Archive for November, 2010

[Photo] The Good Old Summer Days in Beijing

Oh the summer days. When everyone was so happy and we were all looking for restaurants with air conditioning. Long gone are those days and Beijing Winter is already here. This is a good image to remember the good old summer day in Beijing. Photo taken in Beixinqiao area.

 

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Photo] The Art of the Flying Noodle Show

Sorry for the lack of posting this week. But here is a photo that I really like. As it gets colder and colder in Beijing, it’s time for hot pot or in Chinese “HuoGuo”(火锅). It literally means “Fire Pot”. But hot pot is a great experience overall enjoying good food and conversation with your friends. In some hot pot joints in China they have flying noodle shows and here is a photo of it:

At Little Sheep Hot Pot in Inner Mongolia. It takes years to master the art of flying noodles.

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[Photo] Lost in the World

As I have noted throughout this week, the air quality in Beijing has been poor the past couple days. The AQI usually is high during the morning rush hour period and then it cools down during noon and the AQI kicks backup again around 4pm. But what happens when pollution and working late night happens? This happens:

Photo taken at Guomao Central Business District at 1am.

I have been snapping photos around Beijing all week of this pollution so stay tuned for a photo essay from this entire week. Oh, by the way the Track “Lost in the World” by Kanye West has been on repeat for me all week.

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Beijing Restaurant Review] How Japanese Food is Perceived in Beijing

If you ever get a chance to visit China and look for Japanese food you would be surprised by the number of Japanese restaurants there are in the major tier-1 cities. You’d think because of the recent Sino-Japanese tensions, Chinese people would boycott Japanese food but as a general rule of thumb, it really has no effect. What I find most interesting through my stay in China over the years is that a majority of Japanese style restaurant owners in China don’t have any connections with Japan at all. I ask them what they think about Japan and the common response that I hear over and over is that they can sell Japanese food for a much more expensive price than Chinese food. This is because in China, consumers know that Japanese products are considered high quality and thus, much more expensive. In China you’ll see a Takoyaki restaurant with the name Hokkaido (北海道) or a ramen restaurant with the name Nagano (長野). In Japan, Hokkaido is not known for Takoyaki and Nagano is not known for ramen. But in China, Hokkaido is a rather popular tourist destination for the lavender fields and so a lot of people associate Hokkaido with random Japanese food for their marketing strategy to attract more customers.
In Beijing you can find anything from B-Class Gourmet, as they call in Japan as being ordinary but still tasty dishes like ramen, udon, dumplings to upscale venues providing sushi and sashimi imported directly from the Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market. You can enjoy a 130RMB (about $18USD) all you can eat and drink Japanese food or spend 15RMB ($2USD) on a bowl of Yoshinoya Beef Bowl. Some of the Japanese restaurant owners say that although they attract an abundance of Japanese customers from a pool of about 10,000 Japanese residents currently residing in Beijing, without attracting the Chinese consumers their business won’t last. So the Japanese food in China has a bit of a Chinese feel to it creating a brand new fusion.
From my view point, Beijing has adapted the idea of Japanese food as any foreign country would. Like in the US, when you think of Japanese food, sushi, sashimi, ramen and sake comes to mind. Beijing is exactly like that incorporating the exotic high class model into Japanese cuisine.  Most people here are surprised to find out that Japanese people don’t actually eat sushi at least once a week but only maybe once a month on a rather special occasion. But the fact of the matter is that in America, most middle income families can afford a night out at a high-end Japanese food restaurant but in China these restaurants market their food towards high class Chinese and expats so the majority of the population here in China doesn’t get to interact with Japanese food and culture at all.

At Kagen in Beijing, a American Style Japanese grill restaurant. Chinese chefs are busy preparing the Robatayaki.

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Quick Update] Beijing AQI reaches 500

I just checked the AQI in Beijing and believe it or not we have reached the maximum 500 mark. AQI is a scale devised by the US-based Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With an AQI of 500 it states “Health warnings of emergency conditions”. What do we do now? For more information of interpreting the AQI in a Beijing context please visit the My Health Beijing Blog.

