玄武湖公园 Xuanwu Lake Park

The Youth Olympics are in full swing. Which is why it was a bad day to attempt to have a relaxing meander in some of Nanjing's nature. The typically peaceful lake park had been converted into a track for the triathalon. It was reeaaaallly crowded. So.... I couldn't get in the front gate.

Also, I'm not sure how I feel about the vacant-eyed mascot they've chosen... it's MUCH cuter than the Shanghai EXPO mascot, Haibao, though. 

Haibao, the Shanghai EXPO Mascot from 2009 AKA Blue Gumby
Umm.... I don't think this was part of the EXPO.
And for comparison, the Youth Olympic Games Mascot: 

What is he looking at?!?!?

Anyway.... enough of that.
So I took a stroll through the outer park, looking for a way in. Which was still a lovely walk.

stone map of the old city and city wall before modernization
After a look around and asking lots of questions I found another entrance which let me walk on the old city walls of Nanjing. There were some great views!

You can see the skyscrapers downtown from here, too

There was a small temple complex, as well.

Look at me! I'm on a wall!


夫子庙 - fuzimiao - Confucius Temple

This is mostly a photo dump. I'll add some info next time I visit.

Shaky cell phone pic of the gate

Because why not have a KFC in the Confucius Temple?

狮子头 - shizitou - 'lion's head' meatballs, a Nanjing specialty

Dried tofu noodles
The energy and atmosphere of Fuzimiao is always like a night festival or carnival! I'll be back.


新街口 - Xinjiekou - City Center

I was ready to put my Mandarin to use and escape the hotel, so without a phone or map or much of a clue, I wandered until I found the subway and headed downtown to 新街口 (Xinjiekou), the central station and neighborhood of Nanjing. I visited Nanjing three years ago, but I didn’t remember if I’d been to the urban bit.

The subway wasn’t so crowded at the station I got on at, which surprised me. In Shanghai, I always felt pretty much crammed like a sardine, be it on subways or sidewalks in my old neighborhood. I was all giddy as I easily found a seat. My giddiness faded as we pulled into the center city station fifteen minutes later and there were about fifty people waiting to rush into the subway car. Remembering the drill I ran to the glass door. I stared at the people waiting to get in through the glass. They stared back with icy disregard for my need to get off the train. When the doors open I jammed myself into a small crack of open space between a teenager and a municipal worker and escaped before the crowd filled all empty air with elbows and shoves.

The station was huge, with something like 27 exits. I had been on the fence about living downtown and now I knew I wanted a less anxiety provoking life this time around. Underground there were shops, snack counters, nail salons and BUBBLE TEA. 

I was reunited with my lovely CoCo Bubble tea. I excitedly blurted out in Chinese my favorite drink order to the cashier who responded in perfect English, “So, you want an iced green tea with tapioca pearls and no sugar?” Damnit.

Then I found the famous Fashion Lady. It’s an underground mall made up of a bunch of alleys and lights.

Above ground was hectic. Skyscraper and skyscraper and mall after mall.

People were swarming and all I could here were voices and buses and horns and dogs barking. It was kind of fun. J

 And just when I was worried everything was all concrete and modernity, I turned a corner and found this street. Glad things can't change completely. 

Also, I found some Nanjing wildlife....?

Oh wait...

欢迎你到南京 - welcome to nanjing

Nanjing, my new home!

So far, so good. A little background, Nanjing was the capitol for the Republic of China pre-Mao (which is why there's lots of Sun Yatsen stuff here), and the site of some pretty horrible war crimes, but aside form that, there's alot of culture and history here that is non-political. Nanjing has a ton of traditional arts and burial mounds and historical areas. It's also an enormously green city with two lakes, a mountain and five or six large parks within the city. It's also a huge center for education, with quite a few well known universities.

My first five days were spent living at a hotel in the new Olympic Park area (the Youth Olympic Games started today). Hotel breakfast was free and .... interesting.

Tofu noodles, stir-fried veggies, pumpkin, sweet deep fried fish. and melon. Other options included rice porridge, roast duck, pickled things (cucumbers, garlic, tofu, fish), fried rice, fried noodles, potatoes, broccoli, and a dozen kinds of dumplings.
After taking care of some stuff like setting up bank accounts and meeting some co-workers, I was antsy and walked around town. I'll make a post for 新街口/Xinjiekou (City Center) and  夫子庙/Fuzimiao (Confucius Temple) next. But first.....

Things Japan Could Learn from China

1. Trash cans - How novel, China has discovered how to have trash cans available on sidewalks more than once every 2 kilometers. In Japan, if you buy a drink from a vending machine, you better chug that thing cause you need to throw it in the bin beside the machine or carry the bottle for the next 45 minutes when you find the next trash can.

My apartment complex alone has like.... twenty. 

2. Life after 10 pm - I couldn't believe there were malls and shops and cafes open past 10, and last order at most restaurants seems to be later than 10:30. 
This mall was open til 10:30, so I could buy a phone. Also, the sign says no dogs, but I ran across a few cockapoos.
3. Fruit - I eat it every day and I'm not broke.

4. Vegetables - Cause no one REALLY wants to grill a single sliver of cabbage at yakiniku to feel like they ate vegetables

Things I Need to Bring From Japan

1. Sashimi

2. One-Cup Sake

3. Japanese toilets - I miss you, self-cleaning machines. (I had a picture to justify this sense of loss, but I'm too nice to show you the toilet I found.)

wandering again

So I haven't posted any goodbye Japan entries or any hello Nanjing entries.


