What Japanese Envy

A Western woman, who’s taken on Japanese style and speaks Japanese very well, asks people in Tokyo what they envy in foreigners.



Simon and Martina, with the help of the very-talented Dan, have made an outstanding video about a chef in Tokyo, who has an incredible respect and interest in local ingredients and regional cultures.

I’d love to know how they got to join him in Ehime. Just start watching and see what you think. Would you want to try dinner at Sugalabo? I wonder how much that costs.

That @#@! Walt Disney!

I learned about this in my Introduction to Technology class, but Adam Conover explains the public domain issue more concisely and with wit.

There Was a Father


R – Chishu Ryu as the father; L – Takashi Sakamoto as the vice principal

Directed by Ozu, one of my favourite directors, There Was a Father is an intimate look at a widower raising his one son before WWII. This  conscientious father quits teaching when a boy dies on a school trip. It wasn’t the father’s fault. He wasn’t the only teacher on the trip and he had told the boys not to go on the lake (though Western teachers would have run out to the pier when they saw the boys get in the books rather than continuing with their meal, I think).

After quitting teaching because of his feelings of guilt, the father takes a job in a factory and sends his son who’s about 9 to a boarding school. Like all Ozu films, the story is simple and concentrates on the quieter aspects of familial relationships. Ozu’s very observant like a nature photographer who creeps up on his subjects so as not to disturb them and thereby captures how they really are when they aren’t aware of being observed.

At different points the boy presents his case for coming home. He sees family as most important. However the father exhorts his son to work hard. That’s every Japanese person’s duty, to put aside personal desires, however good, to work hard as their greater duty.

There Was a Father was a pre-war movie that complied with the government’s orders for filmmakers to put out films that lined up with their propaganda efforts. Ozu makes the duty theme clear, yet elegant. The film’s a touching look at Japan and family life during hard times.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Alphabet

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts.

Other great photos:

On Toilets in China: A Study

Toilet Adventures from Bill Callahan on Vimeo.

It’s bad manners to discuss toilet activities. But the topic often comes up when people recount their first experiences in China. For many, confronting a squat toilet for the first time is a shock.

This fundamental encounter with the unknown can tell us about the relation of purity and danger, public and private space, and the role of the state in China’s rapidly changing society. Such abstract calculations come to life on the toilet according to five stages, starting with “shock.”

“Toilet Adventures” is designed to provoke discussion of such experiential, theoretical and ethical issues.

A social scientist put together this documentary consisting of interviews with mainly non-Chinese people regarding their attitudes towards toilets in China. Most visited before China opened up in the 1980s. The interviews reveal a lot about the individual and his or her culture as they do about China.

About Urumqi

Urumqi's Grand Bazaar

Urumqi’s Grand Bazaar

Some facts about Urumqi:

  1. Burqa’s are forbidden. Women can wear headscarves and colorful traditional outfits that are modest, but they must show their faces.
  2. The government frowns upon fasting during Ramadan. They insist that all restaurants stay open all day long. From what I could tell many Muslims, didn’t fast as they were eating throughout the day.
  3. There’s security everywhere — as I’ve written and it’s so tiring.
  4. Uighurs drink tea with jam in it to sweeten it. It’s very tasty. Try it at home!
  5. In Urumqi by the Grand Bazaar a man sells wonderful cups of soft-serve orange sherbet that tastes like soft Dreamsicles™.
  6. Young men are forbidden by law to wear beards. Old men can wear them, though.
  7. The Uighurs pretty much live in the south part of the city and the Han and other Chinese ethnic groups stick to the north.
  8. No water, yogurt or lighters are allowed on the BRT buses.
  9. You have to go through two security checkpoints at the airport: one when you enter and another after you check in.
  10. People in Xinjiang don’t smile much, but I’m not surprised.
  11. Uighurs make good meat pockets that make for good snacks or lunch. You can buy them on the street.
  12. Uighurs are famous for their bread.





Before returning to the US, I ventured out to the wild west of China, to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province. Xingjiang’s a huge province (c.637,000 sq mi/1,650,257 sq km; 1994 estimated population 16,050,000; 2000 population 18,459,511 according to the Columbia Gazetteer of the World), full of resources. It’s been is described as a coal boat in a sea of oil. On top of that there’s gold, silver, sapphires and several other minerals.


The territory has been held by a variety of nations. In 200 BC the Han Chinese gained control. Since then it’s been held by Uzbeks, Tibetans, Uigurs, Mongols, Arabs, Manchus and Chinese. This history creates disputes still as the Uighurs, who’re a Central Asian ethnic group with a Turkic language, used to make up 90% of the population 50 or so years ago, now make up around 50% as Han and other Chinese ethnic groups have moved in to manage the resources and area.

I did want to see a different side of China and I did. Urumqi, the capital, has a strong Uighur look in the part of the city where the Grand Bazaar and International Bazaar are. Wandering around this area, you’ll see vendors selling dried fruits, textiles, ornate tea sets, traditional clothing, fur and daggers. The International Bazaar is written up in all the guidebooks, but you should also walk around the neighborhood it’s set in to get a real feel for life in Urumqi.


One aspect of this real life is the heavy presence of army and police. I’ll describe more of this tomorrow, but basically everywhere you go you’ll have to go through a security checkpoint, or two, to enter. Since there have been incidents of violence against the Chinese by Uighur separatists, the Chinese have cracked down. Hard.

Work Cited

“Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.” Columbia Gazetteer of the World Online. 2015. Columbia University Press. 15 Jul. 2015. <>

About the Defaced Desks

Earlier this week I wrote about how some students wrote all over their desks with markers or pens and how upsetting I found that. A Chinese friend, who’s sympathetic to my outlook responded with this explanation:

I’m not surprised by what those kids did, but still I feel really angry at their behaviour.

Literally in Chinese we name these students’ daubs and drawings on desks as student desks culture. You can see this nearly on every school, from elementary schools to universities. I guess many students develop this kind of bad habit when they’re learning at elementary schools. There used to be an article in our elementary textbook, describing a story about a famous writer in China named Lu Xun. It said that Lu Xun once went late for his class, and he got criticized by his lecturer. Then Lu Xun carved a character 早 on his desk, which means ‘early’ in Chinese. From then on, Lu Xun never got late for school. This story intends to make pupils learn the importance of being punctual, but it turns out many students learnt the other thing instead.

Influenced by this story, many students carved 早 on their own desks, and this is the beginning of student desks culture. When the students go to high school, they might feel it’s too naive to carve just one character on their desks, so they start to present more creation. And this continues in universities.

I just searched on the internet and found out that the story about Lu Xun are no longer available in elementary textbooks. However, it seems this story is still very popular, and many teachers encourage their students to read this story. Then, still I guess many kids learn from their elder brothers and sisters, defacing desks in schools. It seems that this has become a tradition for many students, and that’s why the student desks culture are so popular in China. But I feel this is a real great shame.

I don’t think there is much we can do. I just hope many students can realize later that their behaviour isn’t moral. Student desks culture cannot be changed in one day.

Hmm. I never dreamed this would be ingrained behavior from a famous person. I wish they’d emulate people who were extra tidy or generous.

At the Mitchell Museum


The Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois is a small museum focused on sharing Native American history and culture. Entry is just $5 with discounts for students and seniors. It’s a good little museum that I wrote about for an assignment. They have artifacts from tribes from coast to coast and currently have a temporary exhibit on storytelling.


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