An identity based on being different: A focus on Biethnic individuals in Japan

Sara Oikawa, Tomoko Yoshida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Three focus groups of Biethnic11The term "Biethnic" was chosen because we are referring to individuals who have parents of different ethnicities. In Japan, these individuals are called "Halfs." Some, however, argue that this makes them sound like they are only half a person and therefore suggest using the term "Doubles" as they are not only Japanese but also another ethnicity (Life, 1995). Perhaps because of the familiarity as well as the positive image associated with the term "Half" in Japan, we have found that some Biethnic individuals have a strong negative reaction to the term "Doubles" and prefer the term "Half." We chose the term "Biethnic" as we thought it was more neutral. As the literature in this field, however, uses the term "Biracial" more often, this paper will use the term "Biracial" and "Biethnic" interchangeably. individuals who, for the most part, grew up in Japan were conducted. A total of 13 Biethnic individuals participated. Cooley's Looking-glass Self Theory was used as our theoretical framework. Cooley argued that in the same way we look into a mirror to discover our appearance, we see ourselves through the eyes of other people. Therefore, other people's reactions largely influence the way we see ourselves. This hypothesis was supported by our focus group data; all respondents regarded themselves as Biethnic only after others pointed it out to them. Our results were in some ways similar to existing Biracial identity models. We, too, found that there were multiple responses to being Biracial. We called them: Unique Me, Model Biethnic, and Just Let Me Be Japanese. Like other researchers, we also found that various factors were influential in shaping Biracial identity. Ethnicity of the non-Japanese parent, family structure, and living environment seemed to have largely shaped our respondents' experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-653
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Nov


  • Biracial/Biethnic identity
  • Cooley's Looking-glass Self Theory
  • Doubles
  • Focus group
  • Marginality
  • Multiracial/multiethnic identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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