The presence of black culture in Japan still leaves me with ambivalent feelings.
There seemed to be no concern at all about whether their actions, dress, comments or hairstyle might cause offence.Over time, I realized for Japanese youth, being into black culture is a form of rebellion, and therein lay the attraction.Live the same, think the same, look the same, BE the same. As a well known Japanese proverb says: The nail that sticks out must be hammered down.Maybe it’s just a form of admiration and shouldn’t be considered anything more. Whatever subculture they adopt, they become masters, collectors and Aficionados.Whenever I meet someone who has been to Japan for any amount of time a superficial bond is instantly formed. I was experiencing my very own version of culture shock.
In my naivete I wondered where the ancient land of the mysterious orient I had envisioned was.
To see aspects of my own culture in Japan was, to say the least, surprising.
I didn’t quite know what to make of Jamaican food and music festivals, Japanese reggae artists or clubs named Harlem or Bootie which played the newest Hip hop and R and B music.
I moved from Montreal to Tokyo excited about discovering new food, learning a new language, and seeing old temples. But no one told me I would also find Caribbean themed restaurants, girls wearing bomber jackets with ‘respect the black woman’, or ‘black for life’ written on the back and guys hanging out in old Cadillacs they converted into low riders.
These conversations eventually turn into personal experiences about the struggles of daily life for a foreigner in Japan, and what it was like in the first few weeks after arriving (or surviving).
Sometimes people would come right up to me and say it. But soon I started to feel like a celebrity without all the perks. ’ I’m from Canada, and I came here to teach English. I was mistaken for both a band member from The Roots and Tiger Woods (who I look nothing like) and asked to sign an autograph by a high school girl while at Tokyo Disney.