Just Fun in the Land of the Rising Sun? 5 Questionable Instances of Japanese Culture in Music

1. The Vapors, "Turning Japanese" (1980)

The one-hit wonder by the English new wave band opens with a Far Eastern guitar riff and the video only gets worse from there as every Japanese cliche imaginable makes a cameo, from Geisha girls to tea houses to samurai swords.

2. Styx, "Mr. Roboto" (1983)

The classic rock band's cheeky hit -  with that famous Japanese chorus - invoked troubling stereotypes of "Yellow Peril," depicting threatening-looking robots with the exaggerated facial features of Japanese caricatures. 

3. Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Girls (2004)

During her solo run, the No Doubt frontwoman was rarely seen without backup dancers hailing from the trendy Harajuku 'hood. Critics accused  Stefani of cultural appropriation and of using humans as props.

Day Above Ground, "Asian Girlz" (2013)

The boy band's "tribute" to women of Asian descent caused a firestorm. Actual lyrics include shoutouts to sticky rice and nail salons and the lines "I love your creamy yellow thighs, your slanted eyes." Band members received death threats.

Katy Perry, "Unconditionally" (2013)

Wearing pale white makeup, a kimono and surrounded by parasols, Perry's Geisha-riffic performance at the AMAs was roundly criticized. The pop star later defended the performance as celebrating a place she loves.


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