We’ll be visiting Japan in about 3 weeks. This is exciting.
Among all foreign countries that we haven’t been, Japan is the one that I love and hate the most, find the most similarities and extreme differences, really want to visit and at the same time desperately trying to avoid.
It was, after all, an enemy in war against both my countries. Like what Germany did to the Jews, Japan had left a pretty serious scar in the Chinese community. If either of my grandpas were still alive, they might be enraged at the idea of setting foot on the Japanese soil. Both my grandmas can probably name friends or family who fell victim to the Japanese imperial army, just hardly mention it. Many in our parents’ generation still hate the land of rising sun with passion. I try to remain rational, but it’s hard to say whether leaving all the past behind is at all rational.
On the other hand, time, and commercialism, did loosen things up. I grew up watching Japanese anime and reading Japanese comics, constantly under a guilt trap by my mom as unpatriotic. Now I take pictures with my third Japanese camera, go places in my second Japanese car, and can’t imagine replacing them with a “patriotic” American brand. My free time at home is spent between Sony’s PS3 and Nintendo’s Wii, which would not have been possible without the “dwarf pirates” as my ancestors called them.
When I read about the Nagoya Castle being destroyed in a WW2 air raid, I was both excited about “our” victory in the war and sad that the original building is there no more for us to visit. When I finally set foot outside Narita Airport, I know a picture of Detective Conan will light up in my right brain and a page from the history textbook will go through my left. What a complex!
The Chinese shaped the traditional Japanese culture. What most White people identify today as Japanese are in fact a direct copy a a derivation from original Chinese inventions. Kimono, origami, chopsticks, green tea, calligraphy, ramen, and the three wise monkeys are all on that list (exceptions include ninjas and sushi). Kyoto, the most “traditional” Japanese city, is modeled after the capital of China 1,000 years ago, from the design of sliding door panels to the city grid layout. From a certain aspect, for a Chinese person to admire the traditional Japan is like for a Mac person to admire Microsoft Windows, which originally had been accused of stealing Apple’s graphical windows interface.
On the other hand, the Japanese has had heavy influence in modern history on most East and Southeast Asian countries, including Taiwan. All my siblings and friends grew up with Gundam, wataru, Street Fighter, Final Fantasy, and Megaman. Our school and medical systems were adopted from them, our streets are filled with Japanese-styled stores and sales gimmicks, and every street corner has a 7-Eleven that sells some Japanese food items.
The love-hate feeling has always been a subconscious struggle of mine, and undoubtedly shared by many others. To avoid confronting the irony in this relationship, I limit my exposure to their language, history, and customs, regardless how heavily they are referenced in my favorite manga and games. The plan to tour Japan has finally brought me to face this country and its culture, something I desperately look forward to but would never honestly admit.
More posts to come!