Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

The Apple Islands

September 24, 2012

I cracked up this morning when I came across this news article concerning Apple’s iOS6’s brand new inhouse maps software and the Senkaku Diaoyu fisticuffs going on between China and Japan.

Apple has been coming under fire for their new maps software being extremely inaccurate. Apple removed the old Google maps version (which worked a treat incidentally), as Google are becoming an increasingly large competitor in the phone market. Apple’s new map software actually performs quite well – utilising new high-speed vector graphics which allow panning without that annoying catch-up effect.

Anyhow, one of the inaccuracies relates specifically to these most hotly contested islands. Yes the islands are there…but in duplicate! I have absolutely no idea how the software could possibly do this, but it has mapped two identical sets of islands – one for for Japan 🙂

Who’d a thunk something so tense could be so easily solved? All that needs to happy now is to get someone from Dubai in to make this happen.

Twin Senkaku’s..or is that Twin Daioyu’s…

My island! Mine!!

September 17, 2012

Two things occurred today: I finally pulled my finger out and re-enrolled in Mandarin lessons, and I actually bothered to try and find the Senkaku (also known as Diaoyu) Islands on Google Maps.

Why did I try and find those islands I hear you ask? Well I was curious to see just how substantial these little islands were that are currently causing so much friction between China and Japan. But regardless of the importance of these islands specifically, it’s not like Japan and China need much provocation before they’re at each other’s throats. There’s a long history of bad blood between these two neighbours, thanks largely to Japanese brutality. Though it’s not just Japan that has thoroughly stamped on Chinese pride, England and many others have done more than enough damage there over the years.

However, getting back to the Senkaku Island’s issues – in a nutshell, both China and Japan are claiming ownership of this tiny (and I mean TINY) cluster of unoccupied islands just slightly North of Taiwan. In a move that has China seeing all kinds of red, Japan has cooly announced that they will be finalising the purchase of said islands from the current Japanese private owner. So what’s the deal with these islands? Apparently there are large reserves of oil to be found close by, effectively giving whoever owns the islands dibs on all the black goodies.

Now these islands are mere specks on the map. If I was in the business of handing out islands, I would probably give them to Taiwan as they’re effectively off-shoots of the Taiwanese island itself. Then again, they are also very close in proximity to the island chains that lead all the way up to the Japanese mainland.

What gets me though is the passion expressed as part of these protests. One can’t help but wonder if the words Diaoyu and Senkaku aren’t merely becoming public excuses for one race to hate the other. How many of these protesters actually know anything about these islands, let alone the reasons they’re in dispute? I would suspect very little. Living in a country that has no natural rivals or real enemy histories (no I’m not really counting the Japanese bombing of Darwin – I’m sure we did much worse to them), I can’t imagine specifically what it feels like, but I can imagine it wouldn’t take much to incite a bit of patriotism. Unfortunately in this country, patriotism is just a bit too scary close to boganism.


In other news I re-enrolled into Mandarin. Don’t let anyone tell you that learning a foreign language is easy – it’s hard, really, really hard. In fact I don’t think it’s the language itself that’s difficult, rather the vast reserves of motivation required to get you to continue with it. I find that I retain most things that I learn (particularly if I spend time studying it), but new stuff? That’s where the pain comes in. There’s a weird feeling of helplessness when presented with a new grammatical concept or vocabulary. In particular, I find myself putting up weird road blocks around certain subjects. For example the word school, study and students – I can simply never remember them! The amount of times in China we had to ask to be taken to our school….I just never knew the word – and still don’t! Well I do – but I just can never recall it.

I kid myself that I would like to learn some basic Korean and Japanese also…right after I’m done with Mandarin. When will that be? Never I expect.

Here we go again!

January 6, 2011

If there’s one thing that’s been easy for me lately, it’s neglecting my poor blog. One moment I’m all over it and then the next; in what feels like the blink of an eye, months have passed without an update. Not good!

2010, like so many years before it, came and went in the blink of an eye. 2010 for me was very much the year of the wedding. Having popped the question to my lovely girl in October of 2009, we finally tied the knot in November 2010. Between those points, practically every part of our day to day life felt like it was consumed by the wedding. Whether the physical organisations – to which I admit I played a somewhat minor part 😉 – to the anticipation.  Everything was wedding wedding wedding.

And when we weren’t thinking about wedding, all of our family and friends were. It was the main topic of conversation at birthdays and get-togethers until the point we just couldn’t wait to be done with it.

After what felt like forever, the wedding day did finally arrive, and in true Melbourne fashion it rained heavily all day. Thankfully that affected little, and if anything, only added an extra level of fun to the photos. The photographers always say that the clouded grey lighting only adds to the emotion, but whether that’s true or just a way to sympathise is unknown.

As we approached the wedding day, I was of the mind of simply wanting it to be done with, but on the day itself, I would have happily had it last twice as long as it did. We had a simply amazing day which I enjoyed so much more than I possibly could have guessed. Being surrounded by friends and family in a celebration of ourselves was an absolutely wonderful feeling, and one that will stay with me always.

