© Copyright (2005)  Southeast Conference of the Association of the Association of Asian Studies.  SEC/AAS

Return to Contents, Volume XXVII, Southeast Review of Asian Studies

 

THE HIP HOP IMPACT ON JAPANESE YOUTH CULTURE

 

XUEXIN LIU

SPELMAN COLLEGE

 

 

I.  Introduction

This paper explores the hip hop impact on Japanese youth culture with special reference to the ganguro[1] phenomenon among Japanese teenage girls. Ganguro has been identified as a new fashion style[2] imitating certain hip hop outward physical features, such as blackened faces and necks with shimmering makeup, blond or white hair, boots with solid platform soles, and bright colored tight miniskirts. As commonly recognized, such an imitation is in fact an open expression of individuality, freedom, and sexuality.

 

Three assumptions underlie the current study: (1) Ganguro as a new fashion style reflects the global influence of hip hop culture and affects Japanese youth ideology. (2) Ganguro is more than a new fashion style among Japanese teenage girls; it is an explicit expression of self- identity of those who attempt to depart from traditional Japanese cultural values and social standards. (3) Ganguro as a subculture is in conflict with  mainstream Japanese culture, and although this subculture may not spread to the whole Japanese younger generation, it has socio-cultural and ideological significance in Japanese society.

 

            Unlike most previous studies of the hip hop impact on Japanese youth culture,[3] especially the ganguro phenomenon, which remain at a superficial level of observation and description, this paper explores the sources of such an impact in order to explain the nature of ganguro and its roots of conflict with mainstream Japanese culture. The research project relied on the direct input and feedback from some young Japanese students about their understanding of ganguro. Sixty-six participants from two Japanese universities involved in this research project were given a questionnaire covering the most relevant questions regarding the issues under investigation. In addition, this research project involved several organized discussions among some African American students about their views and attitudes toward ganguro girls. The research findings provide sufficient evidence in support of the assumptions.

 

II.  Hip hop culture as a mode of expression

 

During the late 1970s, the streets of the inner city of New York witnessed the birth of a dynamically expressive verbal art form known as rap music. Spawned from within the rich African American socio-cultural continuum, this art form became known as the verbal expression of a youth culture. Originally thought to be a passing trend, rap music has remained at the forefront of a contemporary pop culture called hip hop.[4] “ ‘Hip hop’ is the total expression, in attitude, dress, dance, graffiti art and music of an ever growing African-American youth subculture which challenges the status quo and moves them into a crucible for change”(Marriott, 1990:1).[5] Through rap music, African American youths have developed a mode of expression that is quintessentially their own.

 

Rap has become the language of the urban street culture, and youth across the nation have followed its lead. With a “blend of reality and fiction, rap is a contemporary response to the pleasures and problems of black urban life in contemporary America.”(Smitherman, 1997:1; Rose, 1994:2)[6] Rap is referred to as “rhythmic American poetry.”(Sager, 1990: 78)[7] 

           

After two plus decades, this hip hop culture is still a very present and most popular expressive art form. Its survival is due in part to the fact that hip hop is a representation of an indigenous socio-cultural form of a rich African American tradition. This strong tradition functions as the background for rap artists to dramatically voice their concerns about issues that speak to the young urban African American population.(Bernard, 1990:1)[8] From its inception, hip hop culture with its socio-cultural influence has made an indelible impact on the African American community and American society as a whole. One of the most significant reasons for hip hop culture’s acceptance and appreciation by the general American population is that more and more young Americans find socio-psychological self expressions, thought provoking verbal dexterity, emotionally involving content and outward physical expressions as saliently conveyed within it. The rap music phenomenon or hip hop culture has become so firmly entrenched within the melting pot of American culture that average Americans across the nation have felt its socio-cultural effects. In fact, its influence has grown and even spilled over into the global community. Today, many young people throughout the world idolize rap music or hip hop culture as a mode of self expression to realize their communicative intentions.

      

III.  Ganguro as a reflection of hip hop culture in Japan

 

Ganguro, commonly known as ‘blackface’[9] with some outstanding hip hop physical features, has emerged as a new fashion style among some Japanese teenage girls in some Japanese metropolitan cities like Tokyo. Because of the global influence of hip hop culture, some Japanese teenagers become ganguro girls to make themselves stand out as being different from others of the same generation. Wearing boots with solid platform soles over 10 centimeters high, bright colored tight mini-skirts, having blond or white hair, and wearing shimmering makeup are the particular features of ganguro girls. Some ganguro girls even go to the extreme by having their faces and necks tanned or blackened, often highlighted by white makeup. In so doing, they make themselves look similar to black women. As often observed in today’s Japan, ganguro is not an isolated social phenomenon, but an impact exerted by hip hop culture upon the Japanese young generation. Different from other observations in Japan and other parts of the world, such as imitation of popular hip hop music, lyrics, and dancing movements, ganguro is mainly an imitation of hip hop image.

