Sunday, April 23, 2006

Rainy Tokyo

Rainy Tokyo
Originally uploaded by Gringcorp.
FalungongFalungong FalungongFalungong FalungongFalungong FalungongFalungong FalungongFalungong FalungongFalungong FalungongFalungong FalungongFalungong. There, that's better. I had found the tactics of Falun Gong's protesters to be off-putting and inconvenient, and have often been a little wary of their cult-like elements. But it took the Chinese government's brutish approach to filtering the internet to make me sympathise with them.

This includes no Beeb, arbitrary blocks on corporate web sites. And no blogger, or blogspot, or for that matter typepad, domains. Hence the radio silence - my apologies. I also felt sorry for my hosts' crippled ADSL modem, which would never no the delights of the world beyond the firewall. Boing Boing, we noted was unfiltered, although a couple of sites came through as RSS but wouldn't load in html versions.

Still, all is well now, since we are propped up in the Four Seasons Chinzan-So in Tokyo with the Yankees game playing in the background. It's rainy, and the view is less than epic, but it's still a pretty rock pig experience.

But back to Beijing briefly. A maddening, bewildering city. One can sample the best sodding dumplings in the history of mankind for 80c a head, and then spend the evening with a bunch of limeys in an expat bar and pay more for a Tsingtao than one would in Brooklyn (not Manhattan I'll grant you). But enough of my jet-trash whining.

The one thing that Beijing has, which I think no other city has, is a form of brutalist totalitarian architecture that has been updated for the twenty-first century. So your twenty-story, 400m-wide behemoths are done in plate glass rather than stone. The effect is, yes, impressive and also deeply unsettling. Unsettling also is the fact that Tiananmen Square is now and eight-lane highway.

The most beautiful moment was an afternoon spent in the Summer Palace, a gorgeous series of halls, lakes and bridges set to the northwest of the city. A fair amount of it was being restored, but I've never seen palaces on this scale, not in the Loire, or the hilltops of Italy.

The only peculiar thing was the signage. Every single one went "The Hall of [insert name]. This was burned down by Anglo-French forces in 1860, but was rebuilt in 2004." It's true. It was burned, in an act of spectacular vandalism, by disgruntled limeys after a dispute over zoning laws (where could the limeys live?) ended with some ambassadors being chopped up. Not nice, and all that. But could your returning imperialist barbarian pig have any other information? Nope, hiring a tour guide, which we declined, is evidently a way of making amends.

Anyway, I'd go back - just - to Beijing, but for now Chiyoda beckons