Monday, July 9, 2018

Capsule hotel in Osaka airport

When I first arrived at the Osaka airport, I had 18 hours before I was scheduled to be picked up I arrived at night and had a 24 hour flight so naturally I was tired, I was told to go to a capsule hotel by one of the professors at Shiga University when I emailed them that I would be in the airport for a long period of time. I looked up images on Google and honestly I was a bit spectacle because it looked like a sightly bigger dog kennel. But I was tired and wanted to lay down I found a capsule hotel in the airport. I have to say it was very comfortable I was surprised when I looked up and seen a plasma screen TV up on the wall they also provided a shirt and shorts to sleep in and slippers to walk around in. The showers  included full size face wash, body wash and shampoo it was nothing like the small travel-size shampoos and body washes that the hotels in the United States offer. I really enjoyed my stay!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Hikone-jo Castle

A week ago I had the pleasure of visiting Hikone-jo Castle. The castle was home to the Ii family who were pilars of the Edo Shogunate government. The castle was built using materials from Mt. Hikone also known as Konki castle. One of the unique features of the castle is the way the stone walls were built using Koto rhyolites. While at the museum we saw robes worn to tea ceremonies, samurai gear and swords. We also visited the garden and the souvenir shop.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Food in Japan- Charvonne Johnson

I'm a foodie and I have to say that Japan has the best ice cream and sushi, I haven't eaten a food I didn't enjoy, I will post later with more dept about the food here in a later post and also the ramen you buy from grocery stores in Japan is every college student dream! One of my favorite grocery stores in Japan is called Valor. The 5th picture is a picture of the food in the cafeteria at the university I attend in Japan.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Food Safety in China

Hey Everyone,

I don't know about everyone else, but I am still sleeping a lot more than I did prior to the trip.  It hasn't been unusual for me to sleep until twelve on weekends.  I am sure part of it is jetlag and part of it is exhaustion from the trip.  Anyways, I wanted to touch base about some thing I learned in China.

The first is that the lack of health standards with food and beverage locations is far different than what we experience here.  Amazingly, I did not get sick at all while I was over there.  To my best recollection, I don't think anyone had any issues with the food.  The main reason for this is most likely due to our ages.  Everyone that was there was in a healthy immune state in respect to age.  However, elderly people and younger people would not have faired the same.  This is a common characteristic and needs to be taken into account in future travels.  Also, everyone seemed to be healthy prior to and during the trip other than Addison's migraine, which is not an influential condition to the immune system.  Another reason for our sustained health is probably just dumb luck.

If I had run into these forms of food and beverage vendors in the United States, I would have gone screeching for the door.  Maybe not in college or with enough alcohol in my system but any other time of course.  I think a major reason my reaction was not the same in China was due to the sense of relaxation associated with a vacation to another country.  Also, it probably was due to the regular existence of these forms of vendors, and the presence of so many other people frequenting these locations play.  In the United States, these types of shops are few and far between, which prevents them from normalizing to the same extent they were in China.

I don't know if anyone noticed, but I did not see any postings for health department standards and ratings in any of these locations.  I am sure the lack of visibility to this form of generally accepted scoring lowers consumer standards immensely.  In the United States, if I see a rating lower than a ninety, I begin to get skeptical about the food service standards.  Part of this is due to my background in food service and knowing the amount of violations it takes to get these scores.  If most people actually knew how much a restaurant can get away with because of a lazy health inspector, it would make them cringe.  Given what I know about standards over here, I really do wonder what went on in China's food and beverage vendors.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the food safety standards for Chinese Vendors see below: 

Thanks to everyone for an amazing trip.  I can't wait for the Galapagos Islands.

Jason Alpert

Long lost anime

Years ago an anime called Case Closed aired in the United States, this particular anime is very special to me because it's the first anime I watched as a child and is also the anime that got me interested in Japan. Sadly they stopped airing episodes in the United States, but new episodes are still airing in Japan, you can imagine my excitement when I walked into a uniform store for kids and saw this!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Honkoji Temple - Charvonne Johnson

Today in Japan I went to Honkoji Temple, I meet a priest who first explained the reason he became a priest. 25 years ago his father passed away leaving him to take care of his mother along with his wife, two sons and daughter, he worked as a business man for 20 years and a High School teacher for 30 years, when his children got married and moved out he then had more free time and he became a priest. The temple is over 100 years old, but got remodeled 10 years ago. There are 75 members that the priest visits at their homes and once a month the members go to the temple and read the book of Buddha, but everyone is welcome to visit the temple. I meditated and bowed towards Buddha. The priest also shared a poem written by a 25 year old woman who committed suicide, after her death one of her teachers found a book of her poems. The temple is made out of real gold and Cherokee wood.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Being Healthy