           

Like any other cross cultural influences, the ganguro phenomenon or imitations of ‘black’ culture is not an influence or change over night in Japan. As noted by Barnwell(2004),[10] as early as the 1840s, ‘blackface’ performers acted by white sailors began to appear in Japan to entertain the Japanese Commissioners, because they “enjoyed the imitations of the Negro and laughed very heartily.” (Szczesniak, 1962: 153)[11] Ganguro began to appear as a fashion style in Japan in early 1990s and remains somewhat popular among Japanese teenage girls (mead,2002).[12] By means of their outlandish fashions, platform shoes, darkened faces, dyed hair and eccentric white makeup, ganguro girls distinguish themselves among conservative Japanese societies. After traveling to Japan in 2001, Iona Rozeal Brown,[13] a renowned artist, devised a particular theme for her paintings entitled ‘a3 … black on both sides’ exhibited at Spelman College in 2004.[14] Her collections for the exhibition include not only her paintings of the Japanese blackfaces in history, but also those of the young Japanese girls with drastically darkened faces in contemporary Japan. More than 40 works in Brown’s exhibition examine the history of blackface performance traditions in Japan and the current fascination with hip hop among Japanese youth. Brown’s exhibition of Japanese blackfaces explores the global influence of hip hop culture, commercialism and African American culture as fetish.

           

There have been several speculations about motivations for some Japanese girls to become ganguro.(Barnwell,2004)[15] Some speculate that ganguro girls are using hip hop image to rebel against wearing traditional school uniforms to express their individuality. Others speculate that ganguro girls imitate celebrities like Namie Amuro,[16] a Japanese singer and model, who became substantially popular in Japan in the 1990s, when she performed with a darkened skin. Still others speculate that some Japanese girls, inspired by the perceived coolness, imitate hip-hop acts that they admire and emulate popular performers like Lauryn Hill[17] and TLC[18] (Talarowska-Kacprzak).[19]

           

Although ganguro as a fashion style does not fit well with traditional Japanese social standards and cultural values, it becomes popular among some girls who are just approaching adult life. Many non-ganguro girls and boys readily accept some of the ganguro elements, and fearing exclusion, some may often conform to the style due to peer pressures.

 

IV.  Ganguro as an explicit expression of self identity

 

For whatever speculations, ‘ganguro’ is the name not created by the Japanese girls themselves, but by the Japanese public who complain that these “creatures” reflect all of the negative aspects of society. However, as commonly observed and believed, most ganguro girls are academically disinclined and lack ambition for personal success in education and life. It is for this reason that the Japanese public disdains them. What becomes socio-culturally important is that ganguro girls have made their own choice to not follow the pack but, instead, they have chosen a carefree and open approach to living for the moment and for escaping the feelings of being ignored or neglected at home and isolated, bullied or depressed at school.(Klippenstein,2000)[20] As one of the hip hop characteristics, a carefree life style is the stimulus for ganguro girls to be largely unconcerned with money and material gain. Like all individuals, ganguro girls want to enjoy life. They prefer to wear a flamboyant outfit and hang out with their friends for fun instead of struggling with their compelling school tasks or boring jobs.   

           

Some researchers in the field of Japanese social and/or studies believe that ganguro as a fashion style is the younger generation’s revenge against traditional Japanese society; others believe ganguro is promoted by those who intend to change the peripheral female position in Japanese society; others believe that it is some Japanese girls’ explicit self-expression of sexual attractiveness; others believe that it is just some Japanese girls’ imitation of some elements of an African woman’s appearance to be a ‘woman’, and still others believe that it makes girls kawaii (cute) or cool because it makes them look different from others. Although researchers may view ganguro from different perspectives and offer various explanations, ganguro has been understood as an explicit expression of self-identity instigated by some Japanese girls’ resentment at being neglected, ignored, isolated, and rule-governed or constrained. Ganguro girls attempt to identify themselves as real and free individuals mainly for the following reasons.  

