Aug 07

Japanese athletes and spectators brace against booing in Beijing. Are they over-reacting?

Written by bianxiangbianqiao on Thursday, August 7th, 2008 at 9:42 pm
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How will Japanese athletes and their supporters be received during the Olympic Games in Beijing? Will they be booed by Chinese spectators? Will the Chinese show the propriety to stand up in respect when the Japanese national flag is raised and the Japanese national anthem played in the award-giving ceremonies?

From their past experiences in sports engagements with China, the Japanese are worried. How are they preparing themselves for possible slights and confrontations with the Chinese?

Do you think the spirit of hospitality in the Chinese governments’ adivce on the 8 questions Chinese shuold not ask foreigners during the Olympics will help put our Japanese visitors at ease?

This article is from the Sankei website (original in Japanese). 北京五輪で日本人の気骨を, by 平和・安全保障研究所理事長, 西原正, Fujisankei Communications Group, Opinion Magazine, July 29, 2008.

A cursory look at the site tells one that this Japanese news organization leans toward the right. But this particular author sounds representative of the Japanese attitude. So I translated a big chunk of it.

“Japanese Fortitude during the Beijing Olympics
by Masashi Nishihara, President, Research Institute for Peace and Security

Getting ready for an Extraordinary Atmosphere

The Olympic Games will commence on August 8th. The upcoming Olympics have two major differences from previous games. As an international meeting that occurs every four years in different locations, its international nature should be emphasized. However, this time China uses the event to promote the Chinese Nation.

From March to May, the Olympic torch relay in various places around the globe encountered numerous disruptions. The Chinese students (in fact their identities are unknown) who came to protect the torch waved the Chinese national flag, instead of the Olympic flag.

A second point is that one needs to anticipate that in those competitions that China is good at, Chinese spectators may be carried away by their excitement and abuse (ののしり) the side they are playing against with insulting words and actions. When the Chinese team is losing a game, there is a possibility that Chinese spectators will display threatening hostility toward the referees and the other team. (We) must also be on the watch out for (Chinese) players’ violation of good manners during competition.

One would be better served to remember ugly (ひどい) competitions such as Chinese players’ rough play during the game, Chinese spectators’ violent outburst after the game, and the damage done to the official vehicle of the Japanese Ambassador in August 2004, during the Asian Cups Soccer Games in Beijing when the Japanese team defeated the Chinese 3 to 1. Unpredictable and out-of-control events such as spectators turning violent and surrounding Japanese supporters may occur.

It is said that this time round the authorities have done a lot to improve the manner of the Chinese citizens in supporting their sports teams. While expecting great improvement, the Japanese players and spectators need to prepare themselves with the willpower to maintain calmness and refuse to be perturbed in the face of provoking situations.

A Fair and Resolute Attitude

(I) wish that the Japanese players will conduct fair and square competition, and Japanese spectators will maintain their dignity and good manner from the beginning to the end. Needless to say, there should not be Japanese players testing positive on doping or intentionally engaging in foul play during competition. In the case of losing games due to bad manner of the opponents’ supporters, or the inappropriate facilities, or air pollution, there is nothing that can be done about it. Criticism on this kind of unfairness should be entrusted to spectators from other countries and the competition committee, and possibly journalists. Japanese players should concentrate on playing fair games earnestly, and leave the supervision of the opponents’ foul play to the relevant authorities. The willpower to fight with fortitude under strenuous conditions will win over the spectators.

When Kimigayo (Japanese national anthem, translator’s note) is played and the Chinese refuse to stand up, or when the Chinese boo the Japanese team, it will be necessary to endure (such mistreatments) with strong patience. The patience of the Japanese will win the respect of Chinese spectators and those from other countries. Last September in Hangzhou during the women’s W cup soccer match between the Japanese and German teams, Chinese young people supported the German team and showered the Japanese team with booing. After the game was over, when the defeated Japanese team unfurled a banner with the words “Thank you, China” to the spectators, the spectators’ attitude transformed into expression of good will, giving the Japanese team a round of applause. A Chinese person later revealed that “although the Japanese team lost the game, they gained a lot of genuine respect. They won in the spirit.” (July 4th Asahi Shinbum)

