Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Kanji Remains the Same

Some weird news articles about Japan.

First, from the International Herald Tribune:
TOKYO: About 100 Japanese governing party lawmakers denounced the Nanjing Massacre as a fabrication on Tuesday, contesting Chinese claims that Japanese soldiers killed hundreds of thousands of people after seizing the Chinese city in 1937.

The members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party said there was no evidence to prove mass killings by Japanese soldiers in the captured Nationalist capital, then known as Nanking. They accused Beijing of using the alleged incident as a "political advertisement."
I think the reporter and editor should be aware that "Nanking" and "Nanjing" are the same thing. The city had the same name then as it does now--it wasn't "known as" anything different. And what is a "political advertisement"? Is that in scare quotes because it doesn't make any sense? Surely that's a translation of senden 宣伝, which could be "advertisement" or "propaganda," and in this case is clearly the latter.

The second article is from the AP, and concerns Iwojima's decision to change the reading of their island's name back to an older one, "Iwoto":

Before the war, the isolated spit of land was called Iwo To — pronounced "ee-woh-toh" — by the 1,000 or so people who lived there. In Japanese, that name looks and means the same as Iwo Jima — Sulfur Island — but it has a different sound.
It "looks the same" but has a "different sound"? Couldn't the reporter have written that the characters used in the name remain the same but their reading is changing? I think even those of us with no Japanese can handle that.

When I see something I know a little about represented in this way in the news, it just makes me wonder how absurdly misrepresented other things I don't know about are. Frightening.

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