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Disclaimer: This entry contains ethnic slurs aimed at Japanese citizens.
Hinomoto Oniko (Japanese: 日本 鬼子 / ひのもとおにこ) is a fictional moe character derived from an ethnic slur aimed at Japanese people by Chinese citizens. The drawn character represents a relatively young devilish woman wearing Japanese traditional attires, accompanied by a small selection of side characters. With an impressive amount of fan art and videos, Hinomoto Oniko quickly became a Japanese internet phenomenon as a peculiar way to fight back and mock the derogatory slang, and has even taken Chinese netizens by surprise.
China/Japan : a heated relationship
The Wikipedia article on the subject of Anti-Japanese sentiment , also called Japanophobia or Nipponophobia, gives a detailed overview of its historical trend in the United States as well as in the other Asian countries surrounding Japan.
Anti-Japanese sentiments range from animosity towards the Japanese government’s actions and disdain for Japanese culture to racism against the Japanese people. Sentiments of dehumanization have been fueled by the anti-Japanese propaganda of the Allied governments in World War II; this propaganda was often of racially-disparaging character. Anti-Japanese sentiment may be strongest in China, North Korea, and South Korea.
In the past, anti-Japanese sentiment contained innuendos of Japanese people as barbaric. Japan was intent to adopt Western ways in an attempt to join the West as an industrialized imperial power. Fukuzawa Yukichi’s seminal 1885 text, Leaving Asia outlines the intellectual basis for modernizing and Westernizing Japan. A lack of acceptance of the Japanese in the West complicated integration and assimilation. One commonly held view was that the Japanese were evolutionarily inferior. Japanese culture was viewed with suspicion and even disdain.
While passions have settled somewhat since Japan’s defeat in World War II, tempers continue to flare on occasion over the widespread perception that the Japanese government has made insufficient penance for their past atrocities, or has sought to whitewash the history of these events.
History of the 日本 鬼子 slur
Existing since World War II, 日本 鬼子 (Rìběn guǐzi) is one of a long series of racial insultsin China aimed at Japanese people. Roughly meaning Japanese Devils or Japanese Monsters, it is used mostly in the context of the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Japan invaded and occupied large areas of China.
Its usage serves as a constant reminder of the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese army during the invasion and subsequent occupation of China , as well as Japan’s post-war actions (particularly the perceived lack of a straightforward acknowledgment of the atrocities committed and the attempt at enforcing historic revisionism in textbooks).
This sentiment is so deep-rooted that Japan itself reused the slang as the title of a documentary about Japan’s war crimes during WWII.
Online origins: The Senkaku Islands incident
Anti-Japanese racism in Asian countries isn’t strictly constant and has many ups and downs of outburst hatred to toned down irritation. As the 2005 Anti-Japanese demonstrations shows, nearly any incident can trigger anti-Japanese feelings.
On September 7th, 2010, a Chinese fisher trawler rammed two Japanese coast guard ships near Kubashima in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. This incident immediately produced heated tension in the relations between China and Japan, whitch manifested itself again as Anti-Japanese demonstrations and a resurgence in popularity for the racial insults.
As stated by the Hinomoto Oniko Project site, artists from 2channel Japanese BBS were among the first to pick up on that trend, and on October 18th, 2010, a /news4vip/ (breaking news for V.I.P) decided to fight back against these slurs, explained by the title of the thread: “Let’s make a moe character called Hinomoto Oniko and turn those discriminating Chinese folks into moe pigs”.
The idea supposedly started when someone noticed the Japanese Kun’yomi reading from 日本 鬼子 reads itself as Hinomoto Oniko, and sounds almost like the name of a person. Contrary to the more common Japanese On’yomi reading, which pronounces the word as Nihon Kishi, Hinomoto can literally mean “Origin of the Sun” (Japan’s name) and Oniko sounds much like a girl’s name to Japanese ears, due to the common female name suffix -子 -ko.
Hinomoto Oniko Project
The project’s logo.
A wiki-based site by the name of “Let’s turn the Chinese moe-moe by making a character called Hinomoto Oniko!” was created on October 19th, 2010. It is used to summarize the contents and motives of Hinomoto Oniko, standardize the character designs by means of a contest based on voting, making lists of related characters, provide FAQs, form guidelines of use and copyrights, among others, and thus act reminiscent to an official site in order to aid in popularizing the phenomenon. Many videos and fan arts link to this site as a way to educate people who are unfamiliar with the character.
Character Model Sheet for Standard Design of Hinomoto Oniko
The site states that the objective of the Hinomoto Oniko Project is to change the meaning of Chinese offensive slang words by popularizing moe characters with identical names. By doing this, these offensive terms are less likely to be used in anti-Japanese demonstrations, and people googling such offensive words will be welcomed by cute Japanese-made characters instead. The characters are intended to be politically uncharged, so expressions of the characters that obviously support moving towards a mutual Sino-Japanese friendship or which express anti-Chinese feelings are strongly discouraged.
