Why aren’t the Taiwanese more bitter about Japanese colonialism?

Compared to the mainland Chinese and Koreans, but also to some South-East Asian countries who were only occupied for a few years.

I’d long thought it was because most Taiwanese came across the channel during the defeat of the Nationalists by the Communists in mainland China, and so they hadn’t had that experience of 40 years of Japanese colonialism, but the biography of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek that I’m reading at the moment says the population was about 6 million before the 2 million nationalist refugees turned up.

I guess one thing is that the Nationalist politicians didn’t need to play the anti-Japanese card to prop up their regime, what with having the boogie man of the Communists. It also seems that the Taiwanese weren’t treated as badly as the Koreans in some ways, although things like forced attendance at Shinto shrines and use of the Japanese language happened in both places. Perhaps more importantly, the Taiwanese apparently had terrible problems with the mainland Chinese when the Japanese were defeated, including massacres during protests aiming at independence from China, that might even have made them nostalgic for the Japanese occupation.

Why are Japanese chopsticks shorter than Chinese ones?

And not metal like Korean ones?

According to a book on Korea I read and then forgot the name of, Chinese ones are longer because they are more likely to eat very hot food that could spit oil all over your fingers if you don’t keep your distance. The Japanese couldn’t use metal chopsticks because until comparatively recently for all but the rich their rice was almost always mixed with other grains such as barley, making it less sticky.

Not 100% convinced with this explanation, as anyway the Koreans are supposed to use their spoon with rice rather than chopsticks (though this taboo is disappearing), so as ever contributions from others very welcome indeed.

Why do Asian doctors give you so much medicine?

I went in for an H1N1 test here in Korea and was told I just had a cold but came out with a prescription for five (!) drugs, none of which I even bothered getting from the chemist’s.

One reason doctors in Japan, Korea and Thailand (my three Asian countries) give so many drugs is that local patients demand them. I’d always assumed that was part of the Asian optimism about science and the future in general and lack of worries about chemicals such as food additives, with maybe a bit of risk-adverse doctors being more likely to be condemned for doing too little rather than too much and some profit to the doctors. According to an article I read yesterday by an American doctor in Korea, though, it is because giving drugs to restore the body’s balance ties in with the ancient Chinese concept of chi (ki in Japanese), being a kind of mystic energy. He said that Western patients thanked him for giving them no treatment, whereas Korean patients demand injections. Certainly ties in with the “more weird stuff is better” philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine.

Why does the word karaage have the kanji for China in it?

The kanji being 唐揚げ (Chinese fry). Couldn’t the Japanese invent fried chicken on their own? It’s possible, I suppose, seeing as traditional Japanese cooking uses little oil and fried chicken with mayo gets named after Southern Barbarians, i.e. gaijin (南蛮チッケン- nanban chicken).

Why is baka (馬鹿- stupid) written with the kanji for horse plus deer?

“legend having it a foolish king of the ancient Chinese Qin dynasty, upon seeing a deer, fatuously said ba instead of ka, and was the first to have earned himself the nickname baka” Read the rest of this entry »

Why do Japanese TV and newspapers usually show the pronunciation as well as the kanji of Korean names but only the kanji of Chinese names?

Famous historic Chinese figures etc are usually known by the Japanese pronunciation of their names, so showing the names’ Chinese pron would only confuse people. There is also the fact that Chinese names have various pronunciations for the same kanji depending on whether you are speaking Cantonese, Mandarin etc, which is not a problem in Korean

Jpnstat of the day

Why are the Japanese so reluctant to help strangers having trouble in the train or on the street?

I’ve never been able to find a satisfactory explanation for this in a book about Japan, but I did find a decent candidate in Foreign Babes in Beijing. It says that hospitals are likely to hold even strangers who take someone to hospital responsible for the costs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the police use the fact you are close as a convenient excuse to get their arrest rates up either. As Japan spent more of the last 400 years as an efficient police state than China has, I think that there’s a good chance if it has the same roots in Japan

Why do Japanese companies have a reputation for being more interested in market share than profit?

It’s a natural reaction to an economy that grows rapidly for 30 years- if the market and your competitors grow and you don’t, you basically disappear. As predicted by this theory, businesses have been much more interested in the bottom line since the growth finished. In other words, despite what 90% of books about Japan say, there is nothing special about Japan in this case. The same is true of China now and was true of America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why did the WWII Japanese caricature always have bucked teeth?

This is an odd one, because although Japanese teeth are just as bad as British teeth, bucked teeth doesn’t particularly stand out as a problem. I’m sure someone could write/ has written a whole PhD thesis on this, but here are my theories: That classic Eastern racist anti-hero Fu Man Chu was always portrayed with bucked teeth long before Japan became the biggest yellow peril, so it could have been transferred straight from the Chinese as the Japanese became the biggest threat both in California and in the Pacific. Alternatively, it could have started as a caricature of one particular person that then spread. The whole fact that teeth was such a factor could be due to the caricature coming from America, home of the good teeth obsession.

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