Monday, June 7, 2010

Random thoughts.

I was talking to Jess the other day, and confessed that something rather stupid had just occurred to me. I realized that I had never seen a stop sign in Japan. She thought this was weird, as they definitely have stop signs in Korea, and as far as I can recall, they had them in China too. Of course in Korea they have 정지('jeong ji', yah, I can read Korean now guys. eat it. its approximately one billion times easier than Japanese) in China they have 停 ('tíng', though I couldn't read that in Chinese. I'm maybe vaguely familiar with the uncommon Japanese kanji which is the same, but pronounced 'toma'). Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, etc, all the countries I've been to have this common feature, a big red octagonal sign with STOP and/or their preferred localization on it in white typeface.

But I don't recall seeing these anywhere during my extensive travels of Japan.

The Japanese stop sign. (Tomare, for those who can't read. The e is an é (accent aigu) sound.)

Well, turns out the brain is a rather stupid organ. I've probably seen this sign about a billion times here, but it never clicked in my mind that it was a stop sign, even though I'm completely capable of reading the Japanese on it. The reason? Its a triangle. Come on, Japan. The rest of the world adopts a standard octagon, and you've got to go and screw things up for everyone. If I ever had to drive a car in Japan, I'd be up shit creek. No wonder Sony does the shit they do.

This is definitely an over reaction, but whatever. Now that I know that this sign exists, I see it everywhere.

On a similar topic, there seems to be this strange prevailing craziness among Japanese and Koreans (and perhaps others - Chinamen please comment). Whenever referred to in writing and very often in speech, the colour of the "Go" light of a traffic light is always referred to as "the BLUE light". Jess first told me this and it blew my mind, as apparently it was a region-dependent thing or something (Busan vs. Seoul). Then I talked to a Japanese friend of mine who told me that it was a blue light in Japan, too. He didn't seem to understand when the group of gaijins around him was like "Yoichi, its obviously a green light. Not blue."

Turns out the Japanese only invented the colour green in the Heian period. And they only started teaching kids to tell the difference between Green and Blue starting after World War 2. Forever it seems, all shades of green were always seen as simply more shades for blue. So the "Green" light can be generally referred to as the "Blue" light. The word "midori" for green has a kanji (緑), but apparently its almost always substituted with ao, for blue (青). Koreans have the same mild delusion it seems. Maybe something the Japanese left over there after their 30 year occupation of Korea.

This seems pretty insane to me, but I suppose the delineations in our colour wheel are mostly artificial... aren't they? I remember reading somewhere that the human eye is most sensitive to the colour green, which is why image sensors in cameras usually automatically process with a 4-colour filter, RGBE (red, green, blue, emerald). This must have something to do with the cone cells in your eye, I feel like red, green and blue are the only colours actually picked up, with green being the most sensitive. Kinda weird to ignore a primary colour, Japan.

The moon as seen from Japan.

In other news, the predominant opinion is that the sun is red here (as it is in the flag), and that the moon is yellow. Like cheese. Cheddar cheese. Crazy Nipponese.

Okay one more tangent that just occurred to me. I was waiting for a TG/Mass result the other day, and so I started reading up on the Second Sino-Japanese war and the conflict between China and Japan during WWII.

I have a little exercise for you guys. Without Googling or Wikiing or anything like that, take a while guess as to the number of Chinese killed during WWII. Also make note that most - if not all - of the conflict entered by the Chinese was against the Japanese. You can record your guess as a comment, even though you're about to be given the actual answer.

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I don't want your peripheral vision to see the number of zeros below.


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Mickey's estimation was ridiculously low, some number measured in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. Try this on for size: estimates start at around 10 000 000 civilian deaths and 4 000 000 military deaths. Thats 14 000 000 people. The Chinese claim it was over 20 000 000 deaths, with total casualties (dead and wounded) at over 35 000 000. At one time Japan had overtaken Shanghai and the then-capital of China, Nanching, forcing the Chinese government to move a wartime capital to Chongqing. Yah, in the 1940s, Japan ruled Shanghai. The Chinese defended Shanghai to the last as they felt it was a symbol of Chinese civilization to the west, and hoped that the Allies would intervene and help them out. Of course the Americans didn't lift a finger other than promising "spiritual support" until Pearl Harbour happened. How did I not know this? I feel woefully ignorant of the far-Eastern campaign of WWII. Some of the acts mentioned in the Nanching Massacre Wikipedia article are mind blasting and far too vulgar to be uttered here. Imperial Japan was full of seriously, crazy psychopathic dicks, it seems.

Its what happens when a race has a superiority complex which reduces another group in their eyes to something less than human. For Nazi Germany, it was the Jews' inferiority (and Poles, gypsies, Slavs, etc) and the Holocaust. For Japan, this second, arguably more deadly holocaust against the Chinese (and to a lesser extent the Koreans, and Pacific islanders, not to mention the American POWs) was caused not by hate of the Chinese, but by superiority felt by Imperial Japan over everyone else. At the time the Japanese Empire hoped to achieve 八紘一宇 (or 'hakkoo ichiu', eight corners [of the earth], one roof), a Japanese dominion over the peoples of the world. Yah, the Germans wanted to be uber alles, but the viscousness and racism and depravity demonstrated by Imperial Japan seems to have fallen to the wayside, at least in my experience.

I could totally let bygones be bygones if they didn't still have these xenophobic and racist undertones in their cultural psyche.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I should hate Japanese people after reading this, haha.

    As for green and blue for traffic signals or colour in general. I have no idea since I'm not Chinese enough, haha.

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