The finer distinctions
Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 24, 2007
MY WIFE THINKS she can spot Koreans, Chinese, and Vietnamese (in particular) at a glance most of the time on television.
A couple of years ago, I had her take the test on the site All Look Same. The objective of the test is to guess the ethnicity of Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese from their photographs. My point total was identical with hers, which temporarily brought the room temperature down a couple of degrees. (I’d been married long enough to have gotten the hang of marital arts judo and realized that I should have missed a couple on purpose. Maybe I’ll learn in my next life.)
Regular visitors here will know that a test such as this can be difficult, but others might not realize it is possible to devise a test that no one would pass–even East Asians. In San Francisco, I knew a young woman whose face could have been used as a model for an ukiyo-e print, but she was Chinese. She told me that even Chinese people meeting her for the first time thought she was Japanese.
Indeed, the reason I recalled this site was a photo in a feature story in today’s local newspaper about a ceramist. I live close to Arita, so features about ceramics in the paper are common. I thought the woman in the photo was Japanese–in fact, she looked like someone I thought I had met–but when I read the caption, it turned out she was Korean.
The All Look Same site has been around for a few years, but they’ve updated it with tests on food, architecture, and urban scenery. When I took the face test, registration was required, but they accepted assumed names. Try out your skills of observation–or your intuition!
And if you have the time, the page written by the site’s owner, Dyske Suematsu, on his philosophy, is worth reading. As an aside, this could fit in the recent post about regional characteristics in Japan:
I once had a Caucasian hairdresser who told me that he worked for a Japanese hair salon in New York for a long time. He looked at my hair and correctly guessed which region of Japan my parents were from.
Postscript: My wife’s clues for identifying Vietnamese are sharply sloping shoulders and a wider, flatter nose. I see her point.