Merry Xmas from China

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TOKYOPOP Fam: 你好!(Ni hao)

I hope all of you had a very Merry Christmas (whether or not you celebrate it) and are enjoying a relaxing holiday season!

I've been in 北京 (Beijing) for the past week - and it has been amazing! Even though I've traveled to 香港 (Hong Kong) many times, and was recently in 台北 (Taipei) and 上海(Shanghai), this was only my second time ever to Beijing, and my first in many years. So, it felt like a brand-new experience!

China is such a fascinating country and culture - and as the capital city, Beijing itself is intriguing.  To me, I enjoyed meeting all kinds of people living there - from locals, to Chinese people who have relocated from all over China, to people from all over the world.  Everyone is there to chase their dreams - and ride the wave of success that China is experiencing.

Since I was there on business (this trip was focused on film production, not manga, but I'm hoping to do a follow-up trip relating to manga), I didn't get a chance to visit many tourist sites, but simply hanging out in the city for meetings, going to dinners, coffee shops, etc. gave me a sense of the rapid growth and scale of development.

In particular, I was surprised by how many non-Chinese brands were prevalent, from Western brands such as Zara (Spain), American Apparel (USA), and Louis Vuitton (France), to Asian brands like Uniqlo (Japan), Caffe Bene (Korea), Bread Talk (Singapore), and Gong Cha (Taiwan).

Probably the most surprising, though, was Starbucks (written "星巴克" in Chinese and pronounced "xing-ba-ke") - it was EVERYWHERE!  I mean literally 2 stores in one mall, many in the airport - and they even used to have one in the Forbidden City until a local reporter launched a protest that eventually shut it down.  It surprised me that an American brand was so successful in a country known for its protectionism.  But it seems that Starbucks has gone out of its way to customize its offering for China (including a great selection of Chinese teas - which I love!).

Beijing is spread out, so traveling from one part of the city to another takes time, especially considering the notorious traffic jams.  Most of my business was in the east part of the city, where the film industry is concentrated (however I have a meeting in the cultural center on the westside).  Sometimes it takes 45-60 minutes to travel from one meeting to another, stuck in traffic - which reminded me a bit of home in LA!

Many of my meetings were in coffee shops or restaurants in popular malls - and each location had a fantastic selection of cool stores and decor.  Since it's winter and the holiday season, everyplace was lit up as robustly as Tokyo.  And there were Christmas trees and decorations (and music) everywhere!

But I decided to escape the city on Xmas day, and instead spent it up at the Great Wall (万里长城).  I was lucky - the weather was beautiful and for my first time visiting this UNESCO world heritage site, the experience was breathtaking.  The following day in Beijing wasn't as fortunate - I experienced the horrid pollution which was out of control for the final two days of my trip.  It literally made me sick - a wicked cough, headache, and nausea which lasted for a week.

However, China is an amazing place - and Beijing, other than the pollution and traffic, is one of the most important and exciting cities in the world.

Perhaps in a future blog, I'll talk about Japan and China - and some of the nuances that affect the pop culture scene between the two great nations.

On that note, I'm headed back to Tokyo to spend the New Year - and wish all of you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2015!!

良いお年をお迎えください!(Yoi otoshi wo omukae kudasai!)  Have a wonderful New Year!

--Stu

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