New Blog! Dave’s Japan!

Hey everybody! I just wanted to let you all know that I have arrived in Kyoto, Japan and I have gotten my new blog off the ground. It’s called Dave’s Japan. My adventure has begun and I am doing my best to document the experience with both the written word and the snap of the shutter. This photo journal will bring you all kinds of interesting stuff about my adventure in Japan, so head on over and give it a look.

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Going to Kyoto!

As you may have noticed I have been absent from Dave’s Asia for quite a while now. I have had to take a hiatus from the blog in order to deal with the hectic day to day activities of real life. It was the end of the school year and schoolwork was piling up. Meanwhile, I was keeping up with my part-time job at the school library and with many social obligations. With all of that going on, and with the unapologetic laziness in which I engaged during what little downtime I actually had, I was simply unable to keep up the blog. All of this is probably of no interest to you as a reader.

However, I do have some exciting news to report. On my “about” page I mentioned that I hope to study in Japan someday. Well, that day has arrived! My application for a foreign exchange program has been accepted and at the end of the summer I will be heading to the famously beautiful city of Kyoto, Japan to study for six months at prestigious Doshisha University ( 同志社大学 – “Doushisha Daigaku”)! I am so excited to have this opportunity and I can’t wait to embark on this incredible journey!

Prestigious Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.

Doshisha’s campus is right across the street from the ancient Imperial Palace complex. In this beautiful location I will be continuing to intensively study the language, while also learning about the culture and hopefully taking classes relating to regional relations/issues.

Oh nothing, just going to go study RIGHT THERE!
Oh nothing, just going to go study RIGHT THERE!

For my stay I will be starting a new blog, documenting my experiences in and around Kyoto. My goals are to cover 100 miles walking the streets of Kyoto, and to travel to a few other cities in Japan, including Osaka, Tokyo, and Sapporo.

I intend to keep up this blog, though the posts will likely be fewer, and there will probably many overlaps and links between the two.

Again, I can’t wait to get started on what I know will be an amazing, life-changing adventure! 楽しみにしています!(tanoshimi ni shiteimasu! – “I’m looking forward to it!”)

The Link’s: March 16 – 29, 2015

Two weeks of news folks, and it’s heavy stuff. I hope you find it all as interesting as I did.

Miss Universe Japan 2015, Ariana Miyamoto.

Big news for the world order as 3 major European powers and US allies—Germany, France, and Italy—have declared that they will join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This global banking institution is viewed by the US as a direct rival to the World Bank and the other Bretton Woods institutions set up at the end of World War II, and could “reshape the global balance of power”. The United States has lobbied its allies not to join. South Korea is expected to join, but Japan, the US’s closest ally in Asia, is not.

Meanwhile, China and Japan held their first high-level security talks in four years. The talks come as tensions have risen over recent territorial disputes and disagreements over Japan’s acknowledgement (or lack thereof ) of past war aggressions.

An op/ed in the Japan Times points out the stark contrast in racial politics in Japan citing the fact that the performance of a controversial pop group who appears in blackface (an act repulsive to many Westerners, especially Americans) almost made it onto television, while in the same week the nation’s top beauty pageant crowned a half-black woman as the new Miss Universe Japan. The author’s main point, set within the context of the newsworthy Miss Universe Japan outcome, was to examine the fact that the pulling of the blackface performance was not considered “news” by the nation’s media, and was thus not deeply examined as to why it may be considered inappropriate in today’s media marketplace.

This article in the Washington Post examines the astounding rate of China’s cement consumption, a figure so high that it “stunned Bill Gates,” who wrote about this phenomenon in his blog. According to the article China’s cement consumption in the 3 years between 2010 and 2012 was about 140 percent of U.S. consumption for the entire 20th century! The article goes over the reasons for this astonishing rate of cement consumption, citing China’s massive building boom and rapid urbanization. China is urbanizing at a much faster rate than the US did in the 20th century. “In 2009, China had 221 cities with more than a million people in them, compared with only 35 in Europe” (and only 9 in the US as of 2013 ), and the Pearl River Delta megalopolis had 42 million inhabitants in 2010 (up to 80 million in as of 2014 ). “By some estimates, half of China’s infrastructure has been built since 2000,” but the article points out that often quality is sacrificed when it comes to this rapid building and the environment often suffers as well. As a counterpoint the article also mentions that this building boom has led to great economic growth and reduction of poverty.

Shanghai’s Pudong Financial District in 1987 and 2013.

Debate ensues over a plan to build a massive sea-wall to protect Japan’s coastline from devastation by future tsunamis. The government plans to construct 440 concrete walls along 230 miles of coastline in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, the areas hit hardest by the tsunami in 2011. The £5billion plan ($7.4billion, ¥886billion) has garnered opposition among local residents.

And finally, this piece in the Japan Times discusses the rigid methods of Japan’s post-war education system—whereby students spend their young lives vigorously studying for hellish entrance exams—and how Japan’s education minister, Hakubun Shimomura, is planning to reform this system and bring in a more Western approach to examinations. The article also contrasts Shimomura’s reform goals with his conservative stance on Japan’s war-memory, a hotly debated issue in current regional politics.

The week’s links: Jan. 11-18, 2015

Greetings all. Here is a selection of links that I came across this week. Enjoy.

The blog, GaijinPot, dishes out some Japan travel tips with their list of the top 5 must see places in Japan for 2015.

China’s new and very popular television drama, The Empress of China, has been the object of censorship due to the overwhelming amount of cleavage in the show. The period drama was taken off the air temporarily, only to reappear with all of the cleavage cropped out of the shots. The move has drawn widespread ridicule on the Chinese web. The BBC reports.

The New York Times reports on the efforts being made across China to restore many of its ancient relics which are threatened by widespread industrial pollution. Cleanup efforts are underway to restore the colossal Buddhist sculptures at the Yungang and Longmen Grottoes which have been covered in a thick layer of coal dust, and ancient Ming Dynasty structures may be being eroded by acid rain.

The infamous Yakuza crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, turns 100 years old, and it’s history is being recounted in serials by popular Yakuza-centered fanzines according to the Japan Times.