From kimonos to canceled festivals, Japanese culture faces growing hostility across China

Anti-Japanese hatred appears to be on the rise in China as neighbors seek to mark half a century since the normalization of diplomatic ties between Beijing and Tokyo later this month.

The public mood in China has turned against even small signs of Japanese culture in the country in recent weeks, from a kimono-wearing woman to anime fan conventions.

Anti-Japanese sentiment runs deep in China, where heightened nationalism has also emerged as Beijing clashes with the Western alliance of which Japan is a member. Many resent the Japanese government’s refusal to apologize for war crimes committed during the Sino-Japanese wars and its leaders’ repeated visits to shrines commemorating Japanese war criminals.

Even some self-proclaimed fans of Japanese culture, known in China as “ACG,” an acronym for “anime, comics and games,” are sensitive to the recent wave of resentment.

“Although personally my own advantage as an ACG fan has been harmed, I still think some of the arguments make sense,” Xinyu Liu, a 23-year-old graduate student in Chengdu, told NBC News, referring to the recent backlash that led to the cancellation of dozens of Japanese cultural events across China.

“In the context where Japan has yet to apologize for its war of aggression against China…this kind of anti-Japanese sentiment that suddenly escalates every few years is destined to exist for a long time. “, he added.

‘You are Chinese’

The most recent flashpoint was a viral video circulating on social media earlier this month that showed a young woman being harassed for wearing a kimono in an area of ​​Suzhou city that is home to a number of restaurants and shops. Japanese.

In footage uploaded to the internet in China, a young woman was accosted by an unidentified man who claimed to be a police officer.

“You’re Chinese,” a man in a blue shirt shouts at the woman wearing a white kimono with pink cherry blossoms, saying he wouldn’t talk to her that way if she was wearing traditional Chinese clothes.

He then appears to detain her for “fomenting quarrels and causing trouble” – a blanket charge commonly used in China to arrest dissidents and journalists.

A hashtag on the subject has been viewed a total of 150 million times on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo.

NBC News contacted local authorities but received no response and was unable to independently verify details of the incident.

It came at a sensitive time, shortly before August 15, the anniversary of Japan’s announced surrender at the end of World War II. While some online commentators expressed support for the woman and accused the man of overreacting, the incident has also led to torrents of renewed anti-Japanese rhetoric online, the latest sign of a intensification of nationalism in a country increasingly sensitive to narratives that contradict that of Beijing.

“Wearing kimonos should not be banned in our society…but when someone wants to wear a kimono, I would advise them to be aware of their surroundings to avoid upsetting those around them,” commentator Hu Xijin said. nationalist audience and former editor. of the state-backed tabloid The Global Times, wrote on Weibo earlier this month.

Nationalist hatred also erupted last month after the cult of Japanese war criminals was uncovered at a Chinese temple in Nanjing, a city at the heart of Chinese animosity towards Japan.

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