           

Lack of adequate communication between Japanese children and their parents, lack of loving family environment, and family neglect may cause many serious childhood psychological and emotional problems. Most Japanese parents are extremely engaged in their work and fully devote themselves to their companies for job security and promotion. Such parents have to spend over 90% of their daytime hours on their job responsibilities and have almost no time left for their children. Without learning about and listening to their children’s concerns and problems, many such parents fail to provide a loving family environment in which their children can grow naturally and normally. Children without loving parents or friends at home tend to feel neglected, ignored and emotionally stressed. The only way for such children to get a sense of belonging is for them to look for love and friendship outside their families.

           

Fierce competition and many difficulties in school bring some children unbearable stress, frustration and depression. In Japan better education is fundamental for higher positions in Japanese society. From an extremely young age, children have to vigorously compete with their peers for good or highly recommended kindergartens, elementary school, middle schools, high schools, and universities. In such an extremely competitive society, higher entrance exam scores mean better opportunities. Stress, frustration, and failure in school are the common reasons for some young Japanese to commit suicide. Those who try to avoid competition so as to live a carefree life may look for a stress or worry-free environment that the ganguro tribe may offer.

           

The strict school rules and standards impose severe constraints on young Japanese. In Japanese schools kids up to teenagers are not allowed to behave like free individuals. Instead, they are educated, trained and expected to be components of a particular group or community. Wearing school uniforms and using similar knapsacks are the basic and common rules in most schools. Similar strict rules are also enforced in high schools, where wearing school uniforms, wearing no make-up and jewelry are prohibited. Most school educational activities are for shaping and promoting a sense of obligation, loyalty, and community strength. Consequently, through years of their education, young Japanese begin to feel they are constrained by school rules and standards without human freedom. More seriously, many Japanese teenagers feel their freedom, individualities and differences are being constrained, suppressed, and even deprived. Such children, especially teenagers, attempt to enjoy a normal and carefree life by imitating some hip hop or ganguro styles so that they can make themselves look different from their peers. Ganguro girls try to look different because they want to be noticed, understood and regarded as free and equal individuals in Japanese society.       

           

Thus, for some Japanese girls, being ganguro is an escape from many problems they face in their everyday life with family, education and school environment. The adoption of the explicit hip hop appearance does not comply with family and school standards, but openly expresses ganguro girls’ attitudes of defiance.

 

V.  Ganguro in conflict with Japanese society

 

To discuss the relevant issues regarding the global influence of hip hop on the contemporary Japanese younger generation, in addition to the ganguro phenomenon as a reflection hip hop culture and as an explicit expression of self identity, this paper also focus on some apparent conflicts between ganguro and Japanese society. To do so, it uses a specially designed research project to get direct input from some young Japanese students about their interpretation and understanding of the ganguro phenomenon as they see in everyday life and environment. This project [21] involved 66 participants from two Japanese universities. By means of a questionnaire the participants were asked to answer a list of open-ended questions most relevant to the issues under current investigation. The table given below contains the 10 open-ended questions which invite different answers. The participants’ most commonly shared opinions, views and positions in response to each of the questions are highlighted as generalized ones indicated by the numbers in the columns. The tokens and the percentage for each question indicate the number and percentage of the participants who gave the similar answers as generalized.         

           

The findings provide strong evidence in support of the assumption that ganguro is the result of the hip hop impact and has become a subculture for some young Japanese, but it is also unavoidably in conflict with Japanese society. Since the results indicated in the table show clear differences in opinion among the participants, the significant tendencies or most commonly shared responses are outlined below for immediate reference.

           

Two-thirds believe ‘blackened face’ is a typical outward appearance of ganguro, rather than simply a fashionable appearance (see Question 1). This means a ‘blackened face’ may mean more than a new fashion style. 60% believe that the most important reason for being ganguro is for them to be ‘different for attention’, rather than simply an ‘imitation of celebrity’ (see Question 2). This means ganguro is an imitation for good reasons. 64% think ganguro girls are ‘inconceivable and indisposed’ (see Question 3). This indicates the lack of understanding of ganguro girls by the most public. 47% believe they are ‘very interested’, including 27% believe they are ‘somewhat interested’ in hip hop culture (see Question 4). This indicates a great influence and impact of hip hop culture on ganguro girls. 52% believe that ganguro as a new fashion style is the young generation’s revenge against Japanese traditional values (see Question 5). This indicates a special social and cultural meaning of ganguro. 44% do not think ganguro as a new fashion style is promoted by those who intend to change the peripheral female position in Japanese society (see Question 6). This means that ganguro girls are either unhappy with their current social status (24%) or choose this fashion style for personal reasons (21%). 50% do not think ganguro is some young Japanese girls’ explicit self-expression of sexual attractiveness (see Question 7). This means that ganguro may not always be for sex appeal. 41% believe ganguro is some young Japanese girls’ imitation of hip hop image, rather than an imitation of an African woman’s appearance (42%) (see Question 8). This indicates a strong hip hop influence. 58% think that Japanese girls who practice ganguro identify themselves as individuals departing from the commonly accepted Japanese social behavior (see Question 9). This indicates a clear conflict between ganguro girls’ behaviors and the commonly accepted ones in Japanese society. 36% think ganguro as a self-identity is in unavoidable conflict and 26% think such a self-identity is in somewhat conflict with the Japanese traditional culture and society (see Question 10). This indicates a clear conflict between the two.   