On the night of the wedding we jetted off to Japan for our honeymoon in what may in hindsight have been not the best of ideas. Japan itself was amazing, but leaving on the night of the wedding? Not so good… We were absolutely dead tired and our flight left at around midnight. Trying to get to sleep on a plane for two people who can’t sleep on planes, was the equivalent of Chinese water torture. While we got there in the end, it was definitely not the most ideal start to our honeymoon!

And Japan…what a great country. I had to keep reminding myself that I was not in China. While there were definitely similarities between the two countries, they were also vastly different. I think simply being overseas again in an Asian dominant environment rekindled memories and feelings which I had not really experienced since. While I live in an Asian dominated town, and on a daily basis still feel in the minority being white, it’s a different feeling again doing it in another country.

In the next few weeks I hope to really write some of the things I experienced in Japan, particularly in regards to how for me it related back to China. I found the differences between Chinese and Japanese culture as interesting as the countries as themselves. And of course, I’ll put up some photos. Until then, sayonara, or is it simply zaijian – who can say anymore.

The Shinjuku Incident

March 22, 2010

Recently I came to the conclusion that in order to enhance my Mandarin learning, I need to mix in a few other elements, such as regularly watching Chinese movies where Mandarin is the spoken language and listening to Chinese music. There are a ton of Chinese movies out there, but it seems that a lot of the better ones come out of Hong Kong – so are in Cantonese; which is effectively useless to me. While Cantonese has some similarity with Mandarin, it’s basically a completely different language altogether.

 I dropped down to the local Box Hill Xinhua bookshop and picked up a copy of a movie I had been wanting to see called The Shinjuku Incident (新宿事件). Starring Jackie Chan in a role quite removed from his normal action packed (and often comedic) acrobattery(tm).

In this role, Jackie plays either a tractor repairer or salesman named Steelhead, from a small snowy village in what I have to assume is Northern China. I am not actually sure why he was called Steelhead, or why he was a tractor ‘person’ as it really has no relevance in the movie. What we do learn early however, is that Jackie is courting a young girl by the name of Xiu Xiu who has for some reason gone to Japan to find an Auntie of hers.

Steelhead boards a ship full of illegal immigrants and heads for Japan, but the ship is wrecked and he’s forced to hoof it towards Shinjuku where he somehow finds his Chinese friend, Jie. Taking whatever work is available; from sorting rubbish in landfill to cleaning sewers, Steelhead slowly begins to get involved in all forms of petty crime that the Chinese immigrants are involved in – gradually making a name for himself; and a small wad of cash.

And that’s about as much as I am going to say about the plot as it only gets infinitely more confusing from this point. To cut a long story short – and yes the movie went on a little too long for my liking – he discovers that Xiu Xiu has married one of the local Yakuza bosses – who happens to also be conveniently charming and a loving family man, and after one thing leads to another and another and another and his friend Jie is conveniently beat up twice – the second time with somewhat nasty results – let’s just say the earlier charm of the movie is somewhat lost in what becomes just an excuse to have a big climactic battle.

I have to say, the plot was definitely fairly weak, but it was an entertaining movie. There were a few things that stood out to me about The Shinjuku Incident.

1. The relationships between the Chinese and the Japanese was something I had not really seen before in a modern film. The Japanese looked down on them, often referring to them as Chinese Pigs – whilst the Chinese basically had to endure it, dropping comments such as, “If he had the balls to come to Mainland China, I’d chop him up” etc etc. The Chinese and Japanese have a colourful history together with much cultural animosity. In this movie, I wondered whether this was born from this history, or just a general dislike of ‘migrants’ in general – which is a common theme no matter which country you’re in.

2. Beyond anime, it occurred to me that I don’t think i have really seen many films set in modern Japan…period. Beyond Lost in Translation, I really cant think of any. I really enjoyed the extremely different environment to say Hong Kong – which is a prominent part of many Asian movies. Sure there’s many glowing streets and neon’s, yet while they are similar, they are so extremely different at the same time.

3. The combination of Mandarin and Japanese was fantastic. Often various Japanese characters would speak a little Mandarin (their roles meant they knew a little), and I enjoyed the various discussions which constantly crossed back and forth between the different languages. As a language learner, it’s immensely satisfying to recognise various words as they are being said. While learning a language is immensely difficult, it can also be immensely satisfying.

4. The Yakuza element was also interesting enough to have me wanting to do a little further reading on them though while they started off quite  – I don’t know, mysterious or unique in their own way – by the end of the movie they were just your standard ‘mob of bad guys’. Perhaps that is all the Yakuza are, a mob of bad guys, but who knows – early on into the movie I was seeing a very Samurai’esque clan thing going on.

So there we have it. I would recommend The Shinjuku Incident to anyone with an interest in Asian cinema. The plot was somewhat weak and left various characters ‘endings’ completely unexplained. While full of overly convenient plot devices and running just a tad too long, it still was interesting for nothing other than that awesome randomness that seems to occur only in Asian movies – where you literally have no idea where it is going to end up.

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