KiSuShi: The Reasonable Sushi

KiSuShi, a hole in the wall sushi joint, serves fresh and good quality sushi. 50 yards from Tohee Dormitory on Zhengming Road, a person would only notice it because of the Japanese drum, known as a taiko, standing right in front of it. Upon entering, a person would see that there are only two rows of tables and at most would only seat ten people. Beyond these tables is the counter where the chefs make the sushi. They stand ready to take orders and make them quickly. Instead of only giving 3 or 6 pieces like some other sushi places, KiSuShi gives a whopping roll of 8 to 10 big pieces of sushi.

I stumbled upon the place with Yeeva Cheng and DJ Seabrooks when we out together for lunch. We ordered different rolls of sushi, from the Dragon roll to the classic California roll, which was not actually so classic. The California roll had mayonnaise on top of it and instead of avocado and imitation crab meat, was instead filled with apple pieces and cucumber with fish rou on top of the rice. The other rolls were pretty close to their descriptions, actual salmon and tuna on top of them. The pictures show a different time when Yeeva and I went together to eat sushi.

It is interesting to find sushi in China. Chinese nationalism has always been a big part of China. Just recently there were riots against Japanese places of business because of an island. Yet, Japanese food continues to thrive in the places they are. The main sushi chef does not actually seem to be from China. Looking on the walls of the place, there are many different pictures of him and his chef friends in Japanese attire at a school where they all seem to be learning how to cut sushi. He speaks good Mandarin, but his style and mannerism definitely are different from Shanghainese natives. The establishment is very small and it looks empty most of the time. The people who work there definitely do it because they love making sushi and enjoy it as their job. It is similar to how Korean food is successful in doing business in China. But that is another story. Japanese sushi seems to have a great impact considering that Shanghai is close to the sea and can get fresh fish for ingredients. Furthermore, China does not have any cuisine that involves raw fish, and so sushi becomes an interesting food that Chinese people are willing to eat.




Wedding in Shanghai

On the third day of Golden Week, I attended a wedding in Shanghai with my friend Katie Wells. The parents of the kid I tutor, Harry Cao, asked me on the first Sunday of Golden Week if I had time and could attend a cousin’s wedding on Tuesday. I checked my schedule and told them I could while also asking if I could bring a friend so that I would not be alone at the wedding.

We both had no idea what to expect at this wedding. I was wondering if it would be a traditional Chinese wedding with a bunch of rituals or a Western style wedding where a pastor or priest would have them take their vows and a reception would be held after. Let me say that the wedding is like none that I have been to.

The wedding took place in a high rise building that held reception rooms. The family took Katie and I up an elevator and as we entered the 3rd floor we saw the wedding couple. They were taking pictures with the guests that were entering. So, I assumed the wedding had ended and this was the reception. As we walked forward, Katie and I were roped into taking pictures with the wedding couple before proceeding to the room where everyone was seated. We were seated with the grandparents and extended family members of the boy I tutor. They offered us drinks ranging from soft drinks to alcohol. We talked a little with them and waited, not knowing what was supposed to happen next.

All of a sudden a camera crew materialized with a lighting crew and the room was darkened. The spotlights were trained on the groom who appeared at the front and he started singing as the bride walked down the aisle with her father. She was wearing a white dress and the groom met her halfway as he sang. He stopped before and kneeled on one knee as he finished his song and then walked her to the front where the stage was. Then the Master of Ceremonies (MC) took over the rest of the proceedings. There was only one bridesmaid who brought the rings for both the bride and groom. They put the rings on each other’s finger, although the groom made everyone laugh when he put the ring on the bride’s wrong finger. Then they kissed and proceeded to pour wine into a wine glass pyramid.  They drank a glass of wine with their arms crossed and everyone cheered to them and their new life.After everyone cheered, they walked down the aisle as newlyweds. 

The room then brightened again and everyone in the room started to eat. The dinner was Chinese banquet style, which consists of a revolving center piece that has food and everyone shares the food. The family we sat with was very hospitable and offered Katie and I every dish to us first before taking some. After a couple of minutes, the room darkened again as the bride walked with the groom in a new dress, this time cream colored. They went to a second table on the stage and proceeded to light candles with a fencing foil that had a candle on the tip. After lighting all the candles they then held the foil together and prayed to what I assume was their ancestors. Then the in-laws came on stage and gave a speech on how they had come a long way and wished them a happy life. The family walked down the aisle, the room brightened again and everyone went back to eating.

