Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro, a nationalist politician who is never shy when given half a chance to upset the Chinese government, recently suggested that a new born panda baby at Ueno zoo should be named “Sen Sen” or “Kaku Kaku” after the Senkaku islands controlled by Japan, but claimed by both mainland China and Taiwan. Panda bears are traditionally given names consisting of two identical Chinese characters.
Ishihara’s provokative suggestion predictably led to an angry response from the Chinese government, but that probably only enhanced his standing amongst Japanese nationalists. Nevertheless, I have to question how smart it is to name something after the disputed islands that does actually belong to China: The parents of the panda baby are not owned by the Japanese zoo but only leased from China. The baby too belongs to China and will have to be sent there once it is two years old. Naming something that will have to be handed over to China after islands that Japan intends to keep may not exactly be the smartest move 😉