Before I began writing on this topic, I had momentary hesitation about writing it under the topic history or Japanese. History is not my forte so the decision was made pretty soon. Then I thought about Japanese as being a language, a race or a culture or simply all things Japanese.
I did take a general course in Japanese language in my 1st year of undergraduate studies in University of Toronto. That was an interesting yet the hardest (or one that commands your full attention and time) one to master. A language is not a simple subject and Japanese has to be one of the most complicated of all the languages in the world (other than Chinese and possibly Korean and many of the East Asian languages). However, my passion about Japan took me through the entire course. I decided then that learning Japanese in Canada is just not the way to do it. So, after I graduated I began to venture abroad, i.e. to Japan on many occasions, so much so that I went almost every season of the year for about 7 or 8 years. Alas, that didn’t do the trick either. So, I’m wondering if one day I’d be lucky enough to stay in the country and pick up the language in the process! As you well know, Japan is one of the most expensive countries to live in! I’d have to strike jackpot to do so!
Japanese as a language
Learning Japanese is a little easier for the Chinese who knows Kanji. As we all know, there are plenty of overseas Chinese who don’t even speak Chinese, let alone know the Chinese characters. I was fortunate in that my parents believed in providing their children education in Chinese (at least a working knowledge of, if not the entire vocabulary). Well, that has to do with their higher education in Taiwan. Hence, it is imperative that we the children know Mandarin. So, I began to learn Chinese Language at the age of 10. That wasn’t an easy task either. Nonetheless, I went through the pains many years ago, just like I did the English Language. Japanese is actually my 4th language. One I took when I was almost an adult, at 18. 8 years later is a great deal when it comes to learning a language. Futhermore, as I can’t stress enough, if there is a language you’ve to learn as an adult, don’t pick Japanese. It’s not for the faint-hearted!
Japanese is complicated. There are 3 types of writing you’d have to learn.
Kanji: Somewhat the same or at least v. similar to the Chinese characters. Kanji literally translates to Chinese characters (漢字)
Hiragana: Japanese basic way of writing for most verbs and words
Katakana: Japanese writing of words that usually originated from the western world which sounded similar to English. For example, the writing of Cheese in Katakana when pronounced sounded similar to cheese but is not written in English.
For these, you can be guaranteed that you’d have some thousands of words to learn and to write, at the least. Not just a mere 26 syllables!
Ok, that’s about all I’m going to touch on Japanese as a language. It’s a reasonable dry subject as far as I’m concerned. Using a language as a working language is a lot more interesting. That translates to having interactions with the Japanese naturally.
Japanese as a race Well, what can I say? Due to the nature and course of history, the Chinese and the Japanese were great enemies in World War II. That translates to a great deal of tension between these 2 races. I’m born a Chinese but (luckily for me, that’s the way I choose to see it) I wasn’t born in China and I was bestowed with kindness from many Japanese whom I’ve come across during my years of travels. Hence, in my own personal reality, Japanese are not people whom I’m born to hate. Neither had my ancestors or parents been subjected to cruelty from the Japanese. Hence, I was able to see the Japanese as simply another world citizen (not monsters)!
I think if we as people want to live peacefully ourselves, we’ll have to see past history. Naturally, it is easier said than done and especially impossible if you have been subjected to cruelty yourselves. In that sense, everyone has a different reality. Wars have a way of corrupting reality and changing people. At best, I’ll blame it all on the politicians who started it all! Let’s not start on war, it’s another subject that warrant closer look and I simply don’t know enough or have experiences enough to discuss it. Hopefully, never!
Japanese as a race is an interesting one. It is exotic and interesting to see the way a Japanese would think, live and interact with outsiders and foreigners. I’ve always been fascinated by anything and everything Japanese so much so many just claimed that I must have been a Japanese in my previous life! I used to comment that I’m Japanese by taste, Chinese by look and Western by thought. Yes, I have a great and inexhaustible taste for everything Japanese. Japanese food, Japanese décor, Japanese products and Japanese clothing! Lucky me, isn’t it? I won’t have problem fitting into the Japanese society! Now, let’s get me a Japanese boyfriend, LOL!
Well, from what I’ve heard from my Japanese friend, Japanese boyfriend not! Men in Japan are quite hard to “serve”, I’ve been told. They are demanding and also extremely egoistic. That’s why many Japanese women love to date Westerners instead. That’s just what they said. I don’t know the Japanese on such a personal level to attest to that. So, DON’T take my word for it! We do know that equality is something that’s almost non-existence in Japan though. Naturally, there are versions of how true that is. Afterall, women in Japan have total freedom in that you see them traveling in groups and also solo to faraway places like the Middle East and South America. I believe they do have freedom of movement and also thought. The only thing that’s lacking for the Japanese lady is equal opportunities in the work arena. You could hardly see any Japanese woman as CEOs or actively involving themselves in Politics. Hence, in that sense, it is uniquely Japanese.
Japanese Culture Japanese culture is truly exotic as far as I’m concerned. Just take a look at the number of shrines, the tea ceremony (as opposed to tea party ;-)) and the kimono that Japanese still adorn these days. They are the one and only in the world. Japanese has a lot of things that are culturally distinctively theirs alone. No one in the world practice the same rituals or ceremonies. Highly interesting to observe for us foreigners.
In addition, not only are the Japanese able to keep and preserve what’s from the past, they are able to recreate new styles and then evolving that into a new culture that’s unique theirs. One simply has to go to Harajuku and Shibuya to know what I’m referring to. Japanese has a great sense of style and one that cannot be replicated elsewhere without being credited as typically Japanese. That is what makes the Japanese such an interesting race to most of the Asians and possibly also the Westerners.
Japanese culture is not one that’s open and does not encourage integration with the rest of the world. Japanese, although advanced in many ways and areas, is not one that takes to the world easily (other than Apple products, that is). Japanese has its own culture when it comes to technology. It even has its own system when it comes to the mobile phones!
One thing I do love about the Japanese culture is that Japanese makes full use of resources and bits and pieces of history. One can see how well the Japanese integrate an architecture from centuries ago with the high-tech skysrapers of today. You see that in no apparent manner more so elsewhere than in Japan! Japan takes pride in its own culture more than anywhere else too!
Japanese as a culture is proud of itself and it has reasons to be proud too! That is what is so great about a country and a race. It’d be great if every nation on this planet feels the same about their countries as the Japanese do! The Japanese are so loyal to their own country and race that they almost live in a world of their own!
(A Lunch Featured Review)
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About the reviewer
I'm a traveler at heart & have been nicknamed Travel Queen by friends & colleagues alike. Traveling has been my life passion for the last decade or so. As we enter a new decade, I'm excited … more
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