Hair and Identity

Well, we have been in Japan for about a week and a half now. 

In some ways, I have been waiting my whole life for this.

Since I was about 10 years old I have had a life goal of living in Japan. To see and understand better the place Obaachan came from. I know better now, than when I was a teen, to wonder if I might fit in better here than where I grew up. I am American, and even if I look hafu, I will always be gaijin. Which leads me to my first dilemma; should I play up my American (white) heritage or try to blend in?

For years I wore my hair with straight bangs in the States. Most people assumed I was mixed right away when they met me. When I moved to California, I let my bangs grow out and ombred my dark hair. I figured the look fit more with the constant sunny lifestyle. Now it’s winter and I want to go back to my bangs and dark hair… but I’m in Japan.

My Japanese language and literacy is very rudimentary… I’m wondering if I could be mistaken for a hafu by changing my hair, and if this would create awkward expectations (knowing the right manners, speaking fluently, etc.)?

I suppose I’m over thinking this too. Probably, I will cut and color my hair back to it’s natural dark with bangs, and figure it out from there. Have any other mixed Japanese Americans experienced mismatched identity expectations in Japan?

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One thought on “Hair and Identity

  1. I had the weird identity expectations come up all the time in Japan. I could tell when someone thought I was Japanese (and therefore Japanese-speaking) when they would ignore my (white) husband and only speak directly to me.

    My Japanese isn’t very good, and this actually makes speaking to people much harder for me because I feel very awkward when they assume I can speak it 100% fluently. I find that looking Japanese is a mixed blessing. It’s nice to blend in and not be stared at, but the expectations for your language and behaviour can be confusing.

    As for the hair thing — the first time I got my hair cut in Japan, I let them do whatever they want and they cut my side bangs into Japanese-style straight bangs. I’ve left them that way ever since!

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