Black Dads Speak on Fatherhood in Japan

Posted On June 1, 2021

Sunday June 20th is Father’s Day in Japan. This is a time for honoring and appreciating our dads and reflecting on the bonds we have with them. It is a time to recognize how they have shaped our families, communities and society at large. When Legacy Foundation Japan asked Black dads to share their insights on fatherhood many were eager to oblige (the identities of each dad are displayed according to their choosing).

We compiled direct quotes from first time fathers to seasoned veterans representing five continents. The responses we received are honest, undiluted and a reflection of the love they felt towards their families. Our first questions pertained to fatherhood in general and their biggest accomplishments to date. It was evident that the latter part was a bit unexpected as some of our dads had to pause. One pointed out that the question is difficult to answer because being a dad is forever. However they did answer the question and most spoke on lessons learned and growing as an individual. The general consensus was parenting can be tough but it is still the best experience ever. 

What has fatherhood taught you? 

It’s the greatest feeling you can imagine.

– Eva, 3-month-old son

Having kids gives you an extra purpose to live, so don’t worry and enjoy every moment of fatherhood. They bring so much joy.

– F.K., sons 2 & 5 years old

I am less quick to anger and get annoyed now than I was when I first started out, and I still try to improve every time I am tested. And I am frequently tested.

– Maurice, stepsons 22 & 14 years old, sons 6 & 5 years old (twins)

Having a daughter really gives you a wider picture on how the world treats women and girls. I think having daughters first was actually a good thing for my youngest (my son). I think because of raising them I can be a better Dad to my son in terms of teaching him about girls and women.

– B.T., daughters 25 &13 years old, son 11 years old

Being a Dad is a lot of fun, but certainly not easy. You need to make sacrifices, be patient, learn how to deal with stress, pay attention, and most importantly, be affectionate (to list but a few things). Everything you do or say around your kids will have a profound effect in shaping who they are now and in the future.

– F.K., sons 2 & 5 years old

What are some of your accomplishments?

My biggest accomplishment is that I can show my kids the world. Even my youngest kids have already traveled to six countries.

– B.T., daughters 25 & 13 years old, son 11 years old

Being open and listening. Making sure that I am there for her and she knows it through actually being there.

– P.R., daughter 11 years old

Being able to pass down previously gained knowledge, teaching them how to be useful towards themselves, each other, and society. Teaching and testing their level of awareness (at any given time) on any particular subject so that they’re prepared for the world.

– Mushin, sons 11 & 9 years old, daughter 7 years old

Many of our friends and family back home are naturally curious about how Black people are treated in Japan so we asked our dads this question in relation to their children. The candid responses provide a great first-hand perspective. In terms of safety and allowing children to be children, they applauded these aspects of Japanese society. Some parents did mention concerns over conformity and discrimination but overall most felt comfortable with raising children here.

Factors such as location, nationality and family support all have an impact. Living near a military base or larger city makes a huge difference when it comes to diversity. A few dads expressed that the amount of support their Japanese wives and extended families give makes a profound impact on how comfortable the children felt in their own skin. 

What are some challenges you face?

Gender norms and bias. Being a girl is tough in Japan so we are constantly fighting against that wave.

– P.R., daughter 11 years old

For me one of the most difficult things is family. I grew up in a large engaging family.  Cousins were sisters and brothers while aunts and uncles were extended parents. Not having that around you [one] can see and feel the loss of our oral traditions. In Japanese society there is still an aura of isolationism even within families.

– C.M., daughter 4 years old

Children not being able to fully express themselves towards me in English: The children are surrounded by the Japanese language constantly, whether it’s at school, on TV, with their friends, outside in public and with their mother. Prior to the pandemic, I, as the providing parent, was always out on my grind working multiple jobs with only limited time to spend with my children each week, of which I believe played a major part in my children not being able to talk to me in English.

– Mushin, sons 11 & 9 years old, daughter 7 years old

My biggest worry for both of the kids is bullying when they are older, but my son’s first daycare wound up being relatively diverse for a semi-public school. His second is more Japanese but fingers crossed there haven’t been any issues yet.

– W.T., son 4, daughter 3 months 

In my experience, my blackness has not been an issue with Japanese parents and if anything it was the catalyst for forming friendships with other non-Japanese parents. My nationality (American) and more so my home state of NY brings me the most attention and “positive” discrimination which can be a bit much but also much much worse.

– P.B., daughter 6 years old

How do you handle cultural challenges?

By creating a space at home where she can be proud and free to be who she wants. Also, a place where English is primary and tech-friendly.

– P.R., daughter 11 years old

They’re biracial (half Ghanaian half Japanese), so with my oldest one, I try to ensure that he’s fully aware and proud of his black/African side. I do this by reading books that feature people and characters that look like him; and take him to Ghana and England at least once a year, where he can meet relatives and various people of colour.

– F.K., sons 2 & 5 years old

Culturally, I haven’t developed much of a plan. Most of [my son’s] media consumption skews heavily Western, which is helpful in language terms. I try to keep his exposures diverse, which I think is important.

-W.T., son 4 years old, daughter 3 months old

Watch carefully to see what their natural talents are, then shower them with praise and tell them how much of a genius they are until they believe it and can eventually do that thing better than anyone else. It can be anything from the arts, sports, science or carpentry. Then when they face self-esteem issues because they are different or feel like Japanese society treats them differently, that talent you helped them to nurture will be the rock upon which they can stand strong.

– M.N., son 24 years old, daughter 21 years old

Lastly we asked the dads for some general advice they would like to pass on to aspiring fathers. They acknowledged that challenges can arise no matter where you live and one can never be fully prepared for fatherhood. However, do your best to be ready for the most rewarding and largest responsibility of your life. It is your job to prepare yourself spiritually, financially, mentally and  physically so that you can be the best dad possible.

What advice do you have for aspiring dads?

Build relationships with the community you live in, learn the language/cultural values, and it’s ok to ask for advice and help.

– P.B., daughter 6 years old

Japan is a good place to have kids but you think of sending them abroad for studies for high school or university. Avoid raising kids in inaka [rural areas].

-Eva, 3-month-old son

As an older father, I suggest that you stay healthy and if you are not, get healthy.  Also think about what you will leave for them after you are gone.

– C.M., daughter 4 years old

Roll with the punches! Patience is super important here as the father. Remember that you could be the strongest or wisest person your child knows, so you must act accordingly.

-Maurice, stepsons 22 & 14, sons 6 & 5 (twins)

Expect to learn more from them than they will learn from you.

– H.S., daughters 22, 20, 18, 10, and 8 years old

Being a dad means you are a role model, provider, teacher, healer, comforter, and a host of other things. Legacy Foundation Japan would like to express our sincerest gratitude to all of the fathers who so graciously shared their thoughts with us. We would like to dedicate this post to all the dads, stepdads, father figures, and mentors out there who are helping to shape the lives of children.

Happy Father’s Day!

Written by Alison Rodgers

Alison moved to Japan in 2004. She is an entrepreneur, inventor, educator, connector and personal cheerleader. She credits her success in life to being reared with strong African-American values: family, community, self-empowerment, and progress. Prior to Japan, she worked in advertising on domestic and international projects. Alison is a native North Carolinian and proud graduate of the illustrious Spelman College. Always a Spelmanite, she is dedicated to making a positive impact on society.

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