Japan’s feisty online community briefly urged a boycott of Aussie Beef — arguably Australia’s best-known export to Japan — after an Austrian school textbook referred to the Sea of Japan as the “East Sea,” a Korean label aimed at helping it forget its past as a Japanese colony, according to a June 28 report from online Japanese news site J-Cast.
Australia, which uses Sea of Japan in its school materials and official documents, had nothing to do with the textbook.
Among the comments posted online were “That Australian mob are simple and will fall for anything,” “Why’s Australia calling it the East Sea if it’s not to their east?” and “Is it OK to boycott Aussie Beef?”
The mix-up was apparently sparked by a Japanese tabloid newspaper headline using the character for Australia (豪） in a story about the Austrian textbook that, when referring to the body of water separating Japan and the Asian mainland, chose to use East Sea, the name Koreans have been lobbying persistently to replace the internationally recognized Sea of Japan.
Japan’s online community has a fierce anti-Korean streak and the news soon reportedly sparked demands to boycott Australian beef in Japan, even though Australia had nothing to do with the issue and steadfastly backs use of the Sea of Japan.
Nonetheless, anti-Australian sentiment is also strong within Japan’s online community due to its perceived anti-Japanese sentiment sparked by opposition to whaling, J-Cast said. It’s not uncommon for confusion to arise between the names of Australia and Austria.
In this Olympic year, it’s worth noting that when Edwin Flack won gold medals in the first-ever modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, confused officials are said to have raised the flag of Austria (then still a middling-power European empire) and played the Austrian national anthem. (This story is probably apocryphal, but widely believed nonetheless).
On the other hand, Austria has carved out a tourist souvenir niche for itself by creating a “No Kangaroos Here” range of souvenirs.