May 27, 2008

May 2008 Kid Summit in Hiroshima

My comrade James organized a picnic in early May near the Big Arch stadium in Hiroshima which temporarily converted the playground there into a very ‘international’ space. We escorted HRH Lady E to this picnic to meet our friends, all of whom were in “international marriages,” and this led to our cohort of rambunctious “half babies” wreaking havoc in the playground. Why all these quotation marks? Read on.
Many of these friends of ours no longer live in Hiroshima and were just visiting, or would soon be leaving for new places to live. It was chance timing that of our respective paths crossed in May, but I’m sure all join me in thinking it was wonderful that we could all get together for some fun. Elena seemed to enjoy herself among the other kids, all of whom were also of mixed parentage. She didn’t sleep the entire time and she was really hyped up, clearly enjoying all the new people, sights and sounds.
So what are “international marriages” and “half-babies”? This is a good opportunity to explain some of the interesting ways mixed marriages, and their offspring, are viewed here in Japan. “It’s a Japan thing,” but just my opinion, of course.

Lady E & Lady K

At its core, this great country is still a very homogenous society. The overwhelming majority of her people are of Japanese ethnicity and, of course, speak Japanese. The country doesn’t get many immigrants, so foreigners are relatively few in this society and still garner attention for trivial reasons -- mostly in a positive way -- despite decades of government-sponsored ‘internationalization’ policies. The majority of unions between Japanese people and westerners tend to be between a foreign male and a Japanese female (although this is slowly changing), and any kids that result are often referred to as “half babies.” This means half-Japanese, but not in a pejorative sense. Think of hyphenated nationalities: Chinese-Canadian, Franco-American, etc and you get the drift. Invariably, half kids are referred to as “kawaii” (cute) and there are quite a few on Japanese TV these days, because they don’t look fully Japanese, yet speak the language fluently.

Anyway, our group of international couples and their kids did prompt a few double takes at the Big Arch playground. A few of the local Moms took umbrage with a bunch of loud adult gaijin men climbing on the kids’ jungle gym….dangerous. But we all had a good time.

All photos courtesy of The Stig.

No comments: