Black Tokyo by RICARDO BILTON:  Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Eric L. Robinson found himself docking in Okinawa in 1981. For the past two decades, Robinson, a Marine Corps veteran, has traveled back and forth between between Japan and the United States, gaining experiences and insights from each culture that he now shares with the readers of the blog Black Tokyo. Currently the sole writer for Black Tokyo, Robinson is dedicated to providing readers with news and information about Japan, much of it undiscussed elsewhere. Frequently controversial and invariably insightful, Robinson discusses in this interview with The Japan Times the experience of being black in Japan, the American military’s role in the country, and things that make you go “hmm.”

Eric L. Robinson of Black Tokyo
Eric L. Robinson of Black Tokyo

What is Black Tokyo all about? Why was it created?

My intent is to: (1) pass knowledge of my military, professional, civilian and educational experiences; and (2) help minorities discover another world. Black Tokyo was the avenue for me to do that. The site was actually created in January 1999 by Craig Nine and he let me come on as a moderator in 2001. I became webmaster in 2003, taking over ownership of the site in 2006. Craig Nine was so busy at the time with what he was doing with his work, and I found myself spending more and more time on the site that I decided that I would love to own Black Tokyo and take it to a different level.

Your blog focuses on, among other things, the experience of black people living in Japan. Do you think that the experience of a black person in Tokyo differs from that of any other group of foreigner?

Yes! Of course, everyone has their take on living in Japan. When I was initially exposed to Japan, it was via the lens of an older white male. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to live in Japan after watching the TV special “Shogun” by James Clavell.While in high school and college, I read numerous books on Japan. None of the books were written by African-Americans.

When I came across the book and later the movie “Bedroom Eyes,” I was finally exposed to an African-American in Japanese literature and on television. I remember how upset I was that the black male was portrayed as a sex fiend, dope addict, U.S. military deserter and thief. The book and the movie, in my opinion, did not do much justice for Japanese women that dated or married African-American men. It just reinforced stereotypes!  Click here to read the rest of the interview.

Do you tweet? Follow the writer, Ricard Bilton (Rbilton) and the Japan Times (japantimes).