Japan’s Rising Reggae Star

Plenty of foreigners are doing big things out here in Japan. In fact a lot of us just use teaching English as a side-gig to pay the bills. I’m writing a book, a lot of people also model, act or are into film and photography.

My girl Monique is a soulful reggae songstress and she’s just put out a video! Reggae has a huge following in Japan and Monique has a killer voice, so I’m sure she’ll be “big in Japan” pretty soon! Check out her video! 

And if you dig the song show her some love on iTunes!

Monique Dehaney- Look of Love- Single (U.S Store)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/loo…

(Japan Store)
https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/loo…

Black History Month in Tokyo

Last night I had the chance to get together with my fellow expats of African descent  and do some cultural exchanging at Free Your Mind 2013, a yearly get together celebrating Black History Month. It was nice to be able to meet other expats and mingle with the Black community in Tokyo…and to eat!

Soul Food

I ate it all in exactly 4 minutes 53 seconds

I was all over that soul food plate like I was a thirteen year old girl from the suburbs and it was Justin Bieber.

There was a big turnout, the place was packed! Aside from the delicious food there were performances–singing and spoken word poetry. There was also a Black history trivia quiz, and a salsa lesson that turned into something like the cha cha slide.

The Crowd at Free Your Mind 2013

The Crowd at Free Your Mind 2013

I had a fabulous time, and if I’m still in Tokyo next year I’ll definitely be going again.

People in Japan Can’t Dance

…not unless they want to risk getting cuffed and kicked out of the club.

Technically, it’s been illegal to dance in clubs or bars after a certain hour since 1984, but that law’s never really been enforced until the last few years.

 

 

The picture above is an excerpt from an interview with Daisha Hunter, founder of ENTokyo. You can read the rest in the October issue of tsuki magazine.

Daisha works with clubs in Tokyo to put on artist showcases, CD release parties and so on, and she had a lot to say about this law, it’s discriminatory nature and the negative effect it has on the entertainment industry.

Everyone from DJs, to club owners to promoters, [face the risk] of having their events raided, being arrested…I heard ballroom dancing is now separated from the entertainment law, because they look at ballroom dancing like its…I was told it’s morally good for Japanese people to ballroom dance. And I was like well how can you say that and yet hip-hop dancing is under this law, salsa dancing…

I haven’t run into this law myself, but I’ve heard from friends who have seen the “no dancing” signs on the walls in clubs, or felt that polite shoulder tap and heard sumimasen if their rhythmic swaying to the music started to become just a bit too organized.

Now, I already had an inkling as to the purpose of this law, especially after hearing only certain kinds of dancing we’re restricted, but I decided to use it as the topic for one of my group lessons, to hear what the youth of Japan thought — about clubs, about dancing and about this law. One of my students was pretty candid and simply said dancers, especially hip hop dancers, we’re considered “bad boys” in Japanese culture, (he had no comment on female dancers).

So reading between the lines, obviously the law has nothing to do with the actual dancing, but rather the type of people who would be most likely to bust a move. There’s nothing wrong with trying to crack down on crime, but because some stuffy old men with side parts and comb-overs decided dancers were the trouble makers, but couldn’t quite get away with shutting down clubs out right (think of all the money that would be lost!) they decided to use this blanket law. Now you can’t even shake your tail feather at a concert out here without looking over your shoulder.  I can only guess this is a move to discourage the riff-raff, with their baggy jeans and over-sized shirts (clearly meant to hide their weapons), or their tight muscle shirts, (clearly meant to show off their biceps and seduce innocent Japanese women) from going out at night.

 You can read more about it here

Sigh, the whole thing makes Japan seem more…ominous to me, like the government is this shadowy, giant foot constantly dangling above our heads, ready to drop down and squish any time they want.

What do you think, is there any merit to this law?

My Experiences with Dating in Japan

Dating in Japan

 

I can’t lie, before I moved this was one of things I was the most interested in/concerned about.  What would it be like to date a Japanese guy?  how would we communicate? would Japanese men even find me attractive? should I only date foreign men? would I be able to date at all? or would this time in Japan just be one long dry spell?

I’ve decided to make an FAQ, to answer questions I know I had, that you might have as well. And if nothing else you can be nosy and read all about my dating life :p.

Do Japanese Men want to date Foreign women?

Yes, some do and no, some don’t, and it’s as simple as that as far as I’m concerned.

