Sunday, January 18, 2004
it's about to get racial up this piece
OK, so no pictures of Kawanishi this time... but I suppose this picture is somewhat indicative of where a few of my yen have gone... cereal, and Transformers.
So in reference to number #2 on the list of my last entry, I'm frequently mistaken for being Japanese. Maybe it's the little mannerisms I've started to pick up (bowing, hand motions) or maybe it's that my Japanese for the most part is devoid of a wacky foreign accent... who knows.
In any case, for many Japanese people, it's almost a point of pride for them to be able to identify people who are Japanese, people who are Korean, people who are Chinese, etc...
Gar: Sorry, I'm not Japanese.
random Japanese person: Honto?!?! (really?!?!)
Gar: Soo da. (yes, that's correct).
random Japanese person: Ehhhhhhhhhh... (you have to hear a native Japanese speaker say this to understand it...)
Of course, some Japanese are quite proud to be Japanese and consider themselves to be "separate" from other Asian ethnicities. The irony is that it's historical fact that the Japanese people themselves are not native to islands of Japan... a separate ethnic group called the "Ainu" were the original inhabitants of Japan. Culturally and historically, Japan is of course separate from Asia... but racially speaking, many Japanese probably have Chinese, Korean, or other Asian ethnic roots. Waves of immigration, frequent wars and "colonies" in Asia have all had some effect on the population.
It's not speculation on my part, as well. I've already met several Japanese people in Japan who tell me of having mixed Chinese or Korean ancestry, as close as their mother/father, and as distant as great-great-grandmother/father. A tall student I was talking to yesterday (he's about 6'5) was speculating that probably his very white skin, round eyes, and height comes from a grandfather who was Caucasian, maybe Russian, since his family comes from Hokkaido and there's strangely no mention of his grandmother's husband...
Yep, I've had many interesting conversations with higher-level English students about this, and while some students freely admit that yes, so-and-so in my family was Korean or Chinese, other students ardently deny that a large portion of the Japanese population has some Chinese or Korean blood. Ultra-nationalism or inter-Asian racism? Probably a little.
After teaching English for almost 4 months, I've only encountered 2 students whom I'd consider to have racist views on the issues. Both were men and insisted that Japanese people had to be a separate racial group than Chinese, Korean, or other groups, because of the "superiority" of Japanese culture. One even begin to go on a tirade about how the Japan has never been conquered by another country, and it created it's own culture independent of China or Korea... which is funny because:
1. Japan lost WW2 and was OCCUPIED by Allied Forces. Sorry, but losing a war and having foreigners stomping around your country = being conquered.
2. 99% of all kanji are derived from Chinese and the grammar of the Japanese language bears similarities to Korean, far too many to be just coincidence.
3. Buddhism, probably the prevalent religion among most Japanese, is an import from China, which imported it from India.
4. Some of the most popular "Japanese" foods at the moment: ramen, curry, and kim-chee (AKA ki-mu-chi)
5. Kannon, a popular Japanese folk goddess, is derived from Kuan-yin, a Chinese folk goddess.
And on and on and on...
Yeah, it's a bit sad to run into a few closed-minded individuals when the vast majority of Japanese people that I've met are quite the opposite - especially the businessmen types at my school, most of which have post-college degrees. They realize that the future of the Japan in the face of both North Korea and an unstable economy is greater cooperation with China and South Korea.
Oh, and don't even get me started on a comment a person (a non-student) once made to me once that my English must not be "good" because I'm Asian... pshhht.
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