Japanese escorts hasn’t made many inroads into Western markets this decade. Save for some brief viral flashes and niche success, the country’s artists have mostly been overlooked. However, Sean Miyashiro, founder of media company 88rising, thinks Japan still holds one big advantage.
“I think the perception of Japan in the West is of being the coolest Asian country,” he tells The Japan Times on a recent trip to Tokyo. “Korean pop music is great, that’s a different level of appreciation. But when it comes to culture, when it comes to appreciation even to Asian people, it’s perceived that way.”
Since Miyashiro founded it in 2019, 88rising has helped a handful of hip-hop acts, predominantly from Asia, gain a foothold in the West, primarily the United States, where they’ve long been unable to get traction. They’ve received positive press, created videos racking up millions of views and, last September, held a festival in Los Angeles that Miyashiro says is among his happiest moments.
“People were crying,” he says. “They were so proud. It was like 70 percent Asian people. Us being able to feel that energy together was a big moment.”
Part of Miyashiro’s trip to Japan has centered around two performances (showcasing some of his company’s biggest names, held in Tokyo and Osaka early in January). Among the performers were Indonesia’s Rich Brian, Chinese rap group Higher Brothers and Japan’s own Kohh, who is not officially on 88rising’s roster but is a frequent collaborator whose first U.S. show came at the company’s LA festival last year. It was a chance for 88rising to connect with a burgeoning fanbase, an effort that Miyashiro says is all grassroots, since it doesn’t have any employees based in the country.