Posts tagged “Go Katayama Photography

The Misconception of “Tokyo = Japan”

This topic has been on my mind for quite some time especially after living abroad and hearing from my non-Japanese friends talk about their travel experiences in Japan. Especially after the 3.11 crisis, one of the first reactions I noticed was the foreign concern over whether or not Tokyo was affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Second impression was people saying “Oh Tokyo is not affected, phew then everything is cool”. I agree, Tokyo is the capital city; center for Japan’s politics, economy, culture and society and if Tokyo was hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami, the effect on Japan and the entire globe would have been detrimental(hence the nuclear reactors were strategically tucked away in a local environment but we can talk more on this later). But from my experience abroad, besides a small number of Chinese people who have come to  love the flower gardens in Hokkaido, most people will definitely start off in Tokyo and maybe visit Kyoto to see the “ Real Japanese culture” if they have time. I think it’s right to say that most people can’t name another prefecture other than Tokyo or Osaka. From this concept  it is not a mistake for foreigners to think that Tokyo is what Japan is all about. But from this 3.11 crisis and the effect of the Tohoku region to the rest of Japan has taught us that a much more balanced country with resources spread across the entire country is desperately in need.  But domestically speaking, why is everyone moving to Tokyo? This summer I have spent much of my time traveling around the local scenes around Japan and I can clearly see that not only the birth rate in Japan is in decline but it’s even more severe in the regions outside of Tokyo. “The youths have all left and found a new living in Tokyo and Osaka” said one of the shop keepers in Miyazaki prefecture.

This trend of human resources, information technology centering in Tokyo has stopped the development of other areas in Japan. When in times of crisis I can’t stop but to think of how the US has New York as its financial center and Washington DC as the center for politics; China has Shanghai and Beijing … you get my point. But this nuance of “If I go to Tokyo, I can make something/prove something for myself” ideology still exists today especially within the youth. It’s also interesting to note that the flexible and easy passage to Tokyo, making it possible for anyone in Japan to relocate to Tokyo. For a comparison with China, it’s not that easy for a Chinese person living in a third tier city to move into Beijing just because there’s more opportunities in Beijing. You need to have enough money saved up to get by in Beijing. Either way, this crisis has taught us many lessons and this idea of centralizing everything into Tokyo needs to stop now and regional government bodies need to step up. Is another round of Tokyo re-bidding to host the 2020 summer olympics really necessary? I’d prefer seeing Hiroshima and Nagasaki co-host it more than anything. Surprisingly enough I run into people who are surprised that the city or Hiroshima still even exists today…

I don’t know the GDP break up of Korea off the top of my head but Seoul as the financial center and capital could be similar to Japan as its proximity to the North Korean border(DMZ) has always been a concern to many of the Korean specialists that I have come into contact with.

Around Shibuya Station in Tokyo in the afternoon with busy traffic

A platform at JR Shibuya Station

The JR Subway Map at Shibuya Station. Most prefectures surrounding Tokyo have benefited from the proximity to Tokyo and its relatively cheaper real estate.

[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.

© All images copyrighted. Please use only with permission.

[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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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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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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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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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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[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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[Quick Update] Heading for Ordos, Inner Mongolia for the Weekend

Ordos, Inner Mongolia? Never heard of it? I will be here. It’s my first time into Inner Mongolia and it should be about a ten hour over night train ride from Beijing. According to TIME Magazine Ordos is the Modern Ghost Town so it should be perfect for Halloween. I will be back with more updates on Monday.

[Photo] Beijing’s Underground City

What fascinates me about this great city of Beijing is that the more you try to know what’s going on in this city, the more unknowns you run into. Couple weeks back some friends and I were having a conversation about the Underground City in Beijing. A city created in the form of tunnels under the city of Beijing. This to me was unheard of. In Chinese its called 地下城(DiXia Cheng). It’s sole purpose was to be a bomb shelter created in the 1970s in anticipation of nuclear warfare with the USSR. Since 2000 to 2008 it has become a tourist destination but for the last few years the gates have been shut down for renovations. I’m really curious to see what it’s like down there below. It cover a total of 85 square kilometers. I know that there are a total of 90 gates in the city. Even around my apartment I feel like the shady basement entrances could lead to the underground city. Will be back with more updates soon on the underground city.

Could this be one of the 90 entrances to the Underground City?

