“Damn Japanese pop culture for corrupting youth worldwide!”
Imagine hearing this from someone. No wait, imagine hearing this from your father. A father who is Chinese. A Chinese man who lost family and friends to Japanese soldiers when they invaded China in the early part of the 20th century. Hell, you can apply this to any Chinese person born in China and over the age of 50. This is basically what can happen if you are a Chinese otaku and you have family who have been suffered at the hands of the Japanese. It is a very unique situation to be in and one that requires patience and perseverance to weather any political storms that rain down on your passion for Japanese goodies.
A week ago, I was working out while watching Japanese music videos on YouTube via my PS3. I decided to play the official MV for Kylee's “Daisuki Nano ni” (the 2nd OP for Blast of Tempest). My mother made a snarky comment about whether I actually understood what she was singing. I told her that I knew. She then said “You know, the Japanese killed a lot of Chinese.” I said “I know that...” Then my dad goes “They killed our family members and friends!” and he goes on to say the quote stated above. This wasn't the first time he said it, as many years ago while the anime/manga boom in the U.S. was happening, he stated that young people really are ignorant about the “true nature” of the Japanese.
Another scary moment was while I was watching Episode 44 of Naruto SD and I hear Bee rapping “Baka yaro, kono yaro!” My mom asked why he was cursing. That reminded me of what my dad told me a while back. He said that Japanese soldiers kept cursing at his relatives those words while they were being chased. I don't know how I felt since I might have brought up past memories. My mother was alright though. She later me told my aunt went through hell back in the 1940s' as my grandmother and her were hiding from Japanese soldiers. My grandmother was told to leave my aunt behind, but she refused to do so. Both were safe in the end. However, my grandmother suffered injuries that would last until her death.
For those who don't follow Japan's history, Japan and China do not exactly get along very well. From the first Sino-Japanese War in the late 1800s' to the Rape of Nanking back in the 1930s' to the Senkaku Islands incident today, there is a great deal of tension between the two. My mother told me that the biggest problem is that Japan hasn't really apologized for their past actions towards the Chinese. Another issue is that China feels that literally everyone that is Japanese is pretty much a monster. This is why nationalism is a huge problem. It just dilutes one's thinking and just plays to what that person secretly wants to hear. Nationalism preys on the insecurities of the human mind. It's always safe to be in that “comfort zone” of hating something you don't actually like. The China/Japan relationship is a great example of an arranged marriage, something that Asian countries are well-known for.
What's funny is that I feel my dad could have been an otaku if he was born in a different time. He watched an episode of Sailor Moon S on TVB with me and he was in awe of the Moon Sceptre. My dad even said “Wow, that must be really powerful!” The thing is that the number of Chinese otaku is greatly rising. Hell, boys' love is extremely popular in China. Look at what certain fujoshi did with Gintama by making a fanmade otome game! And let's not forget this lovable drink they came up with. The Great Firewall of China hasn't stopped otaku from expressing themselves. Thank their sane minds for not letting politics corrupt them and their creativity.
About three years ago, my family and I went to visit China. My parents decided to re-visit their home village of Guangzhou (where I found some anime stores like the one in the picture above). They later complained about how different it was and absolutely hated the pollution. It didn't really feel like home to them anymore. My parents began to dislike certain things about China. Back to the tense conversation I had with them, I told the two that I don't like everything about Japan. I hate the fact the country is xenophobic, very misogynistic, risk-averse in a world of globalization, and has little opportunities for entrepreneurs. Yes, Japanese pop culture is awesome, but people really need to understand that the actions of a few do not reflect the actions of many.
Maybe the one thing that has kept my parents from not blasting me for loving Japanese pop culture was empathy. They understand why I love it so much. My parents may not like it, but at least they respected my desires to a great degree. I will always respect them for going through so much crap to give me life and a home that was safe and nurturing. I understand why they both still have some resentment towards the Japanese. No one wants unnecessary death to happen around them. I really hate it if someone seriously hurts the people I care about. My parents just wanted me to know that there's always good and bad things about people, places, and things.
So, to anyone who's an Asian otaku and has relatives who have been through tragedy because of Japan in the past, have there been any tense moments between you and your family? How have you handled them? Did they end well? I'm curious to know about your experiences as it doesn't look like the China x Japan ship is going to sail on course for a long time. Sadly, Hetalia is not real life.
I wonder, as Nooj from Final Fantasy X-2 once said, will knowledge of the past, with regards to Japan, be the key to a future where cutural gaps will shorten?
Article Image Thumbnail Source: Thailand-san's Photobucket; Image © Tony Yao.
Tony Yao has been an avid fan of Japanese pop culture since junior high school. He blogs about the psychological aspects of anime/manga/video games at Manga Therapy. In his spare time, he enjoys exercising, watching sports, hanging out with friends, eating, a lot of sleeping, and obsessing over his favorite anime/manga series, Gintama.
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