Japanese Artist Crystal Kay Is Ready For Her International Debut

 

Born and raised in Yokohama, Japan, to an African American military father and a third-generation ethnically Korean singer mother, Crystal Kay was constantly surrounded by music. She started singing commercial jingles at the tender age of 4 (“My mom’s friend who owned an advertisement production company would borrow me when they needed a child’s voice,” says Kay) and released her first single, “Eternal Memories,” at 13. Fifteen years and 11 albums later, Kay, 28, is looking forward to branching outside of her Japanese fanbase and introducing her unique sound to American audiences.


 

Audrey Magazine: What kind of music did your parents introduce you to when you were growing up?

Crystal Kay: My parents listened to all of the great music of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, from Earth, Wind & Fire, Maze and Luther [Vandross] to Celine Dion and Bon Jovi. My favorites were Michael and Janet Jackson. Watching their videos and shows really inspired me to become an entertainer. My parents’ eclectic taste in music definitely influenced mine in a great way because I love to incorporate different styles to make borderless music of my own.

 

AM: You started in the industry so young. What do you think of when you revisit songs, like “Eternal Memories,” that you performed when you were barely a teenager?

CK: I think, “Damn! I was such a baby!” [Laughs] But I love that song, and I think it captured my innocence and pureness, visually and musically, in a perfect way. It’s also fun to reflect on how much I’ve changed and grown both as an artist and a woman. I’m very proud of my earlier albums and videos.

 

AM: You are a cool and unique mix of cultures. Can you talk about what you’ve taken from growing up in Japan, in addition to the influences of an African American father and a Korean mother?

CK: Thanks! Growing up in Japan has helped me understand unique Japanese traditions and culture. It’s a culture that’s very polite and courteous — sometimes a little too courteous [laughs] — but it’s a nice trait to have, and it makes me different when I’m in a foreign country.

My African American influence is definitely in my sense of music and rhythm. I love to dance, and people always tell me my soulfulness and the way I feel the beat is definitely my black side. I never lived in Korea, but one thing I’ve learned is that Koreans are passionate people. They love to sing and dance, and I love how they are proud of their musical history. I feel I have the best of both worlds musically, and I’m very thankful for that.

 

AM: As a trailblazing mixed-race artist in Japan, has it ever been difficult to express or explain your identity in the public eye?

CK: Moving to New York, I’m finally starting to become more comfortable defining and explaining who I am. In Japan, I never had to really explain myself often, because it was rarely asked. I think that was probably because many people in Japan were just not used to multiracial people like they are in the U.S. And also, I was the first black and Korean singer in Japan, so I was a rare breed. [Laughs]

 

AM: How has the music landscape changed in the last 15 years since you first started?

CK: It’s definitely changing for the better. You can see the growth in number and popularity of mixed-raced artists in the entertainment industry throughout the years. It’s nice to see this change because it helps the youth to be open-minded and see people for who they are, whether they are mixed or not.

 

 

AM: What prompted your desire to debut in the U.S., and what can we look forward to?

CK: I’ve always wanted to share my music with the world. When I first debuted at 13, I thought, “Oh yay, I have a single out, so I’m automatically worldwide!” I always thought, naturally, that music is universal. When I realized I was a “Japanese singer,” my drive to become an international star became stronger, and it was always just a matter of when.

I have over 50 [songs] as of now, and I hope to release an EP very soon. Then I want to start performing so I can finally start spreading my music and create a following.

 

AM: One of your goals is to bring Japanese youth culture to an American audience. Can you elaborate on what Americans are missing out on that you want to share?

CK: Because I’m a multicultural Japanese girl, I want to show a side of Japanese girls that hasn’t really been shown to the world. Let’s reset that stereotype that is often misunderstood as bubblegum cute. There are a lot of sexy, powerful and real women and girls that take charge of their lives. They have their own powerful expression.

 

AM: What do you think about international artists like Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne who incorporate Japanese culture into their music? Is there a way to do it well versus a way that is questionable?

CK: I think it’s really cool how Gwen Stefani played with the Harajuku girl concept, because she really made it her own by creating her version of the Harajuku culture and paying tribute to it in her own way. I also think it’s cute that Katy wears a lot of Japan-themed costumes. You can see that they both adore the culture and appreciate its uniqueness and are not mocking it. Because of them, I’m sure a lot more people became interested in Japan and its pop culture.

It really bothers me when people overuse the neon signs, wrong kanji and geisha girls in white faces and incorrectly worn kimonos in their videos just to be “different.” I remember seeing something similar to that in this R&B singer’s video — I won’t mention any names. [Laughs]

But I want to introduce a cooler and more authentic side of Japan that, at the moment, only I can. I want to show a really unique Japanese subculture that the world doesn’t really know about.

 

AM: And lastly, since we’re talking about crossing cultures, which other international stars would you love to work with?

