With Japan hosting the Summer Games in 2020, as well as the Rugby World Cup in 2019, this relatively small country—by landmass at least—is quickly turning into a giant within the international sports world. The island nation already produces Major League talent in baseball, and its national team is a perennial powerhouse in world play. The women’s soccer team has reached the medal rounds four times in the World Cup and Olympics combined since 2008, with 1 World Cup Championship in 2011. Just as impressive is the cadre of athletes that have shined equally as bright at the highest level with the likes of tennis phenom Osaka Naomi, figure skater Hanyu Yuzuru, and swimmer Hagino Kosuke all bringing back first place finishes in their last appearances on the international stage.
However, there is one event that might not even see its inaugural match until AFTER the Tokyo Olympics, that could have the most significant and lasting effects both on the games and Japanese society.
Believe it or not, but the “land of the rising sun” is also the land of the “rising stars” when it comes to the world of b-boys and b-girls—more commonly and erroneously known as “breakdancers”.
What started as an alternative to the violence and lawlessness of the Bronx, New York, has made its way to the hallways of Japanese high schools and university campuses where old school flavor meets new school technique. From backspins on cardboard boxes, to back flips in the Junior Olympics just last year, breaking has finally received the legitimization it deserves. And with its proposal for adoption into the 2024 Paris Olympics, it will be interesting to see how this once scoffed at hobby can become a very real and very proud tradition of expression in an otherwise individually restrained society.
September 29, 2019, the second-ever woman to even qualify has just won a competition that for almost its entire existence had been dominated by men—almost. On this day, b-girl Ami (featured in this article) took the breaking world by storm and soundly defeated some of the most talented and athletic dancers from the six inhabitable continents at the BC One World Championship. It’s the highest individual award for anyone in the breaking community and Ami stood the tallest among some of the best dancers in the entire world. Just two years ago, her predecessor, b-boy Issei, claimed Japan’s first win in the same event as a hometown favorite when it was hosted in Nagoya, Japan. Then in Buenos Aires, b-girl Ram stood atop the podium at the first ever breaking event in the 2018 Junior Olympics.
So how will Japan dominate? Both Ami (20) and Issei (22) are barely scratching the surface of their potential, and Ram (17) may have a higher ceiling than them both. But they are just the latest in a long line of home-grown talent. The reality is that Japan’s breaking scene is on the rise with no indication of slowing down. And with each shining example of success, the movement that continues to keep moving is only gaining more traction among those looking for outlets of freedom and expression in a country best known for its homogeneity and firm social order.
It could very well be that Japan’s reputation for its unwavering ability to hold tight to its beliefs of etiquette, discipline, and tradition have made it a sleeping giant that’s about ready to make a big statement in the games to come!