Image taken from http://iphone.bjair.info/

 


[Air Quality] Today at 3pm vs Two weeks ago at 3pm

Every morning when I wake up in Beijing, the very first thing I do is to open the blinds to see how the air quality is outside. Two seconds later I’m either in an extremely good mood or I close the blinds immediately and fall back to sleep for a couple more minutes or so. On a lucky week, Beijing does get its share of blue sky’s but when its really polluted, I can’t walk outside without a mask.  The Air Quality Index does a pretty good job measuring the air quality in Beijing as I have noted in my previous post. For reference, Air Quality Index (AQI) of 470 on a scale of 500 looks like this:

On the other hand,  two weeks ago at the same time at a AQI of 100 looked like this:

As you can see, it’s quite a difference. The lesson here is to be thankful when you have a blue sky and don’t take it for granted. I think these visual comparisons make it easy to understand and I’ll be coming up with more comparisons in the future.

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Photo Essay] TedxBeijing: Uncovering Innovation

On 11/13/2010, Beijing had a treat as the 2nd Annual TedxBeijing conference was held. TEDxBeijing is one of hundreds of independently organized conferences around the globe inspired and licensed by the United States-based non-profit TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. With the theme 'Uncovering Innovation', 12 key speakers with industry specialization of science, technology, entertainment, and design and over 200 audiences combined each others experience, knowledge and ideas throughout the day to answer key questions like 'Where does innovation come from?' and 'How do we implement these ideas?'. This photo essay is a review of some of the key speakers from the event and their inspiring ideas.

The event kicked off early at 9:00AM as the audience enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and accompany from a mix of local and international innovators. I must say the speakers were inspiring and we learned so much from their expertise and ideas but for me meeting so many innovative thinkers and individuals who really want to make change happen from Beijing re-assured me of how great this city is and how much potential it holds for the future.

The first speaker Martin Barnes, a Beijing-based artist, videographer and creative director talked about his inspiring project with Blind Photographers. As a student of photography myself, I was inspired by this idea. Often times the disabled are left in the darkness especially in China, people do not know how to tolerate them. But during his presentation he illustrated the importance of ‘non visual photographers’  and how organization of different combination of ideas creates great ideas. For the how to implement this idea he said that it comes from being free, having an authentic idea, including everyone and keeping it obvious and simple.

Adam Kidron, a serial entrepreneur and former music producer based in New York spoke on behalf of Music Piracy in China. He emphasized how the internet has changed the way we purchase music and that today 95% of music is being shared online with this statistic excluding China. He questions how today, the creator’s do not get enough loyalties for their work and how there needs to be a universal music library where the original creator gets the credit and the user pays for the cost of usage.

Sam Flemming, pioneer of Internet Word of Mouth (IWOM) in China and provides extraordinary insight into the Chinese netizen community by systematically analyzing the millions of BBS and blog posts they exchange to each other. He emphasized how brands listen to what consumers are saying and that the internet community is a great way to see trends and how social media influences their purchasing decision. I took away from his talk that with the internet, small groups of people can really do great things. He illustrated how in China, car buyers will organize a group purchase event online to get great discounts and how China was way ahead of US/EU in terms of social media and online communities.

Dr. Guangming Xie inspired us with his innovation in robotics. His new cut innovation of Robotic Fish could one day guide real organisms away from an oil spill to prevent further extinction of species. It was interesting to see his videos where his robotic fish and a real fish interacted as the real fish showed interest and followed the robotic fish joined by other real fish.

Lijia Zhang, a journalist spoke on behalf of her memoir and hardships growing up in a factory in Nanjing. She made a connection with how the factory that she lived in was a communist state itself as she had no freedom and no personal life with nowhere to escape. Her metaphor of herself being a 'Frog trapped in a well' came up several times in her presentation. She explained that her passion to want to make a change in her life and to be different convinced her to learn English. She said everyone was afraid to be different as her metaphor of the 'First bird that fly out of the cage gets shot first' shows exactly that. It was nice to hear her overcome her fear and hardship as her storyline inspired us to think about hardships and how to overcome them to make change.

The audience experienced a new world through the art of dance as Gaoyan Jinzi, artistic director of the Beijing Modern Dance Company's dancers show cased their innovative stance in the form of dance.

The Majin Buu drum club, showcase their energy and western African style music as they pump up the audience with new sounds and original art.

Wen Fang uses art to make social change in China. Her latest project, Art against Poverty brings her around China helping to make change from the grassroots level by using the power of art to help rural women find sustainable livelihoods. The rural women were already skilled in making crafts and with their creativity and passion makes great art for change.

