Television helped ring in the new year around the world, but one Japanese broadcast has only drawn ire from audiences. One of Japan’s most famous comedy duos aired its variety show on New Year’s Eve, and the program saw Masatoshi Hamada don blackface for the nation to see.
As you can see below, fans were quick to share clips of Hamada in blackface on Twitter. The comedian dressed up in blackface and wore a hairpiece with a letterman jacket to complete his look. The show’s co-hosts had little to say about the look, but they did laugh over his get-up. As for Hamada, he just went so far as to make sure even his ears were covered with makeup.
However, social media has been less-than-kind to Hamada and Japanese TV for its blackface display. Baye McNeil, a writer and expat to Japan, took to Twitter to explain his personal frustrations with the recent offense.
“I love Japan My home of 13 years. I want the best for her. The nightmare scenario is: Opening Ceremony #2020TokyoOlympics, Japan naively sends a #Blackface doowop group out to pay homage to black athletes. What a fiasco that’ll be! So I implore you please #stopblackfaceJapan now.”
The writer went on to say that blackface doesn’t need to be used as a joke in any circumstance, but there were those who defended Hamada. Netizens were quick to point out that Japan has a very different relationship with race compared to the U.S., but the use of blackface does not become any less harmful as such.
McNeil used Twitter to explain that Japanese audiences do not intend for blackface performances to be “hateful” or “malicious” - but that doesn’t excuse the consequences of using race as a punchline.
“Blackness is being treated as a tool for comedy, for laughs, and that impacts how I’m perceived and treated on a daily basis here,” the writer shared. “Do you think these comedians care about that? I doubt it. They should. The quality of my life is affected by them.”
This is not the first time Japan has come under fire for featuring blackface in its TV programming. Back in 2015, Momoiro Clover Z found itself lambasted after the popular idol group took photos in blackface with Rats & Stars. The group were meant to appear on collaboration 'Music Fair' program in blackface, but the Internet revolted once pictures of the teams went live.
Are you surprised to see blackface being used yet again in Japan? Hit me up on Twitter @MeganPetersCB to let me know and talk all things comics, k-pop, and anime!