Japanese Hip-Hop Culture 101

Well, I may know a little bit more about Japanese Hip-Hop scene than you guys and therefore, you guys will receive Japanese Hip-Hop culture 101 today. I hope this will help you to understand what the scene and the Hip Hop culture in Japan is all about.

Early 1980's, "Wild Style" came to movie theaters in Japan. At that time, Japan had its own dance scene, TAKENOKOZOKU. People were coming to a place called YOYOGI park in Tokyo, they played Disco music on a boom box in the street and danced. There were crews like we have breakin’ crews nowadays, but most of the crews were coming from gang-oriented groups called "BOUSOUZOKU".

Because this movement was happening already, it was a natural shift into the Hip-Hop era after “Wild style” and the movies such as “Breakin'” and “Breakin'” had influenced people.

However, in 1984, the most influential movie of all time, “Beat Street”, which inluenced a lot of Bboys all around the world, was not premiered in Japan. It was only to be seen on a video and there was the soundtrack on a LP. However, Hip-Hop had already been seeded in the Japanese community. People got real crazy about “Beat Street” and this movie was, in the beginning, THE influence of Japanese Hip-Hop culture. People were imitating exactly how B-boys were dressed and danced the way they danced in the movie. If they did not wear their clothes the way it should be, they did not feel right. The casts from the movies were their idols, they were who they wanted to be.

On the other hand, Hip-Hop could not easily be accepted as one with our culture by other people in Japan.
Remember, most of B-boys were coming from TAKENOKOZOKU era which means that
they were mostly gang members. The idea of people hanging out on a street corner was equal to the idea of being a gang member to many parents at that time. Bute nevertheless, many people did not care and kept doing what their hearts told them to do.

In the 1990's... there was a new movement in Japan; the singing group “ZOO” came out on the TV. They were the first people in main stream singing and dancing with Hip-Hop beats. To follow them and their “new” style, the Hip Hop attitude got copied and many other Japanese pop artists came with their own Hip-Hop flavor.

After a few years, Hip-Hop became even bigger in Japan...probably around 1995. I remember I was trying to do some moves with my friends back in school then. Around those times, the most important component to become an official part of Hip-Hop was fashion. Guess jeans and Polo Ralph Lauren were essential to be called a true Hip-Hoper. It did not really matter if you could dance or not; it mattered if you were “cool” or not. People judged you on the way you look and not on your dancing skills.

After 1995, I started seeing Hip-Hop classes in dance studios little by little, and today there are hundreds(!) of professional Street Dance schools and studios all over Japan.
People have dreams to be professional Hip-Hop dancers, but the Japanese professional dance scene is not established as it is in the US and European countries. As far as I know, there are about 5 B-boys and B-girls that are making a professional living with dance, through performing and teaching in whole Japan! The majority of the japanese dancers take odd jobs to pay their bills and practice after they finish work.

Generally speaking, a dancer's life is not easy and yet there are still less opportunities in Japan as you may would think. They do the mostly the same as other people in the world with teaching, performing, and battling. However, these opportunities tend not to fully allow dancers to develop because Japan itself is a very small island country.

Of course, some B-boys and B-girls go over seas and battle at big events like Battle of the year, Freestyle Session, U K B-boy Championship.

World wide B-boy Kaz from I-Love Footwork Crew and B-Girl Shi-Chayn told me that they are wondering why they are not invited to battle so often. They believe that they are one of the best Breakers in Japan and people give them a lot of props in Japan. They wish they could go to other countries to battle, perform and teach more often, just like other people do. There are plenty of people like them in Japan, they deserve more opportunities because of their dedication to the dance and the Hip-Hop culture.

Speaking on dedication, do you know where Japanese dancers practice?
It does not matter if you are a breaker, popper, locker, houser or hip-hoper. They practice outside in any type of weather and  in all seasons. There are several reasons they only practice outside:

First of all, most of the puclic places where you could dance inside do not allow you to dance there, because none of the owners wants the beauty of his floor to be damaged.

Second, public art and community centers are full. People have to make a reservation almost a year(!) ahead of time before they want to use it and other places are very expensive to rent.  Plus, Japan has too little space for all its people, so it is hard to find places to practice inside,. That’s why all dancers practice outside. They have no nice floor and they practice on any kind of weather, no matter if it rains, snows or if its sunny.

Don't get me wrong, of course, they find places where there is at least a roof above their heads. Most popular practice spots in Japan are train stations because they have floors and the dancers can see the reflection of themselves in the big windows. Most trains stop operating after 1 am, so after 1 am, the stations are filled only with street dancers.

Unfortunately, the dancers are sometimes not allowed to use certain train stations for their practices because some people do not keep manners to use public space. The sound of music and trash are most of the reasons for this.

Otherwise, many people in Japan today do understand that street dancers are serious about what they do and people won't say anything bad as long as the dancers accept the rules and know how to behave.

Wondering about Battles and Events? There are so many events going on! It’S crazy. The biggest cities in case of Hip-Hop and dancing in Japan are Osaka and Tokyo. 

They have events called B-boy Park, SANDONOMESHIYORI, Breakin’, Be B-boy,  Dance Delight, The Show, Old School night, Freestyle Session Japan, B-boy Unit Japan, Uk B-boy Champs Japan, Battle of the Year Japan and tons of other events. As far as bboy battles, they don't give away much prizes or cash money. Untill today, there are many small jams going on every month in different cities.

But the number of participants in any battle is crazy!!! Even if it is a small jam with a 1 on 1 battle, it will be easily 30 people. The big events like B-boy Park will be easily 120 people entering, just for the 1 on 1.

The population of B-boys and B-girls in Japan is WAY more than you may
think. I'm talking only about Breakers right here, so the total amount of street dancers [Lockers, Poppers, ect.] is out of control these days. It’s a huge culture and a crazy amount of people in Japan is dancing these days.

Nevertheless, Hip-Hop is not 100% accepted as a part of the modern Japanese culture as it deserved to be. This issue has a lot to do with our traditional culture and the way of thinking.

But once people will accept Hip-Hop as one of our cultural movements in Japan, there will be a big change in the Japanese art, in the community and in the society. Because then, there will be more opportunities for
dancers, there will be better places to practice and the dancers finally will get more respect for being a dancer/artist/entertainer.

It is getting better little by little as far as image of Street dancers in
Japan since people no longer think that being involved with street dance is equal to being involved with the Gang life style.

What is the next step for Japanese street dancers?  Receive the title of “Dancer” like they do deserve it being so passionate about their dance and their art. 

Currently there is not a dance agency in Japan that can assist street dancers, or dancers in general. This fact shows, that there’s a big lack in the japanese dance industry and in the entertainment industry.

I am positive enough to say that I truely believe that everything will be better in the near future.

There are many things going on in Japanese Hip-Hop culture. I wanted to give you some ideas to understand just a little bit of it for today. There are so many things happening, it’s almost impossible to write about everything, so i tried my best to give you a small look into the Japanese Hip Hop culture, its past and its present.
What I wrote here were just some general infos about the culture but I'll share more details about the Japanese Hip-Hop scene another time.

I'm looking forward to hear any feedback about this topic from you guys
and I thanks for reading thru my article.

To read is to understand. To understand is to inspire.

Peace, Love, Respect for everyone.

Written by B-girl Emiko
Flexible Flave/ Illstyle and Peace/ Suwwear

Post a Comment


Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Theme images by graphixel. Powered by Blogger.