'Japanese stuff' brings out a mix of emotions

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 August, 2005, 12:00am

The 60th anniversary of the end of the Anti-Japanese War has been one of the hottest conversation topics among her friends, according to 23-year-old Hongkonger Tina Fung, a keen fan of Japanese fashion and culture.

'I am so into Japanese products, be it fashion, cosmetics or accessories,' she said. 'Look at my handbag, it's a Japanese brand. It's trendy so I bought it.'

Ms Fung, who works in a garment trading company, said she was also interested in Japanese culture and spent much of her spare time reading Japanese comic books and novels.

'I am also curious about cosplay [dressing up as cartoon characters] and surf the web a lot for cosplay websites,' she said. 'The characters look lovely.'

However, she does admit to a degree of ambivalence in her feelings towards the Japanese.

'I spend money on Japanese items because they are good quality but I look down on their government and disagree with their so-called national spirit,' she said. 'I am comfortable with the contradiction and don't find it confusing.'

Alan Chiu Wang Cheung, a 23-year-old journalism student who moved to Hong Kong from Chongqing in 1988, says his family background has contributed to a strong resentment of the Japanese.

'My grandpa took part in the war as a frontline soldier. He witnessed how cruel the Japanese troops could be and told me his stories when I was very young,' Mr Chiu said.

'In secondary school I found myself being interested in the history. I discussed the topic with my classmates and read a lot of books. When I explored and learnt more, I disliked Japan even more.'

He said the Japanese government had done nothing to improve his opinion of the country in recent years, citing Japan's claim to the Diaoyu Islands, visits by its Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine and the nationalist history textbook controversy as sore points in the relationship.

'It makes me feel that the Japanese government has no intention to face the truth about their past, let alone make a confession and apologise,' he said.

A 16-year-old Form 5 student said he and his friends seldom talked about 'Japanese stuff'.

'I don't want to know about the details of Anti-Japanese War because it's too bloody,' he said.

Angela Lam Tsz-wai, a 26-year-old merchandiser who teaches Japanese in her spare time after spending a year in the country as an exchange student, said her passion for Japanese culture started in secondary school with Japanese television dramas.

'I wasn't a big fan who watched them all the time,' she said. 'But then I really wanted to know what the Japanese characters were talking about.

'So I went to learn Japanese and I was really satisfied when I knew what they were talking about on TV.'

She has kept in touch with her host mother in Otaru and has made friends with Japanese in Hong Kong. She says the war has rarely come up in chats.

'They're more curious about things in Hong Kong rather than harking back to the war,' she said.

'I think their young generation - like us - aren't that concerned about the second world war. This is an era of international exchange, so I don't think there is still a wall between us.

'I think history needs to be respected and understood, but after all, it's something that happened in a previous generation and we're all innocent. Don't bring the hatred to the next generation because we really want to be happier.'