今週の漢字: 比べる

Once again I’ve been busy. This time it isn’t work related, but I’ve been eating out a lot and organizing little gatherings. I’ve also been exploring more cultural things in Japan, which I’ll share with you all in another post. For this post, I want to compare and contrast Japan, China, and add in the states for some.

Temples: There are many different religions in Japan, so temples tend to be very different. I’m not so sure about China, but a lot of the Chinese layout was very similar to each other when I visited the temples in Shanghai. As for differences from Japanese temple buildings, Chinese temples have more pronounced arches. The Japanese temple roof edges tend to be more straight. Also, Chinese temples are decorated with a lot of red and gold. Japanese temples may have gold, but the walls and pillars tend to be black or just very dark. It was interesting also watching rituals people undergo, but again, the religions of China and Japan aren’t the same.

Churches: I saw some churches in China, but they were mainly Catholic and most seemed to be closed. I hear that Chinese Christian churches are more underground rather than in your face. I suppose it’s better than in Japan, where the sole purpose of most church buildings is for weddings. When I first came to Japan, I was surprised by how many churches I spotted despite knowing only about one percent of the population is Christian. Then I found out about their only function. I don’t fully understand why Japanese people hold Christian weddings when most people are neither religious (in any religion) nor know anything about Christianity and its significance in “western weddings.”

Manners: Boy, this is a fun one. When I arrived in Shanghai and experienced all the pushing, shoving, shouting, and arguments on the street, I felt like I was with my people. Is that a bad thing? It’s something I have experienced before in Chinatown, and I was fully aware about it before going to China. Of course queues are nonexistent. On the other extreme, Japan is very orderly. I’m fine and dandy with orderly, but something in me really likes the chaos in Shanghai. I wonder how other parts of China are like. The US is nicely in the middle. There are times of pushing, but it’s only in extremely crowded situations. Arguments run rampant maybe in some cities. I surely witnessed my fair share of street arguments in New York and Miami.

Shopping: China is all about bargaining. I already knew it, but it’s worth mentioning. Of course, it’s also the land of piracy done extremely well, meaning sometimes it’s hard to tell if something is fake or real. If you had to guess, it's safer to assume it's fake. Japan doesn’t really have any bargaining. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone bargain. In many places that see a lot of foreigners, stores may even have signs saying, “No bargaining!” The US is again nicely in the middle.

Food: China had a nice variety, but it still wasn’t as plentiful as the states. I think it makes sense why considering America is a melting pot. Anyway, I wish Japan had more variety. It’s painful sometimes when I just want to eat something from Europe or more authentic Chinese. Luckily, desserts are usually really good in Japan.

Clothes: China is closer to the states in terms of fashion. Let me rephrase; Shanghai is closer to the states in terms of fashion compared with Japan. I don’t know how it’s like in other parts of China, but Japan is just crazy. A lot of fashion for women is a mix of so many ideas. Usually, Japanese fashion is ridiculously busy. It certainly wouldn’t fly back in the states. The most eccentric fashion choice I noticed in Shanghai was how so many people wore hats similar to my green Mickey hat I bought in Tokyo DisneySea last year.

I hope you can picture all that I am writing about. If not, it’s fine. You should go to China, Japan, and if you don’t live in the states, go there too. I think it’s great to really observe and try to gain an understanding of different locales.

Before I leave you be, today’s the Lunar New Year, and it starts the year of the ox. I’m excited because it’s my year. Yes, so this year I will turn 24, but I’m perfectly happy with it. Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!


En français:
Je parlais avec mes amis au sujet du Jour de l’An Chinois. (Je ne sais pas si cette phrase en français est correcte.) Quand j’avais 12 ans, j’avais peur d’avoir 24 ans. Maintenant, je pense que c’est bien. Le trou de 36 ans à 48 ans est plus horrible, mais le plus horrible est de 48 ans à 60 ans.

今週の聖書の詩: “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
- John 17:25-26 (NIV)

今週の写真: Shanghai Part 2: Pictures 1-4 -- Nanjing Road (day and night); Pictures 5-6 -- Pearl Tower and area from the Bund (also with my friend, George); Pictures 7-12 -- Old Shanghai Road


今週の漢字: 上海

I came back this weekend from my trip to Shanghai. It was a very good trip. I left all the planning to my friend, George, who is currently in his last year of studying in Shanghai. He’s planning on going back to the states some time after July. So, I thought it would be great to visit considering I was hoping to travel for the holidays. Therefore, this was the first holiday season I didn’t spend with my family.

