Hip-Hop Could See Renewed Interest Should Casinos Succeed in Japan


When Hiroshi Fujiwara and Toshio Nakanashi exported hip-hop to Japan in the 1980s, they found themselves in a rather unique position of creating what would be known as Japanese hip-hop, or J-hip-hop. Building on the foundations already established by breakdancing and soul dancing, which emerged in the country in the 1970s, J-hip-hop continued to grow as young people sought to emulate African-American culture. Loose-fitting clothes, graffiti writing, and other elements of Western hip-hop also found themselves being adopted by the Japanese.

But decades since it was established, J-hip-hop is still yet to be known outside of the country, and in fact, many J-hip-hop enthusiasts who choose to emulate Western hip-hop trends are often ridiculed in their own nation. This has much to do with traditional Japanese culture – a culture that is more reserved and polite, and a stark contrast to what hip-hop represents. This has often meant that J-hip-hop as found its spread limited, with Ian Condry writing that many Japanese artists and fans identify nightclubs as the “genba” – the “actual site” of local hip-hop.

The same can be said of Western hip-hop, with many artists finding their homes in nightclubs. Unfortunately, this might also be why J-hip-hop has been so limited. Its Western counterparts have established their homes not just in nightclubs, but in casino resorts as well, and J-hip-hop is significantly lacking in the latter. To this day, casinos are still banned in Japan, and gambling is illegal aside from some sportsbooking and pachinko. As Intercasino explains in a blog post on its website, “Live casinos usually have a festive and pretty active atmosphere. This usually keeps the gamblers and the people inside awake,” making them the perfect venue for hip-hop artists. While artists such as will.i.am and Wiz Khalifa take residency in the LIGHT Nightclub at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, J-hip-hop artists such as Issugi from Monju and Evisbeats find themselves without such an advantage.

However, there could be hope in the horizon, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been promoting casinos as part of his economic growth program for years. Should his attempts to pass a bill legalizing casinos push through, it should see J-hip-hop finally reaching wider audiences, and even establishing a stronger presence in the country.

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