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Rola changing DNA of Japanese pop culture

54 Comments
By Alastair Himmer

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And the Surfs?! Hubba bubba!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Like many other Japanese celebrities, it wouldn't surprise me if she lives on a small stipend in a modest 1LDK apartment while her management company is siphoning off 90% of what she earns.

13 ( +23 / -12 )

@M3M3M3

You're right. Looks like she is having a hard time making ends meet.

http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2137251170267808201

Found out about her wretched state of affairs by using this website I heard about from Ric Romero called Google, and doing a search for "ローラ 給与" (Rola Salary)

3 ( +10 / -7 )

In a culture that once might have passed over her darker tone,

She's got dark tone?

Half-British singer and actress Becky is another superstar with model looks

Who on earth writes this stuff?

16 ( +19 / -3 )

As a human, I bet she's really nice.

As a "tarento" she's utterly unbearable.

Please, Rora, talk in a normal voice....

9 ( +12 / -3 )

She is popular in Japan with women because she has big eyes and European-esque nose. She popular with men in Japan because she is as smart as a bag a rocks and not afraid to show it. If she could somehow look 14 forever she would be a marketing triple threat.

Something that is never mentioned in these articles about 'haafus' is the screwed up parents who have the children for very superficial and selfish reasons. In addition, the many 'haafus' especially women who are ostracized in Japanese society and pressured into the fuzoku businesses or porn because they are not accepted.

6 ( +18 / -11 )

The positive reaction to mixed-race models is certainly better than not wanting them on screen. It's "anti-racist" and to be welcomed. To a certain extent, I guess is does show Japan is becoming more open and tolerant.

But like most things, it's not that simple. For one thing, all these women are stunning beautiful. Everyone loves a good-looking girl. We knew that already! But not all mixed race people in Japan could, or even want to be, celebrities. Kids like mine just want normal lives. They might want to be a lawyer, a pilot, a shipbuilding engineer or a dental technician.

As I said, the high visibility of mixed-race people in better than being vilified and ignored, for sure. But it's also a sign of fetishism, and a refusal to see mixed race people as just "one of us". Celebrities are "special" by definition. Ironically, that's why visible minorities have less difficulty breaking into this field.

The complex impact of mixed-race celebrity is well illustrated by the fact that "half-French newscaster Christel Takigawa" is actually a fully Japanese citizen by the name of Takigawa Masami - the name she used when she began her career. Apparently, so many people rang in to ask why someone with a Japanese name did not "look Japanese", the producers forced her to use her "foreign-sounding" middle name, so that it better matched her face.

In other words, Takigawa's success is dependent on people setting her apart as foreign even though she is Japanese. A few years ago, another TV presenter (Yutaka Hasegawa) referred to her disparagingly as "that foreigner" (ano gaijin), although to be fair he was heavily criticized by her fans (though not reprimanded by his employer).

Another example is the comedian and fully Japanese citizen Horita Seiki Antony who markets himself as "Antony".

I remember reading about cases of mixed-race people with traditional Japanese sounding names being asked "where do you get off having that name with a face like that?".

It's great to see all sorts of people on TV. When you get to know people, Japan is generally a warm and friendly society. But we should be very careful in making the broad claim that that Rola and her colleagues are "breaking down barriers in Japan's largely mono-ethnic society".

Through no fault of their own, they are sometimes perpetuating the stereotype of the exotic other.

When local people treat mixed race people and foreign people in non-celebrity fields just like anyone else, then we will have true progress.

30 ( +32 / -3 )

When I see this woman in pictures, she's stunning.

When she starts opening her mouth and pretending not to understand the most mundane of things, touching her face and sticking her tongue out, she is profoundly irritating.

Only in Japan is "Squeaking" a valid career skill.

11 ( +16 / -6 )

I really can't get used to the use of the term "race" when we talk about ethnicity or even nationality... Race shouldn't be between dogs and cats ?!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'm confused. There has been a long standing trend in Japanese media for the token foreigner or haafu to be on TV shows. This has been going on for at least a decade. Yet for the most part, they are confined to on screen acts only, with the vast majority falling into the inane/idiotic/moronic role.

Few if any are able to transition to a serious/accepted role, and I know of almost none who eventually climb to having a position of actual power or decision making responsibility.

