Based on ethnographic interviews, this paper examines how Japanese hip-hop DJs distinguish themselves in the global marketplace in ways that reflect on Japan's two self-images: its impenetrable uniqueness and its adeptness at assimilating other cultures (cf. Ivy, Iwabuchi). Following the autoexoticist strategies of Takemitsu and Akiyoshi, DJ Krush and Shing02 draw on Japanese uniqueness by integrating Japanese instruments (e.g. shakuhachi, shamisen, taiko), genres (biwa narrative), and aesthetics (ma, imperfection) into their works; Evis Beats takes a more parodic approach. At the DMC World Championships, Japanese DJs including DJ Kentarō have competed on the basis of eclecticism and originality in assimilating multiple sound sources. While countering the stereotype of the Japanese as imitators, this emphasis on originality may place some contestants too far from prevailing trends, putting them at a disadvantage. Both strategies imply that Japanese artists experience anxieties regarding their authenticity, necessitating strategies to differentiate themselves.
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