Wednesday, July 29, 2015

令人悲哀的古跡商業化

上海安遠路玉佛禪寺。一個經歷幾個世紀風雨,度過多次毀而修、修而毀的古刹,今日已不見當年的輝煌。雖然内部佛像依舊完整、傲氣逼人,但其地址已是在一個再普通不過的住宅區内。若不是地圖的標記和路人的指點,著者也不會從一個再平常不過的一個地鐵站走多少個街區將其尋出。不過找到時的興奮還是有的。在一個一棟又一棟、參差不齊但外貌相同的住宅樓叢林中,一個古典木製寺院顯得異常突出,并給一個普通的街區帶來莫名的歷史感。

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What is "Our Country" for the Ethnic Koreans in China?

The Chinese-North Korean border is an interesting place, and not particularly because of sighting what happens across the river in the eerily quiet North Korean border towns.  Tens of thousands of both Chinese and foreign tourists come to the Tumen and Yalu Rivers that make up the border to point fingers at the few North Korean passers-by on the other side, but few bothers to observe the border towns on the Chinese side, where Han Chinese ethnic Koreans, and many refugees of North Korean nationality live side-by-side among the influx of tourists.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Gentrification and Over-Gentrification

As a society develops, it increasingly obtains the energy and the luxury to look toward its past, and begin to incorporate its remaining history into sustainable future development.  Europe, as the leader of modern economic development, has already reached a stage where tradition is combined into modernity.  The same traits of tradition's new-found role in economic progress is spreading from Europe to Asia, especially China where, despite large scale destruction over the course of ten-year-long Cultural Revolution, significant amount of traditional customs and architectural heritage remains intact.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Erotic Sounds of a Capsule Hotel

As previously mentioned, traveling in Japan is an expensive affair.  This is true not only for casual foreign passers-by but also for tens of thousands of Japanese business travelers who need to keep their company’s budgets in line but get to places promptly and rapidly.  For them, staying far away from train stations and other nodes of public transportation simply is not a viable option.  To be on-time to visit their clients and return to headquarters, they need to keep to downtown areas where they can come and go quickly.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The One Who Wants Time to Stop

The author met a former coworker from Rakuten, who he has not met in some four years since he quickly departed from the company after less than a year of work.  Interestingly enough, he had met her on the very day she was handing in her marriage registration.  The author, not someone eager in communication, obviously had no idea of the fact that she was getting married, or that she was in a serious relationship at all.  Surprising at it seems, four years is not a short time for a person to grow up.  It gives a person much time to proceed with personal plans outside the career path.

Monday, July 13, 2015

"Omotenashi" Revisited: How to Get People to Part with Their Money in the Most Pleasant Way?

By anyone's standards, traveling in Japan is not a cheap affair.  Shoe-stringing backpackers that frequent Southeast Asia should definitely not be here, considering that cheapest lodging tend to be around 30 USD per night and the cheapest lunch 6 USD.  Combine that with extremely expensive local transportation, which can average 20 USD for even short-distance train travel, and the expenses pile up in ways that does not justify the incomes of even the average person that lives and works in this country.  Most of the time, the money flies out of the wallet without even the user really noticing.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Exceptions to "History is Written by the Victors"

For those who are knowledgeable about modern history of Japan, Kagoshima is very much considered a pivotal place.  Led by the open-minded Shimazu family, the former Satsuma domain remained in contact with the outside world, absorbing Western technologies and ideologies during the long self-isolation imposed by the Tokugawa Shogunate.  As the 19th century saw the forced opening of the Shogunate to Western military coercion, the leaders of Satsuma emerged to lead the reformist movement in Japan to modernize the country, ending the Shogunate and rapidly catching up with the West with Meiji Restoration.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

地方活性化のキー?

今回の日本旅行も時間でいうと明日で半分が終わるとの時点になるが、今夜でこの作者は鹿児島以外九州すべての県とほとんどの大きな都市部に携わることができた。楽天時代の終了で日本在住も約4年前の話になるが、この来たこともない九州で意外と「家に戻った」雰囲気を感じる。最初、作者はこれをただ親しみがある言語か文化にもう一度触れるちょっとした感動と思い込んでいたが、今夜偶然宿泊先で見てたテレビ番組が「地方活性化」のトピックで議論をしていたところで突然デージャーブーを感じた。

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Omotenashi" in the Red Light District

"Omotenashi" (おもてなし) is a cultural concept that the Japanese are deeply proud of.  While difficult to translate directly into other languages, it pertains to attentiveness toward small details when dealing with customers in the service industry.  Often, it is most visibly displayed in the meticulous training Japanese personnel receives on what kind of languages and gestures to use under what circumstances when speaking to clients, as well as the little things Japanese restaurants and hotels use, such as tools and signage, to make customer feel comfortable and convenient while dining.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Happiness of the Supposedly "Incompetent"

The older generation of Japanese often lament that the youth in the country are not aggressive or ambitious enough.  They are easily satisfied by the status quo and seem to be quite narrow-minded and short-sighted on how they see the changing world around them, much unlike the older generation that has experienced so much of sudden changes in their lifetimes.  The elders say want the youth to go out there to the big cities and outside Japan, so that they can become global citizens capable of changing not just their country but be a much more active force in global affairs than Japanese have ever been.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Legend in a Legendary Town

"Hey, do you know what time is it now?"  A fairly normal-looking elderly man casually asked the author as he was walking down the backstreets of Nagasaki.  Given the time, the elderly did not simply walk away.  Instead, he pointed the author to the nearest streetcar station (without the author's prompting), and motioned the author to walk with him as he was heading toward the same direction.  The author was a little hesitant at the beginning as he was eager to head to the next major scenic spot in the scenic port town, but little did he know that he was about to speak to one of the most legendary figures from a legendary time.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Charting the Unpredictability of a Distant Future

Given that this is 3 days from the author's (once again) departure from Malaysia, the author is has a very relaxing time not doing much, well, at all.  Reflecting back on the another year spent here required so inputs so the author found himself watching the new Terminator movie that just came out across the theaters here in Malaysia.  While there is little notable about the plot worthy of in-depth discussion here, this particular installation in the series put a much stronger emphasis on the ability of time travel to change events, and the idea that knowledge about events in different timelines can be simultaneously had by one person.