Japan Is So Frustrating Sometimes

3.11.12 ShaSha LaPerf 8 Comments

Initially this post started out as me giving some exposure to some new blasian performers on the Japanese music scene.  Unfortunately I also found a video on JapanProbe.com that didn't necessarily shock me, but it reminded me of just how frustrating Japan is at times when it comes to blacks and blasians.
But before I get to that part, let me introduce these new folks.


So I've talked already quite a bit about blasians in Japanese music. Crystal Kay and Jero are probably the more well-known acts along with Elly and Nesmith from the EXILE family. There are also the more unconventional acts like Ziyoou-Vachi. Well I'm going to add to more to the list: R&B/pop singer AISHA, and hip-hop dancer Mandy Sekiguchi. They're both pretty new so it's hard to find any good info on them. I'll try to make some updates to this when I get more information.

Aisha is a Yokohama born R&B/pop artist. She comes from a musical family as her mother was a singer and her father plays the trombone. In 2009, she collaborated with rapper Guru from the group GangStarr for a song titled "It's On You." She's getting a lot of exposure for her song "Kono Koe Kasrashite" which was featured as an ending song to the anime Naruto. Aisha just released her first album titled, I, Shout! the first week of October.

I have to say that I was pretty impressed with Aisha's album. Lately I've been in "Ugh, J-music has gotten so sucky!" and I lamented the end of Chemistry earlier this year so I was pleasantly surprised with Aisha. Not only does she have some good R&B and pop tunes, the girl can sing! Here's a video for her song, "I Wanna Rock You."


AISHA - I Wanna Rock You by gumonastring

Folks should check out her album, particularly her songs "Stay," Love again," and "houston." Aisha's first album wasn't a huge success on the Oricon charts, then again Japanese R&B as a whole has had a bit of a slump on the charts lately. She's under Sony which does do a lot of anime and TV work so we'll see if she there's more anime in store for her outside of Naruto.

Next up is Mandy Sekiguchi. No, I didn't translate it wrong, his name is listed as "Mandy." New Jersey native Mandy is a dancer for the new group Generations. Generations is actually a sub group under LDH which is run by EXILE. The members of EXILE and their other groups are a bit older--the members of EXILE themselves are pushing 40...or over 40. So Generations was meant to appeal to the teens and early 20s crowd that may like the style of the older guys but want to see it done by a younger group of people. Mandy is the third blasian member to be associated with EXILE as Nesmith is in EXILE/The Second, and Elly is a part of the third generation of the J Soul Brothers. Her's a shot version of the video for "Brave It Out" the debut single that will be released on Nov. 11:


On a random note, I totally LOLed at the number of YouTube comments saying all these groups are ripping off K-Pop. EXILE the group has been around for more than 10 years and they're basically following the model that worked for Hello! Project, AKB 48, and Johhn's Entertainment. These youngin's don't know nuthin'!!! LOL but back to the topic.

With these new additions, Japan definitely appears to more comfortable with some some browner faces in the media. Compared to say Korea or China, Japan does seem to be more open to having not just one or two of us in their eyes and ears, but multiple people doing this. And these are people that are born and raise in Japan, are coming from at least one black parent or have spent a fair amount of time in Japan. I added the "at least one black parent" because I wanted to mention Dante Carver, who is not a blasian, but has had a rise in popularlity over the years appearing the the rather random Softbank phone commercials. He often plays a well-spoken somewhat serious character though some YouTube videos will show you his more goofy side. And I don't need to get into how popular people like President Obama, Halle Berry, Beyonce, and Rihanna are in Japan.

But it's funny because even though we have more blacks and blasians getting exposure, we're still seeing shit like this:


bobby gorilla j-p-robe by dm_5018c73274d20

Yep, that's a black man dressed like a gorilla. That's actually mixed martial artist/"tarento" Bobby Ologun and the scene is basically him playing a prank on his youngest daughter. Japan Probe gives a description of what's happening here. Anyway Bobby Ologun is loved by Japanese people, and hated by most blacks living in the country. Earlier I mentioned Dante being presented as more serious and well-spoken. Well Bobby takes a much different route, often using slurred Japan and bugging his eyes out. He's a modern day Step N Fetchit. And in this case it's a chicken and egg issue. Bobby is taking advantage of stereotypes that Japanese people may have about blacks already. Or maybe it's the other way around? Hard to say. However Japan has gotten in trouble for associating blacks with monkey. In 2008 this commercial aired, which didn't go over well with many residents Japanese and foreign alike:


And Let's not forget that Japan is still doing blackface and also still publishes Little Black Sambo.

