China, Japan, Korea: What's the difference? Do they all look the same, or are they very distinct? Is there any truth to the stereotype, or is it ignorance? Well, enter the exam room here and find out for yourself. We have eight tests in different categories such as face, art, architecture, and food. Remember: We are not here to make a statement; it's a question. Good luck and enjoy.

Teaching Chinese to Your Kids

posted by Dyske

walkerpingpingTeaching Chinese to children is all the rage right now. Some people are hiring Chinese babysitters just so that their kids can learn Chinese. Oh, I remember a similar craze back in the 80s when everyone wanted to learn how to speak Japanese. Now the limelight is on the Chinese, and it makes sense. Personally, I wish I could speak Chinese myself. China seems like the most exciting place to be these days. Fast-changing, dynamic, and choatic; just the kind of environment I like.

The DVD you see on the right, The Advantures of Walker and Ping Ping, was produced by my friends to introduce American kids to the Chinese culture and language. It’s a pretty ambitious project where they developed the characters from scratch. If you have kids, check it out.

Composite Faces of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Women

posted by Dyske

Image by Dienekes Pontikos

These are faces created by compositing multiple faces of Chinese, Japanese, Korean women. Can you correctly identify which one is which? The answer is over at Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog.

Chinatown Mystery #9

posted by Dyske


How about this one? I’m pretty sure this is some type of shellfish (could be a type of mushroom too) but what kind, and how do you use it? Anyone?

The Silent Minority Strategy: Good or Bad?

posted by Dyske

Google recently got in trouble for publishing a historical map of Japan that pinpoints the locations of where “Burakumin” lived in Japan, which angered this group of people. To be honest, I had never heard of this group of people called “Burakumin.” They are a minority group (ethnically identical) who are apparently still subjected to discrimination. A left-over problem from their old caste system. Google Earth now makes it easy to identify where they once lived. I’m not sure how this causes a problem, but they didn’t like it. Part of me wishes that I didn’t learn about them at all. Now, if I ever meet a Burakumin, what I now know about them would be associated with that person, unavoidably influencing my view of that person. Whether it’s positive or negative, I would rather not form any preconceptions.

This is a tricky issue with racism (though, in this case, race was not involved): if the young generations are kept unaware of the discrimination, the problem should theoretically go away in time. But if you kept talking about it, would that solve or perpetuate the problem? I’m not exactly sure what the answer is; I’m just raising it as a question here.

For instance, take the Jews as an example. Educating our children about their history of suffering is important in the sense that we can learn from our mistakes and try to prevent them in the future, but at the same time, this can lead to perpetuating the discrimination because there will always be many different ways that people can interpret the same information, and it’s not possible to eradicate bigotry (because prejudice is part of human nature). Bigots will always find ways to discriminate. So, their knowledge of the Jewish history will only give them something to discriminate about, like adding fuel to the fire.

In an extremely hypothetical scenario, if we stopped talking about the Jewish suffering completely for the next 100 years, I would imagine that the discrimination would disappear, because nobody would know about it. (Obviously, I’m over-simplifying my argument here, but I hope you get my point.) Don’t get me wrong, this is completely hypothetical and I’m not suggesting that this is the right answer. However, it is an interesting argument to ponder, because, by studying the extremes, we can always consider the strategy/solution that is somewhere in-between.

In fact, I believe the Asian Americans employed (consciously or unconsciously) the in-between strategy. The Asians here are often called the “silent minority” because they (I guess I should say “we”) are not particularly vocal about speaking up against discrimination. Some people view this as a positive thing while others view this as a negative thing. Well, which is it? And why? If you can share your thoughts, I would appricate them.

Surreal Combination of Old Businesmen, Young Girls, and a Mascot

posted by Dyske

When I was still living in Japan, I didn’t think anything of it, but being away for over 20 years, this video epitomizes the surreal nature of the Japanese business world. I’m not sure how it came about, but the Japanese love mascots. That in itself is not so strange—everyone loves cute things, especially women—but what is strange about Japan is that mascots are a very well accepted part of the corporate culture. And, often the mascots look as if they were designed for kindergarten kids. In this video, you see these stodgy old businessmen introducing their new mascot to the press. It appears to me that the only reason why they have these girls standing next to the mascot is because it would look absurd if this infantile mascot was standing alone with these old men. The girls serve as a bridge between the 5-year old mentality and the 50-year old mentality.

In Japan, old businessmen are supposed to embrace young female employees to behave like 12-year-olds. It’s seen as fatherly love. If you are a real professional woman, it must be rather difficult to maneuver in this type of atmosphere. Every age group and gender has a strong stereotype that everyone is expected to conform to. In this sense, when the Westerners say “all look the same”, it’s hard to argue, because they actually do want to look and behave the same. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it is certainly not for me personally. I’m happy to observe the surreal world of Japan from New York.

Chinatown Mystery #8

posted by Dyske


If I had to guess what these are, I would say dried sea creature of some sort. But then, why are they so brown? So, maybe they are the roots of some plant? Anyone?

A Journey through Chinatown

posted by Dyske

While searching for “Doyers Street” to buy fresh Zong (as recommended by my friend Frank Luo), I came across this website called “A Journey through Chinatown”. The photos on this site are beautiful, and I’m happy to see someone documenting things that most of us see every day but don’t really see because we are too busy thinking about the past or the future.

I’ve been doing something similar in the East Village where I have been living since 1990. I’ve been taking photos of cafes, restaurants, and bars since around 1996. My photos are just snapshots, and they don’t look good. Now that I see this site by RK Chin, I wish I had put more effort in taking better photos.

This is the beauty of living in New York City; we don’t have to travel far to experience different cultures. This is why I don’t see the point of traveling to foreign countries. There is so much we can learn in our own back yard. Why bother flying for hours?