A Travellerspoint blog

中国 China -> 日本 Japan

A trip between nations with a volatile past and a tour of my recent home country with the Mom and Brother

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View 中国 China 日本 Japan on ggithens's travel map.

Sino-Japanese relations->thank Buddha there's a sea between the countries
I planned this trip on the basis that I had a free plane ticket to use and time-off. It turned out to be worth the free ticket, but I'm not planning a return trip any time soon. The constant barrage of "Sir, you like" and "What you want", coupled with the fact that a dense smog covers the city at all times made me wonder why anyone would enjoy teaching english in Beijing. I digress....
I embarked on my trip across the Sea of Japan without knowing a single word of Chinese. After 5 days there I was able to say "hello, thank you and how much?". I think those three phrases were sufficient in a country where people literally thrust water in my face as I walked on the Great Wall.
My first exploration of Beijing was to the famed Tiananman Square, where I took pictures of Mao Tsetung and watched hoards of Chinese travellers marvel at the expanse of the area. Travelling alone, I was the target of quite a few young Chinese who wanted to practice their English and sell me their "precious artwork". I staved off most of them until I met someone who wasn't selling anything (actually she was just cute, but anyway...). We scoped out the area south of Tiananman and found a 2nd floor tea cafe where we tried 10 different teas. It's definitely a necessity to have a welcoming palate for the unbelievable sweet and bitter tastes in the teas.
The next few days I roamed around the city checking out various historical sites such as the Emperor's Summer Palace and the Forbidden City. The architecture and monstrosity of these areas is striking, but the preservation is a long way from the Japanese structures, which are near copies of many Chinese buildings.
During my visit I couldn't help but notice the difference in cultures between China and Japan, which surely deepens the divide between countries who have never reconciled their violent past. Since coming to Japan I've looked into Asian history and found that the Nanking Massacre committed by Japanese to be one of the most horrific incidents in modern history.
Needless to say, the Chinese do not take kindly to Japanese. Even when I mentioned I lived in Japan I received many responses along the lines of "Why don't you move to China? Japan is a terrible country". I stayed away from the Japan conversation for the most part, but the few times it did come up I quickly realized there were some passionate feelings underneath the Chinese easy-going personality.
Upon my return to Japan I asked a few students about their feelings towards China and the general sentiment seemed to be that the Chinese are inferior to Japanese but they are slowly moving ahead in the world. If all goes according to plan The 2008 Olympics in Beijing could push them up to Japan's status on the financial board.
For my last day I went to the Great Wall, which was definitely the highlight of the trip. I believe my pictures will summarize the experience well, but I will mention that taking a 4 hr hike along the wall is one strenuous endeavor. In many sections the wall is deteriorating and you have to do a bit of rock climbing to get through some passes. After a few Chinese beers and some spicy stir-fry I was fast asleep waiting to return to Japan.
Forbidden Palace 1.JPG

When I set foot in Japan, which is my new "home" country, I met up with my mom and brother for a whirlwind tour of Japan. We sped through Nara, the old ancient capital, and also through a few sections of Kyoto that are a must-see for anyone who comes over. The best part of this trip was practicing my Japanese to help my family get around. It's pretty amazing how much you can learn living in the native country of a language, and it doesn't hurt that I take free lessons every week. Without thinking about it, I left all my guidebooks at home and just asked people their recommendation on temples, shrines, restaurants etc. It turned out to be a blast, although I don't think a full-time tour guide position is quite up my alley.
The trip ended with my brother and I going on a 2 day hike in a gorgeous area just south of where the Nagano Olympics were held. We summited Yarigatake, which literally means spear mountain, and had to work pretty damn hard getting up the last stretch. There were a few vertical ladders and helpful chains along the way. Once we reached the summit there was an awesome 360 view of the N. Alps, not to mention the chocolate and peanut butter goodness we devoured.


Posted by ggithens 03:45 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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