Do Japanese men find Black women attractive?

I think straight men in general find women in general attractive, and if you’re an attractive woman men will be attracted to your feminine charms, no matter what race or colour you are. I think there is more of, for lack of a better word, a “demand” for white women, particularly with blond hair and blue eyes. I talk more about that in this blog post. However, I’ve been hit on/flirted with by Japanese men, so yes some do. I’ve briefly dated two Japanese men.

The first was when I had just come to Japan. We met at a club and I gave him my number, but his English level was very low, and my Japanese was even lower. So when he called communication was pretty much impossible, as we had said all the basic stuff when we met, so there was really no way that could go anywhere.

The second I met at another club a few months later. I was actually first sitting outside on the patio and his friend started talking to me, but then he somehow “swooped in” and took over the conversation. His English was much better because he’d lived in Australia for a couple years. We went out a couple times, and it was cool and we had good conversation, but it fell apart, I believe, because we didn’t have so much in common. Hmm, maybe I should stop meeting guys in clubs.

Do foreigners date other foreigners?

Yes, I’ve dated foreigners as well, most recently a guy originally from Cameroon, but it depends on the people. Perhaps you’re aware or the charisma man, charisma girl stigma? These are people who come to Japan with the aim of “sowing their wild oats”. They’re like, I dunno, cheese. Not only because they’re usually kind of cheesy people, but also because cheese is cheap and widely available in the west, but here in Japan it’s expensive, more valuable… you get my drift? If you want to date other foreigners, avoid the cheese people. It shouldn’t be too difficult though, as these cheesy people are usually pretty scared of you, and only have eyes for their “prey”, Japanese people.

Do cultural differences make dating more difficult?

They can, yes. If you’re dating someone who has lived in the West, that mitigates it somewhat. But I don’t think “cultural differences” are a good excuse for not dating in Japan. When two people really like each other you can get over it. The main problem foreigners seem to have with dating Japanese people is not really knowing what they think. In Japan, people are expected to be more empathetic. Because people try to avoid giving offense, you’re supposed to know, or anticipate when something is making the other person unhappy. That can be really difficult for us Westerners who value verbal communication. When communication with the second guy stopped, I didn’t actually know something was wrong. He was still really polite and attentive. My single clue was at the end of the date where he didn’t hug me like usual.

How can I attract a Japanese guy or girl?

Just be your vivacious self! I wasn’t particularly trying to attract the guys I did, they just saw something in me that they liked and went for it.

Do Japanese guys/girls just want to date me because I’m foreign?

There are definitely some people like that in this country yes. And you’ll be able to tell pretty soon based on their behavior and the questions they ask you. (“Do foreigners like this? Do foreigners like that?” As opposed to “Do you like this? Do you like that? ) Then it’s up to you to decide whether you care or not.

So that’s my experience with dating in Japan. I plan to be here for another year at least, and it that time, especially as my Japanese improves, I’m sure I’ll have more stories to tell. And please, drop a comment with your stories about love and dating in Japan and abroad.

 

 

Blacks in Japan: Haircare Tips

If you’re a woman of African descent like me, and thinking about moving to Japan, I suspect there’s a certain concern on your mind: what the hell am I gonna do with my hair?

Just how do we black women living in Japan keep our beautiful, curly and unique hair looking supa dupa fly in a country where everyone else has not only different hair, but hair that is the exact opposite to ours?

Well, I wrote all about my own hair care experiences over at Surviving in Japan — a really useful blog with tips for everyday life in Japan for foreigners. I’ve benefited from many of the posts over there, like how to do a money transfer when the ATM will only allow you to do it entirely in Japanese, and where to find Tylenol and Aspirin. So when Ashley asked me if I wanted to do a guest post I knew it was time to pay it forward.

Here are my 4 Tips to Maintain Black Hair While Living in Japan. I wrote this post primarily for women because men tend to just chop it all off, especially if working in the conservative Japanese corporate structure, but there’s no reason why men couldn’t follow these tips as well. Head over to Surviving in Japan to check it out!

 

Blacks in Japan: She Was Scared of Me!

I’ve been living in Japan for eight months now, and though I had always feared it might happen, not once has a child run screaming or starting crying at the sight of my blackness.

Not until yesterday that is.

