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  • Shirinne Shimoji

I’m a “Whole” Person: My Journey as a Mixed-race Woman

Growing up as a ha-fu, I was always questioning my identity and roots. Back when I was in school, people used to ask me questions about my parent's marriage, our eating habits, the language that we speak at home, and so on. My face was not white enough, and my family name was Japanese. I was always an outsider.

After coming back to Japan in 2019, I thought I was finally able to live where I belong in my home country, Japan. But every time during and after a conversation with a Japanese person, something was off. It was as if everyone was trying to point at my difference, in a polite way. I was asked the same questions like in Iran, except with a huge difference: they thought I was just an outsider but also that one day I should go back to my country. Everybody kept asking me why I came to Japan and when I have plans to go back to Iran. It felt like nobody from outside can live here: obviously, they thought I couldn’t either!

During dinners, my Japanese friends were always surprised about how I can use chopsticks or eat natto, a traditional Japanese food made of soybeans.

My coworker/friend believed that “my face is too foreign for Japanese.” In other words, they thought I’m not Japanese enough.

After years and years of getting treated like an alien, I started to feel incomplete and “half.” I wanted to be accepted by society. Once again, I started questioning my identity and feeling like I’m not enough. Sometimes I just wished to be a “whole” Japanese.

All I could think about was why the Japanese keep calling me and people like me ha-fu or quarter. Does this mean they don’t see me as a whole person? Is there anything wrong with not being pure Japanese? After a while, I found it to be an offensive word and started to correct them.

I started to speak out for myself and people like me. I came to Japan to find my roots and belonging, but I was wrong. It doesn’t matter where you are from or where you live. You should always feel good about yourself. If anybody treats you otherwise, it doesn’t mean you aren’t enough. Nobody is a “half” person. We are all “whole”, “enough,” and beautiful in our own way.

About the Writer

My name is Shirinne Shimoji. I was born to a Japanese father and an Iranian mother in 1995 in Yokohama. After the age of 5, my mother and I moved back to Iran, where I studied the Japanese language and literature at Tehran University.

Instagram: @shirinne_shimoji

Edited by Emiru Okada

Graphics by Ayumi White

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