lifestyle

Afro-textured hair in Japan: Decolonizing the Afro

22 Comments
By Serah Alabi

African hairstyling has a deep spiritual and cultural significance, and Emmy Najima has made it her mission to push creative diversity in Black hairstyles in Japan.

The modern beauty as well as the beauty industry from the West has reached the shores of Japan decades ago with the appearance of ‘modern girl’ and ‘mannequin girl’, which represents the Western standard of beauty. Today the most popular cosmetic surgery is the operation to transform Asian “monolids” into Western-style ‘double-lids’, also known as double-eyelid surgery. 

Black Culture in Japan

On another hand, Japanese intensity towards Black culture has become a trend, especially for African American Hip-Hop culture. This American media-learned notion of a Black-ness is very popular among young Japanese people, who are looking for ways to fully immerse themselves into the imagery of Black culture. As a consequence, a new subculture called B-Style (Black lifestyle) was created, dedicating looks and appearance for the sake of looking like their idealized favorite American rapper. This would involve darkening their skin and wearing various Black braiding hairstyles such as cornrows. 

Black hairstyles are not new in Japan, cultural appropriation cases having appeared several times in the country. A good example is the case of the giant Japanese fashion house Comme des Garçons who was criticized for styling their models with cornrow wigs on the runway

Addition-B: embracing Black hairstyles

Through her workshops, Emmy Najima shares what she learned in New York with Japanese mothers whose kids have Afro-textured hair, but also helps adults in their hair journey. With over 20 years of experience in African braiding, Emmy uses her skills to advocate for self-love and solidarity within the Afro-textured hair community in Japan, simultaneously demolishing the Eurocentric ideology of beauty. 

Stepping into her Afro hair salon I was greeted with a familiar smell, a mixture of Xpression—a type of synthetic hair—mixed with hair grease. I took in the interior and I quickly noticed the various Black hair products on the shelves, products you wouldn’t usually find in Japan drugstores. Sitting across the shelves are dark-skinned Barbies, each having a different hairstyle, representing the diversity of Black hair. 

Emmy’s clients vary from Black to Asian, and everyone is eager for African braiding hairstyles. Her client for that day was a beautiful Japanese girl with Black heritage. She told me she wanted to have an African hairstyle for her coming of age ceremony, blending her Japanese and Black culture into a multicultural celebration. 

A Conversation with Emmy Najima

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You’ve been skillfully practicing your African braiding craft for over 20 years now, and you even created a fusion of both Black and Japanese hairstyles. How did you first become interested in African hairstyles?

I have always been interested in Black culture, from its history to music, from ever since I can remember. Everything about it deeply intrigued me. 

When I started my journey as an African braiding stylist, I was already trained in cosmetology and through my pre-existing passion for the Black community, it was only natural for me to pursue African hairstyles.

A lot of products on the market claim to be created for “curly hair”, often this isn’t suitable for ethnic curly hair. What should people with Afro hair consider when purchasing hair care products and could you recommend some good Japanese alternatives?

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any Japanese alternatives that might work for curly hair. But, in this day and age, the internet makes it possible for us to try out a variety of hair products from around the world. It might be a little bit costly, but learning the care routine that best suits you is a journey, my tip is to enjoy the process. 

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

22 Comments
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This would involve darkening their skin and wearing various Black braiding hairstyles such as cornrows. 

Seriously? This article is actually attempting to promote all this in a positive way? In 2020?

Oh please, please, someone who is followed on Twitter or Facebook by anti-cultural appropriators, please link this story. Heads will explode.

3 ( +11 / -8 )

Beautiful

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Why does the author have to mention "demolishing eurocentric ideals of beauty and decolonizing the afro"? As if one culture is better or worse than another? Can we please get past all this anti-white b.s. We all enough space in our heads to love EVERY culture.

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

Japanese intensity towards Black culture has become a trend

The key word there is culture. Very very little has changed toward black PEOPLE. Naomi Osaka wasn't "Japanese" until she got that hardware and she's really still not wholeheartedly accepted. Nice try though.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

I'm all for the cornrows, it's clean and stylish. But please don't darken your skin like that!