When the faces BEHIND the camera, the ones making decisions and cutting paychecks are haafu or "foreign," then some of the barriers will be coming down. Until then, Rola and others are nothing more than continuing a stereotypical role.

15 ( +18 / -2 )

Rarely now do you see TV shows without at least one “haafu” (the Japanese pronunciation of “half”, meaning “mixed race”), such has been the shift.

Wonderful, so having token "haafu's" is cool. As David Varnes points out, this is hardly progress in any meaningful sense:

Until then, Rola and others are nothing more than continuing a stereotypical role.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

i can't see her lasting much longer as a talent in japan. the quirky, childish, bubbly act won't seem so charming next year. while becky has more staying power because she actually seems like a nice, young woman and who acts more japanese. the latter being a key selling point for people who want to work in the industry long term IMO.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Something that is never mentioned in these articles about 'haafus' is the screwed up parents who have the children for very superficial and selfish reasons. In addition, the many 'haafus' especially women who are ostracized in Japanese society and pressured into the fuzoku businesses or porn because they are not accepted

Any links to back that lot up with? I would imagine (from my own experience and the experience of others around me) that the reasons parents have haaf kids is that their SO just happens to be of a different race so that any kids produced are necessarily going to be mixed-race. If wanting to make kids with the person you love is such a bad thing, paint me superficial and selfish. Of the many young haaf women I know, not a one has been ostracised or forced into fuzoku or porn; think more in terms of highly educated young women in banking & investment, the hotel (manager) business, import and export, the police, academia. The majority are also happily married or engaged to Japanese men and welcomed by their families, so I don't know where your 'not accepted' idea comes from. (Not to say that there aren't some bigots around, you'll find them under any stone in any country)

As for Rola, I really do not care, nor did I know until I read this article, what her racial background was, nor do I consider it important. What is important is that on the telly she acts like she's as thick as the proverbial two short planks, which I find extremely annoying. Not that we tend to watch the kind of programmes that tend to invite her along, but when she appears in commercials during programmes we are watching, it's time to exit to the kitchen and put the kettle on.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Half-British singer and actress Becky is another superstar with model looks and a huge fan base in Japan,

Superstar? I guess the meaning gets diluted when used in Japan.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

First off what rola & the others mentioned in the article represent is NOT progress.

Basically most of this comes down to what I call the PANDA EFFECT, no really any different from people going to Ueno Zoo to see the panda's....................

And this chick REALLY grates, I really hope she doesn't act this stupid & daft in real life.

Japan is still light years from real progress when it comes to non-Japanese or children that happen to have a non-Japanese parent. I will say its getting better than the past but still a long way to go!

6 ( +6 / -1 )

I am kind of surprised that she is even on TV considering what her father was into. Point is that here, other celebrities have dropped off the face of the earth for their children's or spouse's misdeeds.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Where's Rola's father at?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

lost me at "Becky is another superstar with model looks". Superstar, no and model looks, no.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Better to see faces like that on Japanese TV than not, but it is clearly pure tokenism, striving to show some bogus 'internationalism'. Very similar to the treatment and inclusion of various types of transgender, cross-dressing etc guests on these shows. It's good that people can be accepted on one level, but it in no way reflects any genuine inclusiveness on the part of society as a whole. The individuals are only included BECAUSE they represent those groups; not included for genuine reasons regardless of what 'group' they belong to.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

once turning up at elementary school in pajamas she mistook for her new uniform.

what a hagiography!!!!! Perpetuating the myth of her just being innocent and ditzy when that is surely not the case. as evidenced in this

Asked to sum herself up in one word, she closes her eyes and offers: “A salmon, maybe. They’re not just tasty, they swim hard up rivers, so they’re tough little critters.”

i don't mind Lora, but I do find this article a bit much.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What's her complete name? Idk know her to be honest

1 ( +1 / -1 )

You see better looking girls just walking around and staring at their iPhones in Ueno.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Articles like this are obviously aimed at people who've never actually lived in Japan. they don't need to be taken seriously.

Something that is never mentioned in these articles about 'haafus' is the screwed up parents who have the children for very superficial and selfish reasons.

Screwed up parents everywhere have children for superficial and selfish reasons, Japanese parents have no monopoly on that. Having said that, I wonder what some parents are thinking when they deliberately bring a child into a society that clearly isn't ready for it.

