Japanese “Cholos”



The definition of a subculture according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is a culture derived from another culture. Since this culture is rather vague, I like to think of it as a mini-culture, within a larger culture that shares some characteristic of that larger culture, while still having some aspects that separates it from that larger culture. There are subcultures in every aspect of life whether it be ethnic subcultures, regional subculture or economic subcultures. Since there are so many different subcultures I decided to do some research and learn more about music subcultures.

There are hundreds of music subcultures all over the world, but we never are never exposed to many of them because of mainstream music such as hip-hop, R & B, and pop genre’s. If we really want to listen and learn about a new form of music that is different from the mainstream we are forced to either learn about it from friends or to find it on our own. With so many forms of music out there it could take years to find a form of music that we enjoy and truly connect with. 

When researching music subcultures, I came across an interesting asian music subculture called Chicano. Chicano subculture originated in Mexican-American empowering movements in the 1940’s to the 1970’s and is now making a huge splash in East Asia. This subculture stems from the “low rider” car culture in Japan and is making it’s presence known through Los Angeles street gangs. The Asians involved in the subculture refer to themselves as Japanese “Cholos”. They wear large shorts, plaid shirts, knee high socks and cover their body in tattoos, as a regular “cholo” does. The main form of music is rap, but what makes it interesting is that artist often mix Spanish, English and Japanese into their lyrics. A prime example of this type of music can be seen in artist like MoNo a.k.a Sad Girl. In her song “Azucena” you hear her rap one line in English and then immediately rap the next line in Spanish or Japanese. Also in her video she is wearing a fitted hat, wearing plaid shirts and baggy pants as well as displaying gangster or “cholo” actions. 

I thought this subculture was interesting because is goes against every stereotype we have of Asians and Asian Americans. We as a society view Asians and Asian Americans as a “model minority”. They are seen as civil, smart, quite and cooperative. This subculture goes against all these stereotypes that we hold onto. In these videos you can see Asians and Asian American’s rapping next to cars with hydraulics, wearing baggy cloths, and throwing up gang signs. Within this subculture you see Asians and Asian Americans straying from typical stereotypes and engaging in activities that is popular among Los Angeles gang members. Even though violence and gangs are not desirable ways of life for many, it is interesting to see Asians and Asian Americans participating in a different life style then what we are accustomed to seeing. 


One thought on “Japanese “Cholos”

  1. Very good description of this subculture and how it challenges “model minority” stereotypes. I wonder how it is received in Japan and in Mexican American communities?

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