Nihon NY – Episode 30 – JERO

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Videos on 2013-04-07 18:09Z by Steven

Nihon NY – Episode 30 – JERO

Japan Society NYC

Pittsburgh-native, Tokyo-based enka superstar JERO made his New York debut at Japan Society earlier this month. With his smooth voice and hip-hop stylings, JERO has breathed new life into this sentimental Japanese music genre often associated with themes of one’s hometown, lost loves and sake. Often referred to as the Japanese blues or Japanese country music, enka’s melodies and required vocal techniques make it a quintessentially Japanese musical style. Since releasing his debut single Umiyuki (Ocean Snow) in 2008, JERO has received the Japan Record Awards Best New Artist award and has appeared on Japan’s most prestigious New Year’s music spectacular Kohaku Uta Gassen. In this intimate evening, JERO will talk with the incomparable Japan expert and Japan Society’s former Executive Vice President John Wheeler, about his relationship with the Japanese world of enka and serenade audiences with his own original songs as well as enka classics including those of Misora Hibari (美空 ひばり) and Itsuki Hiroshi (五木ひろし) among others.

On this episode of Nihon NY, we feature snippets of his performance at our venue, as well as an interview about his origins and his career as an enka singer.

The song names in order of appearance:
1. Umiyuki (海雪)
2. Harebutai (晴れ舞台)
3. Yuki Guni (雪国)
4. Tsugaru Heiya (津軽平野)
5. Suki Yaki (上を向いて歩こう)

Interview begins at 00:11:29.

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In Mixed Company: Multiracial academics, advocates and artists gather for Hapa Japan Conference

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2012-05-15 21:37Z by Steven

In Mixed Company: Multiracial academics, advocates and artists gather for Hapa Japan Conference

Nichi Bei: A mixed plate of Japanese American News & Culture

Alec Yoshio MacDonald, Nichi Bei Weekly Contributor

As a graduate student in UCLA’s psychology department during the late 1970s, Christine Iijima Hall absorbed scathing criticism about her dissertation. Fellow academics dismissed her project as “a ridiculous piece of research,” she said, and newspapers declined to publicize her need for study participants based on the belief that she was covering a “stupid topic.” Few people, apparently, saw any worth in exploring the identity formation of individuals from mixed black and Japanese backgrounds.
Coming from such a background herself, Hall remained undeterred in pursuing the subject. In part, she was motivated to counteract existing literature that painted a disturbing portrait of those like her—in essence, that “we were insane, that there was something wrong with us, we never knew what we wanted, and we killed ourselves.” The studies that yielded these alarming conclusions were flawed, she explained, because they tended to focus on institutionalized patients instead of average folks. By delving into the everyday mixed race experience, she knew she could reveal a more compelling story deserving of attention.
In her effort to reframe an issue so widely ignored and narrowly interpreted, Hall ended up producing one of the pioneering works of an emerging discipline. At that time “‘multiracial’ was not a word yet,” she recalled, but thanks in no small measure to her perseverance, the field of multiracial studies exists today.

Scholars in the field recently had the chance to reflect on the past, present and future of their discipline when they came together April 8 and 9 for the Hapa Japan Conference. Held primarily on the campus of UC Berkeley and hosted by the university’s Center for Japanese Studies, it showcased a range of both foundational and current projects concerning multiraciality. As Hall pointed out while revisiting her dissertation for a session called “A Changing Japanese-American Community,” the conference also served as “a reunion for many of us who have done mixed race research.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Session 408: Haafu, mixed race studies and multicultural questions in Japan

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-03-12 05:53Z by Steven

Session 408: Haafu, mixed race studies and multicultural questions in Japan

AAS-ICAS Joint Conference
Association for Asian Studes (AAS)/International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS)
2011-03-31 through 2011-04-03
Hawai’i Convention Center
Honolulu, Hawaii

Session Location and Time:
Room 316C
Saturday, 2011-04-02, 07:30-09:30 HAST (Local Time)

Organizer and Chair:

Koichi Iwabuchi
Waseda University, Japan


Hsiao-Chuan Hsia
Shih Hsin University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Mixed race studies has developed primarily in Euro-American contexts. It productively draws attention anew to the strategic and creative negotiations/resistance against racialized marginalization by the persons concerned, while being cautious not to reproduce an underlying essentialist conception of race. This panel will examine how the issues regarding “mixed race”—as now most commonly called “haafu”(half)—are articulated in the Japanese context. While racial mixing has long been (mostly negatively) discussed in Japan, with the increase in migration and international marriage, it has recently become more visible and more positively perceived than before. With a brief introduction of the genealogy of the terms such as “konketsu” (mixed blood) and “haafu” that refer to “mixed race” in Japan, this panel will analyze through three different cases (would-be) celebrities’ strategic uses of cultural capital associated with racial mixing for self-empowerment, their reception by the public and the (im)possibilities of deconstructing an exclusive notion of “Japanese-ness”. The panel will discuss how the racialized politics of inclusion/exclusion is distinctively highlighted in Japan, how the postcolonial questions are underscored by the (non-)whiteness of haafu and how studies of haafu/mixed race enhance critical engagement with multicultural questions in Japan. This panel also aims to discuss how comparative studies of mixed race can be developed in East Asian contexts, offering new insights into mixed race studies and advancing a theoretical reconsideration of notions such as race, hybridity and national identity.