Start with Courtesy and End with Courtesy

Japanese national sports such as Judo, Kendo and Sumo emphasize propriety. The core value of these sports is to start with courtesy and end with courtesy. Although the internationalization of Judo is a positive phenomenon, it is regrettable that its traditional meaning is ignored, allowing it to degenerate into an ordinary sport based on the determination of winning and losing. The small number of Judo athletes representing Japan in international arenas should preserve this tradition. When a Japanese athlete has won a game, assuming the celebrative winner pose (ガッツポーズ) goes against the traditional spirit. Instead, expressing gratitude and respect to the losing side is the appropriate behavior. ………”

Then the author gave a long list of detailed instructions to Japanese athletes and spectators about how to behave appropriately in various circumstances, when you are losing, or winging in various types of games, baseball, wrestling and soccer etc, removing your cap, standing in silence, etc. and etc.

Can the Chinese spectators give proper respect to the Japanese?

Can some Western athletes and spectators refrain from disruptive behaviors, such as climbing up to really high places to unfurl a freaking banner, taking of all your clothes in the streets, and drinking too much in San Li Tun? You can wear as many masks as you want to if you find the Beijing air unbreathable.

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28 Responses to “Japanese athletes and spectators brace against booing in Beijing. Are they over-reacting?”

  1. Chops Says:

    Will Japanese spectators be able to wave the Hinomaru flag at Olympic venues?

    Asked about the question, an Internet activist said:
    “,,, I’m not sure what will happen once the Olympics start. I believe [the Japanese] should be careful when Japan and China compete against each other. Compared anti-American and anti-French feelings, to ignite Chinese people’s anti-Japan sentiments, only a tenth of the provocation is needed.”


  2. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    I hope the Olympics will be a healing session for the Chinese and Japanese. The “thank you China” banner in Hangzhou was moving. It is time to move on. I think the “one world, one dream” education will do some good in this aspect.

  3. Joel Says:

    We just saw two football games last night in Tianjin – over 53,000 people in attendance. USA vs. Japan and Holland vs. Nigeria.

    There was some booing in both games last night, but not that much, and it didn’t seem like there was any extra special booing directed at Japan. Nothing out of the ordinary, I thought. Of course, China wasn’t playing though. The booing was less than at the Women’s World Cup game we saw previously (China vs. New Zealand).

    Yesterday morning before the game I told my teacher I was going to the game, and since I’m Canadian I didn’t want to cheer for the U.S., so maybe I should cheer for Japan. Immediately he was like, “What? Are you kidding? You can’t cheer for Japan!”

    “But they probably won’t have anyone in the whole place cheering for them!”

    “It doesn’t matter! They don’t deserve it! Of course you can’t cheer for them!” Turns out there was a small section of Japanese fans with banners and stuff, but they weren’t very loud.

    We’re watching the Opening Ceremonies on a giant screen set in one of the parks tonight (hopefully with a huge crowd of people), and tomorrow night going to watch China vs. Canada women’s football. I haven’t decided who to cheer for in that one yet…

  4. BMY Says:

    that said, there is a lot Chinese people should learn from Japanese people, not only the technology.

  5. Daniel Says:

    There’s a lot for people to learn from each other. Hopefully nothing too disturbing or hurtful will happen on a large scale but better to hope for something better to relied heavily on pessimistic experiences and speculations. Also, there is plenty to do after the games.

    Anyways, cheer for Canada. Even though there’s some pet peeves whenever I go there to visit relatives, a lot of the women are quite good looking in my opinion. Hope all you guys in Beijing have fun.

  6. Michelle Says:

    The last paragraph of this post is strange.

    What does this have to do with anything in the article you translated? It sounds as if your conclusion is the Japanese are better behaved than the Chinese but the Chinese are better behaved than the “Westerners”. Or that the Chinese should only behave themselves if the “Westerners” don’t unfurl “freaking” banners, get drunk or wear masks.

    Getting drunk in Sanlitun is not a pastime limited only to “Westerners”. I find the behaviour of all involved, Chinese and “others”, pretty bad. There have been quite a few ‘disruptive behaviours’ here in the past months involving only Chinese ‘disruptees’. It’s not unusual on particularly bad days to see Chinese bicyclists to wear face masks. (though I do think the athletes arriving in masks is weird).

