[FOUNTAIN]Two faces of Japan

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[FOUNTAIN]Two faces of Japan

The Korean word mudaeppo comes from a Japanese word with the same pronunciation. It means running into a battlefield without a weapon. There are many similar cases where Japanese words have become Korean words. The word jjamppong, or champon in Japanese, is one such.
In Nagasaki, Japan, there is a five-story Chinese restaurant named Shikairo. The first floor is a champon museum, and it sells only champon on the fifth floor. The founder of the restaurant, Heijun Chin, opened the restaurant in 1899 and created champon. Back then, Nagasaki’s population was 60,000 and about 10,000 poor Chinese emigrants and students lived here. Mr. Chin had come to Japan penniless and saw the need for a cheap but nutritious meal that appealed to Chinese students studying in Japan. After much thought, he made soup by boiling pork and chicken bones for three to four hours. He then added noodles and ingredients that were abundant in the sea near Nagasaki, such as shrimp, squid, oysters and boiled fish paste, together with pan-broiled cabbage, leeks and bean sprouts. This tasty champon attracted not only the Chinese, but also captured the taste buds of the Japanese.
Current owner Chin Masatsugu is the eldest great grandson of Heijun Chin. He said the word champon came from the Fujian dialect chapon, meaning “did you eat?” in Chinese. Asked if the word was a combination of China and Nippon, he shook his head. “A Japanese scholar argued that wrongly. It doesn’t matter. Champon was an open dish from the beginning anyway.” Mr. Chin laughed on hearing that Koreans add powdered red pepper to make the soup spicy and therefore the broth is red. “It doesn’t matter as long as champon is enjoyed by people. Grandfather Heijun scolded the family when they suggested applying for a patent for champon because of this thought.”
On a hill about 200 meters above the birthplace of champon is the Glover Garden. It commemorates Thomas Glover, who was born in Scotland and came to Nagasaki soon after the port opened. He supported liberals such as Ryoma Sakamoto and introduced western culture and scientific technology to Japan.
Nagasaki is a city of misfortune, where an atomic bomb was detonated. The Nagasaki Peace Park marks the atomic bomb epicenter, being the evidence of the tragic end of militarist Japan. Meanwhile, champon and the Glover Garden are symbols of the “open Japan.” What thoughts would Japanese students have when visiting Nagasaki on field trips, especially when the Korea-Japan relationship is on such rough terms?


by Lee Chul-ho

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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