Who looks Japanese? Can you distinguish between Korean and Chinese people? Website AllLookSame.com tests people's facial recognition ability. This week, the website's test has been appearing on numerous popular Japanese blogs, such as Rocket News. How are people in Asia doing with recognizing people from other nationalities?
The "average" score is seven out of 18. The folks at Japanese site Rocket News scored a 6 out of 18, which is below average. On Japanese game site Hachima, commenters chimed in on the test, with some saying it was hard to tell the difference. "Boy, this is hard," wrote one. Some said they got all the Japanese people right, but couldn't tell apart the Chinese and Koreans.
"I've never seen Japanese people like this," wrote one commenter. "These must be Japanese people who live in America, because their make-up is gaudy." Gaudy cosmetics or not, the photos were taken in New York City.
Graphic designer Dyske Suematsu created the website after having a conversation about facial recognition at a Japanese restaurant. According to Suematsu, who is Japanese, "I've been living in the US for over 15 years and I've heard some people tell me I definitely look Japanese, while others thought that I don't at all. Some people boastfully claim that they can tell the difference no problem, while others quietly admit that they can't."
"Even with those who claim they can," Suematsu continued, "is it really true that they can? Maybe there is something to be said about someone saying "You guys all look the same!" Or, maybe they just don't know any better. This site, therefore, is a way for me to demystify this issue once and for all."
The website is not new, and it has been around for a while now. But, as mentioned above, it's appearing on many Japanese sites this week, and loads of folks are taking the AllLookSame.com test to see if they can discern the difference between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folks.
Suematsu pointed out that it becomes harder to tell people apart if you cannot see what they are wearing. Styles and haircuts differ from country to country. To that, I'd also add body movement. That can be a big giveaway.
In Japan, there's a history of Korean-Japanese hiding their identity and taking Japanese last names. For decades, singer Akiko Wada hid the fact that she was Korean and took a very Japanese-sounding last name ("Wada" or 和田, with the "wa" character referring to either "harmony" or even "Japanese-style"). Her revelation that she was Korean was a surprise to many in Japan, perhaps because she seemed "so Japanese". Well, duh. She was born in Osaka, and she spent her whole life in Japan.
Live anywhere long enough and you start to look like the locals. People who live in the U.S. long enough, start to act pretty darn American! This is true most anywhere. We're blank slates, and culture—whether that's how we move, talk, or what we wear—is informed by where we live. What we eat and the language we speak also impacts how we look.
What's interesting about this AllLookSame test is that many Japanese friends often tell me this: they think all Westerners look the same. Maybe we do. Try telling apart most Europeans, North Americans, or Latin Americans. When you get right down to it, these are passports we are distinguishing.