    The last paragraph reminds me of a lot of anti-American comments I’ve heard over the years. The broad social acceptance for anti-American sentiment among Canadians, Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders results in the dumbing down of such comments in this company, often to the point of crassness and prejudice. Having a contentious argument about country X and country Y and can’t come to a conclusion? Just make some anti-American comment and have a good laugh together in solidarity. No one has to work too hard to be specific or poignant when broad-stroke generalities will receive cheer. (Equally true in many situations, e.g. American attitude towards Islam and of course “westerners” towards China).

    Why end an article on how Japanese athletes expect they will be received in China with a paragraph about drunk foreigners in Sanlitun? ???

    I appreciate that bianxiangbianqiao did eventually address the main point of contention on his last Japanese blog and I hope he can do the same here. Maybe i’m missing something…

    Unrelated: I always thought Judo was Korean? Can anyone clear that up?

  7. Hemulen Says:


    I agree with you, there is a double standard applied here, as I tried to point out in my comment to BXBQ’s previous post. First, he complains about Westerner’s alleged lack of self-control, the next moment, he describes crowds in Beijing taking out their anger on foreign “enemies” as something positive. I think he has some issues with Westerners that have nothing to do with what they do, he seems to dislike Westerners at sight.

    Having said that, I agree that Chinese can do a lot to change people’s perception of China by behaving in a dignified and (yes) self-controlled way during the Olympics. I’m not convinced that it will happen, but I will be watching events closely.

  8. FOARP Says:

    To be frank, I don’t see the point in debating such things. In a few weeks it will all be over and we will all know how they were received, and the closing statements about ‘westerners’ are just gratuitous and insulting.

  9. Henry Says:

    I don’t know if the entire last paragraph is gratuitous, but the last sentence seems unnecessary. Well, perhaps BXBQ is surrounded by China-bashers most of the time, and he likes to vent a little. Hopefully the posts on this site will move towards a more intellectually-rigorous direction, as the potential is definitely there. Enjoy the Olympics everybody.

  10. FOARP Says:

    I’m just waiting for someone to suggest that the war in Ossetia is a western-engineered plot to take attention away from the Olympics . . . . . . wait a minute, maybe if I go and do some posting on Strong China, China Daily and Anti-CNN I can get a rumour started . . . . .

  11. yo Says:

    To be fair to the American Cyclists(I’m assuming that was what the last sentence was referring to), they did apologize. I remember Brian Williams talking about that on NBC news and he noted that they were wearing the masks INDOORS. lol I think most people thought what they did was overkill. But anyways, they apologized.

  12. FOARP Says:

    With the Russian invasion it seems the crisis in Ossetia is very serious indeed. My predictions:

    1) Behind the scenes China will support the Russians, but not publicly, she cannot be seen to support separatism.

    2) The Russians will aim to return to the status quo, at most they will try to launch a long-running process which might solidify the Russian citizenship of the Ossetians.

    3) Everything depends on how the Americans respond.

  13. FOARP Says:

    4) Ugly incidents between Georgian and Russian athletes ala the 1956 ‘Blood In The Water Match’.

    5) Both Bush and Putin heading home as quickly as possible.

  14. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    The last paragraph is necessary. It is instructive to compare the different postures of the Japanese, Chinese and Europeans-Americans toward the Olympics. The Japanese are hunkering down and hoping to ride it off without losing their dignity. The Chinese are trying hard to be a good host, cleaning up the air by banning traffic and closing factories, and modifying behaviors (e.g. spitting) and food preferences (canine meat, fowl feet, camel soles) that bother Westerners. On the other hand, some Westerners are doing everything they can to screw things up, with their freaking banners etc.) A “thank you China” banner is much more desirable and appropriate.

  15. yo Says:

    #13 FOARP,
    But this time, it might be the Russians beating the living sh!t out of the Georgians. They are claiming the Georgian government is ethnically cleansing Russians. Irregardless, it’s a serious situation.

