There is a game that exists with my friends where they love to rhyme words with my name. So, if we are speaking, it would be a “conversation with Chason.” Another example would be a “demonstration with Chason.” But really what we should discuss is “Globalization with Chason.” And I am not going to sit here and talk about fast food chains (Mcdonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell). While these restaurants do exist in Japan, and have unique food items, discussing these establishments would be low-hanging fruit. Instead, please come on this journey as I examine Globalization within Japan and how it has affected the culture.
If I were to define Globalization, it is proof that through trade and communication, cultures are merging. Now I am not here to answer whether globalization is a good or terrible thing, but I am here to point out how I have witnessed other cultures and their presence while I have been living in Tokyo. One of the best examples would be my recent trip to Yokohama. During my first week in Japan, I had a wonderful classmate named Miku tell me how Yokohama is a go-to spot for tourists. She offered to show me around her hometown in exchange for having a conversation about music and the United States. You could say that right there is globalization.
It was a wonderful trip exploring, but it was interesting to visit Chinatown in Yokohama. They had these renowned Xiao Long Bao (what Americans would call soup dumplings) that people were lining up just to try. I will admit, they were hot temperature-wise, so do better than I and have patience before taking the first bite. I found out Yokohama was one of the first ports to allow international trade in 1859. Opening the port allowed Chinese traders to settle in due to the favorable conditions to make a profit, influencing the port to this day. Yet it is not just Chinese cuisine that has found its way into Yokohama. While there Miku wanted to take me to her favorite Mexican spot, Commadore De Margarita, so I could see how it measures up to Mexican food in California. It was interesting to see a Mexican restaurant in Japan, and the Reggaeton playing in the background brought me back to Pachanga, Chicago’s best promotion company for Latinx events, where Memo Duarte, Roger McFly, and Dewey create a space to celebrate and embrace their culture. I thought the restaurant did an excellent job at appreciating the culture vs appropriating the culture.
Yet when you miss home, something that you long for is to experience your own culture. On paper, Japan is a monolithic society. Where was I going to find black culture in Japan? Or even signs of American culture that were not extremely obvious billion-dollar brands. With a little bit of research, I was able to find a Black Barbershop called Room 806, which took care of me and made sure that I would not be looking dusty for the rest of my program. I found an American smokehouse that really did American BBQ justice. If you look hard enough, you can see Black culture is everywhere. Especially when I took a trip to Ginza.
I got a chance to network with Reiko Tsuji, an aspiring filmmaker in Japan who is showcasing her mocumentary “Marriage of the Pikas”. She suggested she knew a spot in Ginza that would remind me of New Orleans while in Tokyo. New Orleans is said to be the place where jazz originated from. With my associate’s degree heavily involved in jazz studies, I was curious about what this place had to offer.
Tsuki Hanare is a 100-year-old rooftop bar that dedicates itself to playing live jazz music every night at 8 pm. They serve some C cuisine from mac & cheese to homemade gumbo. And the performance we caught that night of an amazing local jazz pianist had me in disbelief. Music really is a language that can touch souls without borders. And here in the heart of Ginza, Black culture was alive and well, influencing and entertaining the packed restaurant on a Friday night.
While I am here learning about Japanese culture, it was nice to be able to find moments of home and embrace other cultures as well. Feel free to read about some observations Malakia has made while she’s been living in Japan here.