           

These research findings do not support some previous speculations that ganguro is an imitation of celebrity,[22]  that ganguro girls intend to change their peripheral female position in Japanese society,[23] and ganguro is for explicit sex appeal .[24] What is interesting and important in this investigation is that although the participants may view the same issues from different perspectives, the general understanding of the ganguro phenomenon in terms of its conflict with Japanese society is clearly reflected.

           

In order to understand that ganguro is in fact a result of hip hop influence, it would be informative for the researcher to get input and feedback regarding the phenomenon from those who are not only knowledgeable about hip hop culture but also have witnessed its global impact. Supported by the Spelman Bush-Hewlett Grant Program (Warner, 2004),[25] this research project also involved several organized discussions among some African American students at Spelman College about their views and attitudes toward the hip hop impact on Japanese youth culture. All the participants in the discussions have been involved in the study-abroad programs in Japan, and they have become very interested in the issues of the ganguro phenomenon as they have personally observed. Cited below are what they think about ganguro at the Annual Japanese Speech Contest hosted by the Japan-American Society of Georgia in cooperation with the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta (March 2004)[26] and from their essays published at the Iona Rozeal Brown Exhibition: a3 … black on both sides held at Spelman College (Barnwell, 2004; Warner, 2004; Liu, 2004b)[27] and at the Spelman Bush-Hewlett Grant website.

           

“I was particularly fascinated by young Japanese students’ interpretation of African American hip-hop style. … I was amazed to see young men in Adidas sweat bands, Sean Jean outfits, Timberland boots, and large diamond studded necklaces. Young women were wearing Kangol hats and bananas, Baby Phat outfits, Minolo boots, and large gold hoop-earrings. Long, jet black hair was replaced with intricately designed cornrow braids on the heads of males and females. … It was great to see that they are embracing a positive aspect of my culture especially because of historical incidents of mistreatment by the western world” (Tyson, 2004). “I see Japanese rap groups on posters in Tokyo and at the same time Missy’s new video begins with a Japanese skit with some fake Ganguro girls” (Woody, 2004).[28] “I view the Ganguro girls as a big part of the younger generation that is breaking away from the Japanese traditional ways. I see the Ganguro girls looking to another very popular culture that seems to communicate what they are trying to say. … African Americans in the hip hop culture display the carefree attitudes of the rap artists and go-against-the-grain standpoints. In the Ganguro girls’ culture, they seem to have the same carefree attitude, as if they do not want to fit into the mold anymore. I see a direct correlation between the two cultures” (Kemp, 2004). “Although this external shift in culture is evidence that Japanese society is becoming less tradition in its acceptance of western ways, one thing that I found the most interesting was the ability for young Japanese people to revert back to their traditional ways when necessary” (Tyson, 2004). “I remember seeing images of brown skinned girls on the cartoon motifs of the ubiquitous sticker picture machines (or purikura).

           

These images were usually clad in what some might call “hip hop hoochie” fashion, baggy pants or mini skirts, bit hoop earrings, and tight tops. I perceived this to be some sort of “ghetto fabulousness.” I was fascinated” (Shaw, 2004). “When I first saw a Ganguro girl in Japan last fall, I was amazed. I could not believe that there were girls in Japan walking around with darkened skin. … To me, it didn’t seem as though Japanese girls were getting dressed up and putting on dark make-up to mock the African American culture but, instead, to idolize it” (Young, 2004).           “… find life easier in this “black face” because it moves them outside of mainstream Japanese culture. By adopting that lifestyle, they are able to absolve themselves of the obligations omnipresent in Japanese culture. … So the adoption of darker skin is used by those in the subculture as a visual cue to the rest of Japanese society that they are not participating on the same terms as everyone else” (Barden, 2004). “They go against the norm of Japan’s homogenous society --- adding color to the wash of fair skin and black hair, making a target of interest for outsiders. The ganguro is a rebel, albeit cheerful on the outside. … for they are essentially starting a revolution --- breaking free of the rules and expectations, passed down from generation to generation, and set upon them” (Williams, 2004). “I don’t use the term “black face” negatively because I see this painting as a compliment to black culture rather than having a derogatory connotation” (Moore-Alston, 2004).[29]