The event was broadcasted live on Tudou and a live satellite viewing location. Overall, it was well-organized and if you are in Beijing next year around this time of the year it’s an event that you don’t want to miss.

Bonus: if you are wondering where you can get the intro music from Beijing’s very own DJ Slide, you can get it here.

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[Photo] Autumn Tree at Xuanwumen, Beijing

It's been really cold in Beijing the past couple days. I think winter is already here. Stay tuned for my next Photo Essay from the TedxBeijing event I attended over the weekend. This picture was taken at Xuanwumen on 11/13/2010.

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[Photo] Growing up in Gulou

Photo taken in Gulou right by Drum Tower. Growing up, I think Hutong communities are the perfect playground for kids.

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[Quick Update] TedxBeijing Tomorrow

Quick update: Tomorrow I will be attending TedxBeijing. This annualy held event brings innovators and speakers from all over the world. Not familiar with TED? Check it out for yourself.

(Image taken from http://tedxbeijing.com/)

 

 


[Beijing Lifestyle] 10:32PM Shuangjing, Beijing

The hustling city of Beijing is a great place to be. There’s so much excitement during the day but when the clock hits about 9pm or 10pm the city of over 20 million people gets relatively quiet. Seems to me that Chinese families usually go home early and start their day early. Even the Beijing Subways are closed around 10:30pm. From Shuangjing, one subway station south of Guomao, the central business district in Beijing, one can get a nice view of the Beijing skyline. When we think of skylines in China, we all think of the Bund in Shanghai. For those of you not familiar, here’s a photo of the skyline at night from the south side of Guomao.

Taken from the southside of Guomao in Shuangjing. You can see Jianwai SOHO, China World Tower and the LG Twin Towers.

At night, Beijing experiences a relatively quiet environment much different from daytime.

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[Modernity] How the new Census in China will affect Migrant Workers

We all know that China is the world’s most populous country but when we ask how many people are actually in China, even government officials in China have a hard time answering. So what does China do? China is currently experiencing a once in a decade census where for two weeks, 6 million census workers are knocking on each and every door asking for household information. But with an estimated 1.3347 billion people and counting, it’s not an easy task. For the census workers, by far the largest challenge will be counting and obtaining the information of the countrie’s migrant workers. 2009 data suggests an estimated 211 million migrant workers in all of China. Compassion for Migrant Children‘s data shows that about one-third of the population in Beijing are migrant workers.
How is this problematic? Before this year, the census was carried out depending on the individual’s hukou, household registration at birth. But starting this year, census is now based on where you now reside. But most migrant workers who come to urban cities like Beijing for higher wages don’t have the official capacity to reside in Beijing lacking proper paper work which is hard to obtain. Without proper documentation, migrant workers and their family members are denied access from public education and basic healthcare in Beijing. One could say that the backbone of rapid urbanization in China are the migrant worker’s hard labor. But with no proper documentation and some families illegally having more than one child, migrant worker’s families face a hard decision as census workers are coming around knocking door to door. If caught with  having more than one child, they will be fined and perhaps even be deported back to their home towns.
Even in my apartment building I felt suspicious that the non-Beijing accented workers are always going to the 14th floor of my building. With ever-rising housing costs, I found out that 20-30 migrant workers were sharing a 2 bedroom apartment. With this current reality of migrant workers it will be interesting to see how the census turns out as the counting closes in a week.

The backbone of China's rapid urbanization, a migrant worker continues labor even late at night.

This construction site began in early July and they have built this much already.

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[Portrait] Father and Son

I’m going to keep my post today simple. Here’s a photo of a family I encountered in Inner Mongolia last weekend. They seemed to be surprised that my English was so good and my Chinese was not so good. But it’s always amazing how personal you can get with people in China. It’s something Japan and the US lack more and more of these days especially in the cities where everyone wants more privacy.

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[Photo Essay] Disney is Too Far, Please Come To Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park

Since 1986, with its' old slogan "Disney is too far please come to Shijingshan", Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park has brought dreams to the heart of Beijingers who cannot afford to make it out to Hong Kong Disneyland. In 2007, international media took up this park labeling it 'Fake Disney' for the state-owned park using familiar Japanese and US characters with attractions similar to that of Disney World. Copyright infringement controversies resulted in the park being tucked away at the west end of Beijing Subway Line 1. Currently under renovations and Disneyland Shanghai scheduled for its grand-open in 2014, Shijingshan amusement park faces a new question on which direction it should pursue. This photo essay is a close up look of some of the attractions this Shijingshan Amusement Park has to offer.

