Chinese college student: I have a Japanese boyfriend
From Southern Weekend
When I meet a new person, the atmosphere soon plunged into frost. Usually after each one introduces himself, there is nothing left to say. Every time this happens, our mutual friends always come over to break the ice by starting with “Hey, you know? Her boyfriend is a Japanese!” Once this subject comes out, the uninformed masses must have been intrigued. The conversation immediately becomes heated. It has proved effective every time.
Right. I have a Japanese boyfriend, and it’s been a year and a half already.
Friends like to refer to him as “Devil,” (Jing’s note: Japanese guizi, 日本鬼子, literally Japanese devil, is a very common Chinese slang for Japanese with derogatory and even hostile connotation, which has come into use since Japanese invasion during WWII.) as in, “Bunny, when will Devil come back?” Mr. Devil does not have aversion to the epithet. Instead, he often jokes that “I am indeed a Japanese devil.” But I know, “devil” in his mind is a pure tag not much different from “peach” or “pear.” I once asked him about Japanese attitude towards Chinese. He said, “Quite a number of older people in his grandpa’s generation still look down upon Chinese. But young people have almost rid of such mindset.” The notion of “nationality” has faded out. “Perhaps only during sports games will (we) feel the palpable existence of nationality.” However, when the complicated procedure of getting a replacement bank card beat my head off, he said, “You Chinese are so much trouble!”
In reality, at least in Peking University (PKU), it is really easy to fall in love with Japanese. In contrast to Korean students who are very dressy and high-profile, Japanese students are prudent and very polite. They seldom do anything that would cut a wide swath. On one occasion, a student (of PKU) published a post on the campus BBS, denouncing a Japanese student at PKU for occupying an entire row of seats with stickers. It turned out that almost all comments in the thread thought the author must have come across a Korean student, and listed a number of examples to show such an aggressive act is not the style of Japanese students. The post finally climbed to No. 1 of the day’s top ten threads.
“In order to have more topics in common with ‘Devil,’ I have to keep an eye on the updates of Japanese TV dramas, anime and manga, and J-pop. However, compared with many fellow Chinese, my effort is as little as refilling soy sauce bottle. Unlike those cram for GRE by reciting the “Little Red Dictionary” in order to go abroad, they forget food and rest to learn Japanese simply out of passion for a Japanese singer or a manga. “Devil” once said, impressed, “I really didn’t expect that so many people in China are learning Japanese!”
As many people hate Japan as those who love her, at least on the surface. Every September 18 and anniversary of Nanjing Massacre, Renren (Jing: China’s biggest social network, a copycat of Facebook) web pages will be littered with glutted with videos and pictures featuring Japanese soldiers brutally killing Chinese. The subtitles are often: “If you are a Chinese, share it!” One status that is widely shared reads, “I like to watch Detective Conan, for in each episode a Japanese dies; I like to watch Death Note, for in each episode a dozen of Japanese die; I like to watch One Piece, for in each episode a ship-ful of Japanese die; I like to watch Naruto, for in each episode a village of Japanese die; I like to watch Ultraman, for in each episode an entire city of Japanese die; I like to watch 2012, for the Japanese islands disappear within 30 minutes!” In 2009, Devil and I watched the film City of Life and Death (南京！南京！Literally Nanjing! Nanjing! , a feature film about Nanjing Massacre) in which “a lot of Chinese died.” At the moment the closing music was played and the theater was about to be lit up, I saw he wipe the corner of his eye. Walking out of the movie theater, both of us were in sullen silence. When we were waiting to cross the street, a young couple were standing right next to us. The man said, “Little Japs are so despicable. If I see a Japanese, I will really wish to kill him by running him over.”
My father likes to watch Anti-Japanese-themed TV dramas. Every time he sees a scene of Japanese murdering Chinese, he grits his teeth in hatred. Not long ago, he went to Japanese on a business trip. When he got home, he said he’d been to Europe and the United States but had never seen a country as tidy and quiet as Japan where everything is in neat order. “In a Japanese printing plant, there is not a single scrap of paper.” It is unimaginable to him, who has spent his entire life in the printing industry. When I told my father that I got a Japanese boyfriend, he wasn’t angry, and was even rather happy. During his stay in Japan, he once chatted with Devil for four hours while drinking and eating. My paternal grandma, maternal grandma and grandpa all witnessed “devils enter the village” in childhood. But they do not think there is anything wrong with my finding a Japanese boyfriend. My maternal grandma recalled getting a candy from a Japanese soldier as a child. My paternal grandma even rejoiced that “Japanese are rich.”
Because of the dispute over Diaoyu Islands (aka Senkaku Islands, which both China and Japan claim sovereignty over), Sino-Japanese relations have reached rock bottom. In late September, 2010, when the (anti-Japanese) sentiments peaked, Devil came to China to visit me. My father, on learning the news, said half-jokingly, “I am going to punch him on behalf of Chinese people.” These days, I am getting ready for my trip to Japan. Devil drew a map of “Bunny’s visit to Japan:” an aircraft takes off from China, gets around the Korean Peninsula labeled as “Sumida” and fliers towards Japan. At the left bottom corner is a black dot. An arrow pulls out its magnified version: a small isle with a sign that reads “Diaoyu (Senkaku) belongs to Japan.” Will you be indignant at it? At lease to me and Devil, it is but a joke that shows we care about the state affairs. That’s it.
–The author is a Peking University undergraduate student