The talented and sometimes funny owarai duo, Tunnels, have recently hooked-up with DJ Ozma (former Kishidan band leader) to form and produce a temporary female trio called Yajima Biyoshitsu (Yajima Beauty Salon). The female trio is actually the three men in drag. Here is the official website.
The Yajima Biyoshitsu new song ties into a new Lotte chewing gum commercial (the CM schedule can be found here) starring actress Masami Nagasawa. The debut song, “Nihon no Mikata – Nevada Kara Kimashita,” debuted on TV the day before and saw a reportedly 14,000 chaku-uta (ringtone) downloads in the hour after its premiere, taking the #1 spot on the Recochoku daily charts.
Now I do not mind comedy but I do mind the direction that the group, Avex and Lotte took in putting this commercial together.
According to the story line, the trio is supposedly made up of a family from Nevada, consisting of a 36-year-old former stripper named Margaret Yajima (played by DJ Ozma) and her two daughters, the 17-year-old Naomi and the 11-year-old Strawberry both played by Tunnels. The mother a.k.a. Black Bolt (her stage name at the shake joint) brought her daughters to Japan to look for their father, a Japanese barber or beautician named Yajima.
I worked with the Tunnels twice in the late 90’s and their current comedy to me is mediocre at best. These guys are known for pushing the envelope or being over-the-top when it comes to stereotypes. To see DJ Ozma come out of retirement to do this gig is sort of a disappointment since I have been a fan of his since he was a leading the band Kishidan. Additionally, I have done a print, television and internet campaign for Lotte’s restaurant chain, Lotteria.
Now unlike the Gosperats, no black face is involved in this current CM and it seems that men (on television) dressing up as women in Japan is sort of a norm. What I find extremely distasteful is the description of the faux black women, the implied teenage pregnancy and the husband that left the US (his family and his business) to return to Japan. What’s up with that?!James at Japan Probe had this to say:
They may not be covering their faces with dark black shoe polish, but some foreigners seeing this will no doubt be reminded of blackface minstrel shows. Its members are likely totally unaware of the fact that their act could offend anyone, and there doesn’t seem to have malicious intent. However, seeing entertainers put on make-up and afro wigs to look like a different race for comedic reasons always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. DJ Ozma and Tunnels have made some really funny stuff in the past, but this act is quite lame.
I will investigate and hopefully discover (I have a pretty good track record) which agency put the Yajima Biyoshitsu campaign together. I expect craziness from comedians but Avex and Lotte should know better than to put this type of crap out!
Here is a reply by Lana at the Japan Probe site:
As a black woman, it makes me uncomfortable and frustrated to see that we are always made fun of and made out to be stereotyped so much. Cause you know there’s a bunch of idiots out there that will think, ‘oh, so all black women are like ____________’. And then when they see you are not they’re all surprised and crap.
It’s like you have to actually ‘educate’ people, because society in general and skits like this (however unintentional) seek to put people in these neat little boxes, however unattractive they may be. It gets burdensome and irritating to deal with the ignorant person who really honestly thinks that all black women are some really rank loud ghetto oversexed, baby-making broads, then when they meet a black woman, who’s not like that (and no, we are not the exceptions) go into culture shock, because it’s not what they saw ‘on the tv.’ or ‘what they heard’. You get over that hurdle and then your co-worker comes up to you and makes some rank comment and you sigh and think (here we frackin’ go again) It may not seem a big deal to non-blacks, but then again, you don’t have to be confronted with this type ignorance in the form of attitudes and comments in your everyday life.(work, school, etc.) It can make you want to scream, sometimes, because it just seems soooo hard for a lot of people to grasp that black people are not just some black monolithic blob that you can attribute certain things to all of us.
We are surprise, surprise, shock and gasp INDIVIDUALS. We act different, think different, don’t all live the same way, don’t all like the same things, and no, we all don’t live in the ‘ghetto’, no, you may NOT touch my hair, please PLEASE stop calling me ’sistagirl’. Be yourself and speak the way you normally would, and NO, I don’t know ‘what black people think/feel about ________’, because I’m not all black people, I’m ONE black person so quit asking me that dumb question! (yes,I’ve been asked/confronted with this crap and I’m bloody sick of it) etc. (you may say ignore those people, but you can’t when it’s your teacher, your boss…OMG, the corporate world is FULL of these attitudes…it’s a PURE MESS. I wonder, ‘have you ever bothered to venture outside of your 4-6 blocks???? You CAN’T be that sheltered…)
It also makes me wonder what’s the deal with dressing up like black women so often? What weird thrill derives from this? From the Japanese to the Bubble Sisters in Korea to that idiot who dresses up like ‘Shirley Q Liquor’ (who I believe really wants to be a black woman and hates himself for feeling that way. He spends more time as what he THINKS is a black woman than he does in his own white skin. Al Joelson would be oh so proud) in the States? That REALLY makes me uncomfortable and frankly it puzzles me. I’ve never had the impulse to dress up as another race for some laughs or whatever. What impulse says, ‘OOH! I’M GOING TO DRESS UP LIKE A BLACK WOMAN TODAY AND _______!’ I TRULY don’t get it.
Look, I have a hard enough time in this world dealing with ignorant (and downright stupid) preconceived stereotypes about black women from ignorant people.(let’s not even talk about the stereotypes about black women that permeate U.S. tv. ARRRGHHHH! *pulls hair*) This crap right here doesn’t help. Not one bit. As a matter of fact, it just piles onto the ignorance that’s already out there.
Sorry if it seems like I’m ranting. I just get sick of stupidity and wanted to share my view on it. That’s all.
“Some” black women may find the video cute but when you read between the lines, the same ol’ lame azz stereotypical song about sistas keeps on playing!”