Just when you thought appropriation done by the likes of Miley Cyrus was bad, in Japan, teens who are so enamored with their version of “Black” culture have made a name for themselves: B-Stylers.
B-Styler is short for Black lifestyle, and it’s the subculture of Japanese teens who are into hip-hop and everything Black and try to look Black as well.
In a recent Vice article, Dutch photographer Desiré van den Berg recounts her time she spent in Japan and learning about B-Stylers. One B-Styler in particular was Hina, a 23-year-old hip-hop clothing store owner. Interestingly enough, the store’s motto is “Black for life”.
Is B-style big in Japan?
No. It’s pretty small; you don’t really see it on the streets. You really have to look for it. According to Hina, it was bigger a couple of years ago—now there are only a few die-hards left in each city. It’s definitely not mainstream, and maybe still to small to even call it a subculture.
What do B-stylers like Hina mainly do?
Hina, for example, visits a tanning salon every week to darken her skin. I was surprised these tanning salons even exist, because in Japan it is a classic beauty ideal to have your skin be as pale as possible.
Just to be clear: Hina is 100 percent Japanese and naturally has pale skin. She is only dark because of the sunbed and the use of really dark foundation. B-stylers also listen to hip-hop, and visit special African hair salons to get braids or curly hair. These salons are usually found in Tokyo’s ghettos and are run by small African communities. Hina wears colored contact lenses: they are a lighter shade of brown to make her eyes seem bigger.
Dark skin and big eyes? What a caricature. Hina would be so disappointed to see a light skin Black person with almond shaped eyes.
Are there people who believe this to be inappropriate?
Apparently not in Japan, but in most comments underneath videos on YouTube you see fierce reactions. Many seem to feel the Afro-American typecasting is all wrong. Hina and other B-stylers are not really aware of this.
I think the odd aspect of all of this, is that it shows just how outdated of a view B-Stylers have on hip-hop and Black culture. When was the last time you saw someone walking around in a scarf like Tupac? Or dooky chains?
The same thing happened recently when a Japanese airline thought it was “flattering” to show a commercial that depicted White people as people with big noses and blond hair. But let them tell it, it’s the look everyone strives for and they were clueless when the ad received backlash.
In any event, in the words of Paul Mooney, “”Everybody wants to be a n*, but nobody wants to be a n*”.