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hapa374My name is Tomo and I was born in New Zealand to a Japanese mother and Kiwi (pākehā, or white) father but moved to Japan and grew up in Yokohama in an expat/international school bubble.

I moved back to NZ at 16 and spent most of my 20’s in Japan on my overseas experience.

Growing up and during my time working in Japan I never felt comfortable with the term hafu. I really struggled with my identity growing up…I knew I wasn’t Japanese but I didn’t feel I was a New Zealander either. I was kind of caught in no-man’s lands a bit, which I now understand was probably TCK (Third Culture Kid) territory.

Working in Japan in my 20’s was the most defining time in my life I think. I didn’t particularly feel embraced by the people of Japan so I ended up feeling less and less Japanese (and more Kiwi) so I have ended up as identifying as a Kiwi with Japanese heritage on my mum’s side.

I feel accepted as who I am (and what am I) in NZ without question, whereas in Japan it felt as though I was always being defined as a gaijin (or Japanese when it suited them, but also having to always justify myself by my nationality/race/ethnicity).

I feel a lot more at peace with myself now having defined myself as someone of mixed heritage. I cannot say for sure if I feel proud or not to be Hapa but I am at a point where I feel comfortable to be one.

Although I live in Auckland (NZ) now, I still do embrace and celebrate most Japanese customs and holidays when I can as whether I like it or not Japan has been and always will be a big part of me and my life.

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