Tuesday, November 22, 2016

URSP Student Alexis Jenkins Studies the Development of Japanese Hip-Hop Subculture

I studied abroad at Akita International University in Akita, Japan for the Fall 2015 semester. While there, I participated in the school’s hip-hop dance team. I was fascinated by all of the exposure I had to the Japanese hip-hop subculture, including a trip to perform in a dance showcase at a neighboring university. My experiences inspired me to explore the topic further. I wanted to learn about how and why the subculture developed and the effects it has had on the population and Japanese music industry. My research question is as follows: How can American cross-cultural influence on young adults in Japan be observed through the development of the Japanese hip-hop subculture?

For my project, I am planning to interview Japanese college students about their experiences with hip-hop. In order to be able to interview people, I had to complete an application for the Institutional Review Board. This process took a few weeks because, in addition to writing interview questions and the application in English, I had to translate a lot of the materials to Japanese. After submitting, I revised as necessary. Besides this process, I have been reading scholarly articles every week and meeting with my mentor bi-weekly.

One cool “discovery” I have made came from a scholarly article I read recently. The article discussed the theory of “hybridism” and how it applies to Japan. Basically, according to the author, Japan’s culture is such that it is able to take on aspects of other cultures and those aspects eventually become Japanese; Japanese culture is like a sponge. I found this really interesting and it supported some of my observations as a participant in Japan’s hip-hop culture.

This project relates to my long-term goals because I hope to return to Japan in the near future. I am actually submitting my application to the JET Program soon, which, if I am accepted, will provide me with the opportunity to live in Japan for at least one year as an assistant language teacher for school-aged children. The experience of speaking with Japanese students for my project and researching a specific aspect of Japanese culture will prepare me for living in Japan again and interacting with people.