Posts Tagged ‘japan’

There’s been a horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the areas where I lived, and where my friends and their families still (hopefully :( :( :( ) live were terribly affected. Many people are completely forgetting the tragedy and instead engaging in pathetic scaremongering and thoughtlessly spreading nuclear panic: those numbers you hear on the TV, they sound rather scary, but if you remember what they actually mean for you (if you’re in the US or EU or China or Russia: they mean nothing will happen to you, so kindly shut up), and what happens to many radioactive isotopes after a relatively short time

(do I really need to say this? This is primary school-lever physics, and I say it as someone who was never really interested in hard science, apart from the brief period when I was 12 and wanted to be nuclear physicist: nuclear: because it’s the coolest thing ever, and physicist: because my mum is too — but I digress)

you will realize that only people who are really in danger right now are those working at the Fukushima 1 power plant, for whose work and dedication everybody should be grateful, although concepts such as being grateful are hardly ever mentioned by Western media.

I wonder why.

Anyway, I’ll just quote from the banana equivalent dose article for those who are too lazy to read the links:

Many foods are naturally radioactive, and bananas are particularly so, due to the radioactive potassium-40, or 40K they contain. Bananas are radioactive enough to regularly cause false alarms on radiation sensors used to detect possible illegal smuggling of nuclear material at U.S. ports. A medium-sized banana contains about 450 mg of potassium. 40K makes up 0.0117% of this, or about 53 μg, which produces 14 radioactive decays per second (dps), or 0.37 nCi of radiation. If the banana is eaten, the dose equivalent is about 0.01 mrem, which is equivalent to 0.1 μSv (emphasis mine).

See? You’ve been eating radioactive stuff for ages and didn’t even know about it.

Anyway, have you seen this video? It’s a bit too late, because the situation in the power plant seems to be under control, I’ve just seen the NHK news, and they managed to get the wanter into reactor 3, and it seems they’re pretty optimistic, but anyway, this explanation is the easiest to understand there is:

Some people have said that it’s for Japanese children and USian adults, but this is not true: the video must have been made for the German government. If they watch it, perhaps they stop scaremongering.


But I wouldn’t get our hopes up.


Anyway: back to People and Their Priorities.

Imagine you’re in a town terribly affected by the tsunami. You see only ruins, ruins, and ruins; and you know that under the ruins there are dead people who didn’t manage to escape. The people who did manage to evacuate are now in a shelter, most likely they don’t have enough blankets and food, because the railways might have been destroyed, and there’s very little gasoline, and the help from the government hasn’t arrived yet. There are many old people, because younger people have mostly moved to bigger cities, leaving their parents and grandparents behind, in little villages on the seashore , old people  many of whom are quite ill, there is however very little medicine left, and the doctors haven’t arrived so far. It’s very cold and it’s snowing, but there’s very little oil for the stoves — and in any case, there’s only one stove — so the people in the shelter are only turning the stove on during the cold night*.

What do you do? You take some photos. Sensible:  people will be sorry and might donate some money for the victims:

Maybe one more:

So what do you do? I know!


I wish I was kidding:

Sorry, but if there are people who have no food and no warm clothes, and it’s snowing, and it’s cold, and three old ladies have to share one blanket, and there’s only one stove, I will so fucking judge if you go around saving ~*fish*~

So! Let’s do more than Tarah and Carisa, let’s  do more than just save a fish. Your money, which can be used for medicine and blankets and food, is needed:

International Red Cross

Medecins Sans Frontieres

A FB page with links to regional organizations in Japan that are operating in areas affected by the disaster right now, WITH ENGLISH INFO. It’s perhaps the quickest and most effective way to help: the organizations linked on that page are already there.

Every penny is needed!


This girl is looking for her mum in the ruins of Kesennuma, a town that was destroyed by tsunami and a series of terrible fires. We can’t get her mum back, but we can make sure she’s got something to eat and a blanket.

Let’s do more than save a fish!

