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People Are Divided Over This Japanese Comedian Wearing Blackface To Impersonate Eddie Murphy

The skit aired on national TV as part of a New Year's Eve special.

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A Japanese comedy show has caused a debate online by airing a skit involving a Japanese comedian doing blackface.

今年の浜田どないしたwwww #ガキ使

The skit was part of Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!'s New Year's Eve special, and showed comedian Masatoshi Hamada wearing blackface and the same clothing as Eddie Murphy's character from the film Beverly Hills Cop.

Baye McNeil, a writer based in Japan, took issue with the use of blackface and tweeted about it in English and Japanese. Both versions of his tweets have since gone viral.

Note to japanese performing in #BlackFace: #Blackness is not a punchline nor a prop. Need jokes? Get better writers… https://t.co/LnRsdSCh10

Japan has had a long history with blackface, with it appearing as early as 1845 when Commodore Perry showed a minstrel show to Japanese officials.

National TV frequently airs shows that involve artists and comedians wearing blackface to impersonate celebrities and public figures such as Michael Jackson and former US president Barack Obama.

In 2015, Fuji TV canceled a segment from a weekly music show after public outcry over a photo showing idol group Momoiro Clover Z wearing blackface along with Japanese doo-wop group Rats & Star — which has been performing in blackface since 1980.

In contrast, comedian and actor Naomi Watanabe's impression of Beyoncé is done solely with a blonde wig and no blackface makeup.

Many viewers were furious to see blackface on national television.

meanwhile in Japan: a comedian with blackface is on a roughly 7 hour long national TV program😡🤯😠 I just wanted to e… https://t.co/jgqGyKJ25z

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Is Japan the only country that doesn’t know that Black Face is UNACCEPTABLE and RACIST #racism

WTF. Japanese New Year’s Eve tv. Blackface. This is NOT OKAY #japan #racism #tv #nye https://t.co/rv2nR48LTE

A lot of Japanese people, however, did not feel it was an issue, as they believed it was just an impersonation and a part of Japanese comedy.

@Locohama just learn and respect our, Japanese traditional monomane(mocking) culture. and you'll see that it's with… https://t.co/gw9oXUmSWH

@Locohama エディ・マーフィーと友寄ディレクターのモノマネをなんで今すぐやめなきゃならないんだい?あなたはモノマネとかパロディとか表現の自由を認めないのかい?

"Why should they stop impersonating Eddie Murphy and the TV director? Do you not accept impersonations, parodies, or freedom of expression?"

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@Locohama これを差別と思う心が差別を生むと思う。 これは、ただのモノマネ! 黒人のモノマネしようが、白人のモノマネしようが、モノマネはモノマネ! 肌の色を笑っているのではない。 肌の色を笑われているという意識を変え… https://t.co/JNvE6rlp16

"In my opinion, you thinking this is racism is discrimination itself. This was just an impersonation!

"Whether he’s trying to be a black person or a white person, an impersonation IS an impersonation!

"They’re not laughing at the skin color.

"If you can’t stop thinking you’re being laughed at for the color of your skin, you won’t be happy.

"You should change your own mind first!!"

Some were ashamed.

@Locohama ひどいことをしたと思います。恥ずかしい。

"I think it’s something terrible. I’m ashamed."

顔を黒く塗って黒人を演じるブラックフェイス。人種差別、黒人軽蔑の歴史が深く刻み込まれていて、いま世界では絶対にやってはいけないことになっています。それが、笑いのネタにされている日本。悲しすぎる。 https://t.co/8mWKSXfLGd

"Blackface is the act of painting one’s face black to act as a black person. It’s deeply marked with a history of racial discrimination and of belittling black people, and globally it’s something that you must never do. But in Japan, it’s a comedy gag. It’s too sad."

And others pointed out that it was probably a result of the country's ignorance toward racism.

@Locohama What’s striking about #Japan,to anyone who has studied or visited, is how clearly & highly sophisticated… https://t.co/KZ4xMptk0r

@Locohama 悪気はなかったと思うが、差別は無知から生まれる。日本人としてでなくひととして恥ずかしい。相手が嫌がることはしないことが原則。それが分かるなら皆さん正当化はやめよう。つり目をされるのはいやでしょ!

"I don’t think there was any bad intention, but discrimination comes from ignorance. The ground rule is not to do something that a person feels uncomfortable with. If you understand that concept, then let’s stop justifying blackface. You wouldn’t want to be portrayed with slanted eyes, right?"

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Nippon Television for comment.

Kassy Cho is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Kassy Cho at kassy.cho@buzzfeed.com.

バズフィード・ジャパン ニュース記者

Contact Eimi Yamamitsu at Eimi.Yamamitsu@buzzfeed.com.

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