HomeJapanese AmericanHapas Soon to Be the Majority in the Japanese American Community

Hapas Soon to Be the Majority in the Japanese American Community

Visible Invisible Hapa

By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent

The future is now in the Japanese American community.

By 2020, just four years away, demographers says the majority of Japanese Americans will be multiracial/multiethnic.

A new exhibition now at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose in California runs through the end of the year. It is curated by Fred Liang and Cindy Nakashima who also co-curated an earlier version of the exhibition in 2013 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

“My parents married in 1965, when it was still illegal in sixteen states, but they married in Ohio, where there were no anti-miscegenation laws,” Nakashima told AsAmNews. My dad is a Nisei, my mom is a White Anglo Saxon Protestant(WASP). They met in graduate school.”

The interracial marriage rate in the Japanese American community is estimated at 66 percent. It wasn’t until the Supreme Court ruled in 1967, (Loving v. Virginia) that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional, each state had control over who could and could not get legally married.

Until then, many were forced to leave their home states to get married much the same way gays had to find states where their marriages were legal until a 2015 Supreme Court ruling.

“In our exhibit you see a couple (Gunjiro Aoki and Helen Emery) who went from California to Washington state to be married,” said Nakashima. You also see the marriage certificate of the Nakaya-Mortons, which is in Spanish because they went from Los Angeles to Mexico to be married.”

Fred Liang & Cindy Nakashima are co-curators of the exhibition
Fred Liang & Cindy Nakashima are co-curators of the exhibition

According to Liang, the hapa experience is multifaceted and Japanese Hapas bridge the Japanese community with other communities.

His grandfather was born and raised in Yokohama as the son of a Chinese merchant and a Japanese-Chinese homemaker.

“My memories of my grandfather were very bi-cultural and it was through him that I became interested in the hapa
Japanese experience,” said Liang to AsAmNews.

“Aside from multiracial representation, the exhibition is important because it questions the concept and idea of “race” and it’s implications on history and society. It also touches on issues such as racial inequality
in the United States and overseas. We strongly feel that an open dialogue on multiracial experiences is much needed in the Japanese community.”

JAMSJ board member Bob McKibbin is one of the sponsors of the exhibition. He married into a Japanese American family and told AsAmNews his children were raised hapa.

“The term Hapa is also relatively new to my family. Working on the exhibit opened up my eyes to the depth of history within the Japanese American community in relations to mixed marriages and their offspring and how extensive it was and is,” he said.

For him, the highlight of the exhibition were the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generational photos submitted by local members of the community to make the exhibition truly “hapa-centric.”

The face of the Japanese American community is clearly changing. Nakashima compares it to concentric circles with the mixed race experience overlapping with the Japanese American experience forming the hapa Japanese American experience.

“As the Japanese American community becomes increasingly mixed, being mixed Japanese American might start to become somewhat synonymous with being Japanese American,” she explained. “But what I think is more likely, at least in the short term, is that notions of who and what is Japanese American will continue to expand as the community becomes more and more diverse.

“It’s important to remember that mixed Japanese Americans are by no means all Japanese/White. Japanese Americans have very diverse marriage patterns in terms of race and ethnicity, so many hapas are Japanese/Chinese or Japanese/Chicano or Japanese/Jewish, or Japanese/Black/Native Hawaiian, etc. etc.

“Also, mixed people are quite a bit more likely than “purebloods” to “marry out” – so as the community gets more mixed, there’s an exponential effect.”

The Japanese American Museum of San Jose(JAMsj) is open Thursday through Sunday from 12 to 4. The Hapa exhibit will be up through 2016 with planned changes during that time.

The museum will also be sponsoring programs throughout the year in association with the Hapa exhibit. In conjunction with the J-Town FilmFest, Jamsj will be viewing the film Hafu on May 22, 2016 at 12:30pm. The public is invited and encouraged to go to www.jamsj.org to see the latest programs offered at JAMsj. The museum can also be reached during normal business hours at 408-294-3138.

The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California are the 2016 sponsors for the rotating exhibit area which holds the Hapa exhibit.
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  1. RE: Hapas soon to be the majority in the Japanese American community: This is a sad legacy of the dilution of the Japanese American “Buddaheads”. Hapas are not the problem, but a majority means the culture and community support will dwindle. We can already see this steady decline at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, the largest cultural center in America. How can they survive this? What will the future hold? I am truly saddened by this.

