Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, in central Japan, is holding a large Chinese festival this weekend in celebration of the New Year’s arrival. As one of the biggest Chinese New Year events in Japan, there are large crowds eager to see cultural demonstrations and enjoy traditional cuisine, in light of all the recent diplomatic tensions between the two countries, there is something noticeably, and thankfully, missing.
There are no anti-Chinese demonstrations or protests over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and even better, there is no presence of the need to deploy fighter jets or engage in otherwise threatening military acts. This is in contrast to the controversial editorial last week from China’s government-sponsored media that attempts to rile up the people by advising they be prepared for the first potential acts of war. It seems even with the two Asian neighbors’ governments at each other’s throats, a large portion of the Japanese population can hold a harmonious celebration for the year’s biggest holiday.
Now, this isn’t to say that all of Japan has no interest in the dispute over the islands, or that is isn’t an area of concern, but here, in the spirit of the holiday, the Japanese people can put aside the politics of the situation and enjoy the cultural friendship. Japan’s Self Defense Forces deployed fighter jets last week in response to China’s own military aircrafts approaching territorial airspace over the Senkakus, but that doesn’t mean any and all events about or including China need to be called off.
While in the immediate aftermath of the eruption of violent anti-Japanese protests in China resulted in cancellation of cultural events, or the encouraging of Chinese and Japanese athletes not to participate in each other’s sporting events was in the best interests of safety, several months have passed now. The Chinese government let its people have a few days of rioting in the streets, but now order is being enforced once again, and there is very little risk of wide-spread outbreaks of violence. But the cancellation of cultural events and celebrations, and even worse, calls for the people to be ready for war from the national media, only serve to make sure the Chinese public maintains an anti-Japan sentiment in all areas of life.
It’s not possible at this point to brush aside the whole Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands issue and move on at this point; things need to be worked out and it will take time, but that doesn’t mean blind hatred needs to extend to areas of life such as culture, entertainment, and sports. The people of Japan, at least here in Nagoya, seem to be taking the better approach in that ships and airplanes standing off over uninhabited islands are one thing, but celebrating the New Year with delicious Chinese food, presentations of the lion and dragon dance, and arts performances for everyone to enjoy are another matter altogether.