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?

The Salary Man Who Called Me a N*gg*r

True story: I was out and about with a friend in Shinjuku, and we were starving and looking for a place to eat. Well, Murphy’s law must have a sick sense of humour, because just as we’re contemplating giving in and eating at KFC, a random salary man comes marching through the sea of people on the sidewalk towards us, and as he’s barreling by he leans in and yells:

“NIIIGAAAAA!”

“..Oh my God,” said my friend. “Did he just…”

I kept walking, in shock.

Did that really just happen? Maybe he was speaking Japanese and I didn’t understand.

But as the seconds passed and I kept replaying it in my head, I had to accept the tragic truth: I was a victim of a drive-by (well in this case speed-walk by) hate crime.

In hindsight I think my reaction, or lack thereof, was the best thing I could have done, because to be honest that guy seemed…crazy. Even if I had been able to catch up with him as he whizzed by, he picked me because I was an easy target — I’m smaller than him and running my mouth would have probably gotten me a nice pop in the teeth. I’m sure he would have had no qualms with hitting me. He seemed like a man who’s got nothing left to lose. For all I know this was the last line on his suicidal bucket list and he was headed for an appointment with the next speeding train. And it’s not as if he sees me as a human being, much less a woman. He made it pretty clear that all I am to him is a nigger.

But still, there’s a part of me that wishes I had done something, anything more than well, nothing.

It’s something else how I’m learning that some of the positive stereotypes about Japan aren’t all that true.

“Japan is such a safe country; you don’t have to worry about anything being stolen.”

Uh, no, two friends on three separate occasions have had money stolen from their wallets since I’ve been here, and NOT in Roppongi in case you’re wondering.

“The Japanese aren’t overtly racist, just lacking in PC skills.”

Uh, go back and read the first paragraph of this post.

But, you know, despite that, I still want to live here, because thankfully I’ve met enough pleasant and kind Japanese people to easily cancel out that asshole. And there’s still so much I want to learn and accomplish here.  So sorry racist salary man, but you haven’t gotten rid of me. Sure it was a disturbing experience, but sadly it’s not the first time someone’s said that to me, so you lose points for lack of originality.

I’ve got too much to do and see to let him get under my skin. And you know what, honestly, he’s not the real problem. At least there’s no mistaking what’s on his mind. It’s the ones in power, the ones who keep their racism under wraps to avoid a bad public image I worry about.

I guess I’ll take some extra time with the kids in my classes now, to try to keep them from turning into him.

 

“You Should Give Up Trying to Learn Japanese”

This (or something along these lines in broken English) was the response I got from one of the students at the school I teach at when I told him I was trying to learn Japanese so I could better communicate with the people around me. You see, while charades is a barrel of laughs at a cocktail party, especially when drinks are involved, doing it every day to make myself understood gets old quick. But according to this student learning Japanese will pretty much be impossible for me because I’m a foreigner. And if you read between the lines: a foreigner of non-Asian descent.

I’d like to say I tore into him about the ignorance of such an assumption, but I was at a work party and I didn’t want to get all heated because I really enjoy making money, and I’m not about to compromise my job over the miseducation of one man. Also I could tell he was pretty old school and nothing coming out of my young, pretty, foreign mouth, short of fluent Japanese, was going to change his mind.  And aside from that one comment he was a decent guy and we had a good conversation.  So I just shrugged it off with, “I’m still going to try my best.”

I’ve come across this situation before while cruising the J-blogosphere. Others have encountered the attitude that Japanese is just too difficult for anyone outside of Asia to grasp. But I wonder why? It’s a language built just like any other. It’s got vocabulary, grammar, idioms…learn the rules and you can learn the language right? Sure there are different tenses for formal and informal situations but again, learn the rules and you can learn the language. I’m not so foolish as to believe I could become fluent in a year, and I may never be fluent,  but impossible to learn? Nah, I don’t buy it. I can at least get up to the conversational level many of my Japanese students have reached in English.

Perhaps it’s the human need to feel unique. Think how special someone must be to be able to fluently speak a language that is “impossible’ for half the world to learn. Or perhaps it’s something a little more sinister — a belief that I and other western foreigners have a slower brain, incapable of picking up the nuances of such a complicated language. I hope not, because then we’re trotting down that shadowy road called genetic superiority, and that’s a little scary.

In a way this is positive. His comment didn’t discourage me, oh no. Comments like that fuel me. It’s a challenge. I’m going to be in this country for a while so let’s see how much I can learn. It’s on, dude.

For all of you out there spying on my through this blog :) what are your thoughts? Whether you’re a foreigner learning Japanese, a Japanese person who is already fluent or you’re just passing through. Is it impossible for me to learn Japanese?

I’m One of the Ugliest Women on Earth

Perhaps you have heard about this article by Satoshi Kanazawa. Titled, Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?, it was originally published in Psychology Today and has since been removed. According to this article it is scientifically proven that I am one of the ugliest women on the planet.

One of the ugliest women on Earth

One of the ugliest women on Earth

 

Isn’t that lovely?

Many before me have already commented on exactly why this article is not to be trusted. The “science” is faulty. Says Nanjala Nyabola on the guardian.co.uk:

He fails to provide information on the sample size for his research, or the social or economic factors (including race) that would have impacted on his findings so that readers can deduce for themselves as to what extent these findings can be generalised across time and space. As some tweeters have noted, it’s a classic trick in which pseudoscientists blind you with multicoloured graphs and three decimal place figures to convince lay readers that their research was thorough and is conclusive. I mean, who can argue with three decimal places?