During renovations, Sunday afternoon at the park experienced small number of visitors. Entrance fee was 10 rmb, about $1.5USD.

Renovations welcomed us as we came through the gate.

Most of the characters that raised controversy for copyright infringement were all taken down. We could only see this rabbit character within the park.

The main attractions were kept the way they were. This one had similar resemblances to Thunder Mountain from Disney World

Most of the rides were out-of-order such as this roller coaster attraction.

Didn't see too many kids within the park, mostly teens.

Not Quite the Happiest Place on Earth

One of their most famous attraction called "Dragon Wind".

Schrek?

Nice to see guns where kids are supposed to experience a magical harmonious world.

Epcot Center? America Adventure in the back. Epcot center look-alike building was used as a cinema.

I could tell that the park already got rid of most of their Disney look-a like products but there were a handful of stuffed toys like this one being sold.

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[Beijing Nightlife] Scarlett at Hotel G, Beijing

This is somewhat of a random post since I’ve been posting a lot about Inner Mongolia these days but I’d like to keep my posts more versatile and today I want to recommend a cool venue in Beijing that I really recommend to anyone visiting Beijing. The city of Beijing has so much to offer including this boutique hotel, Hotel G in Sanlitun. Those of you who are not familiar with Sanlitun, just like Roppongi in Tokyo and Hongdae in Seoul, Sanlitun is one of Beijing’s night spots. I’ve never stayed at Hotel G but their wine and cheese bar, Scarlett has a really good list of imports and funk music playing all night. I really like the colorful window lights, which if you are to stay at Hotel G, you can choose the color of your window. Cool concept.

View from the outside of Hotel G

High quality drinks and good food. I have nothing more to say.

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[Natural Resources] Baotou, Inner Mongolia the ‘Capital of Rare Earths’

This whole week I’ve been talking about Inner Mongolia so it’s only right that I end this week with another post on this topic. The very last leg of my trip before returning to Beijing was spent in the city of Baotou (包头).  This city with a population of 1.7 million might not be that well-known but it’s a city with great significance to the global economy. Recently, there’s been much talk on how China is cutting its exports of rare earth to the industrial states. This is a problem for states like Japan and the US since many of the hi-tech manufacturing rely on China’s rare earth. According to International Business Times, “China supplies 97 percent of the world’s rare earths, used in computers and clean energy technology such as wind turbines and electric cars”.
China is saying that they are cutting the exports of rare earths to enhance their domestic green energy but from what I saw in Baotou, the Capital of Rare Earths, I think China still has a long way to go in accomplishing that. Baotou in Mongolian means ‘Place with deer'(which I saw none) but besides the central much nicer part of the city, Baotou was really polluted. This was by far the most polluted city I have seen in China. Now, when you see local Chinese residents wearing masks, you know it’s really polluted. Mines and workers. Those were the two main characters in Baotou. I don’t think the workers know or care about any of the stuff going on in the international scale but to me, I could see that they have no choice but to keep producing and selling to make a living.
Baotou has won some recognition as it has made distinct efforts to transition to an environmental friendly city. But as I saw, the outskirts of this city could still use some work. But judging from how much cleaner the central part of the city is we can conclude that there is some progress that has already been made. Here are some snapshots near Baotou’s mines.

From Baotou to the rest of the world.

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Inner Mongolia] Singing Sand Ravine, Inner Mongolia

During my weekend trip to Inner Mongolia, I was also able to see the “Singing Sand Ravine“. So what makes a desert sing?

According to a NYT Article from 2006:
“Collisions between sand grains cause the motions of the grains to become synchronized. The outer layer of the dune vibrates like the cone of a loudspeaker. The particular note depends primarily on the size of the grains…The most beautiful dune tune comes from the sands of Oman. ‘Very pure sound’, Dr. Douady said. ‘This one is really singing’. The least musical bits of silicon were those from China, which hardly sang at all”.