Whew! Is everyone else as glad to be settled at home as I am? I had an amazing time, but I’m glad to have adjusted back to my normal schedule. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten days since we got back.
One of the most common things I’ve been asked, since getting back, is whether the air was very bad where we were staying. I did not end up having a noticeable issue with the air quality myself (I did get a migraine, but those are common for me when my sleep schedule was disrupted), but it isn’t surprising that there is a substantial air quality issue in China itself. As so much of the population resides in densely packed urban areas and technology and industry have been developing rapidly over a short period of time, air pollution is an unfortunate side effect.
China itself is surprisingly health-conscious. In my reading before we left for the trip, I read some about the societal emphasis on caring for elder’s health, but there wasn’t much information on the societal structure towards health and care across all age groups. Being in China, I noticed many habits that the U.S. could pick up from China to help our own health crisis.
One of these habits is the diet based away from sugar-heavy foods. While our meals were huge while we were there, most of them focused on flavor and texture instead of being sweet or greasy, like many American foods. Furthermore, the U.S. can stand to move away from such meat heavy diets—while the foods that were given to us had a significant amount of meats, I noticed that many other people didn’t rely on meats as their primary source of protein. This is ideal for a country with a large population residing away from livestock areas. As the U.S. is looking at a similar urban movement (albeit significantly more slow-paced), we may need to take cues from other countries about our food consumption.
Another one of these habits is exercise as a form of social engagement (this is a topic I journaled about while on our trip). While America has some ‘social’ exercise or movement groups, like Aquacise and Yoga In The Park, the groups are less engaged towards differing age, gender, and economic demographics. In America, these exercise groups are often seen as a ‘necessary evil’ towards healthy behavior. In China, people who exercise socially seem to genuinely enjoy the behavior. The inclusion of exercise equipment and areas to all seniors without payment helps to both encourage healthy behaviors in the aging population, but also to help negate some of the classist issues that plague U.S. health struggles.
Lastly, the engagement of the aging community is so important, and we only got a glimpse of it. Socially engaging the elderly is shown to lessen depression, physically engaging them can delay osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and heart issues, and mentally engaging them can help to delay dementia and other mental issues. In the visits we took to different historical sites, it was common to see aging people playing games, taking walks, and talking with each other. It was incredible to see people of all ages mingling and helping each other and themselves, and creating these spaces is one area where the U.S. can learn from China.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Price Discrimination in Chinese Markets

Hello Everyone,

I can't believe it's already been a week since we got back from China.  I hope everybody's jet lag is dying down.  I was taking mid-afternoon naps until Saturday.  I am sure everybody remembers the unique experience we all had in the Chinese markets.  It was far different than what we are used to here.  However, the economic principle behind their system of haggling is very common even in the United States.

The principle used in the Chinese markets is price discrimination.  Price discrimination is a method of altering the price to fit a given situation in order to take advantage of optimal demand.  We see it all the time in our everyday life.  Ever been to a matinee movie or go on a student night?  These are forms of price discrimination.  For lower income students, these times are money-savers.  Many students might not even go see a movie if it wasn't for these times.

So a question you may ask is why doesn't everybody take advantage of these times.  For many, the price difference is not substantial enough to give up seeing a Friday or Saturday night movie.  The fact that the price is more during these times is inconsequential to this decision.  These individuals will go see a movie regardless of the price.

Movie theatres have figured out that they can increase the amount of customers they serve by offering this deal.  Furthermore, these money conscious buyers will go during the day and on nights where the theatre is not very busy.  This eliminates the possibility of opportunity costs forming from the discount.  For those that do not know, opportunity cost are the next best alternative in economics.  If the movie theatre was packed with normal patrons on a student night, any normal patrons turned away due to sold out shows is an opportunity cost for the theatre.  However, having student night on slower nights when the shows do not sell out leaves no opportunity cost.  It simply increases sales.

The price given for the matinee or student night is always enough to cover any variable costs.  This allows the tickets sold to contribute towards the fixed cost of the theatre.  In most cases, these prices do not cover all of the fixed costs.  This represents the an economic contribution margin.  The business cannot sell at this price all the time, but it can do it part of the time.

Now back to the Chinese markets, the sellers in these markets price their items high.  From their view, any person that can afford to pay these prices will do so without much effort.  People with lower incomes and budgets are more likely to haggle the price down to meet their income or budget constraints.  (And there is also people like me who just have fun haggling and seeing how low we can get them.)

  • The first goal of the markets is to sell your supply quickly and turn it over.  
  • The second goal is sell for higher prices on average than you could just setting a price with traditional supply and demand curves.