As someone who works with more than a few mixed-race children here in Japan, I have quite a few stories about this. Mostly happy ones, and a few not so happy. One of the most heartbreaking stories is of a boy who was born to young, naiive parents who divorced when he was a baby. He was raised by his maternal grandparents, and had no contact at all with his American father, but every single day of his life had to fend off thoughtless remarks like "you have blonde hair and blue eyes, why don't you speak English?" and "you're a hen-na gaijin!" and "go home!" (when the only home he'd ever known was Japan). To cut a long and sad story short, that young man is currently in prison.

In addition, the many 'haafus' especially women who are ostracized in Japanese society and pressured into the fuzoku businesses or porn because they are not accepted.

I am kind of shocked to read this. Is it true?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I wonder what some parents are thinking when they deliberately bring a child into a society that clearly isn't ready for it.

Maybe we don't think society isn't ready for it? Looking back, and seeing the results, if I'd had the time, the money and the energy, I would have deliberately and joyfully brought a few more (well, one more at least) children into 'this society'.

In addition, the many 'haafus' especially women who are ostracized in Japanese society and pressured into the fuzoku businesses or porn because they are not accepted.

I am kind of shocked to read this. Is it true?

Of course it isn't.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Of course it isn't.

I'll have to take your word for it, I don't get to view much porn!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Really really don't like her. She is stunning, though. Just wish she wouldn't. open her mouth, puff her cheeks or any of that other annoying crap.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"...changing the DNA of Japanese pop culture."

Yep, Japan is now drawing their DNA out of the even shallower end of the gene pool.

-1 ( +3 / -5 )

I'm sorry but Becky cannot sing. Another one of those "she's popular so let's write her an album" types in the media.

In fact I'm struggling to think of any real talents she may have. Nope, sorry.

I've always felt that foreigners / half-Japanese in the Japanese media have only ever been given 'token' roles. Nothing thought-provoking or "intelligent". They just play the same old card and around we go. It's almost as if they're told to act like this by management. Oh wait... I could be on to something!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It's almost as if they're told to act like this by management. Oh wait... I could be on to something!

You are definitely on to something, but I think that jpn_guy above got on to it first with his brilliant post.

But not all mixed race people in Japan could, or even want to be, celebrities. Kids like mine just want normal lives. They might want to be a lawyer, a pilot, a shipbuilding engineer or a dental technician.

I understand. One of my colleagues who was expecting his first baby told me how stressful it was that every Japanese person he met assumed that the cute haafu baby was going to become a model or TV talent or something like that. You see, the pressure starts even before birth. After his daughter was born, he and his wife decided to move to his home country, where their child could start with a blank slate and not be subject to all sorts of ridiculous assumptions and preconceptions.

On the other hand, sometimes parents, not society, are the worst.

A little girl told me crying, that her parents expected her to be a "bridge between east and west," and all she wanted to be was ... a dolphin trainer!

Another little boy had had his whole life mapped out for him by his parents and grandparents. He was going to be educated in both Japan and the US, at high-level private schools. Eventually he was going to settle in Hawaii with a high-paying job, and he was going to invite his grandparents to live with him. This boy was four years old.

Basically, as parents, you have got to decide what's right for your kids ... but sometimes, I think these decisions should be made before they are born.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

One of my colleagues who was expecting his first baby told me how stressful it was that every Japanese person he met assumed that the cute haafu baby was going to become a model or TV talent or something like that. You see, the pressure starts even before birth

I got the same with my kids, before they were born and after, but I don't see how it is in the least bit stressful. Folk are simply expressing the idea that mixed-race kids are cute and physically appealing. Parents usually enjoy being told their kids are cute. Maybe I should stop telling new mothers that their brand-new sprog is the cutest little baby I've ever seen; I thought I was flattering, turns out I'm exerting undue pressure....

On the other hand, sometimes parents, not society, are the worst.

And that applies whether the kids are mixed-race or 'pure' whaddeva the local/national ethnic flavour is. I've seen Japanese parents micro-manage their children's lives. I've seen UK parents do the same. 'Tain't restricted to or even more common in mixed-race families. And yes, it's a bind for the kid. By all means give 'em advice and guidance, but the ultimate decision as to what they're going to do with their lives is their own, no one else's.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

By all means give 'em advice and guidance, but the ultimate decision as to what they're going to do with their lives is their own, no one else's.

