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A Look Inside Japan’s Chicano Culture

Host Walter Thompson-Hernandez with Japanese individuals embracing chicano culture.

Is it crazy to think that a specific culture native to Southern California and parts of Mexico could not only exist, but also thrive in another country?

Believe it or not, the answer is yes, and you will find it all in Japan. Take a closer look at how this unique microcosm unfolded in foreign territory through this short documentary produced by the New York Times.

Host Walter Thompson-Hernandez investigates in Nagoya, where lowrider car culture blew up during the 80’s thanks to imported magazines and Japanese journalists. An interest in chicano culture suddenly took off, spreading from cars to the music, clothing, art, people, and even the culture itself.

Rich extensions of chicano culture can also be found in places like Osaka and Tokyo. You’ve got Miki Style, a man who opened up a boutique shop called La Puerta which sells street clothes from Los Angeles; Night tha Funksta, a comic artist whose cartoon strips illustrate chicanos but without the heavy emphasis on drugs, violence, and other gang-related activity; and last but not least, Mona a.k.a. Sad Girl, a Japanese chicano-style female rapper, who has basically fully embraced Latinx culture even though she never grew up in a Latinx setting.

It’s quite surreal to see these Japanese individuals heavily integrated in a culture beyond their country’s borders. I admire the way Japan is adopting and celebrating Latinx culture: not only admiring the styles and practices of being a chicano, but taking the time to fully understand how the culture works too. Japan is forging a fusion that follows cultural practices in a manner that is respectful and at the same time, fun.

And who knows, will “Jacanos” be a thing of the future?


Vivian Wang

Vivian is a travel enthusiast and food connoisseur living in New York City. Her curiosity and passion for languages and culture has taken her across eight countries over the past year. When not working, you can find her meandering in art museums or sampling food at the street markets.

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  1. Amy April 2, 2019

    I live in a community with many latinx/ Hispanic persons here in Japan, in Yokosuka; how can we connect with these Chicano loving Japanese folks? My wife and friends would really love to attend an event.

  2. Brenton April 16, 2019

    Thank you for the wonderful post

  3. Niella September 1, 2019

    I’m going to Japan in October. Being Latina, I would love to connect with “Jicanos” and similar groups when there. Do you know how I could?


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