Time for Japan to scrub off that blackface — for good

“I was watching the New Year’s Eve edition of variety show “Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!” like most of the country when Masatoshi Hamada emerged from a cabinet in blackface. People say he was supposed to be Eddie Murphy. All I saw was, for the third time in a week, a Japanese man using blackface to get laughs, and once again I didn’t see the humor.”

“I took a few screenshots and hopped on Twitter. It was already a hot topic, so I added some kerosene. Think my exact words were: “This makes 3 times this week and 2 nights in a row! This time on the number 1 viewed program of the year, the super bowl of comedy! Japan … you’re making it really hard to love you these days … you gotta do better than this! #BlackfaceisBad #StopBlackFaceJapan.”

“Note to japanese performing in #BlackFace: #Blackness is not a punchline nor a prop. Need jokes? Get better writers. Need a black character, get a black actor that speaks Japanese. There are several! But please #StopBlackfaceJapan”

“My tweets and Facebook posts had caught fire, and the story had gone global on the strength of them and the provocative nature of the visuals, apparently. When all was said and done, I’d been interviewed by HuffPost Japan (which exploded on Yahoo Japan), then BBC Skyped me twice, then the New York Times!”

Japanese people responded:

“I’m just a normal Japanese college student. I’m messaging you now because I wanted to thank you for spreading across Japan the fact that blackface is generally considered racist in the U.S. and the West.

As you probably know, the Japanese are not racist against black people per se but are ridiculously ignorant about racial issues. But ignorance cannot be an excuse, as you said on Twitter.

I strongly support your ideas. Japan is not yet recognized as a nation that accepts immigrants, but the country will accept more immigrants in the future to compensate for the decrease of its population and domestic demand. When that happens, I think the Japanese should make an effort to avoid misunderstandings on issues not only related to race (like this time) but also culture and religion.

However, I think it’s best they be taught by foreigners who have been living in Japan for a long time, like you, instead of trying to learn on their own. So, thank you so much for being a teacher to those Japanese who are ignorant and indifferent about race.

In the future when there is another misunderstanding, please teach them. Again, thank you very much.”


“I think that this is a wonderful campaign. Japan must take the global issue of blackface seriously.

I think that this campaign is an effort to save Japan itself. Blackface should be stopped immediately. There is no need to do blackface, and it should not be permissible to slander or hurt anyone.

People with diverse backgrounds live in Japan. I feel strongly that it is the mission of Japan, and everyone who lives in Japan, to prepare an environment without discrimination, where no one feels uncomfortable.

It is sad that such a slanderous act is occurring in Japan, and it is embarrassing to me as a Japanese person.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s