This sounds like the voice of experience! :-)

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Comments have been very informative from a ground level point of view. Great stuff. On a lighter note, I want to know if that is her real hair color. Oh, and being compared to a long-haired dauchund (sp?) is not what I call a compliment.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This sounds like the voice of experience! :-)

Oh yeah.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Rola smiles down celestially..." Can I puke now?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What's her complete name? Idk know her to be honest

YGT2JP, Rola is her stage name. her real name thou, is Eri Sato.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Cleo

Of the many young haaf women I know, not a one has been ostracised or forced into fuzoku or porn; think more in terms of highly educated young women in banking & investment, the hotel (manager) business, import and export, the police, academia. The majority are also happily married or engaged to Japanese men and welcomed by their families, so I don't know where your 'not accepted' idea comes from. (Not to say that there aren't some bigots around, you'll find them under any stone in any country)

Yes we have heard many times in your comments how your experience being married to a Japanese with children is the only one that counts. (Sarcasm)

However for everyone one of your limited personal experiences with your like minded friends with similar situations, I have several to quite few experienes with similar outcomes to Tessa from a spectrum of backgrounds. Most of the biracial or bicultural are not from Western countries. Their options are low and their mistreatment is high. Not only that they are sometimes treated worst than foreigners. Being foreign means you can't be compared with the Japanese. How many of your successful biracial friends came from well to do families? Or one parent just comes from the "right" country?

I have seen mostly girls choose a life where they do have some power over men and where being haafu isn't an issue full time or at least part-time.

Their have been tons of articles on JT and other sites discussing the many superficial reasons why Japanese women like Gaijin (meaning Caucasian) or Japanese men and East Asian or Eastern European women. Now you have all of sudden forgot about these issues? Having children is another by product of some these superficial relationships. If it doesn't apply to you then you have nothing to worry about.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Readers, please keep the discussion focused on what is in the story.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's deja vu all over again, as far as exotic haafu female entertainers are concerned. Back in the '60s it was Karmen Maki and Ann Lewis. In the 70s there were Linda Yamamoto, Kathy Nakajima, Saori Minami and a cutsie singing trio with the stage name Golden Half. In the 80s, Rie Miyazawa, Anna Umemiya, etc. Nothing new under the sun.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Pretty woman. Nice legs and face. Voice s similar to scratching a blackboard, with severe nodes making the sound dull and stressfull.

Becky? Hm, models in Europe and America cannot have an eye that drifts like that. Nor can models in US and Europe have dumbo ears.

Tone deaf, dumbo ears, bad teeth and Which eye is Looking at Me syndromes are so common here. Why?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I love everything about "Rola".

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

is it necessary to mention in each TV program that she is half? even her mother was also mentioned in several program that she is also a half, so in that since and according to Japanese social definition Rola is not half she is one third 1/3. I cannot understand the meaning of half. among many Japanese children, elders siting only to the mixed race child and start bulling him/her with the word Kawaii na, so das ka halfu ka, the child always get nervous and start thinking why they are siting only me? why i am different from others, why every body smiling or open their eyes toward me?

and then the hill start in the school with their classmate, with straight bullying, with different phrases the Japanese reminding the mix race children that you are not a full Japanese or simply you are not among us or you are alien. Rola also looks the victim of the haffu stuff.

by the way, her real name is layla a beautiful and a meaningful name in south Asia which is now Rorra or Rola in japanse

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

As for Rola, no thanks. She plays into the J bimbo stereotype I dislike so much. She's another prop on a set. And let's be honest, nearly every TV set in Japan wants either a foreigner or half prop. This isn't moving forward, it's staying the same in seeing us as less human than Japanese.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Mixing up the gene pull doesnotprevent stupidity.

I hope she saves her money while she can still make it, as it will end when she gets into her thirties. Stay pretty.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Remember 1 or 2 years ago, here father was arrested for some scam, and lots of people (including me) wrote here at JT that her carrier was over. Well, I guess we were all wrong, because she seems to be going strong.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Rola somehow reminds me of Goldie Hawn on TV in the 60s. At any rate she seems to have toned down some of her gestures although her manner of speaking hasn't changed much.