The method the Chinese markets use is the most efficient market other than a purely competitive environment.  Purely competitive markets carry no product differentiations.  Agricultural markets such as grain and produce are good examples of this.  What we saw in the Chinese markets was very close to perfect price discrimination or 1st degree price discrimination.  2nd degree price discrimination refers to selling in bulk or discriminating by quantity bought.  3rd degree price discrimination refers to dividing the market into defined groups, such as seniors, adults, and children with movie tickets.

For more information on price discrimination see: 

Anyways, I hope everyone else found the trip as engaging as I did.  I loved seeing this principle play in this way.  This is probably why I enjoyed haggling so much.  I can't wait for the next trip.

Jason Alpert

Sunday, June 3, 2018

“Somethin' tells me it's all happening at the zoo”

Somethin' tells me it's all happening at the zoo 

I've decided to post a picture of adorable Giant Pandas, because… well, pandas! Too cute! Plus, we're going to see the pandas while we are in Beijing!

According to the Travel China Guide, “Giant Pandas are classified to be an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to the official report based on 1999-2000 census, There are 1,590 that live in the wild in their natural habitats. The number was pessimistically estimated as 1,000 several years ago.”

The Beijing Zoo is one of the few places one can see these amazing creatures. I am sure we will have a wonderful time. 

The World Wildlife Fund has an interesting page on Giant Pandas. A few interesting facts from WWF website:
Pandas live mainly in bamboo forests high in the mountains of western China, where they subsist almost entirely on bamboo. They must eat from 26 to 84 pounds of it every day, a formidable task for which they use their enlarged wrist bones that function as opposable thumbs.

A newborn panda is about the size of a stick of butter.

Pandas play a crucial role in the bamboo forests where they roam by spreading seeds and facilitating growth of vegetation.

China’s Yangtze Basin region, which holds the panda’s primary habitat, is the geographic and economic heart of [China]. Roads and railroads are increasingly fragmenting the forest, which isolates panda populations and prevents mating.

Forest destruction also reduces pandas’ access to the bamboo they need to survive. The Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves, but only around 61% of the country’s panda population is protected by these reserves.

Maybe we can all adopt a panda while we're there!

Paul Simon. “At the Zoo” 1968.  At the Zoo lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Migration and Bacteria

Hello everyone! We’re less than a week away from our departure, and I for one couldn’t be more excited. I’ve starting the process of getting my suitcase and carry-on in order, and gathering all those last-minute bits like bandaids and earbuds. 
I’ve also been doing some reading about the culture and recent changes in China. I’ve been reading Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler and China In The 21st Century by Jeffrey Wasserstrom. They’ve both been really interesting reads. I was particularly interested by Hessler’s discussion of the movement of people from rural china to the larger cities, in an incredibly wide-spread voluntary migration. Coming from a small town myself and pursuing a medical degree, I’ve seen first hand the push on professionals to return to rural areas after their education and work there, which Oracle Bones discusses a little. China is shifting from a primarily rural-based nation into a city-based one, which I’m interested in getting to see when we’re there. China In The 21st Century is a really interesting read if you’re looking at a more academic look at the changing landscape of politics and culture in China.
On a more personal note, I’ve recently gone and gotten the last vaccination I needed to be ready for our trip, and was really interested by the tips given by the Center for Disease Control for reducing the likelihood of sickness while abroad. I wanted to share some of these with you all (when it comes down to it, medicine and biology will always be my first interests). The areas where we’ll be traveling will be pretty warm, but the CDC still recommends wearing long sleeves and pants whenever possible, to minimize the likelihood of being bit by any furry things or creepy-crawlies. While cities may not be as likely to have insect vectors, animals can also carry infections. On the topic of infections, I’m sure most of you are familiar with traveler’s illness. Leaving your own accustomed bacterial fields and entering another (like leaving the U.S. and going to China) may create a bad gut reaction, where you obtain new bacteria that aren’t part of your own internal system, and your body tries to flush the new bacteria out. It’s great engineering by your body, but it does tend to make travel nasty! I’d recommend everyone check out the CDC’s page on China travel and read up on prevention methods and safety. I’m hoping for no issues so we can all enjoy learning about China’s culture first-hand and China’s potential health risks second-hand from the CDC.
Less than a week to go and we’re getting down to the wire! Are you all feeling nervous, excited, or a mix of the two? I’d be ready to get on the plane tomorrow, if I had the option. I’m ready to go!