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[Photo Essay] Saturday Afternoon in Gulou

Gulou is the area surrounding Drum and Bell towers mainly with Hutong style housing which is currently under the threat of redevelopment programs which are mainly the construction of transportation centers in the area. This photo essay is my walk through of Beijing's beloved old city.


Rickshaw drivers rest as they await for customers. Drum tower in the background.

Rickshaw drivers ride back to the Drum towers. Most of their income comes from tourists. This day it was mainly French tourists who didn't feel like walking around the Hutongs.

Girls hanging out on the swings?at the park on a Saturday afternoon. Drum tower in the background

Elders meet on a daily basis to play mahjong. They didn't seem to mind the cold wind that day.

Rickshaw drivers were everywhere in Gulou that day. Weekends are busy days for these drivers.

Girls busy on their phones, on the way home from school.

Students heading home from school.

Rickshaw drivers taking French Tourists around for a ride.

A dog walks by. Dogs tend to be unleashed in China. Chinese people love their dogs here.

Looks like someone had a party last night. The local beer Yanjing Beer seems to be the popular choice around here.

Biker cycles past a green sign that asks for citizens to cooperate in the Census program that is taking place right now in China.

A worker is seen through the walls. The north side of Gulou is already destroyed and a transport station is supposed to be built to compliment the ever growing population and transportation efficiency.

On Gulou Da Jie. Construction can be seen at every corner of Gulou.

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[Photo] Man vs. Car

Picture taken in  Dongxindian. Located one hour east from central business district in Beijing. This area witnessed a bunch of taxi’s being repaired. Mostly migrant workers live in this area.

Dongxindian is a hub for repairing Beijing Taxi's

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[Development] Compassion for Migrant Children

This weekend is almost about to end but it was a rather fresh weekend for me in the ever cooling city of Beijing. Friday witnessed a rather early sleeping time and this was so that I could get up early at 6am. Saturday I woke up at 6am, got ready and headed out for 五元桥Wuyuan Bridge. Now, if you’re a local here you might be asking me WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU DOING IN WUYUAN QIAO!!? Wuyuan Bridge is all the way out in the 5th inner ring road which is pretty far from  the center of Beijing. It took me almost 2 hours to get out there: taking the metro, bus and by walking. Where was I headed for in Wuyuan Qiao? I made my way finally to a School in the middle of  no where. Starting this weekend, I have decided to make more use of my time here in Beijing than just the usual going out and wasting my time on the weekends recovering from the night before. I joined a NGO called Compassion for Migrant Children(CMC), which the organization stands to help migrant children in China by further expanding their education by means of using volunteers like me.

China has many social problems but as of now the massive migration of workers moving into larger cities, like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, is one of the largest problems China faces. Here are the stats for Beijing according to CMC:

50,000,000 Migrant Workers in Beijing as of now

500,000 Migrant Children in Beijing.

These are overwhelming numbers and is continually growing at a rapid rate. The problem is that these Migrant children aren’t registered in Beijing since they come from other provinces in China so they do not have the proper access to public education in China.  They do go to school but these migrant schools have poorly educated teachers and overall, the children don’t receive the proper care and advise they require. Most of the migrant children face a reality where they watch their parents work day and night and some drop out of school and start working at a very young age. That’s the situation in a nutshell and I promise I will be back with more statistics and info for future posts.

As far as Saturday went, I realized that I haven’t taught English for almost 3 years when I taught for a private English institution in Wuhan, China for the summer. But this experience was quite different. I wasn’t teaching for money and I was just doing it for the pure enjoyment of wanting to make an impact and learn at the same time. The school was a very simple and even though it lacked many resources the joy of the students and the energy they brought to class took over any negativity in the environment or what the children were going through. I only taught for 2 hours, mainly to grade school students but I really enjoyed it. I will be doing this for the next couple weeks until Christmas. For now, this is all the time I have to update on my experience but I will have a photo essay dedicated to the status of Migrant Workers and their family members by the end of the year! Stay tuned.

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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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[Music] Creators Project x Beijing

This should have been posted a while ago but the Creators Project was in town last month. Showcased at the 798 art district.  From their website: “The Creators Project is a new network dedicated to the celebration of creativity and culture across media, and around the world”. Beijing had a real treat that night as everyone enjoyed free drinks all night long and performances from Diplo and Major Lazor.


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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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