Japan means pop and fashion for young Taiwanese

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

Few Taiwanese under the age of 20 have a great awareness of the eight-year war against Japan, let alone the Marco Polo Bridge Incident 68 years ago.

For them, Japan is a source of popular trends, fashion and teen idols that have captured the hearts of the island's younger generation.

'I read about the Rape of Nanking in history books, but it was a vague story. I don't care,' said 20-year-old university student Tiffany Chang.

Ms Chang has had a crush on everything Japanese since she was a high school student. She is a big collector of Hello Kitty products and, since she was 14, has impersonated the popular Japanese female comic character Lala at 'cosplay' events, where people dress up as characters from popular culture.

Ms Chang is not alone in her ignorance of Japan's not so distant past.

'Most of my friends like Japan very much and travel to Tokyo very often during the summer vacations. They use the allowances given to them by their parents or the money they earn from part-time work in cafes or fast-food chains,' she said. 'We don't know about the Japanese past and we don't think we should.'

One net user recently asked others in a Taipei chat room whether they would feel guilty about their enthusiasm for Japan after watching television news features about those killed during the Japanese invasion of China.

'Every time I watched the black and white images of those being beheaded by the Japanese, I felt sad. Suddenly I felt it might be a wrong idea to buy or like Japanese things. What should I do?' the chat room contributor asked.

While some lashed out at Japanese aggression, most respondents said they still preferred Japanese things 'which are better' because the killings took place a long time ago and were already part of history.

But not all younger people in Taiwan are ambivalent about Japan's wartime past. Twenty-five-year-old postgraduate student Chang Mu-ting is preoccupied by the historic wound.

The National Taiwan University music institute student composed a piece called 1937 and last year set up a website to commemorate those killed in the Nanking massacre. More than 2 million visitors have logged on to the site, www.1937.cn.

The composition's music video was inspired by a trip to Beijing and tells the story of a boat worker who lost his love in the massacre.

'I attended a cultural seminar four years back in Beijing and one day met an elderly man who told me he was one of the survivors of the Rape of Nanking,' Mr Chang said.