2015 Nagasaki Overseas Technical Trainee
In Nagasaki from August 2015 to March 2016
Hello, my name is Fang Yang and I was an Overseas Technical Trainee in Nagasaki last year. It’s been over a month since I returned to Shanghai. At first I couldn’t get used to Shanghai’s perpetually cloudy sky but little by little I got over it. I would like to tell you about the changes that I have seen in Shanghai since I’ve gotten back.
Firstly, I was very surprised at the steep rise in house prices in Shanghai since Chinese New Year. At this rate it may catch up with Tokyo. The reason for this is that many investors fearing the slow-down of the Chinese economy have begun buying up property in major cities like Shanghai. In order to suppress prices, the local Shanghai government upped their efforts to root out illegal buying practices and increased restrictions on purchasing property. As a result, the rising price of property has slowed for the moment.
The change in average house prices in Shanghai
Next, the urban development of Shanghai is moving forward. On the northern part of the Bund, the White Magnolia Plaza has been completed and is expected to begin operation at the end of this year. It’s 320 meters tall with 66 floors, making it the tallest building on the west side of the Huangpu river, and the fourth tallest in all of Shanghai. Also, the elevated expressway “Middle Ring Road” has officially opened. There are already 13 subway lines with over 600km of track but by 2020 it is expected that there will be 19 lines with 800km of track.
White Magnolia Plaza
Map of Shanghai’s elevated expressways
Shanghai Metro Network Map（2015）
Next, it was finally announced that Shanghai Disney Land will open on June 16th of this year. They are taking reservations for tickets now, but the tickets for the park and reservations for the park’s hotels on opening day were snatched up in an instant. The biggest feature of the park will be the “Pirates of the Caribbean” area, which is the only one of its kind of any Disney Land. I am very excited about seeing it myself. Also, in Shangai’s Putuo district, Legoland Discovery Center opened on April 4th and has already become quite popular.
Bird’s-eye-view of Shanghai Disney Land in February 2016
Legoland Discovery Center
Also, on the 4th of April the traditional Chinese “Qingming Festival” was held. Around this date people go to the graves of their ancestors to clean them. After my family finished our cleaning we went together to the Water Culture Museum of Huangpu River. There was water all around as well as small bridges and pavilions. This park is one of the few places in Shanghai to enjoy nature. If you get the chance to come to Shanghai I definitely recommend you see it.
Water Culture Museum of Huangpu River
That’s all I have for now about Shanghai recently! I look forward to writing again soon!
Former Nagasaki Prefecture Coordinator for International Relations
Lived in Nagasaki from April of 2014 to April of 2015
Long time no see! My name is Huang Ji and I worked in Nagasaki Prefecture’s International Affairs Division until April of last year.
How is everyone doing in Nagasaki?
I’m writing this edition of “In the World Now” as a special reporter from Shanghai.
My theme for this column will be “Chinese hot pot.”
When you hear the word “hot pot” I bet many people think of it as a winter dish but in Shanghai many people enjoy it in the summer as well.
Hot pot is China’s “shabu-shabu.” Signs for hot pot restaurants are all over the downtown area of Shanghai. There are many styles of hot pot, from the spicy, deep-red mala sauce Sichuan style hot pots, to the personal-sized hot pots in the Macao style.
＜Chinese hot pot＞
Now let me tell you how hot pots are done.
First, how to order:
When you enter the restaurant you’ll be given an order sheet and a pen. You just check the boxes next to the type of soup and ingredients you’d like and then pass it back to one of the staff.
1．First decide your soup.
There are three main styles of soups to choose from. There’s the mild and white qingtang soup, the spicy and red mala soup, and then a mix of the two called yuenyang soup.
2．Then decide your ingredients.
You can choose from a great variety of ingredients from meats, seafood, vegetables, and tofu. Pick which ever ones you like! If you have the chance, definitely add egg dumplings! They’re like regular dumplings but they are wrapped in a thin, fried egg instead of the usual dough.
