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Behind the Racist Slurs in Okinawa

Last updated on January 17, 2017

Two Osaka Prefectural police officers that used derogatory terms to refer to protesters opposing the ongoing construction of helipads for the Northern Training Area, a U.S. Marine Corps jungle warfare training facility in Okinawa, have received verbal warnings by their immediate superior. The officers reportedly said: “What the hell do you think you’re holding, idiot? “Don’t touch (the fence). You ‘dojin.’“Shut up, ‘Shina-jin.’” Although the word dojin originally means “native” or ” indigenous people” in Japanese, it is rarely used today because of its derogatory connotations. The “do” in dojin can mean dirt or soil. “Shinajin,” is a derogatory reference to Chinese.

One of the officers reasoned, “I saw some of (the protesters) apply dirt to themselves so I blurted out the term.” The other said that he only used the term because another policeman had used it in the past. Both officers have said they were unaware of the derogatory nature of their words, according to the Asahi News.

According to Yang Sheng of China Daily Asia, “Shinajin was used by the Japanese military in referring to Chinese people during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45). In the Edo era, Japan experienced a resurgence of nationalism that discarded the nation’s utmost respect for China and preferred to use the word Shina, with the excuse that China was neither the center of the world or a superior civilization.

In Japanese, Shinajin refers to all people living in China and carries overtones of Japanese superiority over the Chinese.>

Hence, the derogatory connotation now widely noted in the academic world. Before and during the World War II, Japanese publications were full of terms such as “Japan-Shina relations”, the “Shina Incident” (the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 1937) and “occupation troops in Shina”. After World War II, the Supreme Command of the Allied Forces concluded in an investigation in 1946 that the word Shina indeed carries derogatory overtones and pressured the Japanese government to ban it in all official, academic and print media writings, including history textbooks. The Japanese administration had to heed the call with a nationwide decree.

Since then, the word Shina and all its derivatives have been replaced by “Chuko” (Zhongguo in Chinese ) in the documents listed above. Currently, only right-wingers, such as Shintaro Ishihara, former governor of Tokyo, still use it out of hatred for China and its people.” Ishihara went out of his way to use the expression “Shinajin (支那人) when referring to the Chinese.

The papers said riot police at the scene have been shouting abusive language at base opponents and that the latest episode reflects their prejudice against local people. 泥人 (mud people). The Asahi News further reported, ” in 2013, representatives of all municipalities in Okinawa staged a demonstration in Tokyo’s Ginza district against the plan to deploy Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to a U.S. base in the prefecture. They were bombarded with a torrent of abuse: “Traitors!” “Ryukyu-jin (Okinawans), get out of Japan,” and “Spies for China!””

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