April 20, 2004

Silly Error Appears in Maclean's Japan Story

Why do western newspapers and magazines continue to publish cutesy stories about Japan without checking facts?

In the April 26, 2004, Maclean's, Steve Burgess writes: "Such unusual touches and jarring cultural snapshots have caused westerners to put Japan under a microscope for years." OK, one would assume that he would then have a passing acquaintance with his subject.

However, he later states: "Japanese writing features three different sets of characters. One of them is reserved exclusively for spelling out things that are not Japanese, such as the signs of foreign-owned restaurants." Not true.

If you look at the main photograph accompanying the article, it shows several Japanese companies displaying their names in katakana, the script that is supposedly reserved only for foreign words, or even in English characters, for huge outdoor advertisements.

I have beside me a Japanese-language catalog from electronics retailer Yodobashi Camera from my last trip to Japan a few months ago. The Yodobashi Camera logo is in katakana. Inside the catalog names of leading Japanese companies including Sony, Nikon, Canon, etc., are rendered in katakana, or simply in English characters.

Better take another look into that microscope!

Posted by Paul at April 20, 2004 08:44 PM