           

Words speak for themselves. What those African American students said clearly reflect their understanding of the hip hop impact on Japanese youth culture and their positive views toward ganguro girls. Like most of the Japanese participants, they also believe that, more than an imitation of the ‘black’ side, ganguro is for some Japanese teenage girls’ self identity and such a self identity is in conflict with traditional Japanese culture.

 

 

 

 


The Questionnaire for the Study and Feedback Types

(Liu, 2004a)[30]

 

1. What is so-called ganguro in Japanese society?

1.a. Blackened face

1.b. Fashionable appearance

1.c. Self-expression

Irrelevant

Total

44

67%

13

20%

9

14%

0

0%

66

2. What are the most important reasons for being ganguro?

2.a. Different for attention

2.b. Group identity

2.c. Imitation of celebrity

Irrelevant

 

66

40

60%

11

17 %

12

18%

3

5%

3. What do you think about ganguro girls in Japan?

3.a. Dirty and ugly

3.b. Inconceivable and indisposed

3.c. Open-minded and personable

Irrelevant

 

66

7

11%

42

64%

15

23%

2

3%

4. Do you think ganguro girls are really interested in hip hop culture?

4.a. Very interested

4.b. Somewhat interested

4.c. Little interested

Irrelevant

 

 

66

31

47%

18

27%

6

9%

11

17 %                

5. Do you think ganguro as a new fashion style is the young generation’s revenge against the Japanese traditional value?

5.a. Yes

5.b. No

5.c. Generational difference

Irrelevant

 

 

66

34

52%

6

9%

25

38%

1

2%

6. Do you think ganguro as a new fashion style is promoted by those who intend to change the ‘peripheral female position’ in Japanese society?

6.a. Not their real intention

6.b. Unhappy with their current social status

6.c. Their own choice for personal reasons

Irrelevant

 

 

 

66

29

44%

16

24%

14

21%

7

11%

7. Do you think ganguro is some young Japanese girls’ explicit self-expression of sexual attractiveness?

7.a. For sex appeal

7.b. Not for sex appeal

7.c. Self-expression not related to sex appeal

Irrelevant

 

 

66

15

23%

33

50%

12

18%

6

9%

8. Do you think ganguro is some young Japanese girls’ imitation of an African woman’s appearance to be a ‘woman’?

8.a. Not an imitation of an African woman’s appearance

8.b. An imitation of a celebrity’s appearance

8.c. Hip-hop image

Irrelevant

 

 

66

28

42%

4

6%

27

41%

7

11%

9. Do you think one of the important motivations for Japanese girls to practice ganguro is to identify themselves as individuals departing from the commonly accepted Japanese social behaviors?

9.a. Behaviors departing from the commonly accepted ones

9.b. Behaviors as personal choices

9.c. Self-appreciation

Irrelevant

 

 

 

 

66

38

58%

19

29%

4

6%

5

8%

10. Do you think ganguro as a self-identity is unavoidably in conflict with the Japanese traditional culture and society?

10.a. Unavoidable conflict

10.b. Somewhat conflict

10.c. No conflict

Irrelevant

 

 

66

 

24

 

36%

 

17

 

26%

 

8

 

12%

 

17

 

26%

Notes:    (1) 66 Participants: 28 (19 male/9 female), University of Tokyo; 38 (female), Kyoritsu Women’s University.  (2) Ages of participants: 17-25.

(3) Irrelevant: response not relevant to the question; no response.

 


VI.  Conclusion

This paper discusses the hip hop impact on Japanese youth culture by exploring the sources and nature of the ganguro phenomenon as a particular Japanese subculture based on the input and feedback provided by both the Japanese and American participants in the research project. From some social and cultural perspectives, this paper offers an objective and critical analysis of the observations. Some most commonly expressed speculations about the social motivations for some Japanese girls to become ganguro and the potential social and cultural significance of the global hip hop influence have been verified. The research has reached the following conclusions. 

 

            1.  Ganguro as a new fashion style among some Japanese teenage girls is a reflection of the global influence of hip hop culture, which exerts an impact on Japanese youth culture and its ideology.

