I was in China for a short while.The country, which once dominated Asia, lost its power in the Great Cultural Revolution, but I was overwhelmed by its continued growth now that it has sprung back to regain its vitality.The number of Chinese tourists in Japan too, has increased in recent years, and their shopping sprees have grown to have a significant impact on our economy. However, upon visiting China, I was made painfully aware of the reason why the subsidiaries and branch offices of various overseas companies had withdrawn from Japan to cultivate their businesses in China.
As for Macau, their casinos are thriving, and new hotels are springing up everywhere in the center of the city that never sleeps. I believe that life itself is like gambling, so even though I have no interest in gambling with money, I found myself riveted by the sight of others putting themselves on the line at a huge casino. I took the wrong turn and ended up at a certain hotel where I found myself almost blinded and even terrified by the dazzling palace-like décor intended to induce a trance-like state in which people will detach themselves from reality and become desensitized to extravagance.
Efforts to restore culture and spiritual prosperity to the daily lives of citizens that they were on the verge of losing with economic growth, were also evident in the new art galleries, theaters, concert halls, and other facilities that had been built in various areas. It seems that music lovers are also on the rise, and I found a ray of hope for the future of classical music in the level of understanding demonstrated by the audience toward a concert conducted by Andris Nelsons.
As you know, restrictions have been placed on access to Google and some SNSs in China, making communication with Japan somewhat difficult. On the other hand, the spread of IT in Chinese cities has been progressing at breakneck speed, and making payments via Alipay, an affiliate of Alibaba, and WeChat Pay of WeChat, China’s original SNS, has become a completely normal thing to do.
As I visited Shanghai, Nanjing and Macau, I was afraid of the hatred toward Japanese people, especially in Nanjing. However, I visited a hot pot restaurant with a friend in the middle of the night in Nanjing for a reason I do not wish to disclose here, and was relieved when the young staff tried desperately to communicate with me using a translation app on their iPhone, as I enjoyed an unexpectedly delicious meal of thinly sliced Wagyu beef and delicately cut vegetables and spices, with a delicious soup.The restaurant staff even gave me a mango out of their kindness. However, I was unable to use my VISA card to pay for the meal, and I did not have enough cash. I tried to withdraw cash from a nearby cash dispenser, but was unsuccessful. I went around three shops with the cute girls from the restaurant to find that none of them would accept any of the cards that I had, and I began to worry that I would end up not being able to pay for the meal. Then one of the girls and a young man, presumably the manager, accompanied me to my hotel to collect the money. I was deeply moved by the laudable actions of the girl who used the translation app to apologize to me in the taxi saying, “We’re so sorry to have embarrassed you like this.”
I became fed up with silent electric bikes weaving through crowds at pedestrian crossings without a care in the world about others, or bikes even running on sidewalks as if they had the right of way. I was also made painfully aware of the expanding gap between the rich and poor, which would be unimaginable in Japan, whenever I saw owners of small businesses operating out of miserable-looking shacks among the skyscrapers. Even so, compared to the time I visited 10 years ago, I felt that the standard of living had improved considerably. I cannot deny the sadness that I feel as if Japan alone has been left behind while our neighbors have made remarkable progress, but I believe that our country also has merits that are unique to Japan.
Incidentally, “Kataomoi,” the Drama Series W based on a novel by Keigo Higashino is being aired on Saturday every week starting at 10:00 P.M. on WOWOW. Please subscribe to the channel, and watch me play the part of Mizuki, the heroine who struggles with gender identity disorder.