But really the author of this piece needs to do more research. The idea that mixed blood entertainers are something new is ludicrous. In addition to those mentioned by GalapagosnoGairaishu, just off the top of my head there were Henmi Mari, Nishikawa Helen, Takami Emiri, Kusakari Masao, all active from the 60s, as well as brothers Okada Masumi and E. H. Eric who had a Danish mother and were active from the late 50s. As well as a number of the offspring of the above, active from the 70s or 80s.

Ali Khan "Rola is not half she is one third 1/3" Umm, not possible, try 1/4 or quarter.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Being of mixed race was once looked down upon," said sociologist Takashi Miyajima. "Now foreign entertainers are admired in Japan as something untouchable. You could even say they benefit from positive discrimination."

How about just being thought of as a fellow human being, is that too much to ask? When that happens, Japan will truly have come a long way. It's too bad that it seems it has to be either of those two ignorant extremes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I have lived in Japan for many years and have a couple of haafu kids that grew up here. Hell, my dog is haafu! Any place in the world has its quirks. I chose to live where I do, so therefore I try to fit in and not transform my neighbors and Japanese society to one just like ____ (you fill in the blank) . My kids thrived in school and now prosper in life as adults. The dog has issues outside being haafu, it thinks it is a cat. One thing that is evident from TV verses real life, the Japanese enjoy living vicariously through the outlandish personages and lifestyles of the parade of over the top “stars” on TV. If you dare to be different, you will either get marginalized or admired to some extent. While all the women in our neighborhood (and most of japan) go outside wrapped like mummies to hide from the sun; my Japanese wife and I sail and spend a lot of time on the water. She has a deep sailor tan, which she tells me scandalizes her deathly white friends, but you can tell they admire her flaunting of the “norm” and doing something they do not dare do by the way they make a point of seeking her out and her "status" in the pecking order.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I know of "halfu" kids who have been picked up by cops because of their looks.

I read an account of a haafu girl who was visiting her grandparents in Japan. She went out for a bike ride, and was picked up by the police because "she doesn't ride like a normal Japanese girl." Her mother was called in, and both mother and daughter were fingerprinted before being released. It was quite a shocking experience for both of them.

My friend's haafu son, a high-schooler, has been stopped and questioned several times by police, and was even ordered to turn his pockets out. This has never happened to his J-J friends. I wonder why?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

So, rather than jumping to grand statements, can we just agree that there are isolated incidents where such discrimination happens?

But how can one call them "isolated" incidents on a thread that is all about the very topic of labels and calling biracial kids "half"? Rola, I doubt, would be on TV if being "half" wasn't "popular" and seen as different and "exotic". Take the good with the bad and all that jazz but I don't think we can call these incidents isolated when they happen all the time. A biracial kid walks down the street and in most cases, people WILL notice they are different. They might not say anything but they certainly won't judge that child as they would a "pure" Japanese kid. That's rather the point, no? If "they" were just accetped here, the media wouldn't make a big deal out of them and kids wouldn't be asked about being biracial and we wouldn't have talentless "talento" on TV just for the fact that they are not 100% Japanese.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@fritzyndawolf There have been many sport players, singers, actors, etc from China, Korea, Mongolia, etc in Japan. They may look like Japanese to you, so you don't notice.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

gokai_wo_maneku "Remember 1 or 2 years ago, here father was arrested for some scam, and lots of people (including me) wrote here at JT that her carrier was over. Well, I guess we were all wrong, because she seems to be going strong."

The Japanese side has an arrest warrant for her father for scamming the national health insurance system but he had already returned to Bangladesh. They've got him on the international wanted list but the two countries do not have an extradition agreement so they haven't been able to bring him to justice.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm sure she's a lovely person, but just listening to her makes me want to punch myself in the eye.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Can Becky even speak English with any degree of proficiency?

British father not withstanding, Becky is about as British as a Hub pub.

The fact is, Rola, Becky and the like are total Z listers. Outside of Japan they would probably be fodder for shows like Big Brother and the like.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Isn't 1/2 of a 1/2 a quarter? As long as a term like Haafu is used, Japan as a long, long way to go. Nothing has changed.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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