This Is BC Issue One Thousnd


Once marginalized and mocked, Black athletes, musicians and celebrities of Japanese descent are changing the game in Asia and in America. In a country perceived as homogeneous, where everyone supposedly looks alike and is pressured to conform, there is an old proverb that says “the nail that sticks out gets hammered.” But things are changing, and people of African descent are showing that Japanese and East Asian people do not all look alike. And Black people are making spaces for themselves in places where they were once excluded and invisible.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, who was born in Japan to a Haitian-American father and Japanese mother, is a high-profile example. Osaka, who has matched her prowess on the court by challenging cultural and racial norms in Japan, called out a Nissin noodle commercial that depicted her as an anime character with white skin and brown hair.

In professional sports, there are Black Japanese heroes like Rui Hachimura of the Los Angeles Lakers. An Olympic athlete who has been active in Black Lives Matter activism, Hachimura became the first Japanese player in an NCAA Division I tournament, and the first to make it as an NBA first round draft pick.

In 2017, Ariana Miyamoto became the first mixed-race (or hafu, meaning “half” in Japanese) Miss Universe Japan, helping to chip away at traditional Japanese beauty standards that have valued light skin and shunned melanin and African features. Ariana faced racial abuse as a child, and decided to compete after a hafu friend committed suicide. In 2020, both the winner and first runner-up of the Miss Japan pageant - Aisha Tochigi and Raimu Kamanishi - are of Afro-Japanese ancestry.

Looking at the Japanese entertainment industry, Black artists have graced the music scene, names such as R&B singers Crystal Kay, Aisha and Thelma Aoyama; Japanese-Jamaican rapper Daicihi Yamamoto; J-pop singers Nesmith and Chris Hart, and Jerome “Jero” White - who is an enka or “Japanese blues” singer.

And the collective of J-pop groups known as Exile Tribe have Black members, in an industry where some Japanese groups only a few decades ago performed in blackface to mimic Black folks.

As the YouTube channel, The Black Experience Japan has chronicled, Black people are making moves and living their lives in Japan. Somewhere in Tokyo, there are Black-owned barbershops and Black-owned restaurants. Black people still face racial discrimination in that country. But they are leading, making their presence known and changing the game.

David A. Love, JD - Serves

BlackCommentator.com as Executive

Editor. He is a journalist, commentator,

human rights advocate, a Professor at

the Rutgers University School of

Communication and Information based in

Philadelphia, a contributor to Four

Hundred Souls: A Community History of

African America, 1619-2019, The

Washington Post, theGrio,

AtlantaBlackStar, The Progressive,

CNN.com, Morpheus, NewsWorks and

The Huffington Post. He also blogs at

davidalove.com. Contact Mr. Love and