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Archive for China

Beijing 北京

After two weeks in China I’m glad to be back “home” in Tokyo. Let’s back up a bit to my first photo of China…

Snow had covered everything but flights didn’t seem too affected.

The contrasts between the snow and everything else made things a bit more interesting than the normal, smoggy haze.

The Beijing airport is huge. I took a train after passing through immigration just to get to the luggage claim. Then I took another to get to the terminal where my connecting flight was. I wandered far and wide to try to get the free internet advertised but failed in the end.

I had come from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Beijing, where I changed planes for Zhengzhou (郑州). Despite the snow in Beijing, all was warm and cozy in the airport.

This plane’s design looked more fitting for a tarmac in Hawaii than Beijing on this day.

I was a little bit surprised to find myself the only non-Chinese person on the plane from Beijing to Zhengzhou. I had no idea that the last non-Chinese faces I would see for two weeks would basically be those I saw in the Beijing airport. I was introduced to two, short-term, visiting faculty (one from the UK and one from New Zealand) like myself, but, other than them, I didn’t see a single non-Chinese for two weeks.

Aerial view of Mt. Fuji

Unfortunately, the People’s Republic of China blocks those within China (including me at the moment) from accessing this and many other websites. This is my first, and only, post I have made or will make from China. I’m doing so by using an internet proxy. However, the proxies are very unstable and only last for a minute or two so rather than getting kicked off in the middle of a post and losing my work, I will put blogging on hold for another week until I am back in Japan. Thank you for your patience.

Today’s photo was my view of Mt. Fuji from the air on my way to Beijing.

Chinatown 横浜中華街

横浜中華街

I’m in China now. Or at least I hope I am. I’m actually typing this a few days before heading to China, and scheduling it to post later, so today’s pics aren’t from China but from Yokohama’s Chinatown (横浜中華街).

China’s Tokyo Embassy (The Craziest Place on Earth)

Imagine the worst DMV on the planet. Now put that DMV on steroids. And not good steroids, that make things work better, but steroids that do nothing but multiply all the things that make a trip to the DMV loathable.

The first thing you will notice at the Chinese Embassy is that you wait in line to go through security at the front door even though the security is fake. There are two security guards and a metal detector at the door. However, the metal detector goes off for more than half the people that go through it, and the guards do nothing but waive such people by. One guard asked to look through my backpack. I handed it to him. He cracked one of the three zippers and then handed it back. I could have had a gun in each of the three zippered sections (it was heavy enough as I had a book in one section and a camera in another, as well as other things), and he wouldn’t have caught them.

The place where all visas are handled is three stories high. The first level was crowded with people in various lines. I somehow figured out that I should be on the third level for my visa and was happy to leave the madness of the first level behind…

…until I got to the third level which was far worse. This 3rd floor room should never have more than about 60 people in it. On my first time there there were well over 100 people. There are lines on the 3rd floor to get numbers to get in more lines, lines to use the copy machine, lines to ask questions without a number, and more lines. People were packed in here like it was a train at rush hour. After waiting in a line of 20+ people to get a number I was told to make a copy of all of my documents. I then got in line to use the copy machine. When I got to the front of the copy machine line I found that it only takes 10 yen coins, of which I had zero. Luckily, the lady next to me gave me one. Eventually my number was called, and I was told to come back in three days to pick up my visa.

I did come back three days later as instructed, waited to get in, went through the fake security again (setting off the alarm again but was told to keep going anyway), waited in one line (Line 4) on the first floor for a while until I got close enough to the front to see the above sign, and then switched lines (to Line 6). I waited in that line only to find out that I had to go back to the third floor first. On the third floor I waited in the line to ask questions and was told to wait in the line to get a number. After waiting in the line to get a number, I waited for my number to be called. After handing over a receipt I was then told to go back to the first floor. There I waited in Line 6 where I was told to put 15,000 yen (almost $200) into a vending machine before waiting in Line 4 again. So I waited in line to put my money in a vending machine. Then I waited in Line 4 and finally received my visa to visit China.

Trip to China – postponed 10 days

I’m supposed to be in China right now. The only problem is I found out as I was checking in at the Haneda Airport in Tokyo this morning that an American Citizen with a U.S. passport can’t go to China without a visa. Live and learn. I’ve been to 12 countries outside of the USA in the past six years and none of them required a visa for short stays so I didn’t even think to look it up. Also, someone in China handled all of my travel plans so I figured if I needed anything (like a visa) they would let me know. They were as surprised as I was when I wasn’t allowed to board the plane today.

So if you have a US passport, and plan to travel outside the USA, check the above map long before you go so you don’t end up in my shoes. Outside of Brazil, Russia, China, India, some countries in Africa, much of the Middle East, and a few other countries, you are good to go with just a US passport if you are staying for a short period of time.

The good news is my trip isn’t cancelled, just pushed back 10 days. The other bad news is a visa for China isn’t cheap (15,000 + 3,000 yen).

One thing I don’t understand is why someone with a Japanese passport can go to China without a visa but someone with a US passport cannot.

The Bird People in China (中国の鳥人)

The Bird People in China, or 中国の鳥人, is one of the few, highly-rated, Japanese DVDs available through Netflix. I watched it last week.

The movie has many layers. Initially I thought it was a comedy. What else could you have when you strand a member of the yakuza with a “salaryman” in the middle of nowhere? I was laughing a lot during the first half hour or so.

The layers change however. The laughter mostly disappears for the mid and later sections of the movie. The characters transform and are transformed by their environment. I was reminded of extended vacations I have experienced which can turn a person into a different person, if only for a while.

The thought of multiple lives within a single lifetime also rises to the surface. I can certainly relate to that layer. Life is too short to get stuck doing the same thing, living the same way, or in the same place for too long.

The scenery is breathtaking. I was reminded of other films like Out of Africa and The Painted Veil.

The Japanese is relatively easy to understand. One reason is the characters are frequently speaking to a Chinese man whose first language isn’t Japanese.

Be prepared to be impressed, on many levels.