Tuesday, September 6, 2005



I don't know whether it was the client or tattooist's idea to give a little "artistic flare". After all, who wants just a plain boring "healthy" to be tattooed in English? Unfortunately, they have done a pretty bad job and the tattooed character is missing several strokes.


  1. Tian,

    While I respect your right to seek financial compensation by allowing advertisers to post banners on your site, I have to question whether your selected advertiser sort of undermines the main purpose of this site.

    The "Jlist" company that advertises on your site seems to sell various products targeted at Japan-o-philes, thereby exploiting and perpetuating modern forms of "orientalism" or exoticism.

    I mean, if one of the central tenets of the site is that it's just plain silly to think of Chinese characters as cool or exotic simply because it's different and something most Westerners can't understand, and more importantly, that it's demeaning or degrading to Asian cultures in general to do so, then I'm forced to say that it seems contradictory (at least, to me) to allow a company like Jlist to advertise on your site.

    Just a thought.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Due to Hanzi Smatter's increasing popularity, I had to seek sponsorship to pay for hosting and bandwidth cost.

    Although Jlist may be a company that caters to japan-o-philes, especially with the wacky Japanese phrase t-shirts. The one biggest difference between Jlist and other similar companies is that all Jlist's products are 100% correct.

    Therefore, customers would not feel embarrassed and second-guess if their t-shirts have incorrect Japanese phrase on them.

  3. In addition, Peter Payne, the owner of JList, works very hard to demystify and teach about Japanese culture to Americans and visa versa. He encourages people to take college language classes and has a thrice weekly newsletter that slays myths and misconceptions about Japanese culture. He has been a Japanese citizen for many years and is uniquely qualified to act as a bridge both ways to "deglamourize" and make real each other's cultures.

    There are plenty of targets out there guilty of riding the "Anything Asian is Cool!" train merely for profit, but Peter is certainly not one. He focuses on things not available in either country, by importing Kraft macaroni and cheese, cases of root beer and dill pickles to Japan and Japanese Star Trek figures, seasonal Pocky and dating sims to America.

    He is a running a for-profit company, so he does carry what "Japan-o-philes" want, but he also works to educate the portion of his audience who will listen.

  4. I learned a bit about Japanese culture by subscribing to J-List's weekly emails. Before the product part Peter explains some aspects of Japanese culture he found interesting.

  5. People in Malaysia think of animes like Sailormoon as being little-kid stuff -- I was very surprised to discover their popularity when I spent a couple of years of high school in Illinois. My Japanese roommate tells me that most of the manga and anime series popular with college students and adults here (in the US) are high-school level, and the more sophisticated/interesting series aren't available in English translation. How come people here go for the kiddy material?

  6. Blimey, just visited J-List's website. Since when is xenophobia (one shirt says: "no foreigners allowed") and romanticising Japan's fascist imperial past cool?

    Tian, when are you going to allow neo-Nazi merchandisers access to your adspace? I'm sure they'd also find a way to market it 'tongue-in-cheek'.

    "Check out our fashionable Juden Raus! black hooded sweatshirt... Authentically written in blackletter type, this popular item is IN STOCK."

    J-List: how about a hip t-shirt with Japanese soldiers posing over dead bodies with some scenery and the headline: GREETINGS FROM NANKING!


  7. Dear Anonymous,

    I am having difficulty understanding the logic in your last comment.

    Neither Peter Payne of Jlist or myself advicate any political associations with Far Right Wing organizations nor their ideology.

    I personally find your accusation false and lacks merit, and frankly very offensive.

    Having said that, you are entitled to your opinion.

  8. That other Anon is probably just some happy little Chinese servant of the CCP, angry that Japan gets any recognition at all.

    Plus he lacks any sense of irony or humor.

    Also, if you think that shit's bad, come to East Asia mate. There's a shitload of stuff over this part of the world that glorifies Hitler and Nazism. He's actually admired as a "strong leader." There are fucking swastikas and nazi paraphernalia all over the place and no-one local seems to even realize.

    So basically what I'm saying is you're an idiot Anon.

