North Korea and Japan Sign a Deal on Abductions

More lunacy from Kim Jong Il’s Democractic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). This is what he considers diplomacy.

In a region where saving face is paramount, the 10-hour stay in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, was riddled with slights to the Japanese leader. When Mr. Koizumi, leader of the second largest economy in the world, arrived in Pyongyang, only a midlevel Foreign Ministry official was at the airport to greet him. There was no banquet. Mr. Koizumi ate a box lunch of rice balls an aide brought from Tokyo.


On Saturday, North Korea’s news media did not mention the issue of the kidnappings. Instead, it dwelled on the fact that the leader of Japan traveled to North Korea bearing gifts. In the past, defectors have said, foreign food aid is portrayed by North Korean officials as “tribute” to their militarily powerful nation.


Office Building Face in Shenzhen
March 3 2004
Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province, China

Construction visible from Shezhen University.
China has a reputation as being constantly under construction and from what I saw this is more visible in Shenzhen than anywhere else. Here we actually see five identical large buildings in a row in the same stage of construction.

Shenzhen University Dorm Room
Standing in the middle of the room is my friend Henry, who studied here at Ritsumeikan University in Japan for a year. This is the room he lived in before he studied abroad in Japan; he now lives in a much roomier room actually intended for foreign students, which he got into because he works part time for the international office.


Hong Kong Ferry
March 3 2004
This odd looking boat is the ferry from Hong Kong to mainland China, Shenzhen city in Guangdong (Canton) province. It arrives in a place called ‘蛇口’ which is pronounced ‘Shekou‘ in Cantonese. In Japanese as jaguchi, and is the word for faucet but I have no idea if there is a relationship.

Emmigration from Hong Kong, immigration to China, and the respective customs checks were trivial. They’re a lot more interested in keeping illegal immigrants out of Hong Kong than out of China. The ferry takes about 40 minutes and costs $105 Hong Kong dollars. HK$ are about 7.5 to a US dollar, so it really isn’t very expensive for an international trip, even at such a close distance.

Just on the outside of the ferry terminal was this stall selling fishing gear. Notice the double turtle-dragon creature on the counter, and the giant can of Carlsberg beer behind the counter.


Hito Nomi Sugu Yase

February 30 2004.

I spotted this advertisement for 助助身茶(help-help-body-tea) in the Hong Kong subway system. What caught my eye was the Japanese text written alongside the larger Chinese slogan. Before reading the explanation of this picture you might want to refer to This earlier post.

The Chinese phrase of these characters 一飲就痩(at least as I understand the characters from the way they are used in Japanese) translates word by word to ‘one-drink-become-thin.’ Chinese literature has a long history of what are called in Japanese 四字熟語 (pronounced as yo-ji-juku-go), or four character idioms, and I presume that writing an advertising slogan in 4 characters is intended to convey a feeling of classicism reminiscent of these traditional phrases. The woman dressed in a Japanese Kimono in a Japanese style setting also adds to the old-fashioned feeling, but transposes it to Japan.

Alongside the Chinese slogan is a small line of text written in Japanese characters, which I have enlarged in the photo. Now, Japanese is written largely with Chinese characters (called kanji , but they also use natively developed phonetic characters (called kana), which is what these are. Japanese vocabulary is generally divided into the categories of ‘native’ Japanese words, Chinese words (whether actually imported from China or created in Japan by combining Chinese words), and ‘foreign words,’ mostly words imported from European languages (these days mostly English, but going back as far as the 17th century contact with Porteguese.)

I don’t want to get deep into explaining the Japanese language, but the point is that the words written in kana are native Japanese words and not the Chinese derived Japanese words which correspond to those characters. The Japanese words are read as ‘Hito Nomi Sugu Yase,‘ which translates to ‘One sip, soon lose weight.’ Now, kanji can be used to write either native Japanese words or words borrowed from Chinese. Like kanji, tea is something borrowed by Japan from China. The advertiser uses the image of Japan and the refinement of the Japanese tea ceremony to suggest that their tea, while superficially similar to the teas commonly drunk in Hong Kong has some quality of superiority, of a higher level of refinment. By showing the Japanese readings of the Chinese phrase, (the kana is incidentally is not readable for the vast majority of Hong Kong residents that have not studied Japanese), they are showing something else which was borrowed by Japan and changed, and reinforcing the suggestion that this tea with a completely Chinese name is somehow foreign.

Mourning The Patriotic Chickens

Mourners honor chickens killed in wake of bird-flu outbreak

Dressed in a black suit and tie, a man asked a roomful of mourners to bow their heads. For a minute, they all stood and faced the brightly lit altar in silence.

On a stage, piled in a pyramid and surrounded by white daisies and lilies, sat the dead — dozens of eggs in clear, plastic cartons.

Having been arranged by the agriculture ministry and poultry industry officials, this solemn sendoff Wednesday at a Tokyo hotel honored hundreds of thousands of chickens slaughtered since bird flu was discovered here in January.

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