Big in Japan: ‘I wanna be black’

Published On August 4, 2014 | By Greg | Japan, News


A group of Japanese teens who want to be black are changing how they look.

FAR OUT IN THE FAR EAST: Hina Hasunuma from Tokyo wants to look black in homage to the American rap music scene Image by: DESIRÉ VAN DEN BERG

FAR OUT IN THE FAR EAST: Hina Hasunuma from Tokyo wants to look black in homage to the American rap music scene

“B-Styling”, a reference to “black lifestyle”, is a growing trend among young Japanese, who admire the black American hip-hoppers. Pale skin is traditionally a symbol of beauty in Japan, but this is no longer relevant for the daring teens who spend hours every week in tanning salons making their skins darker.

B-Stylers wear hip-hop-inspired clothing like loose sweatpants and backwards caps. They have their hair done by the few black hairdressers in Japan.

Why would young people in Japan embrace the culture, including the clothing, styling, hair and make-up?

Part of the success of hip-hop culture is its ability to inspire audiences to express their own identity. Rapper Lawrence Parker, aka KRS ONE, emphasises the importance in hip-hop, ironically, of “keeping it real”.

Hip-hop encourages self-knowledge, and staying relevant in the world.

The trend has been documented by Dutch photographer Desiré van den Berg, who recently spent seven months in Asia.

In Tokyo she befriended Hina Hasunuma, a 23-year-old B-Styler working at a Tokyo boutique called Baby Shoop.

The tagline for Baby Shoop is “Black for Life”, she writes, and “its products are a tribute to black culture: music, fashion and style of dance”.

Hasunuma said the shop assistants, and many of those who shop there, do deep tanning.

“With darker skin you look slimmer,” she said. “You look healthy and great.”

As a girl, Hasunuma had very pale skin, but after discovering hip-hop, she changed her look.

Hasunuma tans on a sunbed every week and applies a special tanning gel to speed the process.

Her mother said it’s fine as long as she doesn’t get cancer. “She will get bored with it soon.”

B-Stylers also speak American slang and wear braids or have their hair curled. Part of the B-Styling ethos, according to Hasunuma, “is that its followers do not look Japanese”.

Van den Berg said there are special B-Style events where Japanese youth breakdance and dance to hip-hop and R&B.

“Eminem’s song, My Name Is, broke the misconception that hip-hop culture was for black people only,” said Lerato Moleko of the movement Playing Hip-Hop Life on Stage.

Hip-hop has moved beyond its black American roots and pioneered the social awakening of rap into a form that combines social protest and musical and cultural expression.

It has developed a following all over Africa, South America and, now, the Far East.

by Rea Khoabane (Times Live [South Africa])