And this is what makes a weird, frustrating situation. There's Jero, Dante, Crystal, and Nesmith who are working on Japan's turf and are doing pretty well at it. At the same time we have the likes of Bobby, also on Japan's turf acting a damn fool, as well as the stuff I mentioned earlier. To further the frustration, it becomes a debate of ignorance vs. or blatant racism. How long can Japan just play ignorant to stereotypes about blacks seeing as it's still such a homogenous country? They think of Bobby as being a funny guy the same way Jero is seen as a great singer even though they're presented what some of us may see as a negative and a positive image of blacks. To many Japanese people, they're both "positive." And while we may see Aisha, Crystal, Mandy, and Elly as more positive than Bobby let's not forget that they'll still in the realms of "blacks are great at R&B" and "black are great dancers." Furthermore it would quickly become tedious to explain to every Japanese person you meet why you don't like Bobby when they notice you're not laughing at him. And you can feel conflicted about things yourself. For some, none of the things I mentioned are bad, but not as bad as they could be. After all, Japan is still a country that sees a black person as a foreign person first. In some cases just being a black American or black British of black Caribbean means you get treated better than a Korean or Chinese-American. I always joked to my anime fans about the complete lack of Korean anime characters even though I can name at least three black ones. So this is why it's frustrating.

This also bring up a question of acceptance. Why would we want to see more blacks and blasians in Japanese media anyway? Or any Asian media for that matter? Are we hoping that if Japanese people (or an Asians for that matter) are seeing us on their media, doing these things on their land does that mean they'll see blacks as a whole as people that are datable, friendable, coworker-able, etc.? Are we such "Asiaphiles" that we need this type of validation?

I'd say it probably can have a bigger affect on people living in Japan. It's not uncommon for any black men in Japan to be called "Bobby." And if you're sitting at home watching TV and you see a Japanese tarento with his face painted black claiming he's Beyonce then that can get you riled up. And if you're a person who also sees that EXILE is at the top of the charts and their are girls screaming to meet Nesmith or watching a show because Crystal Kay is in it, then hey, Japan probably isn't a crazy racist place after all. As for folks who aren't living in Japan, but have an interest in Japanese culture, you're basically stuck with filtered information, relying on YouTube videos and what not, so it's difficult to really get a clear sense of how Japan feels about blacks and blasians, and what you can expect if you decide to make your way there.

So I asked all these questions about acceptance and validation and I'm not seeking either. Sure, I like a lot of Japanese culture. And yes it is cool to see new folks in the media. But I can't ignore some of the other dumb shit they've done in terms of race. Furthermore it's a matter of when you're already dealing with racist shit in your own country it would be nice to go somewhere else and not have to deal with it either. It would be nice to occasionally see someone who looks like you on TV or hear them on the radio and know they aren't just acting a fool. And it would be nice to not have to explain to your friends why you have an interest in a culture that does embrace some rather nasty stereotypes (even if your own damn country does the same thing).

So I totally appreciate seeing some new talent in Japan and it would be pretty cool to see even more that are black or blasian. But I also wouldn't be shocked to see blackface on end-of-the year Japanese TV shows. Still the fact that these do talents do exist shows that Japan is becoming more open to us, just a little slower than most of us would like.


8 comments:

  1. Here's hoping Japan, and all of Asia, will get their act together before I'm too old to go globe-trotting.

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  2. Hey, nice post!

    Why do I have this feeling that AISHA was Korean...lol I remember listening to one or two songs from her on youtube but soon forgot about her (a couple of years ago). Thanks for talking about her, now I know she's Japanese lol Oh, I love her new song, will check her album out!

    I agree on the decline of R&B in Japan...well, it's a bit the same in the US (it seems) but not as bad. It's a pity :(

    As for the acceptance and relative popularity of blasian artists in Japan with the blackface jokes....this contradiction is not really surprising to me, not much (I've read about other contradictions in Japan/Korea). Sometimes North East Asian's sense of humor is just not funny to me (insentitive, like openly mocking fat/ugly people, etc).
    I think that Japanese media has made blackface their own thing and you know how the media is powerful in terms of influence... They "refuse" to question some parts of their humor/attitude (just like the US refuse to, towards Asians for example). That is not right, because I don't think they would do the equivalent of blackface with other Asian or white people.


    And oh, new kpop fans are getting it backwards...lol true. I'm from the "generation" that started with Japan culture before the Hallyu wave :p Now "Asiaphiles" are into kpop first and get stuck in it, hence the ignorant comments about Japan.