There were so many dishes being served at the table. There were at least five different types of meat dishes, like chicken, duck, beef, crabs, and pork. There were also many different vegetable dishes and big bowls of soup that everyone shared from. During the dinner, the family asked Katie many questions about America and complimented her on her Mandarin. The boy, Harry, actually said he thought that Katie’s Mandarin was better than mine. Everyone had two wine glasses, a large one and a smaller one. Harry’s grandfather poured Katie and I a cup of baijiu, which is Chinese white liquor, although it is distilled. The baijiu had a nice smell but burned like hell when drinking it. I was forced to cheer with baijiu every time the grandfather cheered Katie and I because I was a male. In both of our smaller glasses we had Tsingtao beer to help us with the baijiu.

Midway through dinner, the MC started two different games. One was drinking game where a person would bid how many cups of soda they could drink. If they were able to accomplish it, they won 1000 yuan. Our family bid 18 cups of Sprite and won 1000 yuan. They bid 60 cups of Coke later but could not pull it off and a different side of the family chugged the whole bottle and won. The second game was for the children to name the song that the DJ would play and if they guessed it right, they won a towel. The parents of the children would tell them the answer and the kids would race each other to tell the MC. Our family was very competitive and won at least 10 towels. The atmosphere was filled with laughter and fun. The bride and groom were going around to each table during the games and were toasting all the guests. The bride would also offer a cigarette, usually to males, and light it for them as part of tradition.

The bride and groom then disappeared again after toasting everyone. Harry’s mother explained to Katie and I that in some Chinese weddings, the wedding feast took 3 days! Thankfully for us, the wedding we were at was only one. She also explained that in Chinese tradition, the bride would have either 3 or 4 dresses to change into. As she said this, the bride and groom came out again and this time the bride was in a red dress. They went up on stage and cut the cake which was the sign that the wedding was coming to an end. After cutting the cake, the MC told all the single people to come up on stage. The bride was getting ready to throw the bouquet. The family and I forced Katie to go up on stage where three other girls and children were all lining up. The bride looked backwards and then threw the bouquet. A little boy caught it, but gave it back to the bride because he did not want to get married yet. The bride then threw the bouquet again and the girl on Katie’s right caught it. As everyone proceeded to leave the stage, the boyfriend of the girl who caught the bouquet got on stage, kneeled on one knee and asked her to marry him! Apparently there is an unsaid tradition in Chinese culture that the boyfriend of the girl who catches the bouquet will go and propose to her after she catches the bouquet, and she says yes. When I heard this from Harry’s mother I was glad that Katie did not catch the bouquet. I apologize to Mr. and Mrs. Wells. Not that I would not propose to her if she caught it, but I would not know how to explain to Fuji and Mr. and Mrs. Wells how I ended up accidentally engaged to their daughter 1 month into the trip.

But it did not happen and the bullet was dodged. Slices of cake were passed around to each table and everyone started to wind down. To say the least, the wedding turned out to be very interesting. China has started to adapt to Western culture immensely. The clothes the bride and groom wore were all Western style and the cake was also Western style. However, Chinese culture is still strong as the food, the tradition of greeting all the guests and wearing of three different dresses still happened. China is opening up to the rest of the world while still keeping its own culture. It is starting to fuse itself with Western ideals and it will be interesting to see how it will look in a couple of decades. Will it start to look more like America and Western Europe in the name of modernization or will it become a more fused Chinese/Western culture?  I believe that the Chinese identity will not disappear because what I am seeing is Shanghai, China. Shanghai does not represent the rest of China, but the place where most of the modernization is taking place. I know that the rest of China is still waiting for modernization like Shanghai but are not receiving it because they are further inland. The people of China will make the decision when they reach that fork, but until then, China’s culture is still stronger than the Western influences that are constantly moving in.

Talking About You: Traitor

American Born Chinese, also known as ABC’s, are always looked upon as not fellow countrymen but as a different breed of Asians. This story begins at the Lantern Festival in Lanshun Park, where many Chinese children were with their parents or grandparents. There were also Asian and foreign couples at the park. I went with a group of Davidson students and took pictures of the different exhibitions. When I looked around me, the only person next to me was Katie Wells. We became separated from the main group and had lost them. Katie and I decided to continue forward and take more pictures of the park. Katie focused on the small children in the park, while I focused on the lit attractions that were scattered all over the park.

As we walked together, I started to hear different Chinese people saying “Mei-guo Ren”, or Americans. I did not notice it at first since the Lantern Festival was so beautiful. But as we walked further into the park, I listened intently to the conversations of the Chinese people who were talking. They were talking about Katie and I and how crazy or treacherous I was for walking with a foreigner instead of with an Asian. Only two couples had talked, but as Katie and I decided to go home, another couple started clucking their tongues as soon as I walked past them. I did expect this to happen to me. Of course I would seem like a traitor for speaking English instead of Mandarin or some form of Chinese while in China. But only now have I understood that instead of an occasional person giving me an evil glare or talking badly about me, it was more than I had anticipated.

