Introduction Japan has an active and diverse Hip Hop scene with widespread popularity among the younger generation. Th is is refl ected in recent fi gures cited by Manabe (2006, pp. 3-4) who notes that 15% of all singles classifi ed as gold or above in the fi rst half of 2005 were rap-oriented and that rap is an integral part of the Japanese music scene. Th e history of Hip Hop in Japan has been delineated in a series of articles by Condry (2000, 2001a, 2001b) and in his 2006 book, Hip-Hop Japan. Condry (2001a, p. 228) traces the beginnings of Hip Hop in Japan to the mid1980s with the release of the fi lm Wild Style, a low-budget fi lm featuring the fi rst generation of U.S. rappers, DJs, and breakdancers, and the subsequent release of the fi lm Breakdance in 1985 which launched the fi rst of several breakdance booms in Japan. A club called Hip Hop opened in 1986 in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, the district that is the center for fashion, entertainment, and youth culture in Japan. Condry notes that in the period from 1988 to 1992 there was a growing number of clubs sponsoring rappers, DJs, and breakdancers. Specialty magazines began covering the Hip Hop scene in detail from the mid-to late 1980s. Th e fi rst produced million-selling rap hits in Japan appeared in 1994 and 1995 and the term J-rap was coined to represent this new genre (Condry, 2001a, p. 233). In the mid-to late 1990s, Condry divides the J-rap scene into two camps: party rap and underground Hip Hop. According to Condry (2000, p. 177), “Party rap tends to have light, funny lyrics that speak to themes from everyday life (e.g., video games, dating, teenage love songs)…. In contrast, underground hip-hop tends to be more abstract, darker, and at times in opposition to mainstream

Japanese society.” Th e two camps had very diff erent followings and were critical of one another. Th e current Hip Hop scene in Japan, since 2000, according to Condry (2006) is more diverse:

We fi nd a broad spectrum including rock rap to hard core to gangsta, spoken word/poetry, to conscious, old school, techno rap, anti-government, pro-marijuana, heavy metal-sampled rap, and so on. Alongside the widening diversity with the hip-hop scene, we also see the disappearance of any orientation toward a center…. Th e era in which underground hip-hoppers debated with party rappers has given way to more personal confl icts between rappers. Th ese confl icts gesture toward ideas of what hip-hop should be about. (p. 82)

Recent trends that Condry notes include the regionalization of Hip Hop within Japan and the incorporation of samurai imagery. What these trends suggest to some is that the global spread of Hip Hop refl ects a “cultural homogenization” in the “borrowing” of a particular type of musical genre. However, through a structural poetic analysis of Japanese Hip Hop rhyming, we aim to demonstrate in this chapter the complicated linguistic aspects of cultural appropriation that occur when Japanese Hip Hop is given a local interpretation. Specifi cally, we illustrate how Japanese Hip Hop artists fuse local, historically Japanese poetic traditions with global, historically Western rhyming practices.