I was shopping at Don Quixote.  For those not living in Japan Don Quixote is a department store similar to Wal-Mart. I was shopping for stuff to pimp my crib, when I spotted a black man with an adorable half-black, half-Japanese two year old daughter. As I try to do when I see another person who looks like me in Japan I gave “the nod” of acknowledgment, which opened the doors for conversation.

“Where are you from?” he asked, with an African accent. I told him I was from Canada.

“Are you a student?”

“No I’m a teacher”

“Oh, I’m looking for someone to teach my daughter English, and I want her to have more interaction with the black community.”

It was at this point that the little cutie started crying.

“She must be tired,” I commented naively.

“No, whenever she sees a black face, or anyone not Japanese, she gets scared. She’s only used to me.”

Whaaaat? She’s afraid of…me? Little old me?

The irony, that the first child who cried at the sight of me was half black. Don’t that beat all huh? Well I think I’ll take the teaching job, so she’ll be seeing a lot more of me. But we’ll be best friends in no time ;)

I sometimes think about how difficult it would be to raise a visibly foreign child in Japan. I don’t think I would do it. This little darling believes in her childlike way that she’s Japanese, and technically she is. She was born and raised here. Yet sometime soon, maybe when she starts school, she will encounter people who are only too quick to show her that no, she is not “real” Japanese. And it won’t just be Japanese people either. It will be the foreigners who expect her to speak perfect English.

I don’t envy her (even though I can tell she will be a complete knockout when she grows up). She has some tough life lessons ahead of her, and I think in order to have the necessary tools to face the upcoming challenges she needs to have an understanding and healthy self-love for both sides of her heritage, so I’ll do my best to get her to stop crying.

 

 

Blacks in Japan — Preconceptions

Blacks in Japan

My first thought when I decided I was seriously going to Japan was, “this…will be epic“. The next thought was “Hmm, I’m black. Will that be a problem?”

I have to admit that when I first heard about the JET program in 2003, I had planned to apply once I got the required degree, however, when the time rolled around I chickened out, and I think concerns about how I would be received not only as a foreigner, but as a black foreigner — a black female foreigner, (which is a very rare sight in Japan it seems) were a big part of that. Videos like the one below made me nervous. The depiction of blacks here is sad, but hilarious too, simply because it’s such an over-the-top blatant sterotype. I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that the one guy’s weapon of choice is a basketball

Sooooo, are blacks treated differently in Japan?

From what I’ve read, yes and no.

Of course, any info I give now will be based on second-hand accounts, mostly the blogs of others I’ve found online, but stay tuned, because I’ll be blogging my own experiences as an expat soon enough ;) .

Anyway, what do I mean by yes and no? Here’s my understanding of what will go down.

Yes: Blacks (and any other visible minorities really, including whites, indians, natives, hispanics, etc.) will have to get used to some staring, and this seems to increase the further you get from the big cities. The Japanese (and the rest of the world, North America is no exception) have developed stereotypes regarding other races thanks to the media. There is a huge hip-hop movement in Japan right now. You’ll see Japanese b-boys, Japanese with afros and dreads, and NYC hats and jackets. Since the vast majority of Japanese exposure to blacks is through Hip-hop/R&B and sports, they may ask questions like “Can you sing? can you dance? do you run track?” And they may be somewhat confuzzled if you can’t do any of that. So if you’re black and you want to come to Japan…um I guess you better practice your moves? There will be some ignorance, but overt racism is rare.

No: Over and over again I hear that the Japanese are unfailingly polite, and foreigners and natives alike can expect to be treated kindly wherever they go.

It was with great relief that I realized after reading many blogs and forum posts that the foreigners in Japan, including black foreigners, are loving it! There may be bumps here and there but on the whole they’re enjoying the experience, so I think I will too.

For more on what it’s like to be black in Japan (you know, from people who have actually been to Japan) check out these blogs. You can find them in my blogroll too.

Sista in Tokyo — this sista has been in Tokyo for a few years. She’s even having a baby!

Intro2the1 — excellent vlog about a black girl living in a rural area as part of the JET program.

Jasmine Louis (TUJ-circle.net) — she has some very informative posts, and she answers the three questions black women usually want to know about Japan: 1) Is there racism in Tokyo? 2) Do Japanese men like Black women? 3) What am I going to do with my hair while I’m there?

Gaijin Smash — A very popular blog, it’s pretty hilarious. It’s about the misadventures of black man who is an English teacher.

Loco in Yokohama — This one has a very philosophical vibe. It’s about another black man working as an English teacher in Japan.