You cannot choose your neighbor; China and Japan happen to be neighbors. Both wear business suits but so do the Americans and the Russians. China is slightly smaller than the US; Japan is slightly smaller than the state of California. That makes China and Japan similar; Hollywood is California and take California out of the US and very little remains. Leave these minor similarities out and China and Japan are so different.

Start with the language, so essential for neighbors to shout at each other. Chinese are loud; their words have several meanings that are expressed through the inefficient means of loud and less loud tones, mostly the former. To avoid confusion, these have to be accompanied by gestures, not only of hands but also of the head and even feet, the last one being more effective as the kick can reach farther and convince more easily. Japanese speak in monotone without disturbing the serenity of the surroundings. That is why China always failed to hear Japan and sometimes came to grief because of that.

Chinese characters have sharp angles like the Chinese themselves and are cluttered one on top of the other making them look like cat-paw-scratch-writing. Japanese characters are curvy, neat, with baby-face cuteness about them. Japanese use angular characters only for words borrowed from other languages, because everything foreign has pricked them throughout their long history. Japanese are more creative and use three different scripts for their one language while the Chinese revel in making and using copycat fakes and use the same script for all their different languages.

The Japanese do not look directly into the eyes of the other person while talking, children being taught to look at the neck of the other person to avoid staring at the eyes while keeping slight eye contact. Chinese stare and glare directly into the eyes, quite a feat as they keep flailing their limbs and bobbing the head up, down, sideways and in every other dimension as they shout in the face of the other person. The shouting is punctuated by questions, not meant to elicit an answer and therefore not resulting in a pause. The Japanese never shout; they whisper and hence we have the Japanese Whispers game. Some people like the Americans call it the Chinese Whispers; such people have not been a neighbor of the Chinese or the Japanese and hence do not know much about Chinese shouts and Japanese whispers.

Till two centuries ago, wood was the fuel for cooking, so the forests and cooking are related. Japanese prefer to eat plant and animal food raw and so more of Japan is covered in forests. Chinese believe in cooking and some more when it is cooked; the food in the hotpot keeps cooking even when on the table. It is thus that China has few desserts but has deserts of all kinds, cold deserts up there in the occupied Tibet in the south and hot deserts down there in the occupied Xinjiang towards the north. This satisfies their desire to perennially oppose the West where the north is always up and the south is always down. Japanese sometimes cook their food but keep each item separately; the Chinese mix everything, meat, poultry, vegetables, with a dog, rat, bat, snake, turtle and a handful of insects occasionally thrown in.

The Japanese never fry their food and never look fried; Chinese invariably fry and even their diplomats and spokespersons never smile. They are wolf-warriors and the fast-learning Chinese have learned the art of snarling from the wolves. Dogs are slower than wolves and lost the art of escaping the hotpot; the Chinese count them as meat on paws. Chinese rice is fried and slippery as are the Chinese, Japanese rice is sticky, as are the Japanese. The latter do not lament the past; they stick to it. Chinese lament the past a lot and try to get rid of it by washing away the “Century of Humiliation ” with copiously-shed tears and by razing hutongs and raising high-rises in their place. The Chinese are fond of vandalizing images from their past as their past and their present image worldwide has not been good. Japanese image has been good and they try to preserve the past and its images.

China’s communists think people are numbers; they calculated and found that there were too many people and introduced the one-child policy and encouraged abortions. Mostly female fetuses were discarded and now many boys can’t find a girl. Japan is overpopulated too, but they treat the numbers as people and abortion as an abhorrent Chinese practice. In Japan, there are more women than men and the ratio keeps rising. The Chinese girl demands that a boy must have an expensive car and a decent house before she condescends to marry him. In Japan, everyone has a house and a car and there are enough girls around and so the boys do not have to fret.

Population density of China is less than half that of Japan. Yet, Chinese huddle and stand close by while talking. Japan, even with its very high density, never introduced one-child policy because storks bring babies and Japanese love Stork Natural Rice and take good care of the storks’ habitat. Maybe, the Japanese think they are underpopulated and unlike the Chinese, keep distance from each other while talking. In Japan, physically touching another while walking or talking is very impolite; backslapping while talking and bumping into another while walking, without the need to say sorry, is an expression of freedom in China. This is not frowned upon because this is the only freedom the Chinese enjoy.

Chinese love to litter perhaps because this word has, like many Chinese words, more than one meaning. Just now, we are not talking of babies but the more obnoxious meaning of this word, so very familiar in the countries that are favorite destinations for the Chinese tourists. The Chinese talk loudly and litter, as their homage, as they ascend the slopes of the Japanese holy Mount Fuji. The Japanese follow in their wake silently, not even whispering, picking up the litter as their homage to the holy volcano.

As the Chinese gradually shifted from arrows and bows to the bullet, they have also moved from the bow to the handshake. Japanese still keep their Samurai swords and arrows and bows and the bow. Nobody bows as deep as the Japanese and nobody says sorry as often as the Japanese. The Chinese being the other end of the spectrum, have a distaste for uttering an apology and even when they do, it is not likely to be accepted. So, Liu Qing started his Tianjin Apology and Gift Center, with the motto, “We Say Sorry for You.” It delivers an apology letter and expensive gifts on your behalf. Maybe, as the Chinese economy goes down and requires cooperation with other countries, its services can be used by the Communist Party.

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