How To Spot A Jap

It’s no secret in Western countries it is oft whispered among the Whities that when it comes to Asians, “they all look the same to us”. I had always assumed this was just our inherent racism, and once you got to know the cultures and such, it would be much easier to say what nationality a person of Asian descent was. Upon arriving in China I figured the secret would be revealed and I would be able to spend the rest of my life using my powers as an excellent bar trick…

“Ah, she’s obviously Korean… and he… he’s Japanese, no doubt. That guy… well, he’s Chinese of course. Just look at him. Are you blind?”

Well, the fool that I was got a let down pretty quick when I was informed that Chinese people couldn’t tell the difference between their compatriots and those of the countries they love to loath. The fact is, it’s like saying you can tell who is a Yankie and a Canuck (without the use of “about”). A Scot and a Brit…. or any other epidermally similar group of ethnicities.
Or such I had thought until UNEASYsilence gave me this link to “How To Spot A Jap“, a rather hilarious pocket guide given to American soldiers stationed in China during World War II. Now, I recognize that a certain level of civility has to be left back at home with the womenfolk in times of war… but really, this is just goofy.

Here are three samples cut from the rather hip comic that features A) my name, B) name of a rather awesome (in its time) music festival, and C) the always guaranteed to make you giggle term ‘g-string’.

30 Responses

  1. Here are my rules (which are pretty heavily dependant on stereotypes):

    these apply for chicks only:

    Japanese in general tend to have a little more of a funkier style, and girls will often walk like chickens with toes pointed in when wearing high heels.

    Koreans heavily favor baseball caps and adidas triple-stripe track pants.

    Chinese while sometimes borrowing from the two above, will often wear some primary-colored shirt, with pants or a skirt of the opposite color (i.e. red+green, blue+yellow), capped off by a clearly visible pantie-line.

  2. It’s easy to tell with the kids – the Japanese and Korean kids are well behaved and polite, the Chines kids (sometimes) are spoiled brats who are still being spoon-fed by their grandmothers when they are 10 years old. I dread to think what our young students’ parenting skills will be like ???? (assuming their parents/grandparents can find them a suitable partner), and bear in mind, by then one kid will have two sets of grandparents to take care of. Good for baby-sitting, you might say, but the future grandparents often haven’t raised their own kids, so how will they cope with grandchildren? It’s all very worrying.

  3. You heard it hear first folks… I scooped Sinosplice! 😉 Sorry John… actually, what am I apologizing for… this means you’ve actually got a life and were doing better things than staring at your monitor all afternoon…

  4. Ryan,

    Epidermally similar or not, most of my Korean students back in the States were CERTAIN they could tell the difference between Korean, Japanese and Chinese features. We’d do a day on facial features and descriptive adjectives. Then I’d give them the All Look Same test at
    Give it a shot. It’s pretty fun. 18 faces. You pick Chinese, Japanese or Korean. Not one of my students scored better than 30%.

    Jinzhou – soon to be Qingdao

  5. Crap… 5/18 for this Canuck.

    (if anyone else takes the test, tell us your nationality and your score).

    thanks a load for this Josh… it’s great. Best of luck on your travels south!

  6. Heh.

    I believe this is what you were looking for :

    Most of my Taiwanese friends failed miserably at alllooksame website, which asks you to identify origin by face, but it does seem that different countries have different fashion so that the ones they were able to spot on that website were the crazy hair Japanese. Same goes for us westerns – while traveling Asia I could spot an Israeli a mile away, by the dresscode and behavior.

  7. Man, I only got 6 (American, btw). I always felt like I could tell the difference maybe 80 percent of the time but maybe not. Of course, maybe the test is rigged. It is kind of hard to tell when they’ve got pictures of people making strange faces or wearing glasses. There were a couple people in there that I would swear could have possibly been mixed ethinicities.

  8. I think – as my post indicated – that telling the difference is a falsity. By and by it is easier to tell the difference between someone from the south of China or the north than it is to tell the difference between dongbei ren and hanguo ren … and even then it’s all a guess.

    The fashion thing is what a lot of Chinese people say when I ask them about this… but even then it’s getting blurry as the styles jump the small bits of water between the three (or five, depending) cultures.

  9. hey Ryan

    it’s Matt, good curry last night, eh!

    good to see your sites doing well
    still haven’t annouced the pregnancy yet i see

    a proud 12 out of 18 for me on the test
    it’s pretty difficult but koreans are easy to spot

  10. 9/18! Tom, English! You can tell a Scot a mile off, they’ll be the ones clinging on for dear life to their wallets. The Welsh will usually be attached to a sheep, and the English, well… we’re the ones that snivel and suck up to America… not to make a massive generalisation or anything

  11. I can spotl an Irish person. James challenged me on this, but I think it’s easy to spot someone who’s Irish or of Irish descent. It’s all in the ‘Irish eyes’.

    Best regards
    A sheep shagger

  12. What’s with me and 4s… 4/10 on that quiz too… (though unrelated – what is on this blog :-)… thanks for the quiz!)

  13. Rigged.

    For ethnicities, the faces are screwed up. Also, all Chinese are not racially identical; there is a difference between Northern Han and Southern Han, and then there are the ethnic minorities.

  14. @Inst: Rigged? What would be the reasoning? I think what the point of this post, these comments and that site is that Asians are as intermixed with their features as Europeans are. Someone can look more “Korean”-looking or “Southern Han Chinese”-looking and be Japanese or Vietnamese, but it’s just using standards from history (mostly via interpretive paintings), and doesn’t represent the genetic mix that is the present.

  15. Pingback: We All Look The Same To Them | Life In Suzhou China Blog | Adventures of the Humanaught

  16. Auch. Thought I had it going for me in the spotting area. Turns out I only scored a disappointing 6/18.

    Bet my Chinese wife will be angry that I can’t tell the Japs and Chinese apart. Better not mention it. 🙂

    I’m Danish btw.

  17. Yeah, um… that’s bunk man. I like the alllooksame site because at its core it promotes people to be less race sensitive and less worried about racial faux pas… and admits (rightfully) that Asians, particularly East Asians, look entirely too similar to distinguish at a glance.

    This, just like European counter-parts, is a fact of a long-globalized world and comes to the core of the issue, which is we’re all human, we’re bound to look the same.

    You’re right in that your Jomon-like people shown here (with striking photos of models and ancient officials) do look considerably different from the average East Asian. The fact is, Jomon people would be well interbred with the rest of Japanese population after nearly two and a half millenniums, and any carry-over characteristics are certainly isolated.

    Additionally, alllooksame was definitely not intending to compare Chinese, Korean and Jomon Japanese. That’d be a bit like comparing Chinese, Vietnamese and Tibetans. Or Tibetans, Nepalese and Indian.

    I applaud that you are so dedicated to learning about this stuff that you’ve gone to some lengths in finding genetic information – but using this information to try and support a rather goofy idea is just silly.

  18. 5/18. Five! I hang my head in shame. Excruciating wartime cartoons, by the way, thanks for sharing.

    Better try and find time to submit something to your What I Know Now project… 长舟丫

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