chairo1 [cha'・ee・ro] [茶色] n. (Japanese) Light brown; tawny; lit., "tea color."
chairo2 [chai'・ro] n. slang (Mexican Spanish) Someone who defends social and political causes against the ideologies of the right, but lacks true commitment to what they claim to defend.
chairo3 [khah'・ee・ro] [χαίρω] v. (Biblical Greek) To be cheerful, i.e., calmly happy or well-off; used as salutation on meeting or parting.

Who are you?

My name's Mashi, a Tokyo-based engineer from New York City. After studying Japanese in college for three years, and going so far as writing my thesis in the Asian Studies department on the use of genre in the anime Cowboy Bebop, I decided that the best way to continue my Japanese education (while also paying off loans) was to work in Japan. After graduating in May 2018, I interned at a Japanese IT firm, where I was offered a full-time gig at the end of the summer. From that December to July 2020, I worked as a machine learning engineer. Since then, I have been working on a freelance basis as an instructor, spending most of my time outside of work doing research and participating in advocacy.

I've had plenty of time to think since coming to Japan, but few opportunities to share what I've had on my mind. Thus, this blog is a belated, but necessary effort at consolidating my thoughts and opinions, especially as I continue to learn about and participate in advocacy. Since leaving school, I've been missing opportunities to have challenging conversations, which I think were a huge factor in my growth as a student. I consider this blog a repository of topics to discuss with others down the line.

Why chairo?

As you can gather from above, the word chairo happens to have definitions in a few languages – and if you look up the word yourself, you'll see that arguably the most interesting one out of the three even has its own Wikipedia page.

Around my first few months in Japan, I spent a lot of time practicing photography going to meetups, taking lessons, and working with friends and freelance models. But along the way, I realized that a lot of what I produced either drew upon or reproduced non-inclusive beauty standards. After discussing my frustration with some friends, I realized that I wanted to spend more time using art to tell stories closer to my own. As my mind wandered, I imagined what I would name a movement or genre or collection of works based on such a theme.

The concept started out simple: chairo is the color of my skin, and the added "plus" embraces it – or flaunts it – against the hegemonies that would rather keep it hidden. But a Google search using the romanized spelling revealed the Mexican slang, which ended up too appropriate to just ignore.  

As a 20-something-year-old self-proclaimed leftist who has not only attended an isolated and wealthy New England college where we were free to discuss our ideologies, but also moved on to work in an industry largely insulated from social responsibility, I could certainly see myself being called chairo. At the same time, I believe that my actions and experiences will show my dedication to equality and to people's liberation. Nevertheless, I decided to take the word as accountability, as those of us fortunate enough to receive our education despite the circumstances can also be the ones to put others down.

When I first found the Biblical Greek definition, it was politely buried between links in Spanish or Japanese. I didn't even intend to include it at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it was a reminder that throughout all of this, I am working towards finding my happiness. In other words, embracing who I am and advocating for others are also paths to expressing and spreading joy.  

What does any of that have to do with this blog?

I have two goals on this platform:

First, I would like to explore a new way of consuming games and anime by casting a critical eye on the works that I enjoy and have enjoyed my whole life. Through investigating ethnicity, identity, and belonging in these media, I want to contribute to our increasingly nuanced conversations about why and how what we watch matters. I intend to tackle issues of representation, and with it, cultural appropriation, the myth of homogeneity, the so-called statelessness of fictional characters, and more. I want to pursue how even as pixels, we have been peripheral.

Second, I want to share what I learn as I strive to be a better ally and activist. In just a few years, I have had the pleasure of meeting passionate advocates for the rights of women, immigrants, refugees, indigenous people, Black people and other disadvantaged communities in and outside Japan who have suffered under chauvinism and bigotry. I intend to introduce their work to a wider audience to promote a more international approach to our fight for justice.