3．Sauces and Condiments
There are two ways sauces and condiments are typically done. Some restaurants will have a self-service bar where you can pick and mix your toppings yourself. Other restaurants will just have you check boxes on the order sheet and they’ll bring the sauces to you on small saucers.
Now, how to eat hot pot:
Most people in Shanghai employ the “meat first, vegetables second” style of eating. The juices from the meat and seafood will soak into the soup which will make the vegetables even more delicious as they stew. You save the vegetables for last which will leave you feeling refreshed after having eaten a hot pot’s load of meat.
There are hot pot restaurants in Nagasaki too. Definitely go give them a try^^
But of course, I think that having the real thing in Shanghai is probably the best.
Thanks for reading! I hope to see you again here soon! Zaijian!
By Li Ming, Xiangyang, Hubei Province, China
Trainee at the University of Nagasaki, Siebold Campus, in 2013
Lived in Nagasaki April 2013 – March 2014
My name is Li Ming. I attended the University of Nagasaki, Siebold Campus as a trainee in the 2013 academic year. Now I am back in China, working hard at my job.
When I was asked to write an essay to be posted on the Dejima Network, at first I wasn’t sure what to choose as my topic, but it just so happened that the request came as the Chinese New Year celebrations were finishing, so I decided to write about how Chinese people mark the New Year.
In China, the 12th month in the old lunar calendar is called la yue. Once la yue is over, people in China welcome in the new year. Customs and practices for bringing in the New Year vary greatly by region and ethnic group but they all have in common an element of bidding farewell to the old year and greeting the new one. This deep meaning of the celebrations has been unchanged since ancient times. And the real thrill of the New Year celebrations is found in the lively, bustling and excited atmosphere that unfolds around this time.
In my hometown, preparations for the New Year celebrations start early. On the 8th day of la yue, we make a kind of congee (porridge) using rice, chestnuts, red beans and nuts, which we call laba zhou (la from la yue, ba meaning 8, zhou meaning congee). This porridge is sweet and warms the body, and it also serves as a wish for good health in the year to come. On the 24th day, the whole family gets together to do a major cleanup of the whole house. By wiping away the past year’s dust and dirt, we get the house ready to welcome the new year with a fresh face. On the 29th day, we visit the graves of our ancestors. On the 30th day, we wake up early and stick red papers, called ‘chun lian’, which are marked with lucky words, onto gates and entrances to the house. We then start to prepare lunch. This day is similar to New Year’s Eve in Japan, and we refer to the evening as ‘chu xi’, which literally means ‘evening for removing’, i.e. for getting rid of the old year. The whole family stays up late watching special New Year programs on TV. This practice is called ‘shou sui’ which literally means ‘guarding the age’, referring to waiting together for the new year to start. When the clock strikes midnight and the bells toll, we celebrate the arrival of the new year by letting off firecrackers. At this moment, the new year has come at last. In the lunar calendar, the first month is called ‘zheng yue’.
Laba zhou congee
Chun lian (couplets written on red paper)
Chu xi (New Year’s Eve)
Miao hui (temple fair)
On the first day of zheng yue, the custom is to visit the homes of relatives, friends and colleagues, bearing gifts, to offer a greeting for the New Year and celebrate it together. This practice is called ‘bai nian’, meaning ‘paying a New Year’s visit’. These visits continue right up to the 15th of the month. During this Spring Festival period, people also like to go to temple fairs, called ‘miao hui’, to pray and make offerings of incense. The whole of China comes alive with bustling festive activity! We also get a lot of time off work, so it’s a good time to go traveling, and Japan is one of the popular overseas destinations for New Year travel.
