When the Characteristicless Becomes Real: The Western Response to Visual Kei

by Miriam Loebman

In 2010, the Japanese Visual Kei band X Japan came to America.  The group had been invited to perform in Chicago’s music festival, Lollapalooza, and were greeted by both their screaming fans and the incredibly confused representatives of the American media.  A core cluster of questions seemed to plague the minds of all the uninitiated Americans who came into contact with them: “What is ‘visual kei’? How can it be understood in the context of American music? Why is it in America at all?” Studying not only the correct reply to these questions but also understanding why the questions arose at all reveals a lot about the barrier that still exists between Japan’s “gross national cool” and mainstream America. [Read more…]