Covered Bridgings: Japanese Enka and its Mixed-Blood African American Star

Christine R. Yano, Professor of Anthropology
University of Hawaii, Manoa

Jerome Charles White (“Jero”), 28-year old mixed-blood African American from Pittsburgh, debuted in February 2008 as Japan’s first black singer of enka (nostalgized ballads most popular with older adults; characterized as expressive of the “heart/soul of Japanese”). The raised eyebrows generated by his debut stemmed not only from the fact that a mixed-blood African American male in hip-hop clothing with street dance moves was populating a Japanese music stage, but more specifically, that this was an enka stage. This paper analyzes the discursive negotiations surrounding this mixed-blood figure by the Japanese music industry and public. The racialized justification given for Jero’s legitimacy as an enka singer lies in his Japanese grandmother and her love of enka; indeed, Jero, like many African Americans, is of mixed blood. Jero’s in-betweeness enacts racial, national, cultural, and generational bridgings: simultaneously African American, Japanese, and mixed blood, he sings Japanese songs of an older generation. Indeed, Jero’s tears are painted an ambiguously tinged shade of black mixings. Armed with song, tears, and mixed-blood pedigree, Jero performs national inscriptions of displacement that crucially and ironically position him as nothing less than a prodigal grandson.

Becoming “Haafu”: Japanese Brazilian Female Migrants and Their Racialized Bodies in Japan

Tamaki Watarai
Aichi Prefectural University, Japan

For a discussion about mixed race issues in Japan, I take up Japanese Brazilian female models or those who wish to engage in this profession. Although it’s common to be a mixed race in Brazil, Japanese Brazilian women who come to Japan as return migrants realize that their being “mestiça”, which means mixed race female in Portuguese, now can be valorized as “haafu” in the Japanese printed media. Here I would like to address the following questions: To be successful as “haafu” models, how do Japanese Brazilian women perform, appreciate or contest this racialized image? Are there any differences between being haafu and being mestiça? In the end, what does “haafu” mean to Japanese Brazilians, especially in terms of their transnational lives? By analyzing interviews with the models and modeling agencies and observations of beauty pageants in Brazilian community, I will discuss the complexity and uniqueness of the conception of “haafu”.

Mixed Race Oiran?: A Critical Analysis of Discourses of (Non-) Japaneseness

Sayuri Arai
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Based on a popular manga, and with the twist of a focus on the contemporary world of girls, combined with psychedelic colors, a Japanese film, Sakuran (2007), directed by Mika Ninagawa, depicts the lives of oiran [Japanese prostitutes] in the Edo era (1600-1867). The protagonist, an oiran named Kiyoha, is played by white-Japanese, mixed race actor, Anna Tsuchiya. The casting of Tsuchiya as a “Japanese” oiran was controversial, because by putting a mixed race actor in the role, the film challenges the dominant notion of Japaneseness in Japan. By conceptualizing the theoretical concepts of Japaneseness, whiteness, and haafu [mixed race Japanese people] within a Japanese context, this essay explores the discourses of Japaneseness as they circulate and relate to the mixed race actor cast as an oiran in the film. By analyzing the Internet posts on one of the largest film review websites, this study aims to understand and critique the ways in which discourses of (non-) Japaneseness are narrated contemporarily, as well as explore the ways in which Japanese identities are negotiated and constructed within popular discourses.

For more information, click here.

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Hapa Japan Conference

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2011-03-06 04:41Z by Steven

Hapa Japan Conference

Center for Japanese Studies
Institute of East Asian Studies
University of California, Berkeley
2011-04-08 through 2011-04-09


Hapa is a Hawaiian term that is now widely used to describe someone of mixed racial or ethnic heritage. A New York Times article cites that just within the United States, one in seven marriages are now between people from different racial/ethnic backgrounds.

The Center for Japanese Studies, along with the Hapa Japan Database Project and All Nippon Airways, will host the Hapa Japan Conference on April 8th and 9th, featuring specialists in the study of mixed-race Japanese history, identity, and representation. Topics range from the history of mixed-race Japanese in the 1500s, part-Japanese communities in Australia, to the exploration of identity and representation through story-telling, films, and a photo-exhibit. For more information, please reference the conference agenda or contact

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Enka Superstar Jero: A Conversation and Mini-Concert

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2011-03-06 04:07Z by Steven

Enka Superstar Jero: A Conversation and Mini-Concert

University of California, Berkeley
Wheeler Hall
2011-04-08, 20:00-21:15 PDT (Local Time)

Free and open to the public

The Center for Japanese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is proud to announce that Jero, the Japanese-African-American enka singer, has been selected as the winner of the 2nd annual Berkeley Japan New Vision Award. The Center will host an invitation-only award ceremony at 5:00pm on Friday, April 8, at the Doe Library Morrison Room on the UC Berkeley campus followed by a public on-stage interview and mini-concert at 8:00pm in Wheeler Hall.

Part Japanese and part African American, Jero (born Jerome Charles White) is enka’s rising star ever since his hit single Umiyuki burst onto the charts in 2008. His albums, Yakusoku (2009), Covers (2008), Covers 2 (2009), and Covers 3 (2010) have been widely acclaimed as he has revived interest in this music genre. Winner of the 2008 Best New Artist Award at the Japan Record Awards and the 2011 Berkeley Japan New Vision Award, he has also regularly appeared on Japanese TV and commercials as well as performing at the prestigious New Year’s Eve Kôhaku Utagassen concert twice.

The Berkeley Japan New Vision Award was established in 2009 to award an individual who has, in recent times, dramatically transformed our vision of Japan. Singing traditional Japanese ballads in an American idiom, not only has Jero rekindled an interest in enka among the younger generation of Japanese but he has also opened up the possibilities for fluent Japanese-speakers from around the world breaking into the entertainment and other industries in Japan. Given his mixed-race background, he has also become a symbol for the acceptance of a more multiethnic society for 21st-century Japan…

For more information, click here.

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