Fewer Japanese people studying English in the UK

The changing landscape of Japanese people’s English learning practices is a factor keeping Japanese students out of ESL classrooms in the UK, reports Kyodo News:

(Kyodo) _ The number of Japanese learning English in Britain has slowed in recent years, amid signs that growing numbers of young people from East Asia are opting to study in their home country rather than venture overseas.

Experts put the tailing off down to many factors, including the state of the Japanese economy, falling birthrate, the popularity of Chinese and the increasing provision of English language teaching in the region.

According to figures provided by the Council, the number of weeks spent in Britain by Japanese studying English fell between 1997 and 2001, and has plateaued out in recent years. In 1997, Japanese spent 170,100 weeks in Britain. By 2001, this had fallen to 123,626 weeks.

In 2002, the figures picked up again and in 2004 Japanese spent 135,347 weeks in the United Kingdom. However, numbers are expected to be down for 2005.

Emma Parker, education promotion officer at the British Council in Japan, said all of the large English-speaking countries — Britain, the United States and Australia — had seen reductions in Japanese students. She added that the number of Japanese going to overseas universities appeared to be falling, and this inevitably impacted on applications for English courses. (many students take English language courses before studying at a foreign university).

As well as the simple fact that there are fewer younger Japanese people, Parker put the decline down to “more and more potential study destinations, and so increased competition.”

She said there were several Japanese-owned English language schools located in nearby Asian countries and, “although English skills remain very important in Japan, people’s interests and employers’ requirements are diversifying.

Essentially, if this article’s assertion that people are choosing to study at home is to be believed (though why they chose to measure that in hours as opposed to people escapes me), that would mean Japan’s domestic ESL market (for Japanese adults, anyway) has become so developed (to the point of saturation) that people may be taking seriously the idea expressed in top English conversation firm NOVA’s slogan of “study abroad near your local train station.” That would be a sad development — the peculiar nature of the still-flourishing interest in the English language in Japan has now been officially blamed as a factor keeping Japanese people from studying abroad, which ironically means less overseas exposure for the average Japanese. The pros and cons of eikaiwa-style English education aside, it simply cannot serve as an effective replacement for studying abroad if one’s goal is to learn how a language is used and the culture it comes from.

That said, it would take more study to see how true that claim is (I wish I could get my hands on that report for one). And it seems like this story is talking about ESL students only, not undergraduate or graduate degree programs. I’m having trouble locating more recent statistics, but as of 2000, the number of Japanese people studying abroad (including all 3 categories and more, and most of them going to English-speaking countries, presumably) continued to rise, though at a much lower rate than in years past. My guess is it’s a combination of factors: families who are facing lower incomes (and shrinking disposable incomes) may be forced to see eikaiwa as a second best option since they can’t afford to send their kids to study abroad. Or there may be other factors at play: Japanese universities are becoming easier to get into (fewer kids, same number of universities) meaning that studying abroad isn’t being used as Plan B for kids who had trouble on the entrance exams; or perhaps parents/students are getting wise to the fact that ESL programs often aren’t what they are cracked up to be. One explanation mentioned in the report that I don’t buy is the competition from other languages. English is still king in Japan and will be for the foreseeable future.

I’ll try and keep an eye on things, but in the meantime: what do you think?

45 thoughts on “Fewer Japanese people studying English in the UK”

  1. Three things:

    1. The authors of the mentioned report just took the best statistic that supported their assertion, and found the bizarre statistic of “number of weeks spent by Japanese nationals in the UK.” Nuts.

    2. That there are fewer Japanese people going to England is pretty meaningless. Your concerns about the budget gets you halfway there — more and more Japanese people are opting to study in native English countries cheaper than the US and the UK, primarily Canada and New Zealand.

    3. On the other hand, as for English being King, that remains true — but the rising competition from Chinese and Korean as attractive languages is undeniable.

  2. Competition from Chinese and Korean is not the case for English,I think.Perhaps it is something that German and French teacher should worry about.

  3. I think Aceface is right. English study will not be getting less popular as long as it is a required subject on entrance exams.

    Koreans have been going to the Philippines to study English for a few years now, but so far no Japanese. Maybe that will be next?

