Oya Baka


As b-boys, not only do we defy gravity, we USE the laws of physics. We don’t obey them, we don’t succumb to them, we make them our tools. And with these tools, we use our creativity and our movements to make art like no one has ever seen before. Expression at its finest.

Grady Sullivan, b-boy ”Philosophy”


To keep this post within the murky boundaries of the Intercultural Twilight Zone we’ll start with a Japanese language lesson:

Oya baka” is an expression every parent in Japan hears. A lot. The words translate directly to “parent stupid”. Oya baka is how Japanese folks describe parents who are so blinded by love for their children they gush on and on–whether the kids deserve the praise or not.

Understanding the social context of oya baka offers a glimpse at Japanese culture: saying nice things about one’s own family member is taboo. (See Samurai Wife for details.) Since family members are considered a part of you in Japan, personal humility naturally extends to them too. Not following this social protocol indicates a lack of common sense, which makes the behavior even more “goofy”. To offset any hint of bragging, you’ll often hear Japanese refer to a family member as “my wretched wife” or “useless children”–without meaning a word of it!

Being the mixed-culture family that we are, my children have been raised to play the game, even enjoy it in a perverse way. For example, introducing my son Ry to a Japanese person (in Japanese) would go something like this:

(Me) “Allow me to introduce my no-good, worthless son Ry.”

(Ry) “Yes, I am indeed his useless son but please have mercy on me even though I don’t deserve it.”

I embellished a tad, but not far from the truth.

Even though I consider myself a “cultural hybrid” of sorts, make no mistake about it: my core values are American. With this in mind please indulge me while I “go oya baka on you” and show off my son. I’m proud of his dedication to dance, but more proud that he’s a good person. (There you go, oya baka.)


A big mahalo to Junior for producing the clip. It’s a little dated so I plan to get more recent clip. This one works for now, check out Grady’s trailer:

Copyright © Tim Sullivan 2009


6 responses to “Oya Baka

  1. Oh Geez… I had totally forgotten about the word “Baka” in the last decade.

    I used to hear this word repetitively when my ex was pissed at me.

  2. So you were a trouble-maker back then too, huh? 🙂

  3. I was a trouble maker before I was conceived… I think it may be genetic… I’m still shaking compton vibes. LOL

  4. I just received the following “Direct Message” from someone on Twitter:

    “Hi Damon! We’d like to invite PHILOSOPHY to http://www.PeaceDayParade.org in Honokaa 9/20. How do I reach them?”

    I will be emailing you more information as soon as I received it… but just thought I would share this with everyone on your blog.

  5. I’ll pass it on the Grady. Thanks!

  6. Oya no hanashi to sake ato de kiku…I think it the way the proverb goes in Japanese….somewhat related to oya baka…

    Any injuries from Grady’s art yet? Amazing dance moves….

    Have got to think Grady and his B-boys have got to have some wonderful dance opportunities in Japan…suspect you are investigating?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s