A Canadian prime minister once did that and was widely disrespected when it was revealed.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I knew a girl like this, she was working at an international company, and first time I met her I thought she was of mixed race, but she was just very tanned, and had braids and heavy make up. She was totally into rap culture, her husband and all her previous bfs were black guys, and by the way she was a very nice person. The only problem was that she was dressing like in a rap videoclip if you know what I mean, not an attire you would expect in an office. However, she abruptly left the office after her husband was arrested for drugs...

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Glad to see there are no serious attempts to make the accusation of "cultural appropriation". Of course there are people out there who cannot just share and appreciate, but, lets just ignore them and smile shall we?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Hiphop dancing is pretty popular in Japan and quite a few schoolkids do it, some of them very young. For performances, they'll often wear their hair in braids or corn rows. I've seen kids doing energetic routines to songs full of words beginning with f and s and lyrics about gangs, drugs, guns, "running hoes", all kinds of stuff not suitable for children's ears.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

However, she abruptly left the office after her husband was arrested for drugs...

Say no more...

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

I've seen kids doing energetic routines to songs full of words beginning with f and s and lyrics about gangs, drugs, guns, "running hoes", all kinds of stuff not suitable for children's ears.

African-American culture is so degenerate.

-11 ( +3 / -14 )

However, she abruptly left the office after her husband was arrested for drugs...

Surprise of the century...!

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

"Decolonizing the Afro" - when was the afro colonised?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Bungle every culture degenerates, your post is a very good example

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Hip hop and rap are not black culture! It is a part of black culture it's not the only thing black people listen to. It's not the only style black people have. We are a people and just like everybody else's there is dark side. I'm so tired of people expecting me or people who are darker skinned (because race is a concept humans invented) to behave in only the one way you know about. We have different styles and tastes and, no, not all of us agree with the violence and womanizing of rap lyrics. Not even all rap agrees with that. Learn more than the shock value stuff please!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Bungle every culture degenerates, your post is a very good example

African-American culture is the only one I can think of that venerates its rascals (volumes of East Coast / West Coast rap can attest to this) - everyone else is happy to have them locked up.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

If D'orothea Wilson, Jessica Krug and Rachel Dolezal were born in Japan........

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This isn't new. 30 years ago, or so, you would see Japanese "rastas" with dreads and BMW T-shirts with ghetto blasters thumping out reggae in Harajuku and elsewhere. They looked just as ridiculous as all the white boys and girls with dreads. One of the oldest and best clubs in Roppongi used to be Java Jive. It was, when it first opened some 30 years ago, the only reggae club in Tokyo.

Vanessa CarlisleSep. 14  03:24 pm JST

Glad to see there are no serious attempts to make the accusation of "cultural appropriation". 

Accusations of "cultural appropriation" generally skate on thin ice and are sustained only if there are sufficient numbers of people choosing to be offended. This probably rises to that, but it's more insidious than what is usually attacked in this way. Than tanning that often accompanies the braiding is just high tech black face.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Emmy uses her skills to advocate for self-love and solidarity within the Afro-textured hair community in Japan, simultaneously demolishing the Eurocentric ideology of beauty. 

Who would have thought that Nakajima, not only a hairdresser, is also a socio-political radical activist!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@kaimychal well said

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why does the author have to mention "demolishing eurocentric ideals of beauty and decolonizing the afro"? As if one culture is better or worse than another? Can we please get past all this anti-white b.s. We all enough space in our heads to love EVERY culture.

The amount of dislikes on your comment proves that these people are generally brainwashed to hate their own race

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

African-American culture is so degenerate.

Would you say that to your black friends, colleagues etc?

Guess we can add this outburst to your hatred of Irish people as well.

everyone else is happy to have them locked up.

Generally, Irish and/or black people don't like being interned, locked up or colonized.

That's why we rebel against desperate bigotry.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The hip hop culture has existed for a long time in Japan. You have to understand the culture to know they are highly influenced by Western trends and styles. It's understandable to be offended in 2020, but this is their way of paying tribute and homage to the culture, believe it or not. At the same time, they aren't 'trying to be black', but they are trying to live the look of their favorite hiphop/rap artists. Get it? They also copy the 'blond blue eyed' western identity too. Rockabilly, Elvis, punk, genres as well. Japan created Anime. Western kids copy Japan anime dress too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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