Although Tokona-X was born in Kanagawa, he moved to Aichi, where he built his rap career. There are small parts of his history available online which make interesting reading, but don’t actually tell us much; especially if we’re not so familiar with Japan. In his lyrics, I understand part of the message about his hood from things I know to be true in English rap music, like Tokona talking about his hood must mean the area he grew up in. But in this case, it’s an area he moved to, so I have to question if that’s really his hood. I guess because he feels connected to that area, then that is his ‘hood’.
The Move from Kanagawa to Aichi
Born in Yokohama, a large city with a big population. He lived there for several years before making the move from Kanagawa prefecture towards West Japan. I presume he moved there before his teen years, but I’ve not been able to find any information about that yet. Kanagawa is a part of the Kanto region and is quite built up for the most part, but has some areas that are quite rural. It’s a place with huge populations near to Tokyo, but also has towns with much smaller populations. Yokohama itself has the largest China Town Asia and is well worth a visit.
He moved because of family reasons, but there is not much information available that would tell us what those reasons were, so it remains a mystery. I think there are clues to be discovered in his song ‘Where’s My Hood?’, but that’s just a guess from the title of the track. Hopefully I can find out more about both Tokoname and why he moved there by listening to the rap lyrics in that song. I still think there will be many questions unanswered because if it really did provide a lot of answers, they would have been made available in Japanese language sources already, but I haven’t found many details yet.
Tokoname – Tokona’s New Home
He moved to Tokoname, a coastal city south of Nagoya which is the reason he chose the moniker Tokona-X. When written in Katakana (Tokoname = トコナメ), the characters can be read as Tokona (トコナ) and the letter ‘X’ (メ) since the character ‘メ'(me) looks like the letter ‘X’. In his songs, he mentions the area by number on many occasions. Tokoname has an ‘052’ telephone dialling code. At first, I thought this may be in reference to a postal code, but the ‘052’ postal code, for example 〒 052-0100, refers to Hokkaido. I’m not familiar with rappers talking about their phone code as they usually mention the area they have lived and grown up in, but he’s still talking about a specific area. Tokona-X bot on twitter lists its location as 052. Clicking its location link doesn’t take you anywhere, but 052 is definitely where Tokona is from; it’s just not his postal code. This is why I think he must have been young when he moved to Tokoname because he spoke about it so much to make sure we associated it with him. It also must be the place that formed the character we know and love.
His Hood is 052
At the time of his popularity, there weren’t many rappers from West Japan or the Nagoya area, so to be as popular as he was, he was somewhat of a novelty. With the exception of Twigy, he pretty much had free reign over the area. Tokona-X clearly took great pride in the city of Tokoname, which is why he made sure he told us that he was from that city and regularly mentioned it when he rapped. In some ways, it’s as if he realised that because he wasn’t really from the area, it was necessary to express his love for it on a regular basis.
A rapper’s ‘hood’ forms an extremely important part of his image, so it was important for Tokona to choose his hood and stick by it. We can assume that he must have moved to Tokoname at a young age because he shows how much he is attached to it and Tokoname formed a lot of his rap persona. I don’t think it would have been as easy or realistic for him to represent Yokohama if he hadn’t been living there during his teenage years when he developed into a man. I’m sure that Tokoname and the city of Nagoya are proud of Tokona and thanks to him, the seemingly endless list of rappers from the Tokyo area could be broken and one of Japan’s best rappers is known as a resident of Nagoya.