  4. Not exactly,No Japanese exodus to the Phillipines nor Singapore is expected in foreseeable future.They will simply go to other destinations instead.
    Some in this country (like 2ch crowd)think Koreans are OUR Japanese,meaning they sometimes go extreme almost in the level of absurdity,saying that can’t be happen in this country.目くそ鼻くそを嗤うってヤツだ。
    But I guess the real difference is ,Japan is in the state of population decline while Korea has at least another decade before it reaches to the point.So the educational comptetition here is not so fierce compare to the past or so in our peninsular neighbor.J-firm is hiring and promoting more foreigners than ever before especially in foreign branch,less need for fluent English speaking Japanese expats.
    And few Japanese(except senior citizens) think immigration as an alternative life plan.It’s even more bizarre concept than learning English in the Phillipines.
    But to Koreans going abroad and acquiring citizenship(except that of Japan)is becoming more and more reasonable way to live your life.And for doing that they need English more than us Japanese who’d rather stay where we belong.

  5. I still think you guys are misunderestimating the Korean and Chinese factor. I know many, many people who are studying East Asian languages instead of English: a girl my age who studied in high school in Canada went to Korea to study language after college, plenty of college classmates who would have studied English a decade earlier now going to Taiwan and China instead for their exchanges, to name just a few examples. French, German, and other languages have no significant market share. English dominates the industry, and most of the growth in Chinese and Korean is taking out of the ESL schools.


    Japan is in the state of population decline while Korea has at least another decade before it reaches to the point.

    More than a decade, but when it happens, the drop will be far more precipitous (Japan is at about 1.3 children per mother at present, Korea is down to 1.0).

  6. “I still think you guys are misunderestimating the Korean and Chinese factor”

    No not really Curzon.I don’t underestimate the Korean and Chinese factor.I just don’t overestimate them.

    Learning the language of the neighbors do means more beyond the econimics and especially for Japan,which has negative history with these countries,it is critically important. But I still wonder how much Korean and Chinese can offer to ordinary Japanese students in,say employment .

    Although I realize in my field,which is massmedia,Korean and Chinese speakers are more needed than ever;My colleague had a report on Japanese mother who want to send their kids to Chinese school in Yokohama’s chinatown and I have a couisin who is now studying in Beijing to learn Chinese. I also know the fact that NHK’s Korean Language text sells only less than English and Chinese.
    So yes,the prospect of the two asian language is brighter than ever.That I agree with.

    But the thing is there are SO many students and resident in Japan from Korea and China.And many more learning Japanese in their countries,the Japanese firms may want hire them instead of a homeboy speaking their language badly.Perhaps it could also be a rational decision from financial factors for the wage is a lot more cheaper in these countries.That could means Japanese should concentrate more on learning the pronunciation of L and R along with some other things to be more competitive,since as Thomas L.Friedman puts it ,”The World is Flat”now.

  7. Curzon is 100% right in suggesting that the UK analysis is full of it. Canada, NZ and Australia are “stealing” students – mainly because they are considered to be less expensive (and by some, better) destinations.

    Also, while it is not near English level, I don’t think that we should underestimate the Korean boom (as part of the Kanryu Boom) in Japan. A few years ago, it was rare to see Nova, etc. advertising Korean. Now it is getting rare to see one that isn’t.

  8. As long as the Japanese education system and the Eikaiwa keep a) reinforcing the notion that English is incredibly useful for everyone, and b) hiring people that either can’t speak English (in the case of public schools) or can’t teach (in the case of Eikaiwa), then the system will keep churning out students of English who can’t speak the language but think they need to. Chinese and Korean simply won’t have the pull that English does because they are not deemed ‘international’ languages by the powers that be. i.e.) the notion that you can get by in English anywhere in the world is still dominant. And to a large degree true.

    If the Ministry of Education actually instructed its teachers to teach English properly, then Britain would face an even bigger crisis. Students would not feel so bad about not speaking English properly and thus would not want to run away overseas to figure out how to do so. They would also develop the linguistic skills necessary to study other languages and indeed take more of an interest in Chinese and Korean. But for the foreseeable future, the future of the overseas market in English language education for Japanese seems safe. Britain just needs to spruce up its image a bit. More sunshine, perhaps?

  9. Aceface: Fine, but to say “Competition from Chinese and Korean is not the case for English,I think” sounds far from ‘not overestimating.’ But I think you’re right that Japanese companies will give preference to hiring nationals who studied in Japan instead of a “homeboy,” both here and abroad. However, as for those studying Korean and Chinese, as neighboring economies develop, there will be more jobs for speakers of both languages. Also, since the language is not compulsory in schools and speakers are few and far between, the competition will never be what it is for English.

