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Pokéfans in Hong Kong Protest Pikachu Name Change, Highlighting Greater Cultural Struggle

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Pokémon fans in Hong Kong are unhappy over an impending name change centered on the lovable electric rodent known as Pikachu. As of right now, Pikachu is known as Bei Ka Chiu, which is a Cantonese translation of the creature’s name. With the coming release of Pokemon Sun and Moon, Nintendo wishes to change it to Pei Ka Yau, which is a Mandarin translation. This change from Cantonese to Mandarin lies at the center of why there are protestors currently demonstrating outside of the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong. To those protestors, the removal of the Cantonese translation represents a bit of a cultural “overwrite” so to speak, given the fact that (at least according to Wikipedia) the “de facto language” of Hong Kong is Cantonese. By changing it to Mandarin, protestors believe that Japan has overlooked this fact, and thus have “trampled” on Hong Kong culture.

This protest represents more than just dissatisfaction over a Pokémon’s name, to be sure. It highlights a growing unhappiness that Hong Kong residents feel over China’s steadily growing influence over the Hong Kong identity, so to speak. Historically speaking, Hong Kong has stood on its own as a separate entity from the greater Chinese mainland, and has thus developed its own native identity and culture that many feel should be considered independent from that of China. Its culture and its people have had a clear separation from China, reflected in many things, not the least of which being the language they speak: Cantonese.

This change in something that has had such a central part of many Hong Kong native identities is but the latest in a series of straws that have continued to break the camel’s back, as the saying goes.

(via Wall Street Journal [warning: autoplay video])

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.