In Japanese hip-hop, dancing has been the center of the main cultrure, other than rapping, graffiti, and DJing. This is because dancing has a visual impact so everyone can uderstand, when it comes to dance there is not a language barrier.
Old School Era
Before Hip hop was introduced to Japan, there was soul dancing, the heart of a revolution of ongoing dance. Soul dancing was introduced to Japan through such shows as Soul Train in the 1970s. I would say this soul dancing played a role as foundation that enabled Japanese people to learn and accept black or street dance culture. Hip hop dance culture in Japan started after the movie “Flashdace” appeared to the public in summer of 1983 though some people had already known about it and started doing it before. Although the movie was not about breaking (or b-boying), few seconds of kids doing elecric boogie and breaking on the street caught many Japanese people’s attention. After Flashdance, many other movies followed such as “WILD STYLE”, “BEAT STREET”, “BREAKIN'”, and “BREAKIN’ 2”. Rock Steady Crew came to Japan in 1983 and Boogal Shrimp A.K.A. Turbo from the movie “BREAKIN'” came to Japan and planted the seeds of hip-hop dancing in Japan. There were many breaking crews. Some crew such as Be-Bop Crew (Fukuoka area), Imperial JBs (Hakata), Angel Dust Breakers(Osaka), Osaka Gangstar(Osaka), and Be-Bop Crew Tokyo (Tokyo) represented each areas and got props among dancers. During this era, dancers such as Popping Pete and Sketer Rabbit from Electric Boogaloo, Booglaoo Shrimp (a.k.a Turbo from Movie “Breakin’), Boo-Ya Tribe, Popping Taco, and Rock Steady Crew came to Japan and inspired lots of Japanese dancers. Especially, Popping Pete and Sketer Rabbit were often invited to Osaka which make Osaka popular as a place having many good poppers. (When Mr.Wiggles came to Osaka in 96 of summer, he was so impressed about Osaka because he says he never seen one place has so many poppers like Osaka.)
New School Era
New school hip-hop dancing era came with the boom of New Jack Swing music. This boom began in 1989 and 1990. The music video of artists such as Bobby Brown, Bell Biv Devoe, Heavy D, and M.C. Hammer proved that a new way of dance was coming alive and all of the young dancers were ready to explore this new form and make it real. You might remember that during this era, many rappers featured dancers. A local dance TV show called “DADA LMD” started in 1989. In comparison to the American Soul Train, there was a line dance at the end of the show. There were also the section of dance lesson introducing latest trendy steps instructed by regular dancers in the middle of the show. Later, these regular dancers made a debut as a singer and made commercial success. Also, there was another dance TV show called “Dance Dance Dance” . This show featured a dance contest competed by 4 group every week, and a special dance performance by the program’s regular dancers called “Megamix”. Since these two programs were local programs and also aired after midnight, the impact was not enough to create explosive boom of new dancing. The national TV show “Dance Koshien” started in 1989. This show was aired 8 o’clock on Sunday. This show is about street dance contest for high school students. (Actually, most of contestants appeared on TV were not high school students, though.) This show had a great impact on many young people that began to dance. Some people who made their appearance on Dance Koshien found their claim to fame. A group called “LL Brothers” was the most successful group from this show and became a singer later. The existence of these three dance programs show how much the popularity was big.After this boom was over, many people stopped dancing. But at the same time, many still stayed in it. Combined with the people from old-school era (breaking era), these people brought the culture into next level. The street dancing became real culture not a trend.
New York and Japan
Among Japanese dance kids, dancers appeared on music videos are hereos and role models. Dancers such as Link, Stretch, Loose Joint, Ejoe, Calief, Peek A Boo, Marquest, Kito, Rubberband, and Brian were well known dancers in Japan. The trend of dance style used to change really quickly around 1991. The dancers who gave influence to Japanese dancers at this time are Shake (NY), Fendy (NY), Soul Brothers (LA), Robert (LA) and Scheme Team (LA). The only way to get catch up this trend was to watch music video at that time. One of the video which had a greatest impact on dancers was Lalah Hathaway’s “Baby Don’t Cry” featuring Mop Top crew and some other dancers. After this video, many dancers started to pay attention to NY sophisticated dance style. Many people began to visit New York City to actually see these dancers. The Japanese pop music group “ZOO” featured these dancers for their video. The docmentally program about street dancers in NY “ALIVE TV:wreckin’ shop from Brookyn” also gave a great infulence to dancers in Japan.
House dancing as a new form of dancing
Around 1992, some people realized the existence of other form of street dancing which is HOUSE dancing. The music video of Crystal Water’s “Gypsy woman” is said to the first dance video featuring house dancers, Calief and Peter Paul. (Actually, in NY, house dancing had been around for a while before that video.) Then, House dancing developed so quickly and now it is established in Japan as a category of street dance as well as hip-hop, breaking, locking, and popping.
Does Japan Keep Real?
Although it is started as boom, now hip-hop is culture and getting real gradually in Japan. However, Japanese people have tendency to follow something new from the US. They think that’s good because Americans do. They are crazy about buying expensive hip-hop gear such as Polo, DKNY, and Tommy because famous dancers in NY wear. This tendency has kept Japanese hip-hop culture from getting real. The language barrier is also the problem. Since most of them don’t understand What KRS-one is saying on the SOURCE magazine, they can not help depending on visual information so much that the culture is easy to be superficial. Since Hip Hop can be said a black culture, people think it is dope to dance like black people or even act like black, which is not real point of hip hop culture. Howerver, it is true that the way Japanese enjoy the beat and the culture is almost exactly same as people in America. And Japanese people start understanding the significance of hip-hop and lifestyle gradually and trying to create their own hip hop.