 

            2.  Ganguro is not just an imitation of hip hop appearance for physical attraction but an explicit expression of self identity as free individuals who refuse to follow the pack of their own generation.            They attempt to break away from the established or commonly expected Japanese social standards and cultural values. 

 

            3.  Ganguro is unavoidably in conflict with traditional Japanese society. Ganguro as a subculture has become a relatively common feature of ordinary life in the streets and private sectors of Japan, but it has not entered mainstream Japanese culture. It represents a particular young population attempting to redefine Japanese young womanhood, individuality, freedom, community, collectivity, and meaning of life.

 

            4.  Global influence of hip hop culture is in fact a cross-cultural borrowing phenomenon. Like any other cultural borrowing, hip hop culture is socio-culturally meaningful and significant. Ganguro girls make an idol of African American culture or hip hop image for its positive impact on society.

 

            This paper presents an objective study of the global hip hop impact on Japanese youth culture with a special reference to the ganguro phenomenon. The research findings provide sufficient evidence in support of the assumptions underlying the study. The critical analysis and explanations of the phenomenon under investigation offer an effective approach to Japanese social and cultural studies.  

 

Acknowledgements

 

            The research presented in this paper was conducted with the support of the Spelman Bush-Hewlett Grant Program (Dr. Anne B. Warner, director), Spelman College Museum of Fine Art: Iona Rozeal Brown: a3 … black on both sides (Dr. Andrea D. Barnwell, director), and Department of Foreign Languages at Spelman College (Dr. Anthony Dahl, chair).

 

            This research project would have been impossible without the Japanese participants of University of Tokyo (directed by Dr. Kairong Yang) and Kyoritsu Women’s University (directed by Professor Hisako Yanaka).

 

            My special thanks also go to the participants in this research project at Spelman College: Tiffany N. Tyson, Jason Woody, Charli Kemp, Chris Shaw, Sheena Young, Aryen Moore-Alston, Joseph Barden, and Erin Aisha Williams.



[1] Ganguro girls want to look black and American, imitating their idols Lauryn Hill and TLC. In pursuit of a special color beyond tan, they frequently visit tanning salons and use sunlamps to smother their faces in brown makeup. Signs posted outside hair salons advertise the newly popular “buraku” (black) or afuro hairstyles. Also, in the cosmetics aisles of mainstream supermarkets, dark beige powders and tanning lotions are sold. Some girls color their entire faces with a brown magic marker because of their limited means. Another name for ganguro is “yamanba,” mountain grandmother, the name given to a mythical hag said to haunt the Japanese mountains. 

[2] Ganguro (black face) becomes a new fashion style among some Japanese teenage girls. The basic characteristics of this new fashion style are bleached-blond hair and a deep tan, produced by tanning beds or makeup. Ganguro girls intend to produce the tanned, blond California beach girl look or an African American woman. They wear particular accessories like high platform shoes or boots, purikura photo stickers, and cellular phones. Japanese metropolitan areas like the Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo are the center of ganguro fashion. This fashion goes against the usual Japanese standards of female beauty, which calls for skin as white as possible. This fashion is said to be rooted in the mid 90s, starting with a popular tanned Okinawa singer named Amuro Namie.

[3] Several previous studies of the hip hop impact on Japanese youth culture and Japanese pop culture include Sir George Bailey Sansom, A History of Japan (Kent: Dawnson, 1978); Wilhelm Heine, With Perry to Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990); Boleslaw Szczesniak (ed.), The Opening of Japan: A Diary of Discovery in Far East, 1853-1856 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962); Kate Klippensteen, Ganguro Girls: The Japanese “Black Face” (Hungary: Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2000); Rebecca Mead, “Shopping Rebellion” (The New Yorker 18, March 2002, 104-121); Kinga Talarowska-Kacprzak, “Media and the Construction of the Ganguro Trend in Japan,” Journal of Mundane Behavior 2 (February 2001): 92-105.

[4] Since its inception in the early 70s, rap music has become the most prominent genre of music in America today. Hip hop music originated as the voice of the American oppressed, largely African Americans confined to the urban ghettos. For these people hip hop was a form of expression they had previously been denied. Rap carried on the African American oral tradition and reintroduced the importance of music with something to say. Hip hop culture, comprised of rap music, graffiti art, break dancing, ‘b-boy’ fashion and a rebellious attitude, has blown from its cradle in New York City across the globe.

[5] Michael Marriot , “Hip hop’s hectic takeover,” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 3/3 (1990): 207-216.  Marriot specifically points out that the African American oppressed use rap music,  part of ‘hip hop’ culture, to make their voices heard in order to change their status quo. 