Incidentally, as times have changed, many New Year traditions have gradually become simplified, and the feeling of ‘specialness’ has diminished. People nowadays feel that the atmosphere of long-ago New Year’s celebrations has slowly but surely disappeared. Even for myself as an adult, the new clothing and delicious food which I was so in awe of and delighted by at New Year no longer seem so special. However, even as times change, the tradition of returning to one’s hometown at the end of the year and spending time with family does not change. I am not alone in saying this – anyone would feel the same way. For Chinese people, however busy they may be and however far from their family they may live, returning to the family home at the end of the year is an especially meaningful act. Whether the past year was a fun one or a tiring one, we return to our parents and round off the year together, and recharge our batteries. We soak up blessings and hopes for the year to come, and set out again on our journey with renewed energy.
That concludes my account of New Year traditions in China. How do you celebrate in your country? For Chinese people, the most important celebration of the year is the Lunar New Year. If you get the chance, I would definitely urge you to visit China during this period and experience this exciting aspect of Chinese culture directly for yourself.
On days when I don’t go to the university, I go to the market at Qiyimenwai, by the Qiyi Gate. Opposite the mosque there is a shop selling beef, and I always choose my purchases after discussing what I plan to cook with the store owner there. My son’s favourite thing to eat for breakfast is beef pancakes called niu rou bing, from Shouyi Park, but for myself, I could never get bored of beef stir-fried with dou si, a pancake-like product made from beans.
The couple who make dou si and mi ba (rice pancakes) at this market speak with a Hanchuan accent. Their method for making dou si seems to be the same as my mother’s. First, soak mung beans and rice in water separately until they swell. Then, remove the skin from the beans and mix with the rice, and blend in a mixer until creamy. Then, take some of the creamy mixture, spread it onto an oiled pan, and cook it for 2 to 3 minutes. This makes one sheet of dou si. I remember learning as a child that the right utensil for spreading the mixture onto the pan was a shell taken from a tributary of the Yangtze River or from a lake, and that the oil should be pork belly fat. Nowadays the shell is replaced by a brush, and the belly fat by cooking oil. The dou si pancake can be cut into thin strips, dried, and then eaten, or it can used as it is in a stir-fry, or it can be cut up finely, and used in place of noodles.
For the stir-fry, beat an egg and cook it in a frying pan until fluffy. Add the dou si and some garlic leaves and stir-fry rapidly. One day recently, I added filleted beef and stem lettuce leaves, having been won over by the greengrocer’s warning that stem lettuce season was nearly over.
One day’s groceries (stem lettuce is the long green vegetable in the center)
China’s version of a meat pie: niu rou bing sold at Shouyi Park
Stir-fry of beef, stem lettuce and dou si
The Qingming Festival is an annual event, somewhat like the “O-bon” festival in Japan, where we visit the graves of our ancestors. This year, the whole family came together to enjoy the holiday. My son was swamped with homework, and looked like he needed some exercise, so I dragged him down to the riverside at Wuchang Jiangtan and we flew kites. On the way home, as we passed a Japanese-style hotpot restaurant famous for its seafood, I heard a young security guard teaching his colleague how to say the Japanese phrase “sou desu ne” (that’s so/isn’t it). Another day, I was waiting to meet a student at a restaurant in front of the university, and I was told that they employed an African waiter. In Jingzhou (another city in Hubei Province), at the tea-room in the former residence of Ming Dynasty statesman Zhang Juzheng, I saw a sign with the characters “和敬清寂” (read as wakeiseijaku in Japanese), which mean “harmony, respect, purity and tranquility”, the four most important elements of the Japanese tea ceremony. All of these things surprised me and made me realize how much internationalization is progressing here.
On the third day of the third month in the old calendar, the elders returning from the morning market each carried a bunch of the shepherd’s purse plant. There is a legend, which even my mother still believes, which states that eating shepherd’s purse and boiled eggs on this day is good for your eyesight. Wanting to pass this lesson on to my own son, I’ve recently taken to keeping this tradition.
Preparing shepherd’s purse and eggs
Evening meal one day: water spinach, Chinese spinach, liangpi (rice noodles) and lotus root. Dressed liangpi is my husbands’s signature dish.