(Oh, and Tarah and Carisa? I’m normally vegetarian, but next time I’m eating out? I’ll happily munch a fish, thinking of you <3)

(Thanks to Palacsinta, who commented on my other blog, for the link <3)

* It really has been like that: I’ve been watching NHK all the time :(((

Japan’s way of coping with history is not, and has never been the healthiest one. Just a couple of years ago, a bunch of MPs from the Liberal Democratic Party (<— in Japan, the LDP is *the* crazy right-wing party full of batshit, and also the most successful one) questioned the veracity of the Nanking massacre, while proposing charmingly that:

The group said the fact that the League of Nations in 1938 voted down a Chinese resolution condemning Japan, a resolution which claimed Japanese soldiers slaughtered 20,000 people in Nanjing, was one piece of evidence that no “massacre” took place. (source)

Truth: much like science, it seems indeed to be a popularity contest. NOT.

(Was the US inspired by that when they started voting on civil liberties? We will never know)


“We believe that by China removing them, we can push ahead with true Japan-China friendship for the 21st century.” (source)

Ouch. The LDP’s definition of “friendship” is very Gorean. Somehow. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be friends with them, really.

Anyway, all things considered, it should come as no surprise that the portrayal of Chinese people in the media tends from time to time to be not exactly positive, or, to put it bluntly dehumanizing. I’ll just focus on one thing – the language – because to write about everything (like the stereotype of fat Chinese mafioso-cum-businessman) would take too much time, and also most likely several hundred thousand words, and also because it’s the easiest for me, as a linguist.

Anyway, it seems that at least since the first Sino-Japanese war, Chinese people have been frequently portrayed in the popular media, such as manga, B-class novels, anime, etc as speaking a ridiculous pidgin. At first, it seems, Western people would also be portrayed as speaking a  simplified form of Japanese, but this very soon changed (well, mostly). The stereotyped “Chinese”-Japanese has two main characteristics:

1) The use of the plain form of the verb “aru” at the end of every sentence that is not interrogative (which is grammatically incorrect, and also, grammatically incorrect)

2) The use of the adjective “yoroshii/yoroshi” at the end of every interrogative sentence. It can be translated as “OK?” or “right?”, and also in absolutely incorrect.

Exhibit 1, Dr Suranpu v. 5 page 173 (first written in early eighties, meaning, this is relatively fresh):

(All pidgin-like grammatical forms are underlined)

(right to left)

1. Ko- konchiwa. Watachitachi-

(Hu-hullo. We… <— plus, all “chi” should be “shi”s)

2. Kondo hikkochite kita Tsun-ikke aru. Yoroshiku ne.

(Family Tsun, just moved be. Nice to meet you <— plus the “chi” in “hikkochite” should be “shi”)

3. Hikkoshi pan aru ne.

(Just-moved-bread be, right?)

A very very old, and also doubly racist (blackface, anyone?) example from a really terrible, and also really popular manga, Norakuro. According to my sources(1) the manga started innocuously enough, but soon progressed to more militaristic topics, with the main character, the dog called Norakuro, serving in the army in a “fierce dog brigade” (mouken-tai) and fighting with pigs, which are clearly meant to represent the Chinese.

The following page depicts Norakuro accidentally stumbling upon smugglers selling weapons to native pirates (who also speak a pidgin-like Japanese):

(right to left, top-down)

1. (Norakuro, the main character, speaks correct Japanese)

Hahaa, buki ya danyaku o dojin ni uru no dana. Furachi na yatsura da.

(Huuuh, they’re selling guns and ammo to the locals. Dirty scoundrels!)

2. Zenbu de nijuuman en da. (Together, 200 000 yen <— note how the white smugglers actually speak proper Japanese)

3. Takai aru. Makeru aru. (Expensive be. Lose be)

4. Makaran yo. (You won’t lose)

5. Teppou bakudan takusan aru na. (That’s a lot of bullets)

6. Shuuchou, katte kimashita ze. (We bought it <— to the chieftain, uses the title)

7. Kayakuko he shimatte oke. (Put in the powder magazine <— the chieftain and “locals” use normal language when talking to each other)

Below, the interactions of the pig army, disorganised and cowardly.

(right to left, top to bottom)

1. Moukengun ha tetsudoumou wo norikoete kita. Mou sugu koko he kuru aru zo. (The Fierce Dog Brigade took over the railway network. They here soon be.)