[6] Geneva Smitherman, Talkin’ and Testifyin’: The Language of Black America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997). Tricia Rose, Black Noise (New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1994). These authors emphasize that rap is a representative and explicit display of the realistic problems of black urban life in contemporary America. According to them, rap music is used as a communicative tool for those who intend to make a positive change.  

[7] Mike Sager, “The World according to America’s Most-Wanted  Rapper,” Rolling Stone October 78 (1990): 8. Sager regards rap as a particular type of literary work that enters mainstream American culture.   

[8] James Bernard, “Rap Is Testimonial to Black Pride,” Billboard November 24 (1990): 11. Bernard believes that hip hop, as an art form, is deeply rooted in a rich African American tradition and expresses the difficulties and problems that the young urban African Americans face in their everyday life.  

[9] ‘Black face’ is also often called ‘dark face’, which means ganguro girls’ faces are darkened the color of football pigskin, their eyes are ringed with start white panda makeup, and their hair is dried, fried and blown to the side. Ganguro girls make their faces blackened to look like black women. Some observers suggest that this ganguro fashion is also a representation of the yamanba, a Japanese folk figure whose name translates roughly as ‘monster mountain woman’.

[10] Andrea D. Barnwell, “Guilty (Blackfaced) Pleasures,” Iona Rozeal Brown: a3 … black on both sides (Atlanta, Georgia: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, 2004). Barnwell, director of Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, reviews the history of ‘black face’ in Japan and some previous studies of  the phenomenon in today’s Japan.   

[11] Boleslaw Szczesniak (ed.), The Opening of Japan: A Diary of Discovery in the Far East, 1853-1856 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962). Szczesniak mentions that as early as in the 1840s, ‘black face’ already appeared for comic entertainment in Japan.

[12] Rebessa Mead. “Shopping Rebellion,” The New Yorker 18 (March 2002): 104-121. Mead mentions as early as in 1990s, ganguro was first recognized as a new fashion style being popular among some Japanese teenage girls in big cities like Tokyo. 

[13] Iona Rozeal Brown is one of the nation’s most exciting emerging artists. She explores the theme of a3, afro-asiatic allegory, in her first major solo project ‘black on both sides’ at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in 2004. Brown’s work is heavily informed by the geisha, courtesans and artists depicted in 17th century Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Her subjects are also influenced by 21st century popular culture.   

[14] The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art presented Iona Rozeal Brown: a3 … black on both sides in 2004. Brown’s  paintings are well known as an unprecedented mixture of anonymous courtesans, geisha and other Japanese subjects in black faces. Her paintings particularly address the global influence of hip hop, commercialism and African American culture as fetish, and her works as exhibited explore many provocative issues such as black face performance in earlier Japan and hip hop impact on contemporary Japanese youth culture.

[15] Andrea D. Barnwell, “Guilty (Balckfaced) Pleasures,” Iona Rozeal Brown: a3 … black on both sides (Atlanta, Georgia: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, 2004). 

[16] Namie Amuro was one of the most popular singers in Japan during the 90s and perhaps most successful of all time. Amuro’s musical talent and dance abilities combined with her characteristic uncanny stage presence has won the fame all around the world. She became the best of the Japanese music industry and perhaps the first Japanese sensation. As one of the best known singers and models in Japan, especially when she performed with her face blackened, Amuro became a popular idol of many Japanese teenage girls. Some researchers in Japanese social and/or cultural studies speculate that Ai Iijima was also a great influence on ganguro girls. Ai Iijima was known as an adult video star. She wore her light brown hair, colorful and ultra sexy clothes. And at the moment when cosmetic giants like Shiseido were starting the rage for whitening skin products, Iijima sported a deep tan. 

[17] Lauryn Hill, one of the best known African American pop artists and hip hop musicians, has stepped fearlessly into the musical arena, dealing with subjects that are close to her heart. At times, her humor is wry and candid and her pain and anger startling, but she is never bitter. She has been galvanized by her life experiences. Produced by Lauryn Hill herself, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a deeply personal album, running the gamut from affairs of the heart to socio-political issues, set against a sonic backdrop displaying the remarkable talent of this young artist. She explains: “… the concept of ‘Miseducation’ is not really miseducation at all. To me, it’s more or less switching the terminology … it’s really about the things that you’ve learned outside of school, outside of what society deems school, outside of what society deems appropriate and mandatory. … It’s really our passage into adulthood when we leave that place of idealism and naivete.” Well known as s singer, a writer, a rapper, a Grammy winner, an activist, an innovator, and a crossover artist, Lauryn Hill is an amazing phenom.  

