Hey guys! I just wanted to do a rundown of how I felt it was like to be a black study abroad student in Japan. Some of these I expected, while others were throughly surprising. I'll start with what surprised me the most, which was:
They have black beauty supply stores! Mind you the product is 5 to 10 times (!!) more expensive than American supply stores, but if you're really in a loop, it is available. This picture was taken in Ales Shop, which is just off the main street in Omotesando.
To be grossly generalistic, most black people enjoy spicy food. Throughout the African diaspora, spicy food exists in our culture and I for one can't go to long without eating something that makes my mouth and nose water. Unfortnately, spicy in Japan often means "mildy hot". If you want real spicy, look at the picture and watch out for chili oil in the broth or piles of chili powder on top.
Picture booths are actually okay! While they do lighten everyone's skin, it doesn't make you look ashy. Another feature was that they can actually detect big lips and work their computer magic on them. While this may not sound like a lot, I remember when I first started using Snapchat and I had to suck my lips in to make them look smaller and get the feature to work. So I was honestly expecting the same disaster, and came out pleasantly surprised.
In big crowds, you may get stared at. Kids are the most obvious about it. Adults will take a few peeks here and there the farther away you get from Tokyo, but will usually move on in a timely manner. I will say that I did get a few requests to touch my hair, but it was only from people I had known for a while, not strangers.
My host family was glad to have me, and I was glad to have them! They asked me a few questions about my hair and I was happy to explain a little. As we were in a more quiet part of Japan, I did get a few looks. However, I think it was more because I didn't look exactly the same as the rest of my family, haha!
Picking cherries near Lake Kawaguchi
Taking pictures on Mt. Fuji!
And here are some funny examples about how the lighting is not exactly favorable to those with darker skin in some exhibitions. Be wary!
But as you can, the sun is always prepared to add a glow of our skin.
Some images of me in my yukata for the Tanabata Festival. No problems here! I definetly wasn't the only foreigner in a yukata either, and I even got a few compliments from Japanese people.
There is one point that I couldn't really photograph, and that was the automatic assumption that I was a foreigner. While this worked for me in my case, I saw the same thing happen to other black people who seemed far more settled into Japan, or were even married with children. So if you intend to come to Japan to practice Japanese, you may have to start conversations with "すみません、にほんごをください。にほんごをべんきょしています。"
With all this in my mind, I didn't feel that my race or background was a handicap at all in Japan. Most Japanese people will see you as simply a foreigner, and nothing more.
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