  9. "Blimey, just visited J-List's website. Since when is xenophobia (one shirt says: "no foreigners allowed") and romanticising Japan's fascist imperial past cool?"

    Context. These shirts will be worn by non-Japanese in Japan or countries other than Japan. A non-Japanese wearing a shirt like "kichiku beihei- dirty (American GI) devil", which is an expression so far out of date as to be unusable in modern Japan, is hardly going to romanticize WWII era Japan. Something like this or "Revere the emperor, expell the barbarian" is just a historical curiosity for those in the know. It's so passe as to not be political any longer.

    Shirts which read watch out for foreign criminals, Japan is a divine country, or send the sangokujin back home, would be offensive and have political meaning in Japan. J-list doesn't make those and wouldn't.


  10. Tian,

    Granted, Jlist may have merchandise that are "correct" linguistically, but what I was pointing out was that the larger political implications of a site like yours (which I assumed up until now was that Western exoticism in any form, be it language, sexual, cultural, etc., was dangerous and mutually destructive) was being undermined by the larger impact of Jlist merchandise.

    I don't pretend to know of Jlist's owner's good intentions, but a cursory glance at the materials seems largely dedicated to Japanese pornography (which is another whole argument there -- I won't delve into that).

    Just to clarify my confusion at the disparity between Jlist's intentions versus products, I'd like to propose the following thought experiment. Suppose I sold American pornography centered around college sorority girls to Japan. On one hand, I'm selling these materials showing sorority girls as rabid, depraved nymphos, but on the other hand I'm sending out newsletters saying, no, they're not all sluts, in fact, they're quite smart. My own personal opinion is that teaching about and respecting other cultures through these means isn't particularly effective, and I have a feeling that "respect" isn't a large factor.

    But this is all moot if your site's only purpose is linguistic, with no other larger project at hand. In that case, my question/observation about Jlist loses any relevance, since it isn't content or politics that are the issue, it's merely form.

    However, if that's true, one could argue that Hanzismatter.com would have no objection to any content no matter how ridiculous, demeaning, or vile, as long as it's grammatically and semantically correct.

    I would like to say that I am a fan of the site, and thought it was a nice foil for sites like engrish.com, which seemed to have a "Look at these dumb Asians, we're so much smarter than them" feel to it.

    Again, this is one person's opinion, take it for what you will.

  11. the artwork in that one is pretty good, looks like it was chiseled in stone.

  12. Pornography is an important part of Japanese culture and J-List sells pornography intended for the Japanese market, not Asian-themed western porn. It's depraved and disrespectful in a different way.

  13. Being interested in another culture, be it oriental interested in western ways, or vis-versa I don't see how anyone can find that disrespectfull.

    Oriental advertising is containing more and more english words, I suppose I should be offended by it, because most of the time they are doing it to be hip and cool, its a 2 way street.

    Sites like this however I appreciate, shows how easy it is to make a mistake and that you can quite easily do some research.

  14. To the first Anonymous, you can get only so upset about "exploiting and perpetuating modern orientalism or exoticism".

    Is this any worse than 20 years ago when Americans didn't even give a crap about the difference between Japanese, Korean, and Chinese?

    Orientalism and exoticism IS superficial knowledge, but it's still knowledge. And take a look at East Asian knowledge of America and the West sometime. They seem so much more "in tune" with the West at first glance, but this is nothing more than Western Exoticism or "Westernism" if you will.

    Increased exoticism on both sides is just a by-product of increased globalization. The truth is that it is unlikely that any country, even ones as close as the US and Mexico will ever be able to look on one another except through the filtered glasses of "exoticism". It is part of our nature, and although to people who are interetsted in the truth behind a culture it is aggravating that the general population gets only a skewed perspective, it is also responsible for increased travel, tourism, better international relations, and other good things too. For every 100 new "Japan-o-philes" or "China-o-philes" out there you have increased awareness about Asia which leads to one more person who is truly interested in Asia and its people.

    At this point in history where globalization is still in its infancy, I think "beggars can't be choosers" is the most appropriate phrase. For now, in a time where even still most people have no mental concept of the difference between Japan, Korea, and China, any awareness is good awareness.

  15. "China-o-philes"