Hello! My name is Erika Clark and I am half Japanese, half American (Caucasian). I was born and raised in Japan until I was 15.
Growing up, I hated being Hapa. Living in the suburbs of a seemingly homogeneous society, I struggled with not being accepted in school and constantly standing out.
I am one of five siblings (all boys save for me) and it’s safe to say that I did not have the most pleasant childhood. I barely attended school for fear of being teased/bullied and I was extremely self-conscious to the point of feeling unworthy of talking to anyone.
But over the years, I’ve found comfort in sharing my thoughts with other Hapas and have often joked about creating a country of Hapas where we are free of rude judgements. When I was 15, I decided to “escape” Japan and attend high school in California. I thought that people in the US would be more accepting of me, but I was surprised to discover that just as I was “the American” in Japan, here I’m “the Japanese girl.”
Growing up with two cultures gives you easy access to both communities, but it also seems to leave gaps. I am now entering my seventh year in California, but I’m still trying to get used to the “American ways” and deal with people who ask, “What ARE you?”
I am currently attending college in Southern California. I’m a lot more confident and extremely social now. Growing up Hapa, there were some dark times, but I’ve been able to connect with so many great people because of my language abilities, and there’s nothing in this world I would trade for that.
I love both Japanese and American culture: green tea and hamburgers, tight hugs and silent waves, J-pop and US jams. My struggle to fit in, to feel fully confident, and to find where I belong still continues, but I’m definitely glad that I was raised in two cultures. I hope all Hapas are able to feel the same.
Yay I’m not the only one that jokes about creating a hapa country! haha I’ve thought for a while now that it would be cool to have a place where hapas could go and get to know each other, where being hapa would be normal, and I think a country made up of hapa people would have such an awesome culture!
Hi, I can relate to you, only that I’m not half-Japanese like you, but Filipino who grew up in Japan. I attended junior high til college there. On my 3rd year, I decided to move to the US. I thought that being half-Japanese would’ve given you a bit more advantage, cause you don’t look too different.. but I guess I was wrong. I’m sorry that you went through some tough times, but I’m happy that you’re in a good place in your life now. Good luck!
I can identify fully with what you say about your experience. My parents were from two different cultures (both English speaking) and I was born and raised in a third (albeit Spanish speaking). I am much older than you but I can confidently say that when young I experienced similar insecurities to yours; however it gets much better as you age. I see that you are realizing that. Enjoy the ride!
Hi Erica, Sorry to hear about your experience in Japan and U.S. I am half thai and half german and definitely know what it feels like to be bullied and out of place in two countries. I actually feel more comfortable visiting family in Thailand because there are lots of Hapa’s and when it comes to race there is a lot of acceptance on differences there, compared to U.S. I know S. California (well L.A. area) has a lot of Hapa’s too which does help…hope people there are a lot more welcoming than from your past experiences:)
My all white American cousin still calls me and my siblings the Japanese girls. Go figure!
M. Ha ha! My cousins are the exact same way! Our nuclear family is the only ethnic diversity in our family tree so they’re always “proud?” of having me. It’s nice but it also makes me feel like my existence is some kind of a show.. Every time I visit, they ask me to say something in Japanese, and I feel like an adopted child when I look at family photos lol
Hi Erika. I know the feeling. It’s being quite hard when I was young. I moved from Japan to Europe when I was 10, but I have to admit that in Italy I was accepted almost immediately … maybe because here people are very social or maybe because I never looked very Japanese. (in a recent trip to Moscow I realised that many people there are natural hapas! and do not question too much about their origins). But like most of us went through the big identity crisis. Now I realise that the best way is to enjoy every moment of life, what ever your situation, and to connect with people. Cheers, Ken
Thanks for your comment Ken! It’s so cool that there are Japanese Hapas all over the world! Italy is on my list of places to visit someday. Glad you’ve found it welcoming there. :) Totally agree with your last statement. It can be hard at times but it’s so much better to just let things go and enjoy life :D
Yes, I am sure you will enjoy Italy. Like Japan, a country where art and food are exceptionally good! There is so much to see.
Regarding Japanese Hapas, if I may comment, I believe that the majority lives in Japan and the US (physiological and historical reasons). In most cases Japanese hapas with Japanese mother are more common, but in the last 20 years things have changed a lot. When I was little, in 70’s Japan, my Italian mom joined for few times a group called Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese (AFWJ). They where so few that they met all in a room. Apparently now days the members are more than 500. Anyway I think we are all unique and fantastic, so… enjoy your future international trips!
Your story is very interesting! I’d like to live in country of Hapas it would be great! You wrote that You were bullied… it’s so sad, but me too. In one school, people called me “slanted eye” and laughed at me, so I went to other school, but I always proud to be different, some people just can’t understand this. Being part or half Japanese is so exciting. I’m Polish/Japanese…
Good for You!!! ^.^ (sorry for my bad english)
Thank you Miiko! and your english is fine! :) Kids can be cruel, but I think life gives you rough times in order for us to appreciate the good, and I definitely did not end up where I am/who I am today if it wasn’t for what happened in the past so, no sad feelings. Hope its the same for you! Spread the Hapa love<3 lol
hey Miiko just a question, did you attend a school in Poland?
Can you please share your experiences with me?(Send me a msg on FB)
I’m a Polish girl married to Japanese dude and we’re often discussing about where to settle in the future and I’m studying other Hapa’s experiences for the sake of our kids :) I’d really appreciate your help, you can write to me in Polish !
I totally understand where you are coming from! It’s as if we are sisters.
I was born and raised in SF, and I still struggle (even today) being hapa. People still ask me “where I’m from?” When I say U.S, they are shocked…as if I should be saying another country. T__T Any who, please contact me if you are ever in SF so we can go grab coffee or something. :)
Thank you Miki! I’ll be sure to keep you in mind the next time I’m headed towards SF! :)
Also meant to comment on how interesting it is, we’ve gone through the same “outsider” situations even though you were in the US. I finds it strange that a country that is built on the foundation of accepting differences.. still pick on differences. I’d imagine that that can be rough on a lot of people. Just wanna say good job on surviving!! :D