Kyoko Takenaka recorded racist things men said in bars. For many, it hit house


Initially, Kyoko Takenaka felt accountable about secretly recording guys who approached in bars.

While getting drinks in Washington, Deb. C., and New York City over the course of about seven years, the particular roaming filmmaker, actor, model, musician and performance artist used any audio-recording gadget they had on them, usually the phone, to document the myriad racist comments other people forced upon them in private conversation.

“Is this even OKAY for me to do? ” Takenaka wondered at the time, knowing the men’s slurred, insensitive tangents might later be exposed in some way through their art. (“Your face is very beautiful and it’s very Oriental, ” “I take you pertaining to sushi, if you like sushi?, ” “Koreans have very fluffy cheeks, ” various males say in the soundbites. )

“But as I started recording, We realized how, throughout my entire life, all of these experiences are nonconsensual, and Asian Americans are holding on to all of these nonconsensual encounters and microaggressions that do not belong to us at all, ” Takenaka says on a current video call from Tokyo.



“I felt very stimulated to make productive use of that will nonconsensual way of speaking and way of fetishizing our culture, fetishizing me as a human, dehumanizing us. And recording was the only way for me to be able to translate this exact encounter, because so often Asian Americans are gaslit about their own experience. ”

Audio from the unsolicited trades can be heard in Takenaka’s film “Home, ” released publicly last month. The particular short is a four-chapter compilation of cinematic and sonic set pieces, original poetry and music that think about Takenaka’s identity and experiences as an Asian American femme.

“I want viewers to understand all the methods they’re complicit or positively involved in the fetishization and othering of Asian American experiences, ” says Takenaka, who is primarily based in Los Angeles.

“What’s so triggering and frustrating is that it’s those exact same people who are now posting #StopAsianHate who teased me non-stop as a child in the school play ground, who gentrify our communities and erase our local community in Little Tokyo and Chinatown. And I need people to see that connection, that they are complicit. ”

Kyoko Takenaka pours yolk out of an egg as part of a "Home" live performance.

Kyoko Takenaka gifts “Home” as a live performance on Human Resources Los Angeles’ Grounded Love festival.

(Farrah Su)

Arriving of age in Newton, Mass., Takenaka’s childhood home had been known by the rest of the community as “the house. ” It was the house where a functioning class, Japanese American family members lived in a predominantly white suburb lined with white-colored picket fences.

In elementary school, Takenaka remembers “wanting to fit within so badly” as classmates ridiculed their homemade lunches, which they would eat within the bathroom or throw away to prevent harassment because they were “so sick and tired of crying. ”


Those painful memories of othering and racism, as well as domestic violence, made Newton a site of immense injury for Takenaka. So when these people heard, about 10 years back, that “the house” was set to be demolished, they will knew they had to film it — though they will didn’t know, yet, for what purpose.

“I honestly thought it could turn into, like, a punk music video one day or something, ” says Takenaka, who also sings and plays guitar for a London-based, queer Afro-Asia band called Wastewomxn. “And then when I needed to create this film, I knew that was something which was such a big portion of my home and upbringing…. Film is such a powerful tool to be able to communicate a past moment in time and be able to bring that will into the present. ”

Juxtaposed with photos from Takenaka’s youth, “Home” opens with black-and-white video of its director taking a hammer to the walls of the forgotten dwelling and sifting through their family’s old possessions to the tune of a haunting cover of the American traditional “Take Me Home, Country Roads. ”

“I knew that I wanted to have this cathartic experience of experiencing all my things while it’s still there… banging around the walls and getting out all of all of my childhood trauma inside a physicalized form of the house, ” Takenaka says.

Kyoko Takenaka stands in their crumbling childhood house in the short film "Home."

Kyoko Takenaka revisits their childhood house for the short film “Home. ”

(Kyoko Takenaka)

Partly because its inspirations and contents are incredibly deeply personal, Takenaka was hesitant to release “Home” past local screenings and film festivals. It wasn’t till after six women associated with Asian descent were killed in Atlanta-area shootings as well as the movement to #StopAsianHate acquired intersectional momentum that Takenaka decided to upload it to their website and social media.

“I felt compelled to share it during this really triggering time for so many Asian American femmes, ” Takenaka says. “This is certainly nothing new for Asian Americans. This is something that we’ve dealt with since the beginning in our migration, since the 1800s.