It seems there are still pockets of xenophobia among the Chinese population. China has been suspicious of foreigners since the humiliating defeat of the Opium Wars and the imperialism of different Western countries. These events definitely left a black mark on China’s history. The Chinese government has always made a push for nationalism through propaganda and subliminal messaging. I thought that a century would change the older and current generation’s minds into forgiving foreigners and the people who are associated with them. However, I am wrong and have personally seen and been the target of old and young couples disapproving of me hanging out with foreigners. Chinese nationalism is definitely stronger than ever and is a force that has caused xenophobia while causing most of China to always be wary of foreigners.  I hope that one day the people of China would all be accepting of not only foreigners but also their countrymen who live in other countries and become a welcoming country like Canada.

Blue Frog Restaurant: Best Burger Place in Shanghai

Blue Frog: Bar and Grill, the best burger restaurant found so far, is only found in Beijing and Shanghai, China. The establishment started in April 2003 and has continued to flourish till now. I stumbled upon it when Alex Bau led an outing to Pudong. A Monday night special of buy 1 burger get 1 free caused a group of 6 to take an hour long subway ride to this magnificent place. Located in the basement of the Financial Center, customers see expensive marble floors and high quality facilities everywhere. Blue Frog is hidden in an inner alcove of the basement. The first thing we see is an awesomely decorated restaurant with a vibrant atmosphere. Not too light but not too dark, Blue Frog is definitely a cool place to hang out. The most surprising yet welcoming thing is the English speaking waiters. They do not speak perfectly, but it is always a pleasure to hear a language I can fully understand in China. I had a Montana burger with curly fries. It was amazing! The burger was juicy and delicious, while the fries were tasty. That experience alone made another group go to Blue Frog for brunch another day. The price on the other hand seemed steep. A currency conversion shows we spent 20 dollars, and because of the deal we only spent 10 dollars not including the drinks. But I believe to a native of China in the middle or lower class, the price of 85 kuai for a burger and 20-50 kuai for a drink is definitely still out of reach or a once a year type of meal. Looking around the restaurant, there were mostly wai-guo ren, or foreigners in Blue Frog. There were some Shanghai locals but at most 9 or 10 in the whole establishment. Blue Grog definitely does not receive a lot of Chinese customers and its market focuses on foreigners. So, China’s GDP may be growing exponentially every year, but the income of its people has not yet reached a level where the majority can affords cosmopolitan food. Modernization is slowly happening. Shanghai is transforming into an advanced and beautiful city. However, the people are far from consuming the products of urbanization. It may happen in a couple of decades but I believe the majority of people will stick to eating their 10-30 kuai meals.

Elmo Goes to China

Elmo’s journey, to be archived, began from Davidson College in a small town of North Carolina. He came with his owner, Shoko Whittemore to Davidson possibly from Tokyo, Japan or a storage box in Davidson. One of Shoko’s friends gave Elmo to her as a parting gift and a remembrance token. Elmo was interviewed on his thoughts about China. Here is the interview.

Interviewer: Elmo, how did you end up in China?

Elmo: First of all, Elmo was never planning to go to China. Elmo’s original plan involved spending my fall at Davidson College in Tomlinson with Elmo’s loving owner Shoko. It all started with some of Shoko’s friends coming over to help loft her bed and one of them, a brutish guy named Benito saw Elmo and grabbed me from the pile of stuff outside of Shoko’s room. He basically told Shoko to lend Elmo to him or there would be problems. So, Elmo spent about three days being this guy’s object of mockery. He would put Elmo on top of ridiculously high places, hang Elmo from the ceiling, and…

Interviewer: Elmo, we are asking you about how you ended up in China.

Elmo: Elmo’s sorry. It was just a horrible three days. Anyways, this fiend, Benito, was planning to return Elmo to her beloved owner when someone said that Benito should take Elmo to China. Elmo thought, “NOOOO! Not with that Benito!!!” Unfortunately, a guarantor named Yeeva Cheng promised Shoko that she would help watch Elmo in China. So, Elmo left on Wednesday with the group of Davidson students China bound.

Interviewer: So, you had no choice in the matter. Well, how do you like China Elmo?

Elmo: Wait. Aren’t you going to ask Elmo if Elmo feels like Elmo’s rights were abused or something like that?

Interviewer: Uh, no. You’re a doll and under the United States Constitution, dolls are not recognized as citizens and therefore have no rights.


Interviewer: Security! Restrain him!!!

Unfortunately, the interview ended with Elmo’s tirade and he had to be sedated before becoming violent. However, Elmo seems to have calmed down and is enjoying the trip in China. He currently resides in Shanghai, China and is actually participating in a photo project known as Elmo in China, and is the main focus. He is known to photo bomb pictures of Davidson students and professors. His album can be found on Benito Yon’s Facebook in the Album section: Elmo in China.