Posted May 23, 2010 in For Both, Music | 3 Comments



I’ve always wanted to travel to Japan. This was an actual dream come true. Having seen numerous documentaries showing the Japanese youth enthralled with black American culture, I expected to see a whole bunch of Presley imitations or punk rockers as the stereotypical movies would show, but I was in for quite a shock.

Music is of utmost importance to Japanese youth. In the area of Shibuya alone, it is said that there exists 250 record stores. I repeat: Record stores. Yes DJs are a dime a dozen here, though having been to Tokyo I still sensed a fakeness of trying too hard. Example: I saw more Afros in Tokyo then I would see in NY or at one of my family reunions back in the 70′s. How is that?

I noticed the swagger, I heard the talk, and noticed the hip-hop clothing (which, by the way, is more advanced in detail than Canada or, dare I say, NY).

But no matter how hard they tried they just didn’t convince me of their hardness or even their love of and appreciation for the hip hop culture. As my friend says, they will stick to this for 2-3 years until something else comes along to entice them. They’re not really down, they’re love was never true…. or is it?

I ventured up north to the quiet fishing village of Akita. Now Akita is small by Japanese standards…500,000 people. It took nearly 9 hours by car and I was quite surprised with what greeted me at the exit.

Arriving close to midnight I was picked up by Dr.Toussaint, a Haitian/Canadian researcher who has resided in Japan for 3 years. We were greeted by a group of breakers dancing in the courtyard of a building. Let’s not forget it is below zero and there is snow and ice on the ground. Some of them had never seen a black man and stopped and gawked…It’s understandable, I did the same to them. I was surprised by their agility and know-how in this far off village.

And this was just a prelude to what I would experience.

I was invited to a private party held in a nightclub on the strip. The DJ was DJ Who-Z (from Fuji). Having heard him before at Sona (a nightclub in Montreal), I was not surprised by his skills and knowledge of the music. He did however surprise me by deciding to play strictly old school, where he cut, scratched, double beat all of my old favourites. Yet another surprise was that this was a hip-hop party and they actually played deep house/garage. Could it be that I had to come all they way to Japan to see DJs play the way it used to be?

The crowd was enthusiastic and full of energy! I don’t know where they got their moves from but those 20 people (that’s all the club could fit) were turning me out. I could have sworn I was in Brooklyn in the middle of some basement party. Now why is it we don’t have dancers like that? It’s not like they are 6 hours from NY, they are 14 hours away by plane, then a 6 hour train ride, they speak another language and still manage to give me a closer feeling to my youth in NY then I could find in Montreal, Toronto, or in pretty much any North American city…I know what your thinking…”he should hear me spin”, “he missed that party or night”, “he should see me dance”…WHATEVER.

It still doesn’t take away the fact that they are all the way around the world. The best part of all is the spirit they have. I could see it in their eyes and in their smiles. For every track that Who-Z played, it was a look of “I wish I was there in those days,” not “I remember back in the days.” You remember what? You remember mix tapes passed on from generation to generation of heads…that’s all. Don’t front.

Of course this being Japan, it was all about peace, love, and happiness. Shoes were stepped on and drinks were spilled…yet no one stopped dancing. Everyone was there for one reason and one reason only. I know some of you cats out there know what I’m talking about – before the violence in music came around and the days of gunshots began. They even have a serious dancehall scene. Unfortunately, I called too late to reach the promoter to be on the list for Bobby Konders and Jabba, but I heard it was serious and that these acts routinely make Japan a destination. As well it doesn’t hurt to send these guys some dub plates. Trust me they get their music way before we do. Japan after all is a test market for some companies. This is a smart idea since the population is so knowledgeable on different forms of music. They understand that you cannot go forward without knowing the past. RESPECT!

I highly recommend this trip for the avid music lover. This trip is needed to educate you on history, style, and appreciation. By doing so, all that will happen is that you will have a better understanding of people and cultures. So trust me DJs, pack your records and go teach English in some village in Japan. You will not be disappointed and will come back a better person. Plus, you’ll get laid like crazy!

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    Paolo Mariachi says:

    Asians dance it out surprisingly better than anyone else. I, for one, cannot.

    And argumentatively, the Lynne Cheneys of the world were saying that hip hop was just a fad in the 80′s, and it’s still here. I’m not sure if the majority of Japan are hip hop heads now, but if their number dwindle they’ll still be a strong group.

  2. joliminois says:

    Interesting article! I like that it gives room for argumentation. Because first off; This village seem to be frozen in time with the music and style they brought back from the 80s. Music is evolutive, the game and rules have changed. Not necessarily for the best, but sometimes for survival of the artist as a human being. The young generation has seen to many djs fading or dying (Guru from Razmatazz most recently) with no public recognition for their arts and no remuneration for their contribution to modern music. So, It seems to me as if the ppl of this remote village in Japan have only done the round trip once. What’s 9hrs to the next biggest city and 14hrs plane ride to bring you to new sound? Priceless!

  3. would love to go down there sometime.. would bring some funky / jacking House tho

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