When I was younger, I used to hate the question, ‘Where are you from?’ It wasn’t because I didn’t like answering but because those asking didn’t usually care to know the full answer. But if they did, I would have loved answering.
These days, I’m often curious about other people’s backgrounds. These days, identities are crisscrossing at such speed that even I – who study this stuff – can’t keep up.
For example, does this video confuse you as much as it confused me? An Australian friend who does research on Indonesia but has nothing to do with Japan sent it to me. I saw this and thought: Wait? What? Who? Huh? Eh?
Where is the pink singer from?
Usually, guessing where people are from is my specialty. But this one did my head in.
Who is this cat woman? … Why is she a cat, anyway? (Yes, I am so out of touch with pop culture—thank you, Age.)
And who is the pink singer? … Her Japanese is perfect … so, is she Japanese? … OMG, she even raps in Japanese. … But she’s wearing a jilbab (the Indonesian word for hijab), so she can’t be Japanese … Or can she be? … Maybe she’s a hafu (a Japanese translation for ‘half’ and used to mean ‘mixed race’) like me? … Or is she Malaysian? … Where is she from??
In an effort to untangle my confusion, I did what my teachers taught me to do (as if) and dutifully googled the crap out of all the keywords I could find on the video. I hereby, ehm, report the results.
Cat woman is Doja Cat. Someone who originally sang the song, ‘Say so’, in English.
The pink singer is Rainych Ran. According to an interview with The Magic Rain, which publishes content for the ACG (Anime, Comic and Games) community, Rainych is ‘an Indonesian singer who’s best known for performing song covers from various anime titles’. At the time of this writing, Rainych’s Japanese cover of Doja Cat’s ‘Say so’ has amassed over 13.5 million views.
Where is Reo from?
Then, just as I was starting to make sense of things, I found this reaction video by a Japanese guy named Reo, which got me confused again. Reo is not a traditional Japanese name. It sounds like a Japanese pronunciation of ‘Leo’.
Plus, Reo’s YouTube channel targets Indonesians wanting to learn Japanese. He speaks rather slowly and clearly in his videos and they all have subtitles in English and Japanese. But he only uses hiragana and katakana and avoids the difficult Chinese characters for the Japanese subtitles.
The questions that bombarded my brain next were: Why is he targeting Indonesians learning Japanese? What’s his connection with Indonesia? Is he learning Indonesian himself? Or is he a Japanese-Indonesian hafu? Is he a kikokushijo or returnee student who used to live in Indonesia as a Japanese expat kid? In other words, is he a Third Culture Kid (TCK)?
Or is he targeting Indonesians because we have a large youth population who loves the internet and think highly of Japan? There are quite a few Japanese YouTubers who don’t seem to have pre-exisiting connections with Indonesia but are specifically targeting the Indonesian audience on the internet. Why?
Could they be capitalizing on the privilege accorded them due to Japan’s status in the region—a status that exists thanks to Japan’s colonial history? Perhaps they are using that privilege to target the Indonesian youth audience because it offers a potentially large and easy market to break into in the world of internet algorithms?
(For the sake of transparency: I am mixed Indonesian-Japanese myself.)
If they are using that privilege, however, does it matter? Personally, I feel the privilege needs to be recognized and acknowledged but I’m more excited about the connections that young people are making across cultures and, basically, saying eff you to national boundaries.
Where is Datenkou from?
I haven’t found the answer to my questions about Reo kun. But I did find out that the Japanese version of ‘Say so’ was not translated by Rainych chan as Reo seemed to think.
It was translated by Datenkou. After a long search down a rabbit hole, I found the info about Datenkou’s involvement with the translyric right there in the description under Rainych’s own video above. (Lesson learnt, next time check in the obvious places first!)
So, was this the end of the rabbit hole? Uh, no. Once I found Datenkou, I started asking: Where is Datenkou from??? His Japanese translyric of ‘Say so’ is perfect. Is he Japanese? Wait, is he singing Anggun’s ‘Mimpi’, an Indonesian song? His Indonesian accent is perfect!
But, before I go further down the Dantekou rabbit hole, let me point out that Anggun is Indonesian and a trilingual singer. She sings in Indonesian, French and English. Her voice is incredible—cool and husky. Here’s her version of ‘Mimpi‘.
Okay, now, back to Datenkou. His Twitter profile says that he’s an agricultural researcher and he speaks Japanese, English, Indonesian and French. He lists Japanese first and he’s in Tokyo. Is he a Japanese Third Culture Kid? Hafu?
I suppose I could message him and ask. But he probably gets asked, ‘Where are you from?’ a lot, so let’s leave him be.
But, all this crisscrossing—gotta love it.
What do you think?