I couldn’t put it any better. However I do wonder what the point of this article was in the first place? What was gained? What was meant to be the benefit to our understanding of the human race? Kanazawa concludes his article with:

The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone. Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races[...]women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive. The race differences in the level of testosterone can therefore potentially explain why black women are less physically attractive than women of other races, while (net of intelligence) black men are more physically attractive than men of other races.

…And?

I try to use the term “racist” sparingly, because if it’s used too often and when it’s really not merited, you have on your hands a “boy who cried wolf” scenario, and then when something comes along that truly does hold all the malice and/or ignorance that racism implies, few are likely to believe it. I gave some good thought to whether Satoshi Kanazawa’s article was actually racist or simply insensitive and unnecessary, and I believe it comes down to a matter of Kanazawa’s personal belief. If the article is an extrapolation of his personal belief that black women are the least attractive of all the races then, the way I see it, the article is in fact racist because we are no longer dealing with something objective. We are likely dealing with someone, possibly without even realizing they are doing it, twisting stats to fit their reality, and trying to pass that personal reality (a.k.a opinion) off as fact.

I believe that is what Kanazawa is doing and therefore I believe that the article is in fact racist. However I believe it is a racism born of ignorance rather than malice. The clues are in the body of the article.

As the following graph shows, black women are statistically no different from the “average” Add Health respondent, and far less attractive than white, Asian, and Native American women.

Black women are[...]far less attractive than other races. Would it be so difficult to be accurate and write “black women are considered by the respondents of this study to be far less attractive than other races”? This is supposed to be science right? Objective? No, he states this like it’s some kind of biological fact. Which is exactly what he believes.

Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races. And the mutation loads significantly decrease physical attractiveness (because physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health). But since both black women and black men have higher mutation loads, it cannot explain why only black women are less physically attractive, while black men are, if anything, more attractive.

First of all, “physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health”. Oh! Of course! Well everyone knows that. Let’s squash all this nonsense about any kind of socialization affecting what we consider attractive. 1+1=2 and physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health, period. Glad we have Satoshi Kanazawa here to tell us what’s up. And for the few who won’t be able to tell, I’m being sarcastic.

Second, “since both black women and black men have higher mutation loads, it cannot explain why only black women are less physically attractive”. You said it yourself Kanazawa: Your science can’t explain this one. At best all you can do is make a weak guess about testosterone. Maybe your mutation load theory can’t explain anything because it’s not true? Hmmm.

I think Kanazawa believes he is some kind righteous herald of scientific truth when all that his article proves is that there is a perception among his respondents that black women are the least attractive of all the races. He is trying to take this information and extrapolate it to mean that black women are objectively, inherently less attractive than the women of other races. I think this is misleading, irresponsible and  yes, racist.

And to what end? If Kanazawa was coming at this from some kind of social perspective I’d be right on board with him, really I would, because if the entire world’s perception of beauty is so skewed against one race and toward another that’s something worth knowing. Then the article would have some kind of purpose, because it points to something deeper: A lack of equality. In this day and age, especially in the west, we love to talk about equality. We love to say we are for equality but few of us know where to find it or how to achieve it.  Well one way is to take a good hard look at ourselves, to be aware of what we’re all really thinking. If we think one race is ugly we consider it inferior. If we think one race is beautiful it’s superior. I don’t think it’s a stretch for me to say we associate beauty with good and ugly with bad. Of course even this, a study in attractiveness, would only be one piece of the puzzle.

So how does this article concern me personally? Aside from the fact that I am a black woman, after living in Japan for four months, watching Japanese TV, talking to Japanese people and being bombarded by Japanese advertising, I think this country is a prime example Kanazawa’s findings if they are considered socially. The female models in this country (when not Japanese, of course) are frequently women of European descent, often with blond hair and light eyes. I can recall seeing all of two ad campaigns featuring black women in my four months here. Some Japanese celebrities undergo surgery to make their eyes bigger, rounder, less Asian and more European looking. If there’s a market for white women wanting to go so far as to get surgery to make their eyes look more Asian,  it’s minuscule.

It may sound like I’m ranting, but I’m just calling it as I see it. It may sound like I’m trying to say that whites are unfairly idolized. Not so. Right now I’m not trying to get into a discussion of fair or unfair, just equal. I’m simply giving an example of how living in Japan coupled with Kanazawa’s article has shown me that the world is still not equal, how the races are not still not perceived as equal. And it has not slipped my notice that Kanazawa is Japanese, and that his perception could be molded by this very environment. However, I’m not sure if he was born and raised in Japan or another country, like America, but frankly it doesn’t make much difference. This racial bell curve exists all over the world. All you have to do to see it is turn on your TV or look up at a billboard.

**update** Kanazawa has been fired from Psychology Today. It’s good to know that he had to face the consequences for writing this irresponsible article, but I can’t help but feel it was only due to public pressure that he’s gone. That said, it’s encouraging that the pressure even existed. An article like this would have been taken as fact maybe as recently as 50 years ago, so I think that even though it’s disheartening that the article was published in the first place,  on the bright side people are waking up, and seeing this kind of propaganda for what it really is.

This post is a part of the January 2011 Special edition J.Festa over at Japingu.