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    1. To be fair, Japan has done some form of whiteface. I remember watching a TV show with the group Arashi and one of them was supposed to be white. They put him in a blond wig and gave him a fake large nose. The nose thing is something I've seen Japanese people associate with white people, LOL I have no idea where that came from. And there are some white foreign talents that act goofy on TV. However, there's still a better balance of those foreign talents vs. blacks ones. For the most part, I just think Japan doesn't think any of these things would be considered racists...and well it still is. Unfortunately anytime people complain about it, they get the backlash of "well you shouldn't live in Japan if you don't like it!" and "they don't know about racism" and other stuff.

      LOL yeah K-pop fans are much more rabid then they used to be. But I guess J-pop fans had their moments, I haven't forgotten everyone going gaga over Gackt back in the day!

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    2. Thanks for mentionin this, I had no idea. Indeed, it's still racist.

      Ah Gackt! I never understood why they were all crazy over him, he is pretty but not handsome to me lol I'd take Hyde instead.

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  3. Unfortunately, a lot of that Blackface stuff is accepted in many parts of the world and some seem unfazed,I guess because they aren't American,Black or want to understand they ugly history behind it.I find it to be incredibly disrespectful. South Korea was petitioned for doing a Blackface skit.The sickening thing about this garbage was the idea behind was White man from the states. Then again,he's not black or could care less about it. Long as he were making money,right?Guess he didn't think that Black folks live in Korea or looked at their programs..lol!

    Yeah,I hate that R&B is no longer the predominant music of today.If its not pop music,it's hip-hop that has taken over the world. What a pity because Japan has some quality entertainers.I hate that many of their talents aren't better discovered.With all due respect to Bobby,he's a disgrace. I don't tolerate anybody to be casual about the N word or anything that degrade the integrity and moral character of Black people.Bobby is just a sad man.If he attempted doing Blackface the States,the folks would pimp slap him like it's nobody business.

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    1. I remember reading somewhere--probably Japan Probe--that Bobby's kids didn't understand why he acted like such an idiot on TV and not at home. So clearly what he's doing is an act, but it also made me wonder what kind of impact this will have on his kids. =I hope they aren't harassed to act like an idiot the way their father does.

      I like pop and hip-hop, but it does bother me that there isn't a younger generation of R&B stars. Pop has young folks like Carly Rae Jepson and hip-hop has...LOL I don't know most of the stuff I listen to is older. I got Brandy and Ne-Yo's albums which I think are great. I was glad to see SWV return and loved Elle Varner and Frank Ocean's work. I hope that these folks will start mentoring artists in their late teen's and early 20s to bring the variety of R&B used to have.

      As for Japan, same situation. There are some new artists out there that are doing okay like Jasmine, Ms. OOJA and of course Daichi Miura and Shota Shimuzu. But Japan itself seems to be losing interest in the genre. It had a good run of 15 years or so before this slump. Maybe they'll be a boom again in the next few years.

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  4. It'll be nice with K-pop and J-pop fans will stop bickering at each other about this kind of stuff. It's pretty clear that they borrow from each other pretty often as of late. XD

    I think Japanese and Korean media (like most countries) have very conflicting ideas. One half wants to be taken seriously and embrace different artists of different ethnic backgrounds, while the other half pretty much wants to have them only as 'the funny foreigner'. And then I guess you'll have the group that is completely misinformed/ignorant people that think that all ____ act like this. It's kind of sucky.

    I think for fans of either Kpop or Jpop, they want to know that they're accepted; that they're not fanning over someone who doesn't appreciate you just because of how you look? A friend was telling me about this really ridiculous thing that happened at this K-Boy Band concert in Spain where there were a group of black girls in the front near the stage, and the manager (I believe) brought in a group of white girls instead and told the black girls to move to the back. You hear things like that, and no matter how catchy the music is, you wouldn't want to be anywhere near them ever again. I know she said that if JYJ were ever to pull crap like that, that would be it for her and I'd feel the same if I found out a group I like had similar sentiments.

    On a lighter note, I'm totally listening to Aisha now~

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    1. Yeah I think Japan and Korea probably aren't doing things different from other countries. PSY's rise in popularity here was definitely a mix of, "hey this is kind of a cool song" and "hey this Asian guy is doing silly things!" LOL it's annoying on both ends, especially when you are a fan of Asian pop music. I want to see Asian acts taken seriously here, and I want to see the same going on there.

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