Yes, I agree with Dr. Douady. I didn’t hear any singing what so ever. Nonetheless, the scenery was gorgeous. This was the second desert that I have seen in all of China. In 2008, I saw the Taklamakan Desert in Turpan and was amazed of the scale and the different faces a desert could have. This Singing Sand Ravine’s great size and scale again reminded me of how small we humans are compared to the great nature our world has to offer. I’ve come to notice that these feelings have become harder to experience these days as we spend most of our time working in metropolitan cities far away from nature. But again, it’s nice to take a step back and emerge yourself with nature once in a while.

Located 50km south of Baotou (包头) and north of Ordos (鄂尔多斯), ‘Singing Sand’ is a must see if you are in the region.

I failed to capture the blue sky as this photo was facing the sun light. But again it gives off a nice atmosphere.

Finally, the blue sky is captured. My travel mates in the background.

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Beijing Lifestlye] Count Down to November 15th

Since the 1950’s November 15th has been a day that every one in Beijing has been looking forward to. This day is not a national holiday nor it is a date with historical significance. November 15th is the day when the city officials flick on the switch to turn on the capital’s centrally controlled heating system supplying warmth to most of the 22 million residents.
I recently just found out about this since temperature in Beijing has been getting much colder these past couple weeks. On October 16th I think the temperature was about  44 degrees and I was freezing. So pretty much until this date everyone, rich or poor, gets no heat in this city. Since the 1950s from November 15th to March 15th Beijing’s coal pumps have kept busy providing heat to city apartments and this schedule has rarely changed over the years. But there are some exceptions to this rule, and if it snows (like last year) before this date, government officials have promised to install heat accordingly. But until then we all  freeze! Oh the beauty of collective living. I just think the person in charge of flicking on the giant switch to generate heat across the city has such a cool job. The countdown begins and we’re 2 weeks away!

Beijingers keep warm by wearing warm jackets and bundling up in blankets before November 15th comes around.

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[Photo Essay] Ordos, China: No Longer a Modern Ghost Town

The city of Ordos was founded on February 26, 2001. Home meant for over a million Kangbashi people of Ordos, Inner Mongolia has been in the spotlight for being the Modern Ghost Town as the luxurious apartments have all been bought out but the residents are nowhere to be seen. This photo journal entry is from my Halloween weekend trip to see this city of Ordos to see if it really was empty. As China's rapid development can be seen all across the country, there's not quite a place where over-development can be witnessed.Funded by a $585 billion stimulus package to bolster China's economic development, we can only hope that this investment will result in great returns. With its small population and regional wealth created by rich natural resources, Ordos is the second richest city, richer than Beijing, in per capita terms in China. Many questions remains in this unused and overdeveloped city but as witnessed from my journey, some residents have already moved in to the new Kangbashi district.

From Beijing, it's a13 hour over night train ride making stops at Hohhot, Baotou, and finally to Dongsheng, or Ordos in Mongolian meaning 'Palaces'.

Prior to arriving to Ordos, you can see the development and the massive construction taking place.

First look at an intersection in Kangbashi. Clean roads and luxurious apartments but where is everyone?

At the main square, again pretty empty for having such a luxurious symbolic statue in the middle of the new city.

The opposite side from the Horse Statue is the city government building. Most of the people I saw were mainly tourists here. It's interesting to see how the first half of my experience in Kangbashi witnessed mostly tourists and not many residents.

Still under construction, Ordos Museum resembles almost a pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.

The inside of the Ordos Museum, still under construction. The futuristic architecture amazes ones eyes but is it really necessary?

Another pavilion looking building is the Ordos Library. Ordos Highschool was also as elegant as this library. Ordos is the second wealthiest city in China behind Shanghai in terms of per capita income.

Massive projects continue to progress in Ordos with so little residents actually moving in.

Security guards were given training in the afternoon. But without people moving in there's no need for these guards.

Overlooking the largest construction site in Kangbashi. It's not common to see so many number of cranes as you can see here.

Construction continues in Ordos. Just because you built the city doesn't mean that people will automatically migrate to the city. There has to be a better reason than just the fact that they built the city. Same can be said for many other development projects across China.

Afternoon, I saw some more movement in this city as you can see lights in some of the apartments. We can conclude that there is some progress that has been made in the last couple months. Looks like some people have moved in already but It'll be interesting to see how the city looks like 5 years from now.

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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