Japan Travel

The Black community in Japan

“But what are you going to do in Japan? For sure, you’ll be the only Black person there!”, this is something I heard a lot before I left. Of course, it wasn’t something that was going to stop me. However, I must admit that I ended questioning myself about it. So is Japan familiar with Black people?

The Black Community in Japan

The answer is yes! Whilst it is a small minority, there is indeed a Black community in Japan. The majority consists of Americans as the United States has several military bases and many educational partnerships. Then there is the other half, which is made up of students and workers from the Caribbean, Brazil but also from Africa, including Nigeria and Senegal. In fact, some of those black gaijins* who decided to settle in the land of the rising sun have managed to make a name for themselves. This is the case of Mansour Diagne, a successful entrepreneur, managing a model agency and translator for the NHK (Japanese national television). There is also Enka singer Jero, a traditional Japanese music.

Enka singer Jero © pinterest
Enka singer Jero © pinterest
Miss Japan 2015, Ariana Miyamoto © Pinterest
Miss Japan 2015, Ariana Miyamoto © Pinterest
This wave of migration, which began more than 20 years ago, gave birth to interracial couples whose children are called hafu, with many of them claiming that they have had a difficult childhood due to their “differences”. On this subject, I invite you to watch the documentary Hafu as well as the testimony of this African-Japanese. In today’s times, however, the situation is changing thanks to numerous public figures who shed light on their conditions in Japanese society. This is the case of Ariana Miyamoto, Miss Japan 2015.

My experience as a Black woman in Japan

So I will start by answering THE question that I have been asked a thousand times. No, I did not face racism during my stay 😒.
As you could imagine, I did not (unfortunately) escape the “jam packed” while taking public transport 😂 I © Michael Fulvia
As you could imagine, I did not (unfortunately) escape the “jam packed” while taking public transport 😂 I © Michael Fulvia
Let’s not forget that after all, I was living in Tokyo, a metropolitan city that receives millions of tourists from all over the world… including Black people 🤷🏽‍♀️. Maybe if I had lived in a small village not familiar with tourists, the situation would have been different, but I doubt it. Why? First of all, the Japanese have a well-earned reputation for manners and politeness. I can confirm from my personal experience that this is not a myth, they truly are. So, if I had to face a racist Japanese person, there would have been little chance for me to realize it, at least, by his behavior. Secondly, even though I was only in Japan for a few months, I often travelled to local areas receiving few tourists and everything still went well. After that, it’s true that when you don’t know a person, it’s hard to know who you’re dealing with 😌
Actually, I do recall getting funny looks from little Japanese babies 😂
The reality is that you don’t run into Black people in Tokyo like you would in Paris or London. That’s why I “raised a lot of curiosity”. Starting with my hair. I wore it naturally, alternating afro, twists and cornrows, which earned me a lot of “kawaii**”. The most curious ones did not hesitate to ask about how I did my hairstyles 🤗.
Another thing that’s worth mentioning in this article is the reaction of a Black person when he/she meets another Black person. As far as I was concerned, I was generally entitled to the same reaction: surprise & shock 😂. The person was initially surprised to meet me (a bit like Japanese babies 😂) and then smiled at me in “Wakanda” style. Then there were other people… who were a bit over the top, I would say. For example, one day on my way to the university, I ran into a guy who literally gave me a high five with a big smile on his face🤦🏽‍♀️, as if I were his buddy and we were meeting after a long time without seeing each other. When I returned to France, I had discussed this with a friend who laughed and confirmed that he had also experienced this kind of situation during his stay in Japan.
#tb2017 Me and my (mini) afro, 2 days after my arrival at Shibuya Crossing 💃🏾
#tb2017 Me and my (mini) afro, 2 days after my arrival at Shibuya Crossing 💃🏾

And what about my hair? 

Let’s not forget that my blog is also dedicated to afro hair so I have to give my opinion on this subject. For your information, Japan is part of the top 5 cosmetics markets in the world. That’s why, by going there I had the hope of finding my capillary happiness. Well, I was wrong!  There, Afro-hair clientele represents less than 5% of the population. So as you can imagine, producing specialized products is just not profitable for Japanese companies… which is the reason why they don’t exist. In addition, afro hairdressing salons with weak competition and few customers are very expensive. To tell you the truth, I was once asked to pay €150 for braids. That’s why, I recommend you to have this in mind before leaving and especially not to forget your products in your suitcase.
Froholically, F.
*gaijin is a Japanese term for foreigners in Japan // **kawaii is Japanese term used to describe anything cute 

(2) Comments

  1. Best view i have ever seen !

    1. Thank you!😎

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