CK: I would love to work with Calvin Harris. I love his style of dance music, and he has great melodies. I think we can be a killer combo

 

 

To get a taste of Crystal Kay’s new music, click here

 

 

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All photos courtesy of Alli Nakamura
This story was originally published in our Fall 2014 issue. Get your copy here

Controversy Over Miranda Kerr’s Vogue Japan Photoshoot: Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation

 

Miranda Kerr is certainly no stranger to Japan. This time last year, the 31-year-old Australian model attracted quite a bit of attention for her odd, Japanese detergent commercials. Well it looks like she’s back and this time, she’s on the cover of the special 15th anniversary November issue of Vogue Japan.

While this excited many Kerr fans, much of that excitement was replaced with confusion when shots from the photo shoot were released. It was immediately clear that the actress was dressed to look like a geisha, a samurai and even an anime character. Of course, this begs the question: Where is the line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, and what does this categorize as?

Most seem to be leaning towards cultural appropriation. Angry netizens question why a Japanese model wasn’t used for the 15th anniversary issue of  Vogue Japan. After all, the magazine is a Japanese-language magazine. Despite Kerr’s undeniable popularity in Japan, Japanese readers have been shaking their heads in disapproval of the choice to have a foreigner in “Japanese-inspired” outfits.

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However, others have come to Kerr’s defense including the photographer of the photo shoot, Mario Testino. In response to the controversy he explained, “I wanted to represent ancient and modern Japan with these three characters. Japan has geisha and samurai, as well as manga, and I hoped to express these themes through Miranda to the Japanese people.”

Some Kerr fans have even used cosplay as an example of cultural appreciation and note that race does not matter when avid fans dress up as their favorite anime or comicbook character. They argue that this photo shoot does the same. To others, the rebuttal for this argument is simple: this is not cosplay. This is a magazine which creates influence and for some, shapes beauty standards.

Kerr has not released her opinion on the matter, but she has been putting up photos on her Instagram since earlier this month.

Check them out below and give us your verdict. Is this cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation?

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Adorable Japanese Children Share Thoughts on Love, War and Happiness

 

If I were to ask seasoned, middle-aged individuals about their thoughts on war and love, my guess is that a handful would give me a response sprinkled with political opinions and even more would spew out jaded responses based on “the one that got away.”

But what about asking innocent children to dig into their brain and tell us what they feel about these deep issues? Their answers would be drastically different right?

Ryugin, an Okinawa-based bank, decided to go ahead and find out what sort of ideas were bouncing around in a child’s head. In a commercial titled “Children and Philosophy,” bright-eyed Japanese children give their adorable perspective on things.

The commercial, which is an advertisement for education loans that can benefit a child’s future, will have you smiling over their innocence.

 

 

 

This Japanese Dessert Looks Just Like A Giant Water Drop

This Japanese dessert has recently gained quite a bit of viral fame. After all, who wouldn’t be intrigued by a cake that looks just like a drop of water?

This intriguing dessert is called Mizu Shingen Mochi and can be translated to water shingen mochi. As the name indicates, this dessert is actually a variation of a traditional “shingen mochi” rice cake. The consistency is said to be similar to soft and sticky mochi.

The rare dessert is created using water from the Southern Japanese Alps and is served with kinako soybean powder and brown sugar syrup.  The water is apparently solidified into a solid shape, but feels like it can break with just a poke. Apparently, the cake will melt like water in your mouth, but is extremely tasty. The cake is so delicate that if it is not consumed in 30 minutes, it will melt away.

By now, you’re probably itching to get your hands on one of these. Unfortunately, mizu shingen mochi are exclusively produced by the Kinseiken Seika Company and only available in two locations in Japan:

Kinseiken Daigahara shop:
Address: 2211 Daigahara, Hakushucho, Hokutoshi, Yamanashi 408-0312
Tel: +81-551-35-2246
Open: 9a.m. to 6p.m.
Closed: Thursdays

 
Kinseiken Nirasaki shop:
Address: 154 Kotagawa, Nakadamachi, Nirasakishi, Yamanashi 407-0262
Tel: +81-551-25-3990
Open: 9a.m. to 6p.m.
No scheduled holidays

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Who Needs Surgery? Japanese Breast Enlargement Cookies

Come on, we’ve all thought about it. Which flat-chested girl hasn’t looked in the mirror and secretly wished to go up a cup size or two, and perhaps for just even a millisecond, toyed with the idea of breast implant surgery? Surgery however, as we all know, is obviously not the most practical solution. Not only is the cost of the surgery itself ridiculous (price ranges between $5,000 to $10,000), but complications from the surgery include asymmetry, deflation and inflammation. Lets face it– nobody wants to risk that!

A Japanese company has come up with a new solution: breast enlargement cookies. No, you don’t need new glasses — you read that absolutely right. These 70 calorie “F-Cup Herbal Cookies” (F-Cup in Japan is roughly the equivalent of a double D in the US) promise their customers a quick and easy alternative to surgery for breast enlargement, at just $25. The cookies also come in two appetizing flavors: Soymilk or pralines and chocolate. Oh, and what is this miracle ingredient in the cookie you ask? An extract of Pueraria Mirifica, a plant in Northeastern Thailand that contains Miroesterol, a form of estrogen that has been known to help with breast development.