I miss Japan. I miss the place, but I mostly miss the people. As I continue living this kind of life, I'm finding more and more the place really becomes the people who make up the experiences I had there. Especially my last six or seven months in Nagoya, I made a lot of great memories thanks to - of course- the husband, and the amazing group of people I spent time with there. So thanks to my friends there and know you have a room and bed and adventure waiting for you in Nanjing any time.

But it's hard that after a matter of four hours on a plane, there's a strange wall of time and space between all of you and I that cuts me off completely from being part of my old life with you. Thursday afternoon I had lunch with you and Thursday night I ate dinner alone in a different country. It's sad, and I was the only idiot crying on the Meitetsu to the airport, and in check-in line, and going through security, and in the souvenir shop, but.... it's exciting too. It's weird to be suddenly ripped out of your context and thrown into a new one.

I spent my last month in Nagoya trying to come to terms with leaving by eating as much sashimi as I could (which turns out to be a lot, I think I can eat more salmon than a bear), riding my banana-yellow bike through Osu Kannon, Atsuta Shrine, Sakae, and all the places I spent my time. It was hard to say goodbye to all the little things that made up my Japan life: biking to work, late-night conbini runs, biking to freebell cause we were two of the few people we knew who didn't live there, sitting in Tsuruma(i) Park, late night supermarket dinner discounts, one-cup sake, (not) separating trash.... The things you find yourself wanting to do one more time are strange.

I don't feel so far from that life, even though every aspect (including Brett) hasn't been part of my current life the past seventeen days.

Living this kind of life reminds me I have three lives and communities: in China, in Japan and in the States. I have people and experiences and love and struggles and happiness and successes and mistakes hanging back in each place. And now I'm here to make some more.

I apologize for my rambling. I promise more pictures and less sap next entry.



Japanese Ryokan Experience

After a 18 km trek along the old trading route, the Nakasendo trail, we were pooped. We walked parts along the highway, parts through small neighborhoods of quiet homes, sections through snowy fields, and at times we hiked over snowy mountain passes. At the end of it all, there was a ryokan waiting for us.

Ryokan are Japanese style inns with tatami rooms and futons that usually provide guests with meals, yukata (robes) to wear in the hotel, and sometimes indoor or outdoor hot springs. This ryokan offered all of the above.

It was gorgeous, with a large noren (decorative tapestry) hanging over the front sliding doors. The lounge was full of beautiful wooden and lacquer furniture. The staff were all donning traditional garments. A nice gentleman walked us through the check inn and set up our morning bus rides to the station. He showed us to our rooms and the hot springs and informed us dinner would be ready in 10 minutes.

When we arrived, we were offered mountain greens tea and sweet red beans on a tray while we filled out our guest paperwork.

Our Dinner
Donning yukata, Brett and I headed to a wooden room where a table was already laden with several ceramic platters and cups of umeshu, or plum wine, as apertifs.
This plate had cold appetizers: A bean and lotus mix, a scallop, some type of pate on a daikon, fish eggs, greens, and a yuzu flavored tofu square. Yuzu is a Japanese tiny citrus fruit. The fish eggs were plump and exploded in you rmouth when you ate them. They had a pleasant fishy taste, not too strong.

We also had a sashimi salad with greens, raw eggplant, an orange fruit, salmon and fatty tuna. As you can see, every plate we were served on was very unique and very beautiful.

And a complementary atsukan, or warmed sake. And me in my yukata!

Next, a Kyoto-style simmered dish in a delicate broth. Inside is a slice of yuzu, chunks of turnip, shrimp, leeks, and tofu.

Another Kyoto-style dish, which our waiter explained was characterized by subtle, lighter flavors compared to miso-heavy Nagoya food, or soy sauce heavy Tokyo food, or juts plain heavy Osaka food.

This simmered dish has fish intestines, which were quite creamy and sweet. There were also greens, burdock root, and another piece of organ meat I couldn't ID. But it was creamy and delicious, too. 

Next came a dish of local seared beef. The beef was fatty and succulent. It literally melted when we ate it, leaving a smear of light oil and deep, meaty flavor.

Next we were served a nabe or hot pot dish. These are the ingredients we were to boil in the pot: buri (a kind of fish), mushrooms, greens, and a piece of red konnyaku. 

The broth was actually made of soy milk! It was a new flavor for us, but very satisfying. The fish and soy together rounded out the fishiness and made the meat more tender tasting. After a while, tofu chunks started to form!

Our last dish was a deep fried mix of pickled vegetables. Strange and delicious.

Of course, no meal was complete without free flow miso soup and rice.

There was also tea and dessert, but we don't have a photo of it. Three small cups the size of espresso cups came out on a tray with demitasse spoons. One was a pudding, another some fruit , and the last a slice of pear in wine jelly.

The Room
Our room had tatami mats, sliding windows, and traditional furniture. The ceiling was lined with wooden strips and it smelled like fresh bamboo.

 Our futons were laid out for us when we were eating dinner. These are so warm and comfortable that there's no need to use the heater, even in February!

Our breakfast was amazing! The presentation was my favorite of any hotel I've ever stayed at in Japan. It came out in a ceramic two tiered bent box. There was also an enormous serving of rice and we each had a little mini side of freshly pulled soba noodles with broth to simmer them in at the table.

Tier One: salted grilled fish, spicy miso paste, a bean and seaweed dish, and sweet carrot and gourd strips.

Tier Two: Another bean and seaweed dish, a meatball, a lotus and carrot dish, and octopus sashimi.

And the meal ended with a slice of rolled egg. This one was not sweet like they usually come on top of nigiri, but it was savory and satisfying with a little pickled ginger to the side.

Too good.