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Field Trip 3 | Exitpost Performs “Comfortable” Live From Oak Mountain

By: Exitpost

Stay Kawaii Stay Woke

It was an unreal moment when I discovered that I would be doing a Field Trip series with Play Too Much! Their cinematography is always spectacular and the musicians they choose are super talented. But it was also nerve-wracking for the same reasons; the panic soon kicked in when I realized I had no idea what to commit to tape. Or what outfit to wear.

I decided to perform “Comfortable,” the closing track and most personally meaningful song on my recent EP , which I recorded in Tokyo during a trip home to Japan last year. The track closes out the record with a back and forth dialogue between myself and Japanese singer-songwriter Unmo. I had originally sung the verses in Japanese but I ended up scrapping those sessions– I like having a Japanese influence hover over Exitpost as a tribute to my Japanese side, but I know that I can’t own a culture which is not entirely mine.

Exipost live from Oak Mountain (c) 2016 Brimful Photography

Exipost live from Oak Mountain (c) 2016 Brimful Photography

HOME GOODS (c) 2016 Brimful Photography

Exitpost’s setup at Oak Mountain (c) 2016 Brimful Photography

I was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and American father and much of the creation of Nami was about exploring my heritage. I use a lot of Japanese samples and instrumentation, but avoid using Japanese song titles or lettering. There are already too many (mostly non-Japanese) artists who appropriate Japanese characters for their own ends– here are just a few examples.  

The news that white actress Scarlett Johansson would be playing the lead role in the Hollywood adaptation of the Japanese manga phenomenon Ghost in the Shell has intensified the cultural conversation around the appropriation of Japanese culture, as has the recent discovery that they tried to make her look more Asian. Oof. Whitewashing of Asians in Hollywood is nothing new (see Breakfast At Tiffany’s, the recent Dragon Ball Z movie or “quarter-Chinese” Emma Stone). Yet the conversation around Japanese appropriation in music or design is a quiet one, a save for Gwen Stefani’s arm candy. In 2004, I was probably too young to know what appropriation was. It feels gross to keep seeing this trend constantly happening in music, 19 years later, and to say nothing.

Aleks Eror, writing for Highsnobiety about fashion’s objectification of Japan, put it well:

“The impenetrability of Japan’s culture and language, its foreign abstractness to the typical Western eye often leads to reductionistic interpretations – think misspelt kanji and visuals such as koi fish that are overdone to the point of utter kitsch.”

As a Japanese person, it feels lazy and pointless to use our language without learning it first. I have spent 20 years trying to learn kanji and am still so bad at it that I couldn’t spell out own my song titles in kanji. It’s disgusting to see how kanji and katakana writing has become a Western fetish. Google translating words and slapping them onto designs to seem spiritual or exotic reduces the Japanese or Asian experience to an aesthetic. Don’t do it! Last year, I tweeted about this to Mitski, another half-Japanese musician who shared the sentiment:

Untitled drawing
Whitewashing in our culture has finally started to receive the appropriate backlash, but apparently it’s still necessary to spell this one out: Japanese characters should not be used as a prop to gain attention for otherwise uninteresting work. An appreciation of Japan and its culture and history can be celebrated in ways that don’t appropriate it.

Stay woke and stay kawaii. Thanks for reading and watching the video!

Ken

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