Saturday, April 24, 2010

Random Weekend Picture 9

These pictures of store displays may seem pretty bland to you, but it's actually tricky for me to get the pictures as there are signs up telling customers that they are not allowed to take photos in nearly ever store in Japan. That's right, I risk being busted for my art.

The Xylish gum on the left caught my eye because of the use of the word "Oriental" in it. In America, we don't say "Oriental" anymore because it's considered somewhat racist. We are only allowed to say "Asian".

This type of gum packaging irritates me on two levels. First of all, they are quite expensive. On the right, the "Cola" gum is $7.50 (U.S.) for 100 grams (3.5 oz.). The packages aren't even that big. I can't say how many packs of gum you'd need to buy to get an equivalent amount, but I think that these do not represent economies of scale. Some types of gum are only sold in this way in order to encourage people to spend more for a pretty pedestrian bit of food entertainment. Second, the plastic packaging is very wasteful and requires more energy to produce and recycle. Chances are you will never see me review gum sold in this fashion.


Anonymous said...

'Oriental' has a long and often ugly history. Mos of all it's an imposed definition by Westerners on Asians, and I can't myself blame them for wanting to shake it off.

It is actually still used quite often 'back home', though. It's not really 'not allowed'. It sounds backward and ignorant, which it is, but it isn't taboo.

Orchid64 said...

It seems that at least the Japanese aren't concerned with shaking off the word if they're using it on their own domestic products. I have also heard students use it before when speaking English. It seems that they aren't really aware of the negative connotations and that we're more sensitive to it than they are, at least in the cases of the Japanese who live in Japan.

Thanks for taking the time to comment and read!

Chelle said...

you're right when Westerners say 'oriental' it has a racist tone to it, we've discussed this when I had my popular culture class in college and my professor explains that the West often say 'oriental' when they want to make us Asians seem mysterious with our ancient culture and way of life. It's a label to us Asians that we are different from the Westerners and by different I mean man-animal difference; we seem so different like we are a different kind of specie to the West.

Hope this helps Japanese students and Asians who are still using the term 'oriental', I can understand English students who use this because their level of understanding is just on the technical level, like all languages, there are cultural and political connotation underlying such terms.

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Chelle, and thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

I never heard the notion that it is like a "man-animal" difference, though it wouldn't surprise me if that were the original connotation (something which is so far from the collective consciousness these days that it's a little hard for some people to empathize with). That being said, English hardly has the monopoly on that type of language or on conceptualizing people who are different from themselves as "they who are less than us," particularly in relatively homogeneous cultures where they see themselves as more united.