Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why I Still Think Calling The U.S. Post-Disaster Actions "Operation Tomodachi" Was A Bad Idea

When I heard back in March that the United States military was calling its part in the relief effort after 3/11 "Operation Tomodachi" (Tomodachi sakusen) I cringed.

"Oh Amaterasu," I thought, "anything but that. Call it 'Operation Steller's Sea Eagle' or 'Operation Scrumptious Pantypacker' (OK, maybe that not that one). Just not 'Operation Tomodachi'."


Because the very first thing I thought of when I heard "Tomodachi" was...well... instead of me telling you, why not try just try a search on Google Images of "Tomodachi" in hiragana?

Just copy and paste in the bit below and see what you get.


See that? That is the first thing I thought of.

If you are asking yourself, "What the hell is that?" what you are seeing is images of "Tomodachi" -- the masked, genocidal dictator of Japan in the wildly successful manga and film series Nijuseiki Shonen. In the chronology of the series, Tomodachi is to take over Japan in 2014 on the wings of the electoral victory of his "Friends Party" (the Yujinto - now there's a name!). Something that is called "Operation Tomodachi" in 2011 would seem to be part of the master plan.

Now I have had conversations and email interpellations with folks on this. Most responses I get back are polite rephrasings of "MTC, you are nuts."

Still, no matter the noble intentions in the selection of the name, "Operation Tomodachi" just grates upon the ears.

Does anyone else feel this way? And if so, for what reason?


Anonymous said...

I agree with your view point on Operation Tomodachi. Why would the US want to name itself after such a manga character. In the eyes of a large portion of Japan they may be viewing the US as supporting the disaster, not its relief.

In the end though, I think the Japanese will most likely see the actions we are doing for them, and judge us accordingly. Even if... who ever came up with this operation name will be seen as a true abcent minded foreigner in some eyes.

MTC said...

Anonymous -

On the surface, calling an action "Operation Friend" -- the literal translation of "Operation Tomodachi" -- is not such a bad idea...though not such a great one either. Would not one want to call the action "Operation Friendship" instead?

As for the number of persons who made the connection I did, they may be rather small -- though the results of the Google Image search indicates a strong generalized associate of the word with the character.

Anonymous said...

The U.S. military has a history of mangling Japanese when naming things. During the SE Asia conflict, F-5 fighter jets supplied to the South Vietnamese, due to their diminutive size, were nicknamed "Skoshi Tiger" by USAF personnel in Japan. Of course, "skoshi" is term of quantity, not size. But anyway, the military has its heart in the right place.

Anonymous said...

To add, a better name would have been "Operation Yuujyo" meaning "friendship", but Americans probably couldn't read nor pronounce that properly, a problem as a mistake would make it sound like the word for "prostitute".

Cleo said...

But in Chinese, using that quantity adjective would connote just a (tid)bit of the object in question so the American military may understand more than they are being credited for. The Japanese language IS using the original Chinese language invention of using specific types of quantity characters for different types of items. Moreover, a SKOSH in English would mean just a touch and so using skoshi would be a play on words. It sucks to be misunderstood by the thickheaded who think they are superior when they are just uncomprehending. They don't get that they just don't get it.

Cleo said...

What would Americans think upon hearing tomodachi? The only thing they know of is that fake pet toy from Japan.