the word "double."[29]Amerasian is another term for children of mixed ancestry, especially those born to Japanese mothers and U.S. military fathers.

Of the one million children born in Japan in 2013, 2.2% had one or more non-Japanese parent.[70] According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, one in forty-nine babies born in Japan today are born into families with one non-Japanese parent.[30] Most intermarriages in Japan are between Japanese men and women from other Asian countries, including China, the Philippines and South Korea.[31] Southeast Asia too, also has significant populations of people with half Japanese ancestry, particularly in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In the 21st century, stereotyping and discrimination against h?fu occurs based on how different their identity, behaviour and appearance is from a typical Japanese person. The hafu of international marriages between Japanese and other Asians tend to blend in easier in Japanese society. They can have a bicultural identity. Their foreign side could be suppressed in Japan's homogeneous culture.

The documentary film Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan was released in April 2013. It is about the experiences of five h?fu living in Japan. It deals with issues of identity, multiculturalism, relationships, hardship and stereotyping that they face.[32][33]

In September 2018, Naomi Osaka is the first Japanese woman and h?fu to contest a Grand Slam singles final and the first Japanese Grand Slam singles champion. Naomi Osaka is the winner of the 2018 US Open Women's Singles.[34][35]

Reiwa period (2019-)

The population is aging and decreasing due to the low birthrate in Japan. The fertility rate is about 1.44 children per woman (2019). This is far below the 2.1 children per woman that's required to maintain a stable population. Japan had 126.5 million people in 2018.[36] The population of only Japanese nationals was 124.8 million in January 2019.[37] So there's an estimated 1.7 million foreign residents in Japan which is the highest to date. 2/3rd of all migrants come from China, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. Currently 1 in 4 people is aged 65 and older in Japan. If the birthrate doesn't improve then there will be 1 in 3 old people by 2050.[38]

The percentage of h?fu is increasing, but it is still a minority in Japan. The Government of Japan regards all naturalized Japanese citizens and native-born Japanese nationals with multi-ethnic background as Japanese. It doesn't distinguish based on their ethnicity. There's no official ethnicity census data.[39]

Famous h?fu individuals

H?fu (, "half") describes an individual who is either the child of one Japanese and one non-Japanese parent or, less commonly, two half Japanese parents. Because the term is specific to individuals of ethnic Japanese (Yamato) ancestry, individuals whose Japanese ancestry is not of ethnic Japanese origin, such as Zainichi Koreans (e.g. Crystal Kay Williams and Kiko Mizuhara) will not be listed.[40][41] This list is only for famous H?fu.

Arts and architecture

Business and economics


Cary Joji Fukunaga, American film director
Anza Ohyama, Japanese singer
Sabrina Sato Rahal, Brazilian TV presenter
Mike Shinoda, American musician

News and media


Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, Austrian politician
Irina Khakamada, Russian politician

Science and technology


Katelyn Ohashi, American gymnast
Naomi Osaka, Japanese tennis player
David "Dave" Roberts, American baseball player
Akira Takayasu, Japanese sumo wrestler


H?fu in popular culture

Generalized usage

In a wider sense, the word can be used to describe a child between any combination of mixed parents. For example "Meghan Markle is a h?fu between a Black and a White".

See also


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