2. Yarareta. (We’re in trouble)

3. Yatsu bari se no takai no hatama ga yoku ataru aru yo. (It easy to shoot tall people like them be, though <— backhanded compliment = tall = a very good thing)

4. Nigehajimetara dare ga tomete mo dame aru yo. (If we start to escape someone might stop us, wrong be)

5. Moukengun ha tetudoumou wo norikoete kita kara- (Because the Fierce Dog Brigade took over the railway…)

6. Norikoete kuru tokoro [print too tiny to read] de utsu yoroshi. Naze nigeru ka. (Shoot them with [too hard to read] while they’re there, right? Why escape?)

7. Kono gunchi toraretara make aru zo. Modore. (If the capture this place, we lose be. Go back)

8. Utte mo makeru ni kimatteru. (Even if we shoot we’ll lose)

9. Sonna wakaranai taichou ha yattsukeru yoroshi. (We beat up a dumb captain like that, right?)

10. Kora taichou no iu koto kikan ka? (Haven’t heard what the captain said?)

11. Kono aida ni nigedase. (We’ll escape soon)

12. Mukou no gunchi ga anzen aru yo. (The land over there safe be)

Charming, really. And, for the coup de grace, the freshest example, from 2000. Axis Powers Hetalia is a mind-numbingly dumb, racist manga chock-full of racist/xenophobic stereotypes featuring a bunch of anthropomorphized countries, and, basically, while my sentiments towards it can succinctly summed up with a  BURN IT WITH FIRE, it also unsurprisingly contains the racist Chinese pidgin. Below, the interactions os Russia (the blond guy) and China (the not-blond guy), pidgin-like forms underlined:

Classy, really classy.

(Most of this material is from the Satoshi Kinsui’s book. The Hetalia strip was recovered online)

(1) Satoshi Kinsui, Baacharu nihongo. Yakuwarigo no nazo.

So, I found an awesome blog yesterday, and I spent some time reading through the recent posts (the blog is called Stuff White People Do, and it’s made of awesome READ NAO. Um. The posts are very insightful and often accompanied by even more insightful quotes. This guy, he’s like a quote-magician *salutes*).

Anyway, what caught my attention was this post about the unfair portrayal of white people by Japanese media.

Oh boy.

Apparently, FRANCA (Foreign Residents and Naturalised Citizens Association, and lookie! They have a chapter in Sendai! I didn’t know that) got their panties in a twist over this commercial:

FRANCA’s reaction was thus:

* 1) The character speaks broken accented Japanese (using the katakana script, one used for foreign loanwords). The impression given is that Caucasians cannot speak Japanese properly, which is simply not true for the vast numbers of non-native (and Japanese-native) foreigners in Japan.


For real, though. Mr. James’ accent is actually quite good, you dunderheads. Also, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with speaking with accent. They’re  alienating a whole bunch of foreigners who actually WILL NEVER learn to pronounce Japanese perfectly.
There are people like that.
There are people who don’t have perfect pronunciation in all sorts of  foreign languages, for fuck’s sake, and they’re being treated as if they were some sort of inferior immigrant person or what not.

(Seriously, this is biased anecdotal evidence, but: I know a USian guy who’s been living in Japan for 9 years, and was only able to learn really really basic stuff, BUT THERE’S NOTHING INTRINSICALLY WRONG WITH THAT. You can not learn if you don’t want to. You might miss out on a lot of fun that way, but so what, it’s none of my and other people’s business, and it doesn’t make you an inferior person. In the end, this guy’s Japanese wife learned English, and everybody was happy.

In fact, I know a whole bunch of USians who have less than perfect pronunciation, despite having lived in Japan for years. This is because some people just ARE NOT ABLE to learn the perfect pronunciation, and some people don’t care, and finally, because English and Japanese sounds are completely different, native English speakers are at a disadvantage from the very start.

I’m only talking about USians because US is a big country, and there’re a lot of them immigrating to Japan, not because they’re worse or better than other foreigners here, of course.
I’m not saying my pronunciation is perfect either. Of course it’s not. For real, people.

I only know one person whose pronunciation is seriously 100% perfect. She’s awesome, and Thai, and I want to smuggle her to Europe, so, darling, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that we can totally gay- marry in Germany, so you won’t have any problems with your visa or something <3)

* 2) The character is called “Mr. James” (again, in katakana), promoting the stereotype that foreigners must be called by their first names only (standard Japanese etiquette demands that adults be called “last name plus -san”), undoing progress we have made for equal treatment under Japanese societal rules.

