“I was born and raised in Belgium to a Japanese dad and a Belgian mom. My father, who was a karate teacher, passed away when I was 14. My first job was at a Japanese credit card company in Amsterdam, to prove to the world that I could work for a Japanese company. But because I wanted to do something creative, I gradually moved to advertising. However, with no creative background, I did what people with no skills usually do—become an account manager. From there, I started doing my own side project, which eventually turned into my company (I was promoting tap water while trying to get people to drink less bottled water).
“I was always taking photos although I never thought of myself as a photographer. I loved taking pictures and my mom liked them on Facebook, but I didn’t want to tell anyone I was a serious professional because then I would be judged according to their standards. Then four years ago, I was here in Japan on a trip with my girlfriend, and I thought, if we’re about to have kids and if I ever want to be a photographer, then I have to do this now. I can’t be 50 and have regrets. So I applied for an internship with two portrait photographers who really helped me improve a lot. After that, I told people they could now call me a photographer and judge my work based on standards of a professional.”
“Throughout our lives, we’re always keeping notes—funny anecdotes, sad moments, things people tell us—and that’s how we shape ourselves. I wanted to compare my notes with others, to try to understand if a particular aspect or characteristic of mine is because I’m Japanese or Belgian (or the fact that I live in Holland). The more you talk to people, the more you see similar patterns and differences better. People have big mouths in Holland. Belgians are a much more modest people. So whenever I have a big mouth in Belgium, they say it’s because I’m Dutch. And whenever I’m modest in Holland, they say it’s because I’m Japanese. People are quick to attribute my characteristics to each side of my heritage and I wanted to know if it was true or not. Why am I the way I am and what’s so special about me?
“That’s one of the main reasons why I started meeting all these people, taking photos and interviewing mixed-race Japanese people all over the world. But as I asked my subjects questions, I began to wonder if they had their own questions for the next person. So I took their question to the next interviewee and then to the next person, which resembled a chain letter. That’s how it became hāfu to hāfu (from one half Japanese to another half Japanese). And soon I realized those questions were much more interesting than the narrative itself, because the questions made you think. Not about his or her life, the one who’s asking, but it made you reflect on your life, about your own perception of things.
“The questions are timeless and will still be relevant years from now, whereas answers can change. Questions are like the rocks in a river, which remain. They won’t move while answers flow around them. Things will change today. They will also change tomorrow. You may have a bad day today and think, ‘Oh man, my life is shit.’ But the very next day, things could turn around. Some questions will be relevant, others may not. But the questions you like will tell you something about you. They speak to you, touching you to your core.”