Finding Hapaness

Ha・Pa /noun/ Hawaiian term meaning half.

Puzzle Piece 1: Places of Identity

It was almost an out of body experience, to be surrounded by many other Japanese Canadians in an environment where we could appreciate our culture. I took along my friend along and while he was trying onigiri for the first time, I was remembering how much I loved it as a kid.

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It’s been quite a week!

November is going to be one of the most intense stages of pre-production for this project. We’ve got the two most important interviews of this entire project scheduled, several meetings with prospective interviewees, and a public funding campaign to organize! It’s all a lot, and with our team being very small for the time being, it is also very slow going to get everything prepared for 2020 when production really begins.

This weekend I will be interviewing my father, Robert Sugimoto, as well as my great grandmother, Aiko Sugimoto. Both are kind of the glue to the whole project. My dad is the reason I am here right now, the reason why I embrace my Japanese heritage so much. He has also gone through his own hapa journey before my time and has done his due diligence in trying to find my family’s possessions that were sold during World War 2. He also has the contact information for my family in Japan. My great grandmother was married into the Sugimoto name and has more intimate knowledge of my great grandfather including the name of the village in Japan where he was from. I also want to get hold of a photo of my great-great-grandfather in full samurai uniform, including the sword that was sold during the war. She also has a book my great uncle wrote about my family’s specific history. After these interviews, I can more accurately plan our trip to Japan!

Sunday, November 10th saw Vancouver’s annual Japanese Christmas Market and for once, I was able to attend! It was almost an out of body experience, to be surrounded by many other Japanese Canadians in an environment where we could appreciate our culture. I took along my friend along and while he was trying onigiri for the first time, I was remembering how much I loved it as a kid. It’s a strange feeling filming in public, but we got to talk to some of the merchants who were there about this project. Each of them were also hapa, and shared some of their own stories with connecting to their Japanese heritage. Among some of those merchants was the maker of One Big Hapa Family, Jeff Chiba Stearns himself! Jeff is as heavily involved in all things Japanese Canadian where he can be, so we shouldn’t have been so surprised to see him there. After talking with him for a (very) short amount of time, he handed us a card to contact him regarding a meeting to discuss things further. We couldn’t be more honoured. Jeff is one of the main co-ordinators for an organization called Hapa-palooza, and works on various children’s books, the newest of which is in the works now! If you haven’t seen his work yet, and have any interest in the importance of mixed-race heritage, check him out here. His latest children’s novel is also in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign that can be found here.

Speaking of crowdfunding, we do have a campaign coming up through Indiegogo on December 1st! Look out for it on our social media. The campaign will feature some sneak peeks from some important interviews taking place this week as well as some pretty cool perks! Next week we hope to be able to update you on the status of the crowdfunding campaign as well as some images from the interviews happening this weekend.