「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Good, better, best

By Samantha Loong


"Don't date a Japanese guy," advised the young Japanese woman sitting next to me at dinner. "Japanese women are still popular worldwide, but it's generally known that Japanese men, well, Japanese men are the worst."

And so, with one sweeping statement, she had insulted all the Japanese men at the table, including her own father. On behalf of all the kind, clever, selfless, talented, ambitious, funny Japanese men I know — including friends, host dads, former students, former landlords, former employers and the guy at my local coffee shop — I decided not to refill this woman's glass for the rest of the evening.

Bad, worse, worst. Making comparisons is a powerful skill to learn in any language. However, in social situations, especially if you've only just met someone, it's probably best not to jump to strongly negative comparisons.

"Don't you think it depends on the person?" I asked, to which she said that the average Japanese woman would think the same. Even if this was the case, I find it exasperating that she would choose to announce her thoughts in front of Japanese men who were, in my view, pretty good guys.

Good, better, best. I wonder if there is a Japanese equivalent to the proverb "The grass is always greener on the other side." This describes the way people imagine a situation to be better if circumstances were different, when actually the alternative is unlikely to be an improvement. This woman was about to be married to a non-Japanese man, so I guess she thought the grass was about to get greener for her — on the other side of the world.

In another case, on learning that a friend of mine had given birth to a baby of mixed race, a student commented that "The baby must be cute. Mixed-race babies are cuter than Japanese babies." He also assumed that a mixed-race baby meant a baby with blue eyes. This was an interesting comparison, seeing as a Caucasian friend once said she thought Japanese babies were cuter than Western babies.

My friend's newborn has gone from looking like an oversized raisin with an adorable old-man face to a chubby-cheeked cherub with an adorable smile. Some might think she's cuter than others, while her parents probably think she's the cutest. But no one can give an opinion if they haven't actually met her. People should be judged on who they are as a person, not on what group they're associated with. But if a fluid-covered bright-red crying mass of wrinkly flesh can already be separated into "cute" or "could be cuter" categories on birth, what chance do grown humans of any race or gender have of avoiding judgement?



The Japan Times ST: April 10, 2015

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版