Japan on the Record: Japan and Blackness

Cover for the podcast JAPAN ON THE RECORD

Last year I discovered the excellent UBC Meiji at 150 Podcast. I was late to the discovery, but enjoyed working through the 120 episode backlog. Since then the host of the show, Dr. Tristan Grunow of Yale University, has gone on to create Japan On the Record, a show where scholars of Japan can share insight into the news of the day. I really love this as an idea, and I think these kinds of podcasts are probably the best thing that universities can do to for public engagement. But I digress. Today I wanted merely to celebrate Dr. Grunow’s recent efforts on the podcast in light of the death of George Floyd and the most recent wave of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has had a great turnout in Japan.

Starting with his powerful 8 minute 46 second “silence” episode, Dr. Grunow has recently been featuring a series of Black scholars of Japan, and just like with the Meiji 150 podcast, JOTR is introducing me to all sorts of different research that I would not be aware of if I stayed merely within my own narrow interests.

Long ago, as a student in Japan, living in an international dorm and being othered for the first time, it didn’t take me long to see where I as a white guy was on the racial hierarchy in Japan when compared to my classmates of Black, East or Southeast Asian, or Filipino heritage. (Which in turn, helped me to better see the racial hierarchy in Canada. What is that famous quote about travel teaching you more about own country?). Take a listen to some of the following episodes below that dig much deeper into Japan’s relationship to Blackness, and subscribe to Japan on the Record1 for future episodes to widen your perspective about this country.

Please take a listen to the following episodes (and subscribe for future ones!) to learn more about Japan’s relationship to Blackness:

  • Dr. John G. Russell gives historical perspective on how the Japanese were introduced to Black people, and also a very enlightening interpretation of that Nissin commercial with Naomi Osaka. Link →
  • A roundtable of Black scholars on Japan, and their experiences studying Japan differ in Japan compared to the US, where Japan studies is oft-considered a “white space.” Link →
  • Dr. Reginald Jackson breaks down that NHK video, Japanese depictions of Black people, and discussing Japanese adoption of Black culture. Link →
  • Black Okinawan biracial communities, and how oppressed Okinawans showed solidarity with Black Americans, with Dr. Mitzi Uehara Carter Link →
  • Dr. Marvin Sterling talks about minority communities in Japan, and how they use Reggae as an expression of identity. Link →

  1. Non-disclaimer: I am not affiliated with this podcast or Dr. Grunow. I am just a fan who wants to share this show far and wide!