    Bryce: I don’t think English is really all the useful. Most of the Japanese economy is domestic (80%). What the country really needs is 20% (or slightly more) of its people to be _really_ fluent in English, not the current situation, where 50% speak English (very) poorly.

  10. “Bryce: I don’t think English is really all the useful. Most of the Japanese economy is domestic (80%). What the country really needs is 20% (or slightly more) of its people to be really fluent in English, not the current situation, where 50% speak English (very) poorly.”

    I agree, and I think reducing class sizes by making English (and other languages) optional might be a step in the right direction. As would more discussion time for students (itself a product of reduced classes. But how do you convince Japanese mothers that their kids might find other subjects more useful when in Japan you are considered part of the intelligensia if you can spout a few phrases in English?
    I would disagree, by the way, with your estimate that 50% of Japanese even speak English poorly. I think that’s too way high, even for most cities with foreign populations to practice on.

  11. Yeah, even saying that 20% of the population can speak English poorly is pushing it. I doubt even 5% speaks English with a great deal of proficiency. Of course, the US would be just as bad without our large populations of native bilinguals.

  12. Curzon:
    I talked to a professor of the department of Chinese literature in Todai couple years ago.I asked him he is lucky for not to be worried about all the ongoing talks about restructuring the faculty of liberal arts,since the demand for the Chinese is on the rise thus his department ‘s future must be very bright.
    Oppose to my expectation, he told me that ain’t so,because it is still a literature department and student thinks it is not a good department to write down on your CV ,compare to say,economy or law.

    I don’t know where you guys learned Japanese,but presumably many are from the regional study related course.correct?
    Here in Japan,language education still has close relation with literature department文学部.(and I don’t realy have to tell you all this,because some of you TEACH)And the bigfive,English,German,French,Chinese and Russian (perhaps may not be considered so now) related teachers were usually researcher on literature or philosophy.Now their futures are in peril, because universities are downsizing the liberal arts.The language teachers now have to prove their utility to the skeptics for survival.

    There is also the popularity of foreign language reflecting zeitgeist.German fell from champion status when educational system was changed in the late 40’s and steadliy declining. Russian learning had deteriorated long before the end of cold war,even back in the days when Stalin was impeached and the Soviet lost charisma,everyone felt the beginning of the end.French thrived for they had shifted more to philosophy and all the demand for the star philosophers from La Rive Gauche managed to sustain the academic interest of Japanese.But they too see the end is coming.Rise of Chinese and Korean is widening their nitch in the faculty , partially because of on going multiculturalization of Japanese academia and deepening regional integration .But they too will face the limit for they can’t find job for kids.Only English education face no such danger nor limits for it is the language of all seasons.

    That is what I think about the future and prospect of English language in Japanese higher education.

  13. Methinks one more significant factor for German language falling in the late 1940s is not so much changes in the education system per se as changes in international geopolitics….

    But yes to the link between language and lit in Japanese universities. Mine is like that: 英吾 is very closely tied to 英文学, etc. However I should point out that history students, for example, are required to learn the language of the country/region they study – German or French for Western History (or English of course), Chinese or possibly Korean for Oriental History, etc. One reason Japanese History gets so many applicants is because of the idea that you won’t have to learn a foreign language.

    Not sure I’d put too much weight on the Kanryuu boom in the long term. Booms, by their very nature, don’t last long. The Kanryuu one is doing pretty well though: my local video store still has a whole section of Kankoku Dorama etc. But learning Korean will not be very useful internationally, and not stunningly so in business unless you actually do business with Korea and want to do it better.

    BTW, 文学部 would be Faculty of Letters/Arts rather than Literature Department, which would be 文学科 or something.

    Oh, and English is not really useful in Japan for everyday life. But it is useful for passing entrance exams, and for trips to Hawaii where it’s possible you might encounter actual Americans and not Japanese shop staff during your stay….

    Gregory Clark had a recent letter or op-ed in the Japan Times about cutting out English for 小学生 if I recall correctly. Some of it I actually agreed with, too.

    And definitely would be hard-pressed to find 50% of Japanese speaking English even poorly, unless you are really serious about “poorly”.

    I know someone who went to the UK for a month to study English. Hated it, especially the food. Maybe that’s one reason for the decline: good old English ‘cooking’….

