I have discovered a terrible website

Here is the story of how I discovered the terrible website.

I’ve been trying not to eat so much junk food or eat out at restaurants as much.  So, I decided that a fun project would be recording everything that I eat.  I typically eat lean pockets for lunch at work because they are cheap and I cannot afford to spend an average on ten dollars a day on meals acquired in an expensive shopping mall.  Anyway, I was looking online for the nutrional contents of hot pockets and what do I stumble upon…

The hot pocket dojo.

No, I am SERIOUS.  The official website for Hot Pockets is http://www.hotpocketsdojo.com.

There is a old “Asian” man, dressed in Chinese clothes, with fortune cookies laid out nearby.  There is a disco ball over his head.  He asks you “Why you so stupid?!” in broken English if you click on some parts of the site.  I have provided screenshots for proof (and for your viewing pleasure/displeasure.)

Let's Disco at the Dojo

Let's Disco at the Dojo

Here we go again.

As an Asian-American and as a scholar of Japanese studies, the lame amalgamation of these “Orientalist” stereotypes is readily apparent.  Although I think it is humorous in kind of a mildly offensive way.

Dear Hot Pockets,

Did you know that dojo is a Japanese word?  Generally speaking, a dojo is a place where people study martial arts.  How do the fortune cookies and Chinese clothes the crazy old man is wearing make sense in that context? Ya’ll are freaking crazy!

Love,

Nancy

But I digress.  It is easy to see that they are doing some kind of parody of the Karate Kid with the old man being a “master” (who will “answer questions” for you but most likely just tell you that you are ugly – no seriously he says that).

This site also offers online games you can play with the master!/end fake enthusiasm.

I played a game of shells – my Mandarin is not so good, but the “shells” appear to have the traditional (not simplified) Chinese character for food – 飯.

Don't you love the Hanzi/Kanji styled text?

Don't you love the Hanzi/Kanji styled font?

My guess is that they were trying to do a kung fu type of Chinese master and got confused.  This is wrong in so many ways, and unfortunately, I don’t have time to thoroughly examine and critique each inane act of stereotypification that exists on that website.

However, I can’t say that Asians themselves, do not at times, help to perpetuate the stereotype that the vastly different countries and cultures of Asia are interchangable and/or identical.

For example, many of the local Japanese restaurants in the Metro Detroit area are run by Koreans, but a lot of people are under the impression that the restaurants are run by Japanese.  A co-worker of my once told me about this great little sushi place that he swore was Japanese owned, because they had spoken to him in Japanese, but when I walked in the door there was a huge stack of Korean newspapers and ads in the vestibule.  The waitstaff spoke… in Korean.  The music… was in Korean.  They served Korean food alongside Japanese food.  And I don’t think there is anything wrong with people opening Japanese restaurants when they are not Japanese.  I think that they may think that it is in their best interest to pretend to be Japanese to give their restaurant some kind of sense of authenticity to the unsuspecting locals, but really… how is that helping anyone?  If the food is good, it’s good!  You don’t gotta pretend.

The Joy of Japanese Language

So, I’ve been studying Japanese since approximately 2001 and unfortunately can really not call myself more than conversationally fluent.

Lately it is difficult remembering kanji and I haven’t really spoken to anyone in Japanese since my friend Naomi was visiting – and at that point we were speaking an interesting half-Japanese, half-English hybrid.

Here’s kind of an example of how Alex and I sometimes talk to each other:

“I think if I were in Japan for six months my *nihongo would be pretty **jyouzu.  ***Ne?”


Key:

*Japanese

**good

***Don’t you think so?

Which is most likely true.  Part of the problem is that I am extremely comfortable being informal in Japanese – sometimes extremely informal – since my friends and I joke around a lot.

Also, most of my friends live in the Kansai region, so I tend to throw in メッチャ instead of とても which means there is about a 50/50 chance of me saying something in colloquial Kansai-ben mixed with standard Tokyo-ben which just sounds totally weird.

Another thing about my awesome version of Japanese is that I try to speak at a normal rate and do not like to speak slowly at all or even think about what I am saying if it means that I have to speak slowly.  Which means that whichever verb form pops into my head first is the one that I will likely use.

Sensei: ナンシーさんは元気ですか?

Me: はい、元気だよ!先生は?

Approximate translation of what this probably sounds like to the cultured speaker of Japanese:

Teacher: Miss Nancy, are you faring well today?

Me: Hell yeah, I’m doing just fine!  How ’bout you?


But sometimes I have the opposite problem, of being perhaps too formal, like when I order at McDonald’s at the airport.

Me: すみませんが、チーズバーガーセットを下さいませんか?

Cashier: オーケー。500円です。

Approximate translation:

Me: Pardon me…Won’t you please give me the cheeseburger meal?

Cashier: Okay.  That’ll be 500 yen.

I can’t win!  It’s because I can think about what I’m going to order for five minutes and then plan what I am going to say accordingly… but when people ask me things conversationally I just say whatever comes to mind.

もっと勉強した方が良い。