Dispatch

Ghosts of the Eastern Capital

Trawling Chinese Bookstores in Tokyo – Dylan Levi King

The accounts of the life of an overseas Chinese student in Tokyo almost universally mention bookstores. But if you go to looking for traces of these early exiles, you will be disappointed. The Ginza cafes that Tian Han and Yu Dafu met in to drink wine and talk Ibsen and Hamlet disappeared not long after the Chinese students left. The theaters and bookstores that brought the Chinese students to Kanda are gone. The blooming banks of the Sumida River that Yu Mantuo wrote about in his poetry have been poured over with concrete. Not much is left standing in Tokyo that dates to before the Showa period (1926–1989) and most of the city was turned to rubble in the Second World War and then rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s. But one place worth visiting, if you’re making a pilgrimage, is the cluster of bookstores in Jinbocho in Kanda.

Dispatch

Festival of Peace

Christmas with migrants in Beijing – Alec Ash

'Twas the day before Christmas, and all was calm. Shops were shuttered, homes were locked; the streets were full of lights and the sound of jingles. A winter chill hung in the air, and after a year of hard work, men and women of the village dragged luggage over the frost-bitten tarmac – going home for the holidays.

Yet these migrant workers, on the outskirts of Beijing, were not celebrating Christmas. It was not a holiday in China, and they did not want to go home, nor to shutter their shops and lock their doors. The lights were from police cars patrolling the streets, jingling their alarm bells, making it clear there was no other choice than to leave.

Dispatch

Graffiti Beijing

A once-flourishing street art has been scrubbed out – Lance Crayon

In preparation for the 2014 APEC economic summit in Beijing, a city-wide cleanse was underway. Street workers armed with grey paint covered every piece of graffiti they could find. Even the sanctioned graffiti area at Renmin University, known by locals as the “Wall of Beijing”, wasn’t spared. Within a week, most of what remained from the city’s budding graffiti movement was gone.

“The rapid development is so out of whack and the population has become too saturated, just living here is overwhelming,” said Wreck, a graffiti writer born and raised in Beijing.

When he was in college, Wreck joined KTS (Kill the Streets), a graffiti crew that has since become one of the most respected in the country. Their tags used to be ubiquitous in the capital. Nowadays, he might throw up a piece once a month.