  14. The Kanryu Boom is already in year 4. I think that it has gone on to become more than just another Japanese boom. In any case, I think that it will put some Korean learning infrastructure into place. No chance of it replacing English but so many people have become interested that it may be better discussed as a trend rather than a boom.

    In any case, I can’t imagine why a Japanese would want to go to the UK to study. Rents in London are through the roof, the climate is worse than Eastern Canada, NZ, Aus, etc. Easy access to Europe or some overly romantic images of England maybe…. However, you just never know. I met a Japanese who went to Texas and Newfoundland to study English – two areas that are NOT known for their clarity of pronunciation (or good food either).

  15. I think it might be more accurate to say that the boom is over, but the “wave” was strong enough to break down the dam that was keeping Korean pop culture out of the Japanese mainstream. Maybe from now on we will just see the amount of Korean stuff that you would expect to be getting from a neighboring country and not have to act like its a big deal.

  16. Well, I learned my Japanese in Osaka… That made me REAL popular in the office when I started working in Tokyo. Fortunately I switched to hyojungo pretty quickly.

    Anyway, here’s what I think… Chinese and Korean are natural languages for Japanese people to learn.

    English is more useful on a global level, sure, but it’s not that useful in Japan’s immediate backyard.

    Even though Korean and Japanese are barely related, and neither has any relation to Chinese, there’s a lot of shared vocabulary between the three languages, so it’s easier for a Japanese person to learn Chinese (or vice versa) than it is for a Japanese person to learn English.

    So why should Koreans, Chinese and Japanese be doing business with each other in English when it’s easier to just use one of their native tongues? English is neutral, I guess, but it isn’t inherently better for negotiation.

    I say bring on the Asian languages.

  17. I agree with MF.Although it is sad to see quality movie like “The Host”and”The King and the Crown” sunk while housewives flock to Narita welcoming Yon-sama.

  18. Was The Host good? Adam and I almost saw it when I stopped by Bangkok in summer, until we realized that we didn’t understand either of the languages that it would be in.

  19. It is a must see.Bong Joon Ho had directed three films so far and I love all of them.I especially love “Memory of the Murder”.

  20. “Even though Korean and Japanese are barely related, and neither has any relation to Chinese, there’s a lot of shared vocabulary between the three languages, so it’s easier for a Japanese person to learn Chinese (or vice versa) than it is for a Japanese person to learn English.”

    Is this really a valid point with so much katakana eigo floating around. I recently overheard a Japanese conversation that was packed full of English. In one rather long sentence all of the nouns and verbs (supplemented with suru) were English loanwords.

  21. “Is this really a valid point with so much katakana eigo floating around. I recently overheard a Japanese conversation that was packed full of English. In one rather long sentence all of the nouns and verbs (supplemented with suru) were English loanwords.”

    I have heard a few too – and they often ‘verbize’ words that most eigo speakers consider nouns, or vice-versa. But there’s a big gap between katakana-eigo, which isn’t really proper English, and real English. It might help a bit with vocab, but I think the thing about Chinese especially is that with the kanji it automatically conveys meaning, or more meaning than some quasi-English word that the speaker may not even realise is English (yes, I have seen that a few times). Although with these damnable simplified hanzi the PRC uses it can be pretty hard…. Anyway, in your average conversation, the ‘Chinese’ (kanji) words will outweigh the ‘English’ (katakana) words, so in that respect Chinese still has an edge.

    I often think that for a Japanese, learning Chinese might be the equivalent of us learning French: vastly different grammar, but lots of vocab the same or similar.

    Oh, and if I were Japanese, the UK would be my first pick to go to study English, for the history and the fact that England is the original source. I wonder if there is anything done on what sort of person goes to which country? The US would probably attract the normal business-English person. Canada the same person with a little more of an adventurous spirit or a fear of guns. Australia and NZ perhaps the younger set. And the UK? Romantic OLs looking for 英国紳士?

  22. Just about every Japanese that I have talked to in Canada has told me that “safety” was a factor in picking Canada over the USA.

  23. The dominance of foreign language in Japanese really depends on what field you’re in. Japanese computer vocabulary is almost entirely derived from English. Medical terms usually come from German or another continental language.

    Law and business vocabulary, however, is almost 100% Sinic. Some snazzy marketing or finance concepts may be conveyed in English-derived words, but all of the core vocab is from Chinese. I think most non-technical writing and conversation is similar.

