Wednesday, February 27, 2013

(OT) Real Communication Between a Japanese and an American, 110 Years Ago

Excellent repartee by Tenshin Okakura, when an young American made fun of him and his group walking about in traditional Japanese outfit in 1903 Boston, as recounted in the Japanese wikipedia entry of Okakura:

Young man: "What sort of nese are you people? Are you Chinese, or Japanese, or Javanese?"

Okakura: "We are Japanese gentlemen. But what kind of key are you? Are you a Yankee, or a donkey, or a monkey?"

Okakura was a famous art critic and philosopher who was instrumental in preserving pre-Meiji Japanese arts that were being thrown away at a furious pace after the Meiji Restoration, but I just learned that he also wrote a book in English on tea, titled "The Book of Tea". The book was first published in 1906, and it is still sold today.


JAnonymous said...

Indeed, this reminds me of a discussion I had recently about recent political figures.

If you look at past political figures (and their speeches) the overall language level was much higher, and so were the answers they would provide on the spot.

Recently, more often than not, political figures (and especially presidents : sarkozy and obama to name two examples) tend to use rude or vulgar terms when embarrassed, instead of the kind of brilliant repartee that you posted here.

Watch one going down history as the guy who said "He *is* a jackass" and the other as the one who said "How can one be fascinated by those fights of obese guys with Brylcreemed buns?" (huffpo translation)

Anonymous said...

FAnonymous said :
Sarkozy is famous for his :,_pauv%27_con_!
But his stupid words on Sumo were attacking Jacques Chirac, then President, that he was challenging.
Chirac loved Japan ( a bit too much ), saké, Sumo...
Never meant to offense Japan or Sumo.
These mistakes in communication, along with others, made him defeated.

Anonymous said...

FAnomymous here again,

François Hollande - who defeated the clumsy Japan-ignoring Sarkozy, made a micro-earthquake at the Paris Agriculture Show ( a very big event here ) and had his "Andy Warhol" 15 minutes of fame - or shame. A little girl asked him "What about Mr Sarkozy ?" and he answered "Sarkozy, you won't see him anylonger !"
In loops on TVs.
Now prehistoric.

Hélios said...

The equivalent of 125,000 lethal doses of cyanide leaked from a factory in Japan after a snowplough accident, a plant operator said Wednesday. At least five tonnes of liquid waste containing sodium cyanide spewed out of a tank after it was hit by a snowplough at a plating factory run by Kurosaka Plating Co. in Hanamaki, northern Japan, on Tuesday, a company official said. One litre of the toxic liquid waste, used to remove nickel plating from surfaces, is enough to kill 25 people, the official said. The leak occurred when workers were trying to remove piles of snow from the site, which has seen severe winter weather over the last week, and damaged a valve on the tank in which the chemical was stored.

"Fortunately, snow absorbed most of the liquid and we have been able to collect the contaminated snow," the official said. "The leak has not reached a nearby river and we have not received any reports of impact on people." Cyanide in various compounds has been used for suicides and murders, both real and fictional, over the last century. Ian Fleming's fictional 00 agents were issued with cyanide capsules for use in the event of capture, although cinematic hero James Bond is said to have thrown his away. Hydrogen cyanide was used by the Nazis for mass exterminations in some gas chambers during World War II and a number of senior Nazis used the poison to commit suicide.

Anonymous said...

That "nese" thing never gets old, huh. Kids were always doing it when I was in school.

Anonymous said...

the young american guy might have had no bad intention whatsoever. He could have very well simply been interested in communicating with the Japanese gentleman. He was not using an evovled language formulation to address the Japanese, but was it his intention to insult him or was he simply casual and friendly? If so, shame on the Japanese person who paranoying and immediatly insults the poor young american guy. How many times have Japanese missunderstood me in Japan simply because of their lack of cultural sensitity and knowledge. They felt insulted but by no mean was I insulting them. However their reaction was not always respectful.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 7:20PM, if you are on the receiving end of "nese" comment, you would see it's a ridicule. I have been on the receiving end in France, in Germany, other continental European countries. It's always a male, youngish. "Hello, are you Chinese, or Japanese?" giggle giggle. Casual and friendly? Sure. Half of these men want to pick up an easy Asian girl.

Anonymous said...

Well said 8:47! It's a problem of 'the Other'. Just keep going though, you're understanding of language & culture is great and not ALL europeans are bad either. But it takes time.
LoveThe Book Of Tea btw. Guy was a dude!

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