Dutch/Canadian | Japanese

Technically, I guess I would say I’m Eurasian. When I think a person deserves the right to know my whole story I say I’m half Japanese, quarter Dutch, quarter Canadian and some English. I am heterosexual and agnostic. I have faith in something, just not quite sure what.

My mum is half Dutch, half Canadian. My Grandmother was born in England but moved to Canada when she was 2; my mum was born there too. My father was Japanese, both his parents were Japanese (unsurprising as Japan was and still is quite an isolated country, stemming from sakoku, when foreigners were banned from entering Japan and the Japanese weren’t allowed to leave for over 200 years).

My father was born and bred in Tokyo. My mum was travelling the world during the 80s; her travels took her to Japan where she was studying shiatsu and acupuncture. She went to get her motorbike licence at the department of motor vehicles and my dad was there too, converting his Japanese driver’s licence to an international one (he was going to be travelling a lot to America for work). They went for lunch whilst they were waiting for my mum’s motorbike test results. My mum says it was love at first sight. But soon after that she continued her travels (she went travelled through South East Asia, Papua New Guinea and Australia). They spoke a few times throughout the next year. When she came back to Japan, my father asked her to come see him straight away as he was due to travel to New Caledonia the next day. They stayed up all night talking and catching up and as she says, the rest is history.

I was born in Kawasaki, just outside of Tokyo. We lived in Tokyo until I was 7. My mum, my older sister, my younger brother and I moved to the south of Spain after my father passed away. Therefore, I would say the majority of my upbringing was in Spain. Then I moved to the UK when I was 19 for university and have been here ever since.

I think I was always aware there was something different about us (my siblings and I). Living in Japan with a White mum, I was aware she was different from everyone else, even though she spoke fluent Japanese and fully immersed herself into Japanese culture. I don’t remember thinking I was mixed-race whilst I was still in Japan, I felt Japanese. I spoke Japanese and was surrounded by Japanese friends and family. However, when we moved to Spain I remember coming home from school in floods of tears one day because people were calling me Chinese and doing slanted eyes. I must’ve been 7 or 8 years old. That was the moment I wanted to scream that I was also other (European) nationalities, so that I would fit in.

Then there’s the dreaded ethnicity tick box. That’s probably when I first truly recognised I was mixed-race, there wasn’t an option for me. Back in the day, my option was always ‘other’. The fact that I didn’t fit into a simple box used to make me really angry.

Living in London, we are so lucky to be surrounded by such a multicultural environment. People are from all over here. My friendship group is diverse, and I also get really excited when I meet other mixed-race people, especially other ‘Hapas’ (people of part East Asian or Pacific island descent).

A particular race has never been an element I look for specifically in a partner. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great to be able to share similar experiences, however I think the most important thing is for that person to understand where you come from and love you for who you are.

I feel as though mixed-race people are still constantly objectified. People have said to me, ‘I wish I was mixed-race or racially ambiguous because they are the most beautiful’. People think framing it as a compliment makes it okay to stare and ask you questions. People will ask me what I am before they ask for my name. They think that’s ok. Often I feel as though they don’t listen past my explanation of my heritage because by that time they’ve got what they were after. They just want to be able to place you, to make themselves feel better. Hearing people ask, ‘What are you?’ still makes me shudder.

After my dad died and we lived in Spain, it was harder for people to understand that our mum was our biological mum. People would often ask us outright if we were adopted, which I always thought was rude. Would you go up to someone and ask them if they were adopted if they looked like their mum or dad? I’ve had quite a traumatic childhood. People just have no idea how loaded a question like ‘where are you from’ is. They are never satisfied with a simple answer, they want the whole story.

I would never NOT want to be mixed-race. Sometimes I wish I could strongly identify with a culture or country, but I don’t know any better. Who knows if that experience would be any better. But I think things you gain from being of mixed heritage outweighs the negatives we might experience from time to time.

I hope people will be less fascinated by us and more accepting of us. As the world becomes more globalised, there will certainly be more of us. I want parents of mixed-race children to not be afraid of what their child might go through, walking through this world as a mixed-race individual. Parents shouldn’t feel like their children might not be accepted by their community.