    English loanwords are only widely used in fields that are so new that Japanese and Chinese had no time to develop their own native terms. And restaurant menus, of course.

  24. “The dominance of foreign language in Japanese really depends on what field you’re in.”
    Fair enough. I’m in history, and when a prof uses a katakana-eigo word it’s definitely a bit unusual. The younger one will use a few, but the older ones: pure Sino-Japanese. I’m surprised at the high domination of Sinic in business actually. I’d have thought that was one area where ‘kokusaika’ would have made for lots of English, if only 和製英語. Science (理系) terms are often highly Sinic as well, providing they’re not all about the tech. Not that I know much about computer vocab, but my Japanese version of MS Word has a lot of Sinic stuff in it – about half and half at a rough guess. I wonder why some things are in kanji and some not – is it arbitrary or is there some logic behind it?

    Yeah, restaurant menus…. I remember being surprised on probably my first visit to Japan that the shinkansen dining car served ‘raisu’. Apparently the difference between ライス and ご飯 is that raisu is eaten off a plate with a fork, and gohan from a bowl with chopsticks.

  25. “all of the core vocab is from Chinese”

    They were MADE in Japan and shipped back to China,Joe!

  26. “English loanwords are only widely used in fields that are so new that Japanese and Chinese had no time to develop their own native terms.”
    Except of course Chinese DOES invent hanzi (kanji) translations for all of those terms, since they haven’t got a mixed writing system. Actually it’s a bit more complicated than that, since there are a fair amount of words represented phonetically in characters. One example off the top of my head: ice cream in Japanese is アイスクリーム (aisu kuriimu) but in Chinese is 冰淇淋 (bing qi lin). Qilin is a phonetic representation of the word “cream” but with the character for ice put in front of it. One I particularly like is 漢堡 (hanbao) for “hamburger.”

    But many other things that would be katakana in Japanese are actually translated conceptually in Chinese. Like, to go online is 上網(shangwang), literally to board the net.

  27. And what do YOU think of the notorious Notimitsu Onishi’s piece on katakana=’grammatical apartheit to foreign words’ theory.
    (this post was typed only with right hand)

  28. MF:Can’t find the link,but I’ve found the article.Here he goes.

    Letter From Asia: Japan and China: National Character Writ Large

    March 17, 2004 By NORIMITSU ONISHI

    TOKYO – Of all languages in the world, Japanese is the only one that has an entirely different set of written characters to express foreign words and names. Just seeing these characters automatically tells the Japanese that they are dealing with something or someone non-Japanese.
     So foreign names, from George Bush to Saddam Hussein, are depicted in these characters, called katakana. What’s more, the names of foreign citizens of Japanese ancestry are also written in this set of characters, indicating that while they may have Japanese names, they are not, well, really Japanese.

     By contrast, in Chinese, no such distinction is made. There, non-Chinese names are depicted, sometimes with great difficulty, entirely in Chinese characters. Foreigners are, in effect, made Chinese.
     At bottom, the differences reflect each country’s diverging worldview. In contrast to the inner-looking island nation of Japan, China has traditionally viewed itself as the Middle Kingdom of its name, the center of the world. If it is natural for Japan to identify things or people as foreign, viewing them with some degree of caution, it may be equally natural for China to take “Coca-Cola” or “George Bush,” and find the most suitable Chinese characters to express them.

    In Japan, the rigid division between the inside and outside in the language underscores this country’s enduring ambivalence toward the non-Japanese. The contrast with China is stark, and speaks also to the future prospects of Asia’s two economic giants as they ?compete for influence in a world of increasingly fluid borders.
     While today’s Japanese travel overseas with an ease and confidence that would have been unimaginable only two generations ago, they remain uneasy about foreign things and people coming here. Safer to label them clearly as foreign.
     Not so China.

    “China is a big continent and has an inclination to think that it is No. 1 and that others are uncivilized,” said Minoru Shibata, a researcher at NHK, Japan’s public broadcast network. “Therefore, they feel that giving Chinese names to foreigners is doing them a favor.”

     China and Japan represent the two nations that still widely use Chinese characters in their writing. The Chinese, as the creators of this system, still use them exclusively.

     Come to Japan, and things get extremely complicated. In their everyday lives, the Japanese use three different sets of characters in writing – four if the widely used Roman alphabet is also included.