I actually departed on Christmas day in the afternoon. It was a good and quick flight experience for the most part except for when I arrived in China. Immigration didn’t let me pass so easily on the account that they couldn’t readily believe I’m the same person as my passport photo. It is sort of amusing in retrospect, but what a pain it was! First, I gave the immigration officer my passport. He was going about it as he probably has done it countless of times. Then, he glanced at the photo, looked up, looked back down, looked up again, and repeated this for maybe four times. He asked the officer sitting next to him about what she thought. She probably looked back and forth more than the guy. They discussed something and told me to step back behind the yellow line. I watched as the first officer went to the nearby booth where a higher-up was posted. The boss looked it over and picked up the phone. I knew that this would be a pain. After a few minutes, what I can only assume is an even higher authority figure approached me with my passport after discussing the problem with the other officers. I was surprised that this new guy looked much younger than the original higher-up involved. Anyway, I was asked about my glasses. I informed them all about LASIK, and then I was asked to show other forms of ID. Luckily, I’m a packrat and I also keep lots of stuff in my wallet. I took out my NYU and University of Miami IDs. I also showed them a more current ID and my NJ driver’s license. I think the officer was sort of overwhelmed with all the information, but I didn't mind providing more information. He asked frequently, “How did you lose so much weight?” As much as I was flattered, I eventually didn’t really care to explain all this and I just wanted to get through this ridiculous barrier. After about 15 minutes of this nonsense, I was finally given the OK to proceed to baggage claim. Boy, what an annoying start to my trip!

Everything else went rather smoothly. George took me to all the major Shanghai tourist spots. Some places were obviously traps where all the souvenirs cost about three times the price of smaller shopping hubs. However, I got a good look at a few temples, shopping streets, architecture, neighborhoods, and the Shanghai Museum. I also ate a lot of food from Cantonese style to fast food like McDonald’s and KFC to Taiwanese cuisine to Shanghai specialties to even Japanese food. My stomach was very pleased, especially with all the dessert too.

As I have done with my other travel posts, I’ll write something brief about all the places in Shanghai I visited:

Xujiahui – This is a big shopping district near George’s dorm. There’s some fun architecture to look at like a huge glass ball façade of one of the malls. I thought it was a little ridiculous as to how there are at least three malls just along the major intersection of the area. The stores are mainly clothing stores, most of them being brand names. There were some stores with a markup of about 50%, which is the kind of markup to be expected outside America. I was surprised at how some brand name stores had prices similar to America. And yes, these are legitimate stores!

Nanjing Road – A nice long chunk of shopping with most of the shopping part being closed to automobiles. George pointed out that there’s seven McDonald’s in the part only for pedestrians. We actually went to one of the McDonald’s, and I was very happy with the sweet taro pie I ate for dessert.

Jing’an Temple – A decently large temple that didn’t cost any money, at least not on the day we visited. There were a lot of people at this temple on that particular day, but the temple was in preparation for some kind of celebration. It was great to see a temple in China. I learned a bit about the differences between Chinese temples and Japanese ones when I was in college. For example, there’s a difference with the roof corners. Chinese temples have much more of an arch.

Longhua – The purpose to visit this area's temple was mainly for a more local feeling. It’s a smaller temple and there's an entrance fee, yet we were allowed to see more compared to Jing'an Temple. There’s also a pagoda in the front, which was really nice. Along the way, I was able to see some small shopping areas that are geared toward locals. We did happen on a center that had small stores geared toward visitors. Because it’s not really near any major tourist spot and George is a local, I got some souvenirs at very good prices.

Pearl Tower and the Bund – This is the tower with a few purple orbs that you might have seen if you've ever seen pictures of Shanghai. I told George that I didn’t care to actually go inside the tower. We walked around the tower area, which is mainly Shanghai’s financial district. Afterward, we proceeded to the other side of the river to the bund, which is a strip along the river for a good shot of the Pearl tower area. The buildings along the street also have very western and nice architecture. It’s definitely a picture worthy spot.

Shanghai Museum – This not so large museum is filled with a huge collection of China’s past currency. There are also bronzes, ceramics, jade, Chinese paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, old seals, and furniture. It was worth the visit, especially because I wanted to see cultural aspects of China. There’s quite a lot to take in, but it isn’t as overwhelming as museums like the MET in New York. I was most fascinated by the paintings, currency, and ceramics. The furniture was pleasing to look at too.

Old Street of Shanghai – Much of the architecture has been retained in what has become a huge tourist trap. I saw most of the goods for so much more there. It’s good that we went on the last day of my trip, although it was actually unintentional to go there last. There’s also a temple inside, but it’s heavily restricted and a ticket is required to enter. I enjoyed looking around a lot, and apparently, the restaurants are all pretty good.

Yuyuan Garden – It’s a fairly large garden worth every 30元. I highly recommend visiting it, which is located within the old street area of Shanghai and next to the temple.

Next week, I plan to write about differences between China and Japan. Anyway, I wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR! あけましておめでとうございます! Stay tuned next week for another update!

En français:
J’ai écrit beaucoup cette semaine, alors j’écrirai dans cette section la semaine prochaine. BONNE ANNÉE tout le monde!

今週の聖書の詩: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
- Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

今週の写真: Shanghai Part 1: Xujiahui, Jing’an Temple, Longhua