So far, there has been no evidence of this product actually doing its purpose – yet they are extremely popular in Japan, as well as in the US. In fact, according to the F-cup Cookie website, they are currently sold out! Other breast enhancement products on their website also include breast cream, capsules, and “bust up gum.”

So, what do you think? Ready to replace your midnight snack with a nice warm cup of tea, with a breast enlarging cookie on the side?

Fall In Love With Japanese Model Kiko Mizuhara

If you don’t know who Kiko Mizuhara is, you’re definitely missing out on one of Japan’s cutest and most lovable celebs.

23-year-old Mizuhara was born in Dallas, Texas to an American father and a Korean mother. At the age of one, the family moved to Japan where Mizuhara spent her childhood. By the age of 13, Mizuhara discovered her love for modeling and in 2003, she auditioned for the Japanese edition of Seventeen.

Clearly, the modeling world loved her right back. She became an exclusive model for Seventeen and then for fashion magazine ViVi. In addition to modeling, Mizuhara has acted in a number of films and a few television shows.

So what’s so special about this girl? Take even a brief glimpse at Mizuhara and you can feel something special about her. Her cuteness is so radiant that Buzzfeed has named her the “Zooey Deschanel of Asia.”

Check out some of our favorite photos and gifs of the model. You’ll be sure to have fallen in love with her by the end of this.

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“It’s not what it seems” by Hikaru Chu

A 21-year-old Japanese art student has been attracting quite a bit of attention for her art. In particular, the work of Hikaru Chu seems to be gaining popularity because of her talented ability to trick our eyes.

Using acrylic paints, Chu has taken a number of items and has disguised them to look like something entirely different. She has titled the series “It’s not what it seems” and has given audiences a kick out of trying to guess what the object is without the disguise.

Chu’s attention to detail, color and texture proves that her talent is beyond her years. Check out the photo series below.

And trust us when we say her other art pieces are just as impressive and convincing. She has been able to make it look like a woman’s head completely detaches and a man’s back is made entirely of books. Don’t believe us? Take a look at her artwork for yourself.

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What appears to be a cucumber…
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… is actually a banana.
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What appears to be a tangerine…
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… is actually a tomato.

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What appears to be an eggplant…
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… is actually an egg.
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What appears to be a daifuku rice cake…
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..is actually an orange.

Japanese American National Museum Introduces New Tattoo Exhibition

L.A.’s own Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo opened its newest exhibition last week titled Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World, which explores the history of traditional Japanese tattoo art and its relevance in mainstream culture today.

Curated by Takahiro Kitamura and photographed and designed by Kip FulbeckPerseverance dives into the rich history of Japanese artistry by focusing on its roots in ukiyo-e prints. The exhibit also features the work of seven internationally acclaimed tattoo artists Horitaka, Horitomo, Chris Horishiki Brand, Miyazo, Shige, Junii and Yokohama Horiken, along with tattoo works by selected others.

Perseverance opened on March 8 and will run until September 14.

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Image of The Day: Sailor Moon Puppies!

Cosplay has been turning quite some heads lately. Just this week we showed you Japanese students who preferred intense cosplay outfits over graduation gowns. And don’t forget cosplay making it in mainstream media in Singapore with IKEA’s new online campaign.

As impressive as all that is, it doesn’t get the title of our all-time favorite cosplay. No, that title may actually go to these adorable puppies in hand-made cosplay outfits.

An instagram user named mayama_ya has an entire account dedicated to cute things that she makes. Lucky for us, her current interest has been these squeal-worthy cosplay outfits for her puppies.

The instagram account was only created early this month, but she has already gathered over 800 followers. So what’s so special about these outfits?

They are none other than Sailor Moon costumes.

Popular manga and animated series Sailor Moon is one of Japan’s most successful franchises. The English adaptations of both the manga and anime series became the first successful shōjo title in the United States. The franchise has not only stolen the hearts of Japan and the US, Sailor Moon has gained popularity worldwide.

It’s no wonder that these puppies are stealing hearts. Check them out below.

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What Happens When Japanese Students Have No Dresscode For Graduation?

Graduation in the U.S. is quite different from culminating ceremonies in Japan. While we generally imagine shiny graduation gowns and square-shaped caps, Japan doesn’t typically require such an outfit. Instead, junior and highschool students wear matching uniforms while college graduates wear formal clothing. This usually means men in suits and women in kimonos.

But the Kanazawa College of Art is not like other colleges. Graduates are apparently allowed to wear absolutely whatever they would like. So what happens when Japanese students have no dresscode for graduation?

Some of the best cosplay ever.

Of course, all the efforts put into their graduation costume has gained quite some popularity for the school and has gotten media attention.

Check out some of the creative graduation costumes below.

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