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Zócalo, Largest Square in the Americas

February 12, 2013

I am in Mexico City. I have come with my girlfriend Joy for a week in Mexico, beginning and ending in the capital city, including a few days in Cancún. We arrived Feb. 9 by plane from Atlanta, took the Metro into the city center, and found our hostel, the Hostel Catedral next to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City. The rooftop terrace at the Hostel Catedral faces the back of the cathedral and the Zócalo, the main square of Mexico City. The square is the second largest in the world, after Red Square and before Tian’anmen. It was filled with thousands of people for a concert and surrounded by riot police. Photos of the square are below.

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Yuantong Temple in Kunming

February 9, 2013

In the summer of 2011, I took a two month trip in China that I chronicled on kiroma. Recently I posted photos from Shanghai and photos from Suzhou. I now live in China as a student at Fudan University. Before starting school, I took a two week trip with Joy to Yunnan and Guizhou that took us to Lijiang, Dali, and Kunming, and me to Qujing, Huangguoshu, Anshun, Guiyang, and Chongqing.

We began our journey in Yunnan by flying to the stunning modern airport in the provincial capital, Kunming. Walking out on the street our first day in town, we came across the enchanting Yuantong Temple, an old and very active Buddhist temple. It was late August, just in time for the Yu Lan festival, also known as the “Ghost Festival.” We burned joss sticks, paper and candles as offerings but were not able to take part in the chanting at the main hall. A large crowd of worshippers were gathered to make offerings before the altar. They prayed under a large tent. We passed a few monks walking around the grounds, and a portion of the entryway was under construction. Below are my photographs from Yuantong Temple.

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Four Tasty Treats in Fukuoka

February 6, 2013

In August 2012 I returned to Fukuoka for the first time. In 2009-2010 I studied at Kyushu University as an exchange student, where I studied Japanese culture and linguistics and learned Japanese.

My return was part of a five-week trip from Tokyo to Shanghai via Nagasaki by boat. I spent about five days in Fukuoka meeting old friends, teachers, and my host family. (I also wrote a post about the temple of the Great Buddha.)

Today I want to share four of the most delicious things I ate in Fukuoka. Can you guess what they are?

4. Fugu bibimba

The Fukuoka Fuku Festival was all about showing off the versatility of fugu, a delicious poisonous pufferfish. I didn’t find fugu sashimi very flavorful, but I once bought a bit and fried it with excellent results. At the festival was a very popular stall selling fugu bibimba (a Korean rice bowl) for 500 yen (~$6).

3. Tonkatsu, or pork cutlet

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My friends recommended this place that serves tonkatsu, Japanese pork cutlet, among many other washoku, or Japanese-style, foods.

2. Tofu hamburger

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A tofu specialty restaurant was a favorite and a recommendation of my host mother’s. She took a friend and me to eat there. The decor was very “Japanese” to our eyes, and the many variations on tofu were amusing and creative, like tofu croquette and tofu hamburger. I went for the latter, with no regrets. It came with steamed vegetables in a wooden box.

Now anyone familiar with me or Fukuoka will certainly guess what tops my list. The historic neighborhood in downtown Fukuoka known as Hakata is practically synonymous with Hakata ramen, a tasty noodle soup made a broth brewed from pork bones. Japan is home to many good ramens, and tonkotsu is king and queen of them all. (Am I biased?) I was overjoyed when Ippudō, Fukuoka’s best known chain, with branches in Hong Kong, New York, etc., opened a branch in Shanghai. Feast your eyes on Hakata ramen!

1. Hakata ramen at Ippudō

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Have you eaten any of these foods? Please comment on your favorite Japanese foods!

Tokyo in the Snow

February 2, 2013

In January, I posted on this blog about returning from Tokyo to Atlanta via Seattle 110 years after the writer Nagai Kafu made his transpacific journey. I also posted photos from Ishioka, Tsuchiura, and Kasumi-ga-ura, places I reached by hitchhiking down Highway 6 to Tokyo.

My reasons for visiting Tokyo were two. One was to catch my flight from Narita airport back to the USA, since I had booked a round-trop flight to Tokyo in July. I first traveled to Japan and went to Shanghai to study at Fudan University via boat from Nagasaki. My second reason was to attend a conference connected with the research of Dr. Haneda Masashi, a professor and Vice President of the University of Tokyo with whom I had the pleasure to be acquainted in Shanghai, at a conference at Fudan. Dr. Haneda is deeply involved in a project to rewrite world history in a way that reflects the discoveries of science and diminishes the influence of the concept of “nations” and “nationality.” The conference was called “Southern Barbarians, Redheads, and Chinamen: Conflict and Trade in the East Asian Seas” (J: 国際シンポジウム「南蛮・紅毛・唐人―東アジア海域の交易と紛争」) and was held at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia at the University of Tokyo. Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Haneda, I was granted the important opportunity to attend this conference (conducted 90% in Japanese) and witness the proceedings of an academic conference in Japan for the first time. More about the conference later.

While in Tokyo, I met with many friends, but unfortunately caught a bacterial intestinal infection (again, as I mentioned last year in July when I got sick in Yokohama). I made up my mind the next morning to go for a doctor, and when I stepped outside, I found the world covered in snow.

The photos below were taken outside my hotel (the first three), on the University of Tokyo campus (the fourth), and on the train to Narita Airport.

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Suzhou in Pictures (2011)

February 1, 2013

I am back in the United States for winter vacation. While I am away from China, I would like to share some of my photos from places in China I visited in 2011. From May to August 2011, I traveled in China and kept a record of blog posts here posted almost in real-time. I came to find that writing and posting blog entries in real-time was quite a challenge, and I was unable to upload photos. (My previous posts are available on this blog under the category “China 2011.”)

It has been a year and half since I made a two-month trip in China. Today I would like to share my photos from Suzhou, a provincial-level city in Jiangsu province, west of Shanghai, with a population of about 10 million. Suzhou has a rich history, and its gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can read my posts about Suzhou from June 2011 here:

kiroma.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/day-13-suzhou/

kiroma.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/day-14-suzhou/

kiroma.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/day-15-suzhou/

Please enjoy the photos.

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The Fukuoka Fuku Festival

January 25, 2013

In August last year, I returned to Fukuoka, Japan. I was an exchange student at Kyushu University in Fukuoka during my second year of university, in 2009 and ’10. My late summer visit in 2012 was the first time I had returned to Fukuoka. Many friends were still in school, and I made new friends in an old city.

My friend Kaya and I spent an evening at Hakata Pier (Hakata Futoh), where many people were dancing as part of the Fukuoka Fuku Festival. The name is a play on words, as fuku means ‘happiness’ and fugu is everyone’s favorite (eminently edible) poisonous pufferfish. Showcasing the culinary versatility of fugu through food stands was the theme of the night, along with dancing and fireworks.

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Kiyomizu-dera in Pictures

January 24, 2013

In August last year I visited Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, called Kiyomizu-dera in Japanese. The present structures on the Buddhist temple site date from 1633, according to Wikipedia. Hundreds of little bells were hanging in the eaves and chimed in the late summer afternoon breeze.

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