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Inspiring to see mutual interest of Chinese and Japanese people

By Cai Hong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-18 07:28

Inspiring to see mutual interest of Chinese and Japanese people

Chinese travel agencies predict that Japan is likely to become one of the hottest destinations for Chinese tourists during the Golden Week. [Photo/Xinhua]

I was surprised recently to find how closely Chinese internet surfers follow what happens in Japan. A short Japanese TV program about a middle school aired early this month has touched many a Chinese citizen's nerve. The school's principal encouraged his students to speak to their classmate crush.

Some students texted words of affection to their peers rather than mouthing them aloud, as the principal said, thanks to social networking technology. The principal wanted his students to bare their soul and share their emotions. Several teens came forward hollering out their "love" in front of the whole school. One boy was delirious after finding the girl whom he "loves" has the same feeling for him; others were rejected and tearful.

The annual program is designed to help children speak about either their affection or anxieties.

Chinese netizens-many of them adults-said the principal and those students who dared to open up their hearts moved them to tears. Puppy love is part of teen development. But teenage romance is something that teachers and parents do their best to prevent and nip in the bud in China.

Also, Chinese internet users followed an Aug 30 report on Ishikawa prefecture's Kahoku city, where women with children "proposed" imposing a special tax on single people. The news sparked heated discussions online in Japan. The city has been bombarded with phone calls and emails protesting against the idea, which they say violates human rights. The city authorities have denied there was such a motion, saying only one mother complained to a local official about the cost of raising children and suggested single people contribute more to the country.

Japanese netizens also pay attention to news about China. They were worried about Wei Qiujie, a 27-year-old Chinese primary school teacher, who went missing during a trip to Hokkaido in late July. They prayed for her soul to rest in peace after she was found dead by the sea in Japan's northernmost prefecture. Good things come in small packages, as a saying goes.

Reading these reports, I couldn't help asking whether the opinions of Chinese and Japanese citizens about each other are really that bad. A survey conducted by Pew Research Center last year showed that Chinese and Japanese viewed each other with disdain and harbored mostly negative stereotypes about one another. Just 11 percent of the Japanese respondents expressed a favorable view of China-over the past decade, the average favorability of China among Japanese citizens has been just 18 percent. And only 14 percent people in China voiced a favorable opinion of their East Asian neighbor, in line with the average of available data of the past decade.

It is hard to believe that a large number of Chinese tourists visit Japan despite a majority of Chinese people having a low opinion of the country. More than 4 million Chinese visited Japan in the first seven months of this year, up 6.7 percent year-on-year. And more than 48 percent of the arrivals in the April-June quarter were repeat visitors, highlighting Chinese tourists' keen interest in Japan.

After spending huge amounts of money on made-in-Japan products-a byword for high quality-for many years, Chinese tourists have begun to enjoy Japan's omotenashi-Japanese way of wholeheartedly entertaining guests-and are trying to understand what Japanese-ness is.

Japan is getting ready for an influx of Chinese visitors during China's weeklong National Day holiday, or the "Golden Week", which starts on Oct 1, as about 506,000 Chinese tourists visited Japan during last year's "Golden Week".

Former Japanese prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone liked to talk about Japan's foreign relations in terms of "equations with many variables". And a recent Reuters report said Japanese wholesale prices rose at the fastest annual pace in nearly nine years in August as robust Chinese demand boosted commodity prices.

Like it or not, China and Japan are neighbors that are on each other's equation.

The author is China Daily Tokyo bureau chief.

caihong@chinadaily.com.cn

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