By Asian American in Tokyo | June 17, 2008
What color is the light in traffic signal below?
In the US, it’s “green”. In Japan, it’s “blue”, or as the Japanese say, “ao”. Yes, it’s true. Here’s the story. In modern Japanese, there is a word for “green” (“midori”), however this is a relatively new term that has only been used since the Heian Period. Even after “midori” came into use, green was still thought of as a shade of “ao” instead of an independent color. According to Wikipedia, educational materials only distinguished between green and blue after World War II. In current times, the word “ao” is still used to describe certain items (such as vegetables, traffic lights) that are actually green. Japanese people also use the English word “green” at times. The word “ao” can also mean “youth”.
Just learned of some additional color perception differences! While Americans think the sun is yellow, Japanese kids will always color drawings of the sun in red (like the Japanese flag). Also, in Japan the moon is yellow while in the US people feel it is white.
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