On November 6th, 2010 this site initiated the creation of “小日本”, “Ko-hinomoto” or “Konipon”, another character named after Xiǎo Rìběn, another Chinese derogatory slang word for “Japanese”.
Popularity on the web
The earliest depiction of Hinomoto Oniko to appear on the online artist community pixiv was submitted as early as October 20th, 2010 by pixiv user 1号. Merely 15 days later, on November 5th, the 1000th Hinomoto Oniko illustration was submitted to the site. The 2000 mark was reached a month later in the first days of December. Besides, an image uploader dedicated to this project was launched.
Videos on video sharing site Nico Nico Douga (NND) began to appear on October 27th, 2010, which were at first mostly slide shows of Oniko interpretations by various artists. Notably, a Vocaloid song for Hinomoto Oniko named “Hakumei” was submitted on November 8th, gained a lot of popularity and video responses, and even managed to claim the number one spot in the video rankings on November 18th. Since then, a huge amount of Hinomoto Oniko videos has been posted to NND and YouTube.
This new trend was soon picked up by Japanese news media as well as English posts by Sankaku Complex, ChinaHush, Akemi’s Anime Blog, Daily Onigiri and Ramblings of DarkMirage. Moreover, English news The Times covered this online phenomena on December 4th, 2010.
Chinese netizen were also quick to make threads about this new phenomenon on Baidu, tiexue.net, MOP and Jandan. Besides, Taiwanese newspaper The Liberty Times reported it on online news articles and on paper. And Taiwanese TV station CCTV covered it on their news program.
Sankaku Complex offers a succinct list of translated reactions from Chinese people:
I didn’t think it would turn out like this… I just don’t understand that country.
Damn, just damn. Japan is a dangerous country. Perhaps we should admit our loss.
We boo and jeer them and their response is a moe character… We’re helpless before them.
Riben Guizi is a moe character!? What can we call them now? Japs? Creepy otaku?
Overall, it seems that the general consensus among Chinese netizen is to take Hinomoto Oniko as a joke and an evidence of Japan’s “craziness”, more than as a direct offense.
Hinomoto Oniko (Japanese: 日本 鬼子) is embodied as young woman aged between 16 and 18 with long black hair and two devil horns. She wears autumn leaf patterned Japanese traditional Kimono dresses, sometimes a devilish Hannya mask, and is also seen carrying a naginata or sometimes other weapons. When provoked into battle or anger, her eyes turn red, her horns grow, and the low ends of her sleeves and dress start producing autumn leaves. She is known to exterminate demons that live in the hearts of men.
Kohinomoto (Japanese: 小日本; lit. little Hinomoto), who generally goes by her pet name Konipon, can often be found around Oniko. The exact relation between the two is unclear, but Oniko loves her like a sister. She is usually depicted as a little girl with short black hair, and two flesh-like horns on her forehead. She wears a cherry blossom patterned Kimono cut short like a miniskirt, with a large ribbon wrapped around her waist and long detached sleeves that produce cherry blossom petals from the ends. She is also seen carrying around a Japanese sword as long as herself, with a bell attached to its scabbard. She is known to act like a cupid-like matchmaking figure, connecting people by changing the form of the cherry blossom petals from her sleeves into heart shapes, inducing love into humans who touch them.
Two of the demons that stalk Oniko are known as Hiwaidori and Yaikagashi:
Hiwaidori (Japanese: ヒワイドリ; lit. indecent bird) is a harmless, but perverted rooster-shaped demon that prefers to live in hearts with indecent thoughts. It is widely known for saying “let’s have a little chat about breasts” (乳の話をしようじゃないか, chichi no hanashi o shiyō janaika).
Yaikagashi (Japanese: ヤイカガシ) is a fish with arms shaped like holly leaves, and has an unnatural attraction to panties. It is named after the old Japanese tradition to drive malicious spirits away by frying smelly fish heads at the end of winter.
Kyu! Kyu! Kyu! Nya! 
Anime OP Style (Miku Miku Dance Edition) 
Promoting Video Style (Hand-drawn Animation Edition) 
The Google Insights for search show that the Chinese slur gained the most of its popularity during the time the meme was exploding compared to the past 6 years, indicating that the meme’s popularity may have overtaken the racial slur’s popularity on the internet:
Editor’s Note: Registration is needed to browse the original videos listed in this section.
History News Network – Resolving the China-Japan Conflict Over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands / 10-31-2010
ChinaHush – Japanese Netizens turn Chinese derogatory term into beautiful young girl anime character / 11-02-2010
Daily Onigiri – Japan strikes back at anti-Japanese protests in China with a moe character / Posted on 10-31-2010
The Times – Japan blunts Chinese insults by turning them into cutesy figures / 12-04-2010
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