With the push for breakdancing to be added to the 2024 Summer Olympics, the future looks bright for Japan and its already prominent group of b-boys and b-girls who will strive for medals should the sport hit the floor in Paris.
Last October, Ramu "Ram" Kawai became the first b-girl champion at the Youth Olympic Games. Shortly before the 17-year-old won the girls' final, her Japanese compatriot Shigeyuki Nakarai, nicknamed Shigekix, won the bronze medal battle for boys.
Nakarai, a second-year student at the Osaka Gakugei Senior High School, says the sport of breakdancing "has profound depths" and it is "a total mind-body workout."
At the Buenos Aires YOG, held for athletes aged 15 to 18, Japan showed itself to be a dominant force in the breaking game. Large crowds gathered at the Urban Park venue in the Argentinian capital to watch the Japanese dancers put down their headspins, headstands and windmills.
(Shigeyuki Nakarai)[supplied photo]
"I was nervous at first but I felt accepted," said Kawai, who is a member of one of the most famous breaking crews in the world, Floorrioz.
Kawai and Nakarai are among the 1 million or so street dancers in the country, a figure drawn from Japan Dance Sport Federation data.
Established in 2011, with programs particularly dedicated to ballroom dancing, the JDSF quickly set up a breakdancing club when the sport was registered with the International Olympic Committee for the first time ahead of the 2018 YOG.
JDSF managing director Atsushi Yamada said Japan needs an influx of young breakers and should expect stiff competition to come from China and Russia if breakdancing gets the Olympic nod.
(Ramu Kawai (R))
Breakdancing is believed to have originated from within New York's street counter-culture in the 1970s and 1980s. Because it emerged as a part of life on the streets, with obvious ties to hip-hop music, it has been spurned for not being a sport in the traditional, Olympic sense.
Some question breakdancing's compatibility with Olympic values -- the same thing that was said about snowboarding and skateboarding -- while the establishment of judging standards has also been controversial.
But a new generation of breakers is ready to prove the dance form belongs and can draw a new, wider audience. One upside is that cost concerns will never be an issue for Olympic hosts as the sport does not require extensive venue infrastructure.
"I was telling people I wish it would one day become (a full Olympic sport). This is great," Kawai said.
The IOC has until December 2020 to make a decision on the inclusion of breakdancing, surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing, the four sports submitted by Paris Games organizers.