The grotesque racial and ethnic stereotyping of former decades has been largely purged from the mainstream, but only to be replaced by less offensive, yet nonetheless stereotyped, signifiers. Non-Europeans living in a European-dominated society absorb these standards themselves, and not only are continuously made to be aware of their “otherness,” but adhere, out of necessity, to the Eurocentric system of signification. If an American of Asian descent wants to create a children’s book intended to build self-esteem among Asian American children and educate other children about Asian American experiences, she must first make sure the readers know that the characters represented are Asian, and so, consciously or not, she resorts to stereotyped signifiers that are easily recognizable, such as “slanted” eyes (an exaggerated representation of the epicanthic fold that is often, but not always, more pronounced in East Asians than in Europeans or Africans) or pitch black, straight hair (regardless of the fact that East Asian hair can range from near-black to reddish brown, and is often wavy or even frizzy). So it is that Americans and others raised in European-dominated societies, regardless of their background, will see a circle with two dots for eyes and a line for a mouth, free of racial signifiers, as “white.”
Japan, however, is not and never has been a European-dominated society. The Japanese are not Other within their own borders, and therefore drawn (or painted or sculpted) representations of, by and for Japanese do not, as a rule, include stereotyped racial markers. A circle with two dots for eyes and a line for a mouth is, by default, Japanese.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Japanese readers should have no trouble accepting the stylized characters in manga, with their small jaws, all but nonexistent noses, and famously enormous eyes as “Japanese.” Unless the characters are clearly identified as foreign, Japanese readers see them as Japanese, and it would never occur to most readers that they might be otherwise, regardless of whether non-Japanese observers think the characters look Japanese or not.
2716. Red String of Fate. “An East Asian belief originating from Chinese legend and is also used in Japanese legend. According to this myth, the gods tie an invisible red string around the fingers of those that are destined to meet each other in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way. According to Chinese legend, the deity in charge of “the red thread” is believed to be Yuè Xià Lǎo (月下老, often abbreviated to “Yuèlǎo” [月老]), the old lunar matchmaker god who is also in charge of marriages.” Wow, this is beautiful!
The two people connected by the red thread are destined lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break. This myth is similar to the Western concept of soulmates or a twin flame.
Keiko Kitagawa for SONY