After weeks of anti-Japanese protests in China, with many escalating into physical violence and damage to property, Japanese nationals and businesses alike are understandably on edge. With many stores being ransacked and any person thought to be supporting Japan in any way- including innocent Chinese civilians unfortunate enough to be seen driving Japanese-made vehicles- being attacked amidst mob violence, it is little wonder that people are doing whatever it takes to distance themselves from Japan.
Famous clothing brand Uniqlo- a Japanese company founded in Yamaguchi prefecture- opened its flagship Shanghai store in 2010 to much fanfare and excitement, suggesting that, irrespective of the differences the two countries may have, trendy fashions at low, low prices can bring people together in mutual consumer harmony.
It would seem, however, that even one of China’s most loved Japanese brand names is battening down the hatches for fear of mob reprisal…
Late last week, a picture emerged on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo, showing a pro-Chinese message being displayed in the window of Uniqlo’s Shanghai flagship store.
Directly translated as “The Senkaku Islands belong to the People’s Republic of China”, the message—crudely, and perhaps hastily, constructed from 12 sheets of A4-size paper—makes a truly bizarre sight taped to the inside of the shop’s window adjacent to the prominent red and white Uniqlo placard.
It’s unclear whether this display of Chinese solidarity is the genuine voice of the Shanghai store’s employees, or whether Uniqlo’s Chinese management have simply chosen to take this Sino-centric stance in an effort to seek reprieve from violence.
The Senkaku islands, also known as the Daioyu Islands in Chinese, are located in the East China Sea between Okinawa and Taiwan. While Japan is listed as the legal owner of the islands, the location’s tenure has long been disputed, with China claiming that the islands have been used by Chinese fisherman and have been included on Chinese geographical charts for hundreds of years.
*Update* Uniqlo offers an apology to its Japanese customers
Earlier today (September 18th) Uniqlo Japan released an official statement in response to the images of its Shanghai store’s shop window that have been circulating internet news sites and message boards. The message, published on the store’s official website, reads:
“On the afternoon of September 15th, at the staff of our Shanghai store’s own discretion, the previously mentioned message was hung in the shop window. This message was removed 40 minutes later. This message was not displayed under the instruction of the company. In addition, messages of this kind were not displayed in any other stores.
In light of the recent events in China, as of 18th September, 42 of our stores have been temporarily closed, and more than 200 of our Japanese staff have been instructed to remain in their homes.
At this point in time, none of our staff or their families have been injured as a result of the recent events, nor have our stores suffered any damage.
We will remain alert during this time, and, should the need present itself, we will release a further statement.”
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