Last updated on December 26, 2016
Blackface is once again in the news in Japan. The last time I ran a story on Rats & Star, I presented Epic Records Japan’s Gosperats performing in blackface at the Cotton Club in Tokyo. By the way, Epic Records Japan is owned by Sony BMG. Do I need to go down that rabbit hole given the recent issues with Sony in America?
Anyway, many may think that blackface in Japan is a one-off event. It is not! In Japan, blackface has been used in government publications, in advertisements, on products, television shows and during live performances. Does it get old? Do most Japanese overlook it? Do expats give a damn? Yes, no, maybe, I dunno, it depends… on who you talk to, where you are, the generation gap, whether your a Kiwi, an Aussie, Brit, ‘merican, of the African Diaspora, sober, drunk or have just have the knowledge and ability to separate fact, fiction and utter bullshit from those on the left, in the middle or on the right!
Here is a reply and question posed by @Hiroko Tabuchi (New York Times reporter. Foodie, bookworm. Ex-Tokyoite. LSE grad. Kobe born & raised, currently in New York). BTW, be sure to follow her on Twitter!:
日本に住んでいる黒人の方もいます。例えば @Locohama @blacktokyo。日本国内には日本人しかいないかのような発言をあなたから聞くのは残念です。それか、彼らは日本ではこのような行為に耐えないといけない、とお考えですか。
Replying to a tweet, @Hiroko_Tabuchi says that there are Blacks living in Japan such as Baye McNeil (@Locohama) and @blacktokyo. Some commenting on the latest blackface in Japan tweets see nothing wrong with Rats & Star in blackface and consequently do not consider it as being a faux pas in Japan since Rats & Star’s image is being packaged for the Japanese market. Hmm! Well, here is where I chimed in:
If Japan is truly a participant in the international community, why isn’t there an understanding that blackface is racist (to Black Americans). Could Japan explain the use of blackface during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games?
Rats & Star is a group that took the world by storm in the 1980s. They probably created this turmoil with the confidence that it will rapidly help sell their songs. It seems many Japanese apologists remain ignorant to world issues.
I first came to Japan in 1981. Then as now, Japanese media portrays Caucasians as beautiful but Blacks in stereotypical images such as being ugly.
Presently in Japan, music and fashion are influenced by black culture and can be seen and heard everywhere as mere background music (BGM). Getting Japan to understand that being Black is more than BGM, is an uphill battle.