Nope, sweetums, not “foreigners”, it’s USians who “have to” be called by their names. At least get your stereotypes right.

However, nobody calls foreigners by their first names just so. In fact, I have to use my first name, because my family name 1) is terribly long, 2) has a lot of consonant clusters, which are difficult to pronounce for the Japanese who end up inserting extra vowels between the consonants, and my family names gets even longer and even more impossible to pronounce. However, everybody just ends up thinking that “Sara” is my family name, and they are usually quite surprised to learn that it’s not. Also, nobody will address you with your name instead of family name without your express permission.

Sometimes the Japanese start using a bit less polite speech when talking to you,  but ONLY WHEN THEY SEE THAT YOU CLEARLY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY’RE SAYING, for fuck’s sake. Polite speech in Japan: it’s much more complicated-sounding than the um, less polite speech*.

* 3) The image used, of a clumsy sycophantic “nerd” for this Caucasian customer, is embarrassing to Caucasians who will have to live in Japan under this image.

O LOL. It’s clear now that it was all about the “nerd” thing. How is being a nerd a bad thing? Also, sycophantic, bwah. Weeaboos**, anyone?

Also, I’m Caucasian and I don’t feel offended at all. I wonder why? Is it the lack of entitlement? Well, relative, anyway.

FRANCA makes accusations of oppression and racism, and in the process manages to make clear that for them 1) speaking with a foreign accent is a bad thing – and let’s face it, most JSL learners, like most foreign language learners, WILL NOT SPEAK WITH PERFECT KYOUTSUUGO/perfect standard accent of their new home country PRONUNCIATION EVER***, also this sort of attitudes only foster a creepy standard language ideology, which, no, thank you, or, in Japanese, 御苦労様でした, 2)  being a nerd is a bad thing, thus alienating a large part of their potential membership base, 3) a foreigner = white USian, because, seriously, whenever they say “every foreigner” the statement can only be more or less correct if the foreigner is a) white, b) USian, and possibly c) male.

That is of course not to say that there aren’t problems with the treatment of foreigners and naturalised citizens in Japan. There are. However, precisely because FRANCA chose such a poor example of alleged “oppression”, the future real problems might well be ignored.

Also, where’s FRANCA when Chinese and Korean people are constantly portrayed in negative light, ridiculed and villified? For example, there’s a quite  old stereotype about the Chinese not being able to learn the polite forms, so in books and comics (well, rather on the more lowbrow side) their dialogs will often end with aru (plain = not polite form of the verb “to be”), regardless of whether it makes grammatically and/or semantically any sense in the context. This is clearly racist, why isn’t FRANCA protesting that?

Because poor woobie white people aren’t made fun of? Oh, my.

Also, darlings! There’s Axis Powers Hetalia**** to protest and boycott <3<3<3.
(For the lazy and link-phobic: APH is a comic about mostly male anthropomorphizations of various countries having gay sex with each other, and also, Nazi uniforms)
And it’s actually seriously disturbing, and possibly includes every xenophobic stereotype ever made, in Japan and other countries.

Axis Powers Hetalia 1 Eng SubThe funniest videos are a click away
*retches discreetly* Voila!

* There are many degrees of politeness, actually. I could go on and on about that, so I’ll just stop now.

** Read the Wikipedia entry. It’s got some seriously bizarre quotes.

*** There’s actually solid, scientific research that proves that. Statistically, language proficiency is correlated with the age at which you started learning. Therefore, most people who haven’t started learning a language before their teens, have small chances of having perfect native-like pronunciation and grammar. This is not to say that people shouldn’t make the effort, or that they can’t learn anyway. This is a statistical thing, and of course, a lot depends on the amount of work you put into learning.

I’d like to say that my English and German are cool anyway, but unfortunately, I started learning when I was about four and five, respectively.

Meanwhile, my French pronunciation laesst zu wunschen uebrig, and lo, I started learning French when I was 16 or so.

I’d write in which book you can read moar about that sort of stuff, but unfortunately, I shipped my books overseas earlier today =_=.

**** There’s one positive thing about Axis Powers Hetalia (and no, it’s not cute Nazis in their cute uniforms *retches*).

Poland is a cross dresser. WIN!