    First are the Chinese characters, called kanji here. Japanese names are written in kanji. Currently, the number of kanji permitted for names stands at 2,230, and selecting a character outside this list is illegal. Parents have been pressing for an expanded list, though, and so the justice ministry said recently that it is considering adding between 500 and 1,000 characters.

     Second is a set of phonetic characters used for Japanese words. Third are the katakana, the set of phonetic characters for foreign words.

    “There is no other language that has three sets of characters – only Japanese,” said Muturo Kai, president of the National Institute for Japanese Language.

     In the United States, parents’ freedom to name their children may be absolute. Here the government and the media set the boundaries of names and the way they are written, thereby also setting the boundaries of Japanese identity.

     In the media, the names of George Bush and Saddam Hussein are written in the characters reserved for foreign names. But so are the names of people of Japanese ancestry, like Alberto Fujimori, Peru’s deposed president, or Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of “Remains of the Day,” who left Japan at the age of 5 and is a British citizen. Their names could be written in kanji, but are instead written in katakana, in an established custom indicating that they are not truly Japanese.

    The distinctions are sometimes difficult to draw, as they touch upon the difficult question of who is Japanese, or, rather, when does someone stop being Japanese. If Mr. Ishiguro had kept his Japanese citizenship all these years, would his name be written differently here? Why is the name of Mr. Fujimori, who holds Japanese citizenship and now lives in exile here, not written in kanji like the names of other Japanese? The media have no set criteria.

    Are the criteria citizenship, blood, mastery of the Japanese language or customs? Or, in this island nation where leaving Japan has always meant leaving the village, does one start becoming non-Japanese the minute one steps off Japanese soil?

    There is a strong argument to be made for that. Children of Japanese business families stationed overseas for a few years invariably encounter problems returning here. Schoolmates often pick on them and call them gaijin, meaning foreigner or outsider. That problem has decreased in recent years, as more and more Japanese have spent time abroad. But those children are still considered to have suffered from their years overseas, in contrast to, say, an American child whose experience living abroad would usually be considered a plus.

    Chinese identity is a different matter. Whether you are a fourth-generation Chinese-American student at Berkeley, or the children of Chinese operating a restaurant in Lagos, Nigeria, you are considered Chinese, or an insider, upon returning to China. Your name will be written in the same way as everybody else’s. Unlike Japan’s, Chinese identity transcends borders.

    “Chinese people have a strong feeling of comradeship toward overseas Chinese,” said Naokazu Hiruma, who is in charge of language use at the daily Asahi Shimbun and studied in China. “Overseas Chinese have a long tradition, and they remain Chinese even after generations have passed. Japanese regard second- or third-generation overseas Japanese, even though they are of Japanese origin, as `people from that country over there.’ “

  29. What I found most interesting about this essay by Onishi (it’s really more of a column than a journalistic article like some of his other work) is how he only quotes Japanese people to find out what Chinese people think. Some more examples would be interesting. For example:
    *David Ardwinkle became Arudo Debito, and they always write his name in kanji.
    *Lafcadio Hearn became Yakumo Koizumi, and the kanji name is the primary one that he is filed under in Japanese, but in English his original name is always used.
    *Chinese in Japan of course always have their names written in the original kanji, and Koreans usually do (not all South Koreans officially have kanji personal names, no North Koreans officially have kanji names at all), but they may choose to write the pronounciation on the furigana line either as the standard Japanese reading, or try and mimic the original one.
    *There are citizens of the PRC who belong to many ethnic minorities, some of which have their own writing systems, which they still use to a greater or lesser degree. Chinese currency even has samples of Uyhgur, Mongolian and Tibetan text. (Am I missing one?)

  30. “Law and business vocabulary, however, is almost 100% Sinic. Some snazzy marketing or finance concepts may be conveyed in English-derived words, but all of the core vocab is from Chinese. I think most non-technical writing and conversation is similar.”
    Like Aceface said, most of those words are actually Japanese 19th century neologisms, made by combining kanji learned from China. They were then adopted back by China. Some common “Chinese” words that were actually coined in Japan include 会社、経済、社会.

  31. 共産党、革命、民族、国家,j人民also MADE IN JAPAN.Frequently used in PRC

  32. In other words, Japan borrowed the root words from China, and then China borrowed the finished product back.

  33. In other words,we picked the grapes from vines,stepped on barefeet,put it in
    the barrel, rested in the cellar and bottled neatly.
    Then Chinese came and grabbed the bottle and drunk it with one breath,and saying
    “You copied our culture”(笑)

  34. That’s right- European philosophy, including Marx, was mostly translated into Japanese before Chinese, so the Chinese translators used the Chinese words that the Japanese had come up with.

