Are Asians Good Swimmers?

It was about this time of last year that Dr. Liu, the pediatric surgeon from Chicago, died in Lake Michigan.

I wrote about it in the Japanese side of my blog. I meant to translate it into English soon, but I still have not done it (no surprise…).

Then it’s already been a year. So, I thought I am going to write something short anew in English for the one year anniversary.


Dr. Liu was on vacation with his family on Cherry Beach, one of the small private beaches in the southwestern Michigan.

He rescued the two kids who were drowning in the lake, but he himself died, swept away by a strong rip current.

Rip Currents

Rip Currents (Photo credit: jimflix!)

Red Flag Waters

Red Flag Waters (Photo credit: live w mcs)

I am glad the two kids were saved, but how sad the doctor died.

I am so sorry for his surviving family.

I have tremendous respect for the doctor.

And I can’t help wondering how good a swimmer he was –

Because he was from Taiwan, I am from Japan, and he and I were about the same age.

When I was a kid, Japan was still poor. The city where I grew up had a population of one million but had only two public swimming pools (and it had just one ice skate rink, and so on). The elementary and the middle schools I went to did not have swimming pools yet (other schools already had pools, though – my schools were behind. I was unlucky).

Taiwan and Japan

America has always been a swimming powerhouse country. My American husband is a really good swimmer. His dad taught him how to swim when he was very little. I have witnessed many American parents are very serious about their kids’ swimming training. It seems American parents think it’s their parental duty to have their kids learn how to swim.Baby swim lesson

My parents did not think that way. Well, it’s such a long time ago. Probably nowadays many Japanese parents think it’s their parental duty.

My mother did not know how to swim. My sister, who is a lot older than me, can’t swim, either. You can’t criticize them, because when they were young there were virtually no swimming pools in Japan and women were not supposed to know how to swim. My father could swim; he learned how to swim in the militaristic gym classes in the male-only schools (no co-ed schools in those days) somewhere outdoors in the nearby rivers or ponds, if I remember correctly what he told me.

Just because Japan is surrounded by the sea, do not think many Japanese are good swimmers! They were not and they still are not now.

My father used to take me and my brother to a beach (just once or twice) every summer, but he never would try to teach me and my brother how to swim. So we would just float around in the shallow part of the water with ring floats.  How dangerous was that to let kids who couldn’t swim be in the sea even if it’s a shallow area!


Eventually I and my brother learned how to swim in summer swim classes offered by the elementary schools which already had swimming pools.

Did Taiwan have a lot of public swimming pools in the 1960s and 1970s? Did the Taiwanese parents think it’s their parental duty to have their kids learn how to swim?

I tend to doubt it.

Taiwan was no way richer than Japan and I suspect Taiwan had similar culture to Japan – e.g. ideas like women don’t need to know how to swim, a lack of parents’ sense for duty that they should have their kids learn how to swim)

Some time ago, I remember reading news about a ferry accident in the ocean near Phillippines or Malaysia or somewhere else in the southeastern Asia. Hundreds of the passengers were thrown into the water. Many of the passengers were Muslim women who did know how to swim and drowned. That was such a tragedy. If they had known how to swim!

Islamic woman taking swim lesson

I found this photo (left) in Pinterest – a Muslim woman taking a swim lesson with men. I did not ask the owner of the photo for a permission. Please forgive me!

So, nowadays, Muslim women are starting to learn how to swim?  She must be really hot in the outfit and must not feel good with the clothes all wet, but this is great that she is learning how to swim!

Asian women, Muslim women, we all should learn how to swim.

I have to admit I am scared of oceans, because I am not a great swimmer. Lake Michigan is just like oceans; it’s huge and has rip currents. I am scared of Lake Michigan. And I think it’s good to be scared.

Pediatric surgeon dies trying to save two kids from Lake Michigan – by Chicago Tribune news, Aug 6, 2012

Chicago surgeon sacrifices life to save two children in Lake Michigan – CBS Chicago, August 6, 2012


About tukusigal

もう長いことミシガンに住んでいる日本人オバさんの、自分なり、それなりのミシガン湖地方見聞記でーす。I am a long-time resident of Michigan. I am here forever. A middle-age Japanese woman. I love Imari porcelain, so my profile photo is an Imari vase which I bought in Imari, Saga, Kyushu, Japan. When I retire (when...?), I reveal my photo - but by then I may be too wrinkled (lo).
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