Addison McGuire

Health Information for Travelers to China. (2018). Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Terracotta Army

Good evening, all! Is anyone else counting down the days till we leave for China? I have my own little imaginary wall calendar I mentally cross off each day on (like in the classic 90’s movies – red marker, white background, the works) …

One of the sights I’m most excited to see is the Terracotta Army, at Xi’an. This magnificent archaeological discovery has actually been on my bucket list since I was eight years old, when it was briefly mentioned in a book I was reading at the time; I was immediately struck with fascination by the mystery of it all, and curiosity for the purpose behind the thousands of clay soldiers.

The Terracotta Army makes up a portion of the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di, China’s first official emperor. A lone soldier from the Army was (accidentally) discovered in 1974 by Chinese citizens who were digging a well, and in the decades since, around 8,000 more figures have been unearthed – some found alongside clay horses to indicate their rank, others beside clay weapons such as swords and arrow tips. One of the truly incredible features of the Army is each soldier’s uniqueness; each one has a distinctive face, without any one expression repeated throughout all of the Terracotta Army.

What could be the purpose behind this creative design? And what, for that matter, was the purpose behind the Terracotta Army itself? At present, scholars and archaeologists speculate that the Army was designed to keep guard over Emperor Qin for all eternity (although other theories have been suggested, since this marvelous discovery). As to the first question, perhaps we’ll someday find out! Emperor Qin has been hailed as one of China’s most memorable leaders, as not only was it he who united the Warring States into a unified China, but he also made significant contributions to Chinese culture and society – such as initiating the construction of the Great Wall of China (another wondrous monument we’ll be seeing shortly!). When considering his interest in China’s cultural growth, it doesn’t seem inconceivable that he may have simply desired to have a hand in the creation of an artwork unlike any other… and the Terracotta Army is certainly that!

Just think, only eleven more days until we’re on our way to China! Let the countdown continue!

Becca McGuire

National Geographic. Discoveries May Rewrite History of China's Terra-Cotta Warriors. n. d. Web. 20 May 2018.
National Geographic. Emperor Qin’s Tomb. n. d. Web. 20 May 2018.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Strange relations in China

Lest we slip into thinking everything in China is just the joy of wantons and donkey burgers, here are a few current issues to ponder.

1.  As one headline puts it, "China has world’s most skewed sex ratio at birth – again."
On the mainland, a traditional preference for boys has encouraged selective abortions that resulted in 115 boys born for every 100 girls from 1994.
And this matters:
In terms of gender equality, the nation ranked 99 out of 144 countries, down from 91 last year, the report said. A wide gap also exists in education levels of men and women on the mainland. China was 119 in terms of secondary school attainment, behind countries including Singapore, South Korea and Ghana.
On a different level, this also disrupts the future of families, dating and marriage in China   
Like India, most of China is patrilocal: in theory, at least, a married woman moves into her husband’s home and looks after his parents. Also like India, China has a deep cultural preference for boys. But whereas India has dowries, China has bride prices. The groom’s parents, not the bride’s, are expected to pay for the wedding and give money and property to the couple. These bride prices have shot up, bending the country’s society and economy out of shape.
 It is a buyer’s market, complains Qiang Lizhi, a newly married man who runs a café nearby. A 47-year-old man, Deng Xinling, says that men are now considered shopworn if they are unmarried at 25. By contrast, no woman is thought too old to marry; even widows have no difficulty in finding husbands.

One curious new institution seems to be courtship and dating schools for men...time to be sensitive and polite...

2.  The air in Beijing still isn't great.  One sample report, this from the NYTimes in 2013, "Life in a Toxic City."  
                                       (this from 2013)
The Chinese government is unhappy about this, and perhaps a bit sensitive.  It may be rude of me to inhale when I step off the plane and simply collapse.  I'll try to avoid that, but hey, heads up, I have trouble driving into St. Louis with the windows down.
                                        (this from 2015)
Is the air quality improving?  Maybe.  Maybe sometimes,  but not so much other times, depending on weather conditions, like during this recent sandstorm, when the hazard alerts were high.

Well, click here for a real time index of air quality.  We could use more of these!

Sometime, we should talk about solar and wind efforts in China.  Real, though coal is still...emperor.  

3.  And recent disturbing news, which Brian probably knows more about, politics and all--the "indoctrination camps" (I suppose it would be rude to call them concentration camps) for Chinese Muslims over in a western province.  Here's one Washington Post take on the camps:  "Chinese mass-indoctrination camps evoke Cultural Revolution." 
Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese — and even foreign citizens — in mass internment camps. This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India, leading to what a U.S. commission on China last month said is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.”
The internment program aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. The camps have expanded rapidly over the past year, with almost no judicial process or legal paperwork. Detainees who most vigorously criticize the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation.
Probably not something our guide will talk about.

Now on with our innocent trip to China!

later, bob

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