    There are even made in Japan kanji, the only common ones I remember of are 働 and 込 but there are also a few dozen other very obscure ones, such as kanji for each unit of metric measurement-whereas China just used preexisting ones.

  35. There had been some reverse trend of words being imported from Chinese world.
    from 30’s
    公司 meaning incorprated,presumably from pre-war china boom
    一辺倒 fell onto oneside,from Mao’s word on followting Stalin’s leadership of
    world communist revolution
    電脳、computer電影video,Mostly from HongKong and Taiwan pop culture sources ,oddity of the combination of words attracts eyes of people back then,and also an anti-thesis to the flood of English words(inclusing fake ones)during bubble days.

  36. 電脳 is the standard word for “computer” in Chinese, but in Japanese I have only ever seen it used in Ghost in the Shell, where it meant a prosthetic “cyber-brain” actually implanted in one’s skull. Is 公司 ever used in Japan?

  37. 電脳 was a pretty hip word in late 80’s ,along with all those cyber-punk plus William Gibson plus Blade Runner things.

    公司was used but as an exotic word,Manchuria related.And after the war,Taiwanese
    used often in Yokohama and Kobe,when they had privileged status an Sangokujin.
    (Now it gains somehow pejorative meaning thanks to Ishihara,but it was used frequently used by Taiwanese and Koreans themselves right after the war)

  38. Aceface: I remember reading that article a few years back and thinking how very like the Americans the Chinese are: thinking that everyone wants to be them, basically. On a recent trip to China I found myself having to write down more than a few kanji to get my meaning across better than my poor Chinese, and not once was a Chinese startled by my use of kanji – they seemed to think it was natural, like an American would think it natural a Chinese could write in English. But in Japan, despite speaking the language rather fluently, I still get frequent comments on how well I write kanji. (Not all the time, or even half, but enough to be noticeable definitely.)

    Yes, Debito is always 有道出人, despite the horrific contortions of on-yomi and kun-yomi mangled therein. (Arimichi Shutsujin sounds like a cool name though…) but I should note that for example whenever there is an airline crash overseas the names of Japanese victims are always listed in katakana as well – this is because of the various ways of writing any given name and they don’t want to make a mistake, even between say 斉藤 and 齋藤, 高沢 and 高澤, to say nothing of the more obscure ones (like Arudou Debito). This might be a factor in the katakanization of Overseas Japanese – certainly with no official record of the name’s kanji to hand, they (the media) would revert to katakana to avoid offence/mistakes.

    Incidentally, Wikipedia Japan has this: アルベルト・ケンヤ・フジモリ(Alberto Ken’ya Fujimori, 日本名藤森 謙也 (ふじもり けんや). So he seems to have ‘two’ names, and his ‘Japanese’ name is definitely in kanji. Katakana is also used, btw, to write scientific/biological names even when those have perfectly good kanji (eg ヒト、シカ) and the names of gods in the myths of Japan (記紀神話) though not all of them all the time. And of course kanji are used for various non-personal name gairaigo, especially before the war. 瓦斯、硝子、倶楽部, etc. So saying ‘kanji’ is Japanese and ‘katakana’ is foreign is a bit simplistic, though of course generally valid.

    But I wonder if this difference between Japan and China is really that great – how easy is it to assimilate into China, I wonder?

  39. JadeOC:

    Do you really want to assimilate into China?If you do into which part of the society
    and why?
    Assimilate into Japan looks more difficult task than doing the same in China,
    My humble opinion.
    A)The expat life China>Japan angle never gets challenged.People don’t bring Japan up to point out what’s wrongs in China.especially when you are in China.(smart!)
    But you do in Korea(why?)
    B)Japanese tend to praise unfamiliar,just to tell “Me,You,Friend”…….
    Wondering why that bothers some foreigners.Back then,samurais chopped off your barbarian head for not bowing.And remember what our grandfathers did to most of yours?Take it as a progress.
    C)Free-for-all bitching on host country is allowed in English media and blogsphere.
    Yes in Japan,No inChina.Because:
    1)few natives read in English,let alone write counterarguments.
    2)can’t count on diasporas as allies.
    3)lost a war.and everybody love to point that out.

