Finding Hapaness

Ha・Pa /noun/ Hawaiian term meaning half.

1st Interview – Sakura Yoshida

It was all very clear to me then, that the missing piece of my identity was tied to the unresolved inter-generational trauma in my family.


1st Interview complete!

We decide to begin with the person who inspired this project. Sakura really made me reflect on my own mixed-race heritage, and how much I have repressed my love for my Japanese side. I had never met another hapa outside of my own family. Imagine going your life having memories and experiences that you thought were quite unique, secretive even, and one day getting to share those experiences with someone who understood them completely. I didn’t realize that I was missing that friendship until I met Sakura. Were were able to connect on things that our Japanese grandparents shared habits. More importantly, we were able to share our family’s experiences in relation to the effects of Pearl Harbour and Japanese Internment on our family’s.

A few years back, I made a short documentary Canada’s part in Japanese Internment during World War 1. My great grandparents were both interned for the duration of the war. My great-grandmother said something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget; “At the end of the war, they gave us the choice to go back to Japan on a boat. My uncle Sam said ‘how do you go back to a country that has been defeated by war?’ And so, we decided to stay.” That conversation was one that no one in my family thought they would be able to have with my great grandmother. I remember growing up and being told specifically not to ask my great grandparents about the war.

What should have been a happy educational moment in the history of my family had made me quite angry. It became a very sad realization that the foundation of my family here in Canada began with a mass act of racism. I no longer wondered why my no one except for my great grandfather spoke Japanese. There were no more questions in my mind as to the lack of Japanese influence in my life. It was all very clear to me then, that the missing piece of my identity was tied to the unresolved inter-generational trauma in my family. What an incredible experience it was to be able to be the one to finally ask, and get some answers. I am eternally in awe of the courage my family has carried in order to bring my cousins and I to where we are now.

When we asked Sakura, outside of the interview, what her mixed-race heritage meant to her, she answered, “Being Hapa (mixed-race) is a very important part of my identity. I always felt like I was in a sort of “cultural limbo” growing up, like I didn’t really belong to my culture because of my mixed heritage. But being exposed to other mixed-raced people as a young adult I realize that being mixed doesn’t make you any less apart of your culture, but actually enriches your heritage. It makes me feel special that my DNA bridges the gap between two different cultures and that my heritage is diverse because of it. I am proud to be a person of mixed-race Japanese Canadian heritage, a Hapa.” – Sakura Yoshida (Vancouver)

Thank you, Sakura, for being vulnerable with us, and for opening your home to us! Ōku no shukufuku~ 多くの祝福! – Ashley Sugimoto