“Right today, people are receptive, finally, in order to hearing our stories. And thus it can be really overwhelming for Oriental Americans to then have to explain all of their traumas individually…. If [‘Home’] could be of use to Asian Americans to not have to do that labor… I wanted it to become of use. ”

More than 312, 000 people upon Instagram alone have now noticed the barrage of racist and misogynistic barroom remarks Takenaka captured on mp3 for “Home. ” Within reaction shots — which were filmed later in comparable locations and added within postproduction — an unimpressed Takenaka calmly sips various drinks and stares down the camera.


“I wanted people to experience it live as an Asian American person does, ” Takenaka says. “And also, in re-creating those visual shots, it had been kind of like a reclamation just for how I wanted to respond in that moment when I was coping with the trauma but maybe… wasn’t quite able to.

“I think that is an experience that so many Asian Americans can really relate to exactly where, after something traumatic occurs… they blame a lot of obligation on themselves saying, ‘Oh, I should have said this’… and ‘Why didn’t We speak up more? ’… But there’s so much power in being able to hold that will moment and seeing exactly how absurd it is. ”

Kyoko Takenaka working on a laptop behind the scenes of the short film "Home."

Kyoko Takenaka behind the scenes of the third chapter of their short film “Home, ” which examines Hollywood’s history of yellowface and anti-Asian tropes.

(Kyoko Takenaka)

Since publishing clips from “Home” upon Instagram, Takenaka has been overcome and empowered by the influx of direct messages from Asian American women and femmes for whom the short has been a source of healing plus validation.

Among the first to see “Home” prior to its 2017 debut at a multimedia art show within Los Angeles was Takenaka’s longtime collaborator, Jenevieve Ting, who has witnessed screening attendees broken into tears and “wake up” upon viewing the soul-searching piece for the first time.

“It’s really nice of Kyoko to offer ‘Home’ to the public right now, ” says Ting, a writer and artist based in L. A. “What Kyoko did… was like giving us permission… as Asian Americans to be like, ‘No, you are allowed to feel the rage and the grief and the pain that you have felt to get so long, that you’ve been screaming silently to yourself. ’

“Finally someone told me, ‘Yes. Scream, yell. This hurt and this rage is your own too. ’ And if it will help to open people’s understanding of how deep the pain goes for AAPI women — for people who were socialized as women, meant for femmes, for nonbinary people, for trans folks — I hope that it gives a lot of us further permission to gain access to, not only the pain, but the trend. And also the hope and the probability for futures that are more honest and fair to all of us. ”

Another of Takenaka’s collaborators, kyoko nakamaru, called the behavioral instinct to tape the “one-directional” exchanges “brilliant. ” The spiritual counselor and writer from L. A. very first saw “Home” in 2018 at a community pop-up space in Little Tokyo, exactly where she connected with the experience associated with “perpetual othering that Kyoko illuminates in their film. ”

“[The] racist tropes you hear in those clips are usually things that we hear from non-Asian folks on the every day, ” nakamaru wrote in an email. “[It’s] relentless, it’s exhausting, and Kyoko called it out there without saying a term. Their refusal to give either expression or verbal reaction was an antidote for me and all the times I engaged those conversations. ”


Though many are just discovering it now, it’s been a few years since Takenaka completed “Home, ” and they’ve since moved on to the next chapter. Currently, they are in Tokyo working on a follow-up to the film, which they also plan to adapt into a TV series because they dive deeper into narrative filmmaking.

Thus far, Takenaka’s progress on the follow up has been mostly observational — accessing their Japanese historical past and absorbing the lifestyle in its purest form whilst tourists aren’t permitted to enter because of the ongoing public health crisis.

In a segment of the task called “Kung Flu Pathogen: Come Fly Me Away, ” Takenaka delves to the internal reflections and external anti-Asian sentiment that advised their decision to temporarily relocate to Japan within November, when hate crimes against Asian Americans had been on the rise and the tired, racist refrain, “Go back to your own country” reverberated throughout the United States.

“You understand what? Fine, ” Takenaka recalls thinking at the time. “Maybe we are going to. ”

Earlier this year, Takenaka presented “Kung Flu Virus: Come Fly Myself Away” via the Music Middle in L. A. These people dedicated the preview in order to the past due Vicha Ratanapakdee and “all of our Asian-American elders” who have been under constant threat and attack during the pandemic.

“I’m learning that my goal being an artist is to provide healing for Asian Americans, ” Takenaka says. “I don’t think it’s something that anybody chose to do. And it isn’t really something that we had autonomy over.

“All of this trauma did not fit in with us. And yet I can’t help but create function around Asian American identity…. Whether that’s through performing or directing, music, performance art… I hope to incorporate those things to uplift our neighborhood. ”