China, Japan, Korea: What's the difference? Do they all look the same, or are they very distinct? Is there any truth to the stereotype, or is it ignorance? Well, enter the exam room here and find out for yourself. We have eight tests in different categories such as face, art, architecture, and food. Remember: We are not here to make a statement; it's a question. Good luck and enjoy.

Surreal Combination of Old Businesmen, Young Girls, and a Mascot

posted by Dyske

When I was still living in Japan, I didn’t think anything of it, but being away for over 20 years, this video epitomizes the surreal nature of the Japanese business world. I’m not sure how it came about, but the Japanese love mascots. That in itself is not so strange—everyone loves cute things, especially women—but what is strange about Japan is that mascots are a very well accepted part of the corporate culture. And, often the mascots look as if they were designed for kindergarten kids. In this video, you see these stodgy old businessmen introducing their new mascot to the press. It appears to me that the only reason why they have these girls standing next to the mascot is because it would look absurd if this infantile mascot was standing alone with these old men. The girls serve as a bridge between the 5-year old mentality and the 50-year old mentality.

In Japan, old businessmen are supposed to embrace young female employees to behave like 12-year-olds. It’s seen as fatherly love. If you are a real professional woman, it must be rather difficult to maneuver in this type of atmosphere. Every age group and gender has a strong stereotype that everyone is expected to conform to. In this sense, when the Westerners say “all look the same”, it’s hard to argue, because they actually do want to look and behave the same. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it is certainly not for me personally. I’m happy to observe the surreal world of Japan from New York.

Chinatown Mystery #8

posted by Dyske


If I had to guess what these are, I would say dried sea creature of some sort. But then, why are they so brown? So, maybe they are the roots of some plant? Anyone?

A Journey through Chinatown

posted by Dyske

While searching for “Doyers Street” to buy fresh Zong (as recommended by my friend Frank Luo), I came across this website called “A Journey through Chinatown”. The photos on this site are beautiful, and I’m happy to see someone documenting things that most of us see every day but don’t really see because we are too busy thinking about the past or the future.

I’ve been doing something similar in the East Village where I have been living since 1990. I’ve been taking photos of cafes, restaurants, and bars since around 1996. My photos are just snapshots, and they don’t look good. Now that I see this site by RK Chin, I wish I had put more effort in taking better photos.

This is the beauty of living in New York City; we don’t have to travel far to experience different cultures. This is why I don’t see the point of traveling to foreign countries. There is so much we can learn in our own back yard. Why bother flying for hours?

Chinatown Mystery #7

posted by Dyske


Can you identify any of these things? These are commonly sold by older Chinese ladies on the street. The one on the left looks like fried tofu. I have no idea what the rest of them are. I would guess that the thing that’s wrapped in a leaf is some sort of mixed rice. They look good, but I’m a bit scared to buy them since I don’t know what they are, and since these Chinese ladies usually don’t speak any English.

Another curious thing is that every time I try to take photos of these things, the ladies tell me not to. I’m not sure what they are worried about. I’m not trying to take photos of them; just their products. After all, I could just buy them and take the photos at home. They can’t stop me at home.

Chinatown Mystery #6

posted by Dyske


This could be something quite ordinary, but I cannot tell what it is. Anyone know?

All White Men Look Like Brad Pitt

posted by Dyske

Here is a funny anecdote shared by Ross F.

I wanted to share with you a story from a trip to China a few years ago. While on a tour bus, we had a local guide come on as we visited the region outside Shanghei. One day, as I got on the bus, the guide looked at me and said “You look like that American actor!” Kind of amused by the thought, I asked who, but she said she couldn’t remember the name. Later, she returned to me and said “I remembered! Brad Pitt.”

Now, I look absolutely nothing like Brad Pitt, save for the fact I might not have shaved that day. So I smiled and said thanks, but I don’t think I look like Brad Pitt.

There was a little ongoing discussion of it, and then a gentleman in the front of the bus asked her, “Well, honestly, we (meaning the predominantly Caucasian tour group) all look the same to you, don’t we?” The tour guide smiled and looked down somewhat embarrassed, then looked up again and nodded in the affirmative.

I thought it was interesting at the time, because during my tour of Beijing and Shanghei, I had become cognizant of the variety of faces that made up the people of China. So her response was striking in its candor. I think it just shows how difficult it can be to identify the unfamiliar.

Thank you, Ross, for sharing this with us.

Chinatown Mystery #5

posted by Dyske


These look like squids at first, but then you notice that they don’t have any suction cups. And, I’m not sure if the sign behind them is referring to these or what’s at the bottom of the box behind it. Perhaps these are another seaweed?