  2. RE: Hapas soon to be in majority in the Japanese American community: Edwin – unfortunately your choice of words and delivery are instep with the KKK and the other white supremacist groups in the United States use to vilify race mixing.

    As with all cultures, it is up to the elders of the community and parent(s) to pass on their heritage and culture to their children. I would agree here in the United States, it’s waning. In the last 10+ years, I’ve seen a pronounced shift from cultural and community centers to a specific language only churches. Within the Asian community, religion and spiritual connections has become the center point for associations and not cultural and community centers.

    If you perform a search on pinterest for photos of actual traditional Japanese weddings in the United States, you will be enlightened to know a majority of the brides are hapa. While pinterest would not be considered an educational tool, it is clearly a reflection of society.

    • RE: Hapas soon to be the majority in the Japanese American community: couldnt of said it better. his comment is ridic. i used to work at the JACCC for about 15 years. there are alot of ups and downs in the attendance but make no mistake, the Japanese American community especially in LA is thriving. new leadership at the JACCC has proven the new director to be the resiliency the center needed. Hapas including myself have ALWAYS been a part of the Japanese culture there and will continue to be. so no we dont make white people want to leave because we arent full Japanese. lol

  3. RE: Hapas soon to be the majority in the Japanese American community: I am Hapa, born in Cleveland Ohio of a Nisei father and a European ancestry hakujin mother. I had endured little if any racism or discrimination growing up in an all white community in a suburb. It was the 1960s. When it did happen with an elementary school teacher, he got into big trouble.

    I moved to Los Angeles in 1980. I integrated into the local Japanese American community as best I could. I was shocked when I was insulted by some Nikkei. Only three incidents. But unforgettable because I assumed that full blood Nikkei would not be so prejudiced and racist after whet they endured in the camps in WWII.

    I am glad to see that hapas are in the majority now. The full blood Nikkei have to get used to that fact. We have power in numbers.

  4. Brazil has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, and here 40% of Japanese descent are mixed, and 70% of the fourth generation are marrying whites and browns, so here probably will happen the same thing.

  5. RE: Hapas soon to be the majority in the Japanese American community: First of all none you know me or the fact that I had a Hapa baby!!! So please keep your labels to yourself. I never said that we should end race mixing or that Hapas should end. I am pointing to the clear decline in the Japanese American community. To argue otherwise like, Ryan King, is ignorant and incorrect. ALL of the major Japanese American leaders I have spoken with are in shock over the decline in Los Angeles, Little Tokyo. Membership numbers and community support are all down from the 80’s and 90’s. Local Japanese business ownership is also way down. Many big business chains and such came in. Many non-Japanese also came in and just used Japanese names as a front. Ryan King is completely wrong as the recent DEMISE of the Rafu Shimpo illustrates my point. There also IS very little Japanese Americans who live in Little Tokyo, so again he is incorrect. The Japanese Americans steadily moved out of downtown LA towards East LA, then Boyle Heights and finally into Monterey Park. They DID NOT live in mass in downtown LA 15 years ago. So I do not know where Ryan King is getting his lies from. The history is well documented. They do not live in mass in downtown LA, Little Tokyo. So for him to say the Japanese American Community, especially in LA is thriving is blind and ignorant. ALL across the world the Japanese are a shrinking and declining people. They are not even having enough Japanese babies in Japan. So let us stop being ignorant here and please help save the Japanese American community. Finally I JUST called the JACCC. They are so UNDERFUNDED they do not even have a staff member to answer the phone!!!! What happened to Marlene???? I have following the COMMUNITY CALENDAR. They have almost NOTHING!!! Look at the past years events and they are PITIFULLY LOW! They should have events every weekend. GO LOOK and see how bad it has been. The state of the JACCC and the Japanese American Community is in a crisis. Please stop rationalizing your views. I am not against Hapas, but the destruction of a beloved Asian American and Pacific Islander Community. When I hear things from our elders about the Rafu Shimpo going under I know the state of the Japanese American Community is in serious trouble.

  6. RE: Hapas soon to be the majority in the Japanese American community: I also forgot to mention I know the community and facility because I used to run the membership for the JACCC. The good old days are well behind us. I wish there could be someway of a revival!!!


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