Recently, my students have been making clear their learning objectives: “We are studying Japanese to get credits and qualifications”. “Studying materials for our major in the lab every day tires us out. We come to the Japanese class to relax a little”. They get rather worked up about it.
Nevertheless, I fight onwards, exerting myself every day in the hope that they will understand even a little of the beautiful dreams of humankind: the true meaning of thinking with one’s own mind, the inclination to protect our precious world, the creation of a happy society.
After all, simply worrying won’t lead to anything. The days roll by relentlessly. I will spend them looking around the marketplace with my husband.
By Zhang Hui Xia, Japanese Teacher, Wuhan University, Hubei Province, China
Trainee at the University of Nagasaki, Siebold Campus, in 2012
Lived in Nagasaki April 2012 – March 2013
I return to Wuhan just as the magnolia trees lining the streets are coming into bloom. It is still cold enough to crave carrot and mutton stew to warm my body. When I arrive at my house, a bowl of the standard lotus-root soup is on the dining table. My husband tells me that he buys the lotus roots for the soup at the Shuiguo Lake market every Sunday after seeing our son off to cram school.
Right away, I was back at work on Monday, helping with odd jobs, and on Tuesday, lectures began. I had already heard from the internet news that, due to construction work on the subway and road maintenance, the main entrance of the university had moved and that bus routes had been altered. However, what I didn’t expect was that the bus running from the main street near my house to the university had been temporarily removed, and that I would find myself having to walk over 40 minutes each way to get to work.
Later, I was recalling the grumbling of my students – “We’re still only beginners at Japanese! Having classes in both Chinese and Japanese is too hard!!” – when I saw that the pedestrian crossing which usually would have led to a bus stop was now blocked by a guard fence. “The subway is nothing to do with me! Why do I have to put up with all this inconvenient construction work?!” I wanted to complain.
The West Gate of Wuhan University as seen from the bus stop
Well, there is no use in complaining. If I go to the end of the shopping street, I can take a bus, change once, and arrive near to my house. On the way, there’s a convenient stationery shop, and I can pick up ingredients for the next day’s breakfast. Thinking about it this way, I soon felt like I was just out for a stroll, and the long walk was no hardship at all.
Outside the main gate of the university there was a young person, who looked like a student, selling wind-chimes in the shape of a teruteru bouzu, the fine weather charms used by children in Japan. I decided to buy one as a present for my son’s friend. I put the wind chime in my bag and headed for the shopping street. Immediately, I ran into a student who was about to go to study in Nagasaki. They told me they would depart the day after next, and that they were having a leaving party nearby that night. I clearly remembered their face as a first-year student, and said to myself, “these young ones have grown into adults already!”.
I got off the bus at Shouyi Road and walked towards the market. The smell of pineapples filled the air. A fruit seller was peeling off the skins. It was already pineapple season! I bought one. This store is run by a family: the father brings in the stock, the mother deals with customers and the sons help to process fruit, for example by peeling. For pineapples, they first scrape off the skin, and then cleanly remove the spines one by one, with a tool like a pair of tweezers. I commented that his peeler looked unusual, and the son explained to me that instead of removing the spines by cutting grooves in a spiral along the line of the spines, his method created less waste.
I had the preconceived notion that this was how a pineapple should be prepared and eaten – with the spines removed – so in Nagasaki, I was surprised when I saw chopped pineapple in the cafeteria at university or in the supermarket in Sumiyoshi, sometimes with what looked like seeds and flowers still stuck in it. Is it safe to eat like that? I wondered. I asked if I could take a photograph so that I could show my friends in Japan, and the seller graciously agreed. Taking his advice on where to stand to get a good shot, I captured the moment with my camera.
I got quite absorbed in the produce – there is still sugarcane and water chestnuts! Mulberries are available already! But in the end, I realized it was a little ridiculous to get so excited and decided to buy these next time.
The son of the fruit seller: “If I use these tweezers, there is less waste”
He peels water chestnuts too.
Mulberries on display at the shop front