    But really, the whole point is Norimitsu acts pretty much like Japanese Michael Jackson or Asahi reporter with Canadian passport….never trust closet Korean thing ,never.
    I’ve read kanji,katakana argument in one of Karatani Kojin’s piece somewhere.So it’s not entirely original to Onishi though.

  40. 修正:
    1)few natives read in English,don’t write counterargument,just let them alone.


  41. Aceface: no, I do not particularly wish to assimilate into China. But presumably there are westerners who do. My interest is in how their experience varies from Japan. Can I take your point (B) to mean that praise of say kanji is intended to be friendly? Well, I never doubted they were being friendly – that’s not the issue. My point was that it seems as if the Chinese almost expect everyone to know Chinese and thus are not surprised, but the Japanese are surprised (and yes, it is surprise. Friendly surprise, to be sure, but never the less surprise), and to what extent this reflects views of themselves vs foreigners. Given the history of both countries, it would not surprise me at all if China was both more accepting and more demanding, much like the US is.

    I would not consider it ‘bothersome’ per se – it’s certainly not like “oh you can use chopsticks” (which I admit I seldom get, but I gather it does annoy quite a few people).

    I have no idea why you are bringing up the Namamugi Incident, btw. Is it to indicate that Japan has become more open and accepting? Again, that is not the issue. Certainly there is progress. It’s not ‘is Japan accepting?’, it’s simply a comparison between the two major East Asian powers that seems quite interesting and another example of how very different Japan and China are despite the perception in the West among those who know nothing about them that they are more or less interchangeable.

  42. OK ,I’ll stop Norimitsu bashing and stop being a wiseass.
    Let’s get real with Japan/China differences on attitude to foreigners.( I confess
    ,I’ve never been to China except Hong Kong, so my view is that of strictly Japanese,unlike you,or rest of the friends at Mutantfrog who have visited or speak the language)

    “Despite the perception in the West among those who know nothing about them that they are more or less interchangeable.”
    Now I have some objection about that.Paraphrase what Henry Kissinger had said about Japan and China, the former is a country of insular mentality and copycat who follow the power. Therefore inferior, The latter is open to foreigners with original mind and independent. Therefore universal, or something like that.It sure sounds pejorative to my Japanese ears,But let’s face it ,He gets some points. I thought that pretty well sums up the idea of the weltanschauung of both nations.

    I think it was Levi Hideo’s essays that because Chinese think they are the center of the world (just like Americans)and some of their ethnic groups look Caucasian(Russians,Kazakhs,and Jews)So they have no inferior complex to westerners.
    And have no trouble thinking aliens can be part of the nation. Something in my opinion our country is lacking.

    Now about the Namamugi Incident, I brought that up half jokingly, but I thought again It has some meaning when considering Japanese attitudes towards someone who is from outside of the system.
    Tokugawa Shogunate had it’s own rule of the law. At the time of the Namamugi Incident. The samurai was the guarantee of the law and order as you already know. And to keep that order their authorities must not to be violated by the commoners for any reason and this rule was applied to the Englishman who failed to bow at the occasion of high ranking samurai passing by, No exception of rules regarding the nationality considered.Of course the British along with the other western powers strongly objected this and imposed inequality treaty until Japan “follows the universal way.” and follow we did and civic society of Japan was emerged.

    But Japanese kept some of the idea of “way of things” even after the radical changes from feudal system to modernity.You see them in senpai-kouhai relations or salary men who don’t or can’t take go home,because his superior is still in the office,undermined role of women,Honne and Tatemae et al. These practices and values were undoubtly the remnant of the feudalism.thrived beneath the rule of law in western sense.and these webs of social values natured ideas like ” we Japanese who is bind by these way of things”VS “you foreigner who is out of this web of responsibility.”like ideas,
    These are I believe what make us inward looking people compared to our continental neighbor.

  43. Ace: thank you for your reply. Just to clarify, when I said “Despite the perception in the West among those who know nothing about them that they are more or less interchangeable.” I did not mean Japan and China ARE the same, I was talking about people who know little or nothing about either country, which certainly doesn’t apply to Kissinger.
    So you used the Namamugi Incident as an example of Japan being inclusive? Interesting….

  44. I say Kissinger IS included among the bunch of people who have half baked idea about East Asia.But that’s just my opinion….

Comments are closed.