Friday, July 15, 2011

Ok, normally I would be against racial profiling...

If you look carefully, you can see him spitting
This morning, as I was making my merry way to the new office from the subway station I was very surprised to see the way packed with people standing in line for some sale or opening of a new one of the big Japanese electronic stuff store (can't remember if it was BicCamera, Yamada, Yodobashi or whatnot, doesn't really matter though).

I basically had to elbow my way against the tide and from the look of the people it seemed like a mix of mostly Japanese but also a quite significant number of Chinese tourists looking to spend some cash on Japanese electronics. I guess this means that nuclear scare that washed over the rest of Asia has calmed down now and they're coming back to pour their needed money into the limp Japanese economy.

To try and keep some form of order, employees of the store were spread out with a few meters distance with signs pointing in the right direction for the crowd to move in (not that it was moving an inch as far as I could see). But what I found quite amusing was that among the directional signs were also one employee with a sign saying "Please do not spit on the ground", first in Japanese and then under it in Chinese. The thing though is that basically noone spits here in Japan (apart from rebellious kids and Yakuza/Yakuza-wannabees and they very well know that it's not perceived as a nice thing to do) while it's more or less normal in many other Asian countries obviously including China (but to be fair, I haven't seen it in Singapore or Hong Kong and feel a bit unsure about Taiwan).

Ok, I have to give it to them, they did a real effort in not pointing anyone out by having it written in Japanese first, followed by Chinese. A sensitivity that I've rarely seen anywhere else, but I also have the feeling that in this particular case, they might as well had it just in Chinese...

9 comments:

BiggerInJapan said...

ooooh, Salaryman, you are *such* a city-boy. You should come over to my little countryside, where the locals will teach you how a REAL Japanese deals with the flumes in his throat.

Martin said...

Ja, jädra trottoar-japan!

Chris said...

No English??

I'd be eating chunks of wasabi and spitting my snorts everywhere next to the wannabe Yakz. ;)

canthushme said...

Ahhh maybe you didn´t noticed that there were packed Yakuza in the crowd :D

But I have to be honest here also, a lot of people smoke in CHiba and in the rest of Japan, so did I...and I rememeber watching a couple of guys, normal dudes spitting the thick saliba from smoking in Tokyo Disney

Eva said...

Well I'm pretty sure that they meant the China chinese... especially the old generation. Oh wait, I did notice a young lad who spat on his way out of Waseda university, not sure which country he is from or is he a Japanese, but I responded soon with a loud "EWWW" behind...

mukuge said...

oh, man. A few words on the signs:

1. Assuming a normal level of sunshineness when the event took place, it's "kinda logical" to use Japanese first, then Chinese. Like in France, it's French first, then English. Or in Norway, Norwegian then Danish/Swedish (you see, neighbouring countries like to bicker.) Although, having said that, the my-language-first-then-yours phenomenon would take place in major railway stations instead of a camera store...

2. If whoever put the sign in the first place wanted to say, "hell we're superior", then he (she being unlikely) should've just forego the second line in Chinese anyway, and cram in as much kanji as possible. Any Chinese person should be able to deduce the meaning that way.

Verdict: a bit of ink was wasted.

Abby said...

lol! That's quite tactful. I'm currently living in Hong kong. What I've noticed here is that they just write signs like that (eg "Please line up.") in simplified Chinese (which is used in mainland China), whereas normal signs are usually in both English and traditional Chinese (which is used in Hong Kong)...

XL said...

Dear Mr. Salaryman:

I have been enjoying most of your insightful blogs about Japan, but am not particularly fond of this one because of its implication that Chinese should be racially profiled as disgustingly-spit-whenever-wherever-he-wants. I was born and raised in one of the biggest city in China. As a pupil in primary school, to recite a list of "Dos and Donts" was one of the many hideous things i hated. As stupid as this reciting was, "to not to spit in public places" was on top of that list. Any well educated kid would frown upon those who does it. Well, there are indeed people who do it anyways, but it is the case for each and every country, and mostly those are the people who are engaged with heavy physical work or are used to be in the wild -- may it be the nice country fellas from Japan, cowboys from US or Jaegers from Bavaria. Yes, China has a bigger rural population, and yes they behave differently from people who come from the city like you or me. And just because this universal issue is enlarged by its quantity, you made an exception to make racial profiling OK... It renders my previous impression of you being a sophisticated and open-minded blogger very much colorless.

Sincerely Yours
An Avid Reader from Germany

Mr. Salaryman said...

XL - Hi there! Usually I never get around to answer stuff on old posts, but since you seem to put some effort into it I think you deserve some form of reply.

First thing is; try to relax a bit, I often have titles and slants on stuff that might be slightly provocative for some people, but it's not ill-spirited.

Secondly, and I think you agree with me here, different countries and places have different cultures. Some local customs might seem offensive, annoying and/or disgusting to people not from said culture. This is the way that the world looks like and you can see some posts on me commenting on American, Swedish and French culture here in the blog (which also managed to offend a few people). My general stance is that if a custom is not hurting anyone, I'm not putting any judgement over it although I might have my own personal opinion and reaction to it.

Thirdly, I don't believe that Chinese people (or Japanese or Swedes for that matter) are born to behave in a certain way as I don't believe that race is what makes the person - it's all about the environment and the culture that the person grows up in. Just to make it completely clear that I don't think this is a "race thing".

Seriously, there are a LOT worse things that could be done than spitting a little on the street.

Also, if it makes you feel any better I can tell you that I can get really annoyed by loud Americans commenting people around them in English thinking that no one will understand, and oh, the Europeans on vacation speaking loudly on their mobile phones when visiting, just like they do at home.

Oh, and finally, I don't think spitting is a big "issue" or problem for that matter, but there's a time and a place... ;)

Thanks for reading and hope you understand where I'm coming from with this post.

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