[18] Tionne “T-Boz” Watkils, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas formed TLC (from the initials of their nicknames) at the behest of Perri “Pebbles” Reid, a 1980s recording star and wife of a LaFace Records executive. TLC literally burst onto the music scene in 1992 with their debut album, Ooooooh..On the TLC Tip, a unique blend of styles combining core R&B and hip hop with a touch of 80s funk and rap.

[19] Kinga Talarowska-Kacprzak, “Media and the Construction of the Ganguro trend in Japan,” Journal of Mundane Behavior 2 (February 2001): 92-105. Talarowska-Kacprzak’s paper “claims that Japanese media have managed to effectively disseminate, and to shape the further development of a new style trend called ganguro. The ganguro trend among high school girls has had a significant and growing influence on everyday life in Japanese society” (Talarowska-Kacprzak, 92).

[20] Kate Klippensteen, Ganguro Girls: The Japanese “Black Face” (Hungary: Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2000). Kate Klippensteen and Everett Kennedy Brown, in their quest to interview and photograph ganguro girls in Shibuya, Tokyo, got to know a group of girls with their striking looks: platform boots, miniskirts, fantastical makeup, tanned skin. These girls, known as ganguro girls, have become part of popular Japanese youth culture. Klippensteen’s book provides an insight both into the looks and thoughts of the ganguro girls. 

[21] Xuexin Liu designed the project (2004a) to investigate the ganguro phenomenon for the research. In order to know what average young Japanese of the same generation thinks about the ganguro phenomenon as observed in their everyday life, the project involved 66 Japanese participants aged between 17 and 25 from University of Tokyo and Kyoritsu Women’s University. All the participants were required to respond to a specially designed questionnaire covering the most relevant issues of the ganguro phenomenon and participants’ opinions and views about it from their individual perspectives. 

[22] Andrea D. Barnwell, “Guilty (Blackfaced) Pleasures,” Iona Rozeal Brown: a3 … black on both sides (Atlanta, Georgia: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, 2004).

[23] Kinga Talarowska-Kacprzak, “Media and the Construction of the Ganguro trend in Japan,” Journal of Mundane Behavior 2 (February 2001): 92-105.

[24] Kate Klippensteen, Ganguro Girls: The Japanese “Black Face” (Hungary: Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2000).

[25] Anne Warner, director of the Spelman Bush-Hewlett Grant, initiated and organized several Bush-Hewlett Fellows Workshops at Spelman College. The American students who participated in the research project offered their opinions and views in the format of essays about the ganguro phenomenon as they observed during their visits in Japan. Warner reviewed the participants’ essays and published them at the website of the Spelman Bush-Hewlett Grant: http://www.spelman.edu/bush-hewlett/about_grant.html.  

[26] The Annual Japanese Speech Contest is hosted by the Japan-American Society of Georgia in cooperation with the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta, Georgia for the purpose of promoting Japanese language learning and educational and cultural exchange between the United States and Japan. All the Japanese speech contest participants are American college students who have acquired a certain level of Japanese proficiency for a particular level of speech contest. Their topics include various topics ranging from the relationship between the United States and Japan to cross-cultural exchange and understanding. 

[27] The Spelman College students who participated in Liu’s (2004b) research project contributed their essays about their opinions and views toward the ganguro phenomenon to the Iona Rozeal Brown Exhibition: a3 … black on both sides (2004) at Spelman College.

[28] Tiffany Tyson and Jason Woody participated in the Annual Japanese Speech Contest hosted by the Japan-American Society in cooperation with the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta, Georgia (March 2004). Their topics for the speech contest were focused on their understanding of the ganguro phenomenon as they observed as part of their study abroad experience.

[29] Joseph Barden, Charli Kemp, Aryen Moore-Alston, Chris Shaw, Erin Aisha Williams, and Sheena Young contributed their essays on the issues of the ganguro phenomenon as they observed to the Iona Rozeal Brown Exhibition: a3 … black on both sides (2004) at Spelman College. Cited in this paper are parts of their essays most relevant to the issues under investigation.

[30] Xuexin Liu (2004a) designed the questionnaire focusing on the most relevant issues (questions) for the study to elicit opinions and views from the Japanese participants about the ganguro phenomenon as observed in their everyday life. The participants’ opinions and views are generalized in the columns so that  the most common ones can stand out. Also, the different opinions and views can be clearly seen in the table. Although the irrelevant responses are included, they are not calculated in terms of their effects on the commonly shared ones.