  16. Nimrod Says:


    Yes, I think some people have something miswired in their head and are exceedingly childish. They are not behaving normally for any culture. They are in no danger of anything and from the looks of it, China will just suffer these idiots for a month. What or what more are they going to accomplish? Having seen how things go in the opening ceremony, it seems these professional “protestainers” will simply find themselves ignored by China and Chinese and their ridiculously hyped up “protestaining” will end on a whimper.

    (The opening ceremony itself was interesting. North Korea’s team got a great cheer from the crowd — obviously not for their brand of politics as Chinese people don’t have much like for that — but for their status as the shunned and downtrodden state.)

  17. Nimrod Says:

    Also, I just read this stupid thing in the Detroit Free Press:

    The story presented in Friday’s ceremony sought to distill 5,000 years of Chinese history — featuring everything from the Great Wall to opera puppets to astronauts, and highlighting achievements in art, music and science. Roughly 15,000 people were in the cast, including 2,008 drummers in the opening sequence, all under the direction of Zhang Yimou, whose early films often often ran afoul of government censors for their blunt portrayals of China’s problems.

    The show, according to an advance script, steered clear of modern politics — there were no references to Chairman Mao and the class struggle, nor to the more recent conflicts and controversies.

    Totally speechless. These buffoons are the “opinion leaders” with any credibility to talk about China? Maybe they should think long and hard about why Zhang Yimou is not only not including “class struggle” in an Olympics opening ceremony (!) but is in fact embracing the project that is the pride of all of China.

  18. vadaga Says:

    I for one am a strong proponent of the Guts Pose:



  19. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    Thanks for the background about Guts Pose. I thought the term must have some opaque English origin.

    Guts sounds like a cool guy. It’s good to learn that he is a fan of Takakura Ken too. I can’t match him with any character in Black Rain though. That was a really trashy movie anyway. I was puzzled why Takakura agreed to appear in it; poor judgment.

  20. Jane Says:

    The last paragraph is out of place and strikes me as immature. It’s like, ok, I admit some Chinese spectators have behaved poorly, but look look, those non-Chinese, they were pretty bad too. We are not kids here. As adults, it doesn’t matter how others behave, we must at all times hold ourselves to the highest standards. Otherwise, we are no better than the very people we criticize. Regardless whether protestors unfurl banners or get drunk or whatever, they do not give Chinese spectators the green light to be rude to athletes.

    The tragedy of the Chinese people is that they do not know what is an appropriate way to let out their legitimate grievances (maybe they don’t have access to proper channels, but that’s for another discussion). So at the end, they make themselves look bad and hurt their own causes.

    This is an otherwise good article but the last paragraph is just …disappointing.

  21. S.K. Cheung Says:

    If you describe what “most” Japanese will try to do (weather Chinese disapproval while maintaining dignity), and what “most” Chinese will try to do (being good hosts and curbing bad habits like spitting), then you should focus on what “most” westerners will try to do (which I’m confident will be to enjoy the sporting spectacle) and not compare it to a few pole-climbers. Otherwise it betrays your biases.

  22. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Further on the pole-climbers, they’re exercising a right of expression to which they’re accustomed, but should’ve realized such expression in CHina would not be tolerated. However, casting a light on them gives them what they seek, which is attention. If you disapprove of it, drawing further attention to it seems counterproductive.

  23. Michelle Says:

    Anyway, it seems that many of the protests on the first day were done by Chinese people. And an American was stabbed to death.

  24. Michelle Says:

    Sorry should have made it clearer, that last post was a follow up to SK Cheung’s last post, who put it better than I could. 1) We deserve to be judged in the same way. I’m sure there will be many people expressing anger at all of China over the murder yesterday, but that’s obviously not fair…. 2) Asking westerners to ‘control themselves’ obviously excludes the people from Hong Kong who are also staging protests. Are they immune from condemnation?

  25. lbw Says:

    That was pretty cool that they came out holding both flags. I wonder if that’s been done elsewhere?

  26. Dolgosuren Says:

    I think I just heard booing in the womens’ doubles badminton – China vs. Japan, but the commentators made no mention of it.

  27. Dunk Says:

    But I heard Chinese people cheer for Japanese table tennis team…


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