In English, the geographical scope of "Asia" and "Asian" depends on which dialect of English you speak. For example, in British English the terms often refer to the Indian subcontinent, whereas in Australian English "Asia" and especially "Asian" would often refer to China, Japan, and south-east Asia.

What geographical scope does アジア or アジア人 encompass?

I had a look at the Wikipedia article on アジア, but it seemed to talk about the worldwide view of what Asia is, and didn't talk specifically about the Japanese-language definition.

  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about geography. – istrasci Sep 27 '13 at 15:01
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    @istrasci I disagree. I think this is a very good question regarding the usage of a word. If you don't get it, think what your average native English speaker means by "average" when talking about numbers. Usually it only means the arithmetic mean (as in the average of 1, 3, and 5 is (1+3+5)/3 = 3) in colloquial English. However, mathematically speaking, the definition of average includes the geometric mean, Harmonic mean, and so on. What you're saying is exactly like asking what 平均 (= average) means in colloquial Japanese is off-topic because it's about mathematics, which is definitely not. – user3985 Sep 27 '13 at 16:14
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    If the above example is too vague, consider the following question: "Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable in Japanese? In English, it's arguably ambiguous at least in colloquial language because of the difference in usage of these words as scientific jargon and culinary terms. But Japan has a unique culinary culture. I wonder if there is a similar confusion in Japanese like in English." I don't think this is a question about botany. – user3985 Sep 27 '13 at 16:27
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    @user3985: You convinced me. – istrasci Sep 27 '13 at 17:43

Before answering your question, the Japanese Wikipedia article on アジア you linked to DOES talk about how the Japanese language defines アジア; it can't be more authentic a definition of アジア in Japanese when a popular encyclopedia written in the Japanese language and intended to be read by Japanese people talks about アジア. I think what you want to know is what アジア and アジア人 typically refer to in a colloquial Japanese vernacular. Or maybe it's more like how different the precise definition you linked to is from the actual meaning and usage of the word in everyday language spoken by the hypothetical average person in non-educational, non-political, and non-scientific context.

The answer is, of course, "depends." But generally speaking, it's closer to what would pop up on your average American's mind when they hear the words Asia and Asians in normal everyday conversation. So, when you talk about アジア, Russia is often excluded, although it hugely depends on context because, for example, Russia and Japan are next to each other so there are many natural contexts where part of Russia just feels like Asia, which it is. Every educated person knows Middle East is technically アジア, but if you talk about アジア人 for example, it typically means East and South East Asians. India and the surrounding region are a bit ambiguous. You shouldn't be surprised if the speaker includes or excludes the region without specifically mentioning it.

  • I think the big question is whether Japan is or isn't included in Japanese usage. – dainichi Oct 2 '13 at 6:25
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    I definitely hear many uses of アジア and アジア人 meaning Asia and Asians outside of Japan. For example, I wouldn't be surprised to hear アジアには旅行に行きたくない in Japan, whereas in the part of Europe where I grew up, you would never say "travel to Europe" (since you're already in Europe), but would say "other European countries" or something like that. – dainichi Oct 2 '13 at 23:54
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    See e.g. 2ch.ki9.biz/archives/16534.html, one commenter says "アジア人って実感はないね". I think this feeling is not uncommon in Japan. – dainichi Oct 3 '13 at 1:24
  • I think it should be obvious that I am citing 2ch as a mere example of (assumed) native speaker opinion, not as any sort of linguistic authority. As for "examples in the wild", I do not see how 2ch is any less relevant than, say, opinions in this forum. Whether the person you call an "idiot" is an idiot or not is completely irrelevant, but your statement makes me suspect that you have an elitist view where some native speakers' use of Japanese should not be considered relevant. – dainichi Oct 3 '13 at 2:15
  • If there were indeed English usages of "humans" which didn't include Africans, I think it would be valid to have a scientific discussion about it. Maybe "I think the big question" was poor wording by me, it was what immediately came to my mind. Just to explain my stance, I understand アジア completely the same way as you, which is why I am surprised when I encounter native speakers who use it differently. – dainichi Oct 3 '13 at 4:47

Here is my perception of what アジア means instinctively for the average Japanese speaker:


Of course, if asked further, (nearly) all know Japanese speakers would know that アジア in fact means more countries, including even Japan itself. This map is about the "first thing that comes to mind".

It is sometimes extended to include Bangladesh/India. Not sure about Bhutan/Nepal. Philippines and Papua New Guinea might not really belong. I can modify the map based on your feedback, waiting for your comments.

Thailand seems to be the most アジアn country in アジア. By the way, I suspect that アジア is where エスニック food comes from.

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    This is really interesting. When I hear the English word "Asia", the first thing that comes to my mind is China, Korea, and Japan, even though I know it includes more. It's like the exact opposite of this diagram. – Blavius Nov 10 '15 at 22:07
  • @Blavius: Where do you live? A Google Image search for "Asian in London" shows that in England "Asia" usually means India/Pakistan: google.com/search?q=asian+in+london&tbm=isch Germans seem to see Asia a bit larger, including India and even Turkey. – Nicolas Raoul Nov 11 '15 at 1:59

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