When they built the Narita International Airport out in the Chubu Prefecture back in the 70s, the idea was to decongest the main Haneda airport in Tokyo and establish a more spacious, higher capacity, and cost efficient alternative to flying into the main Tokyo city area itself. Since then, it has become the primary gateway to Japan for most visitors, with convenient trains that take you right into the heart of Tokyo or wherever in Japan you might be aiming to go.
As a result of its positioning, this international hub is located out in a rather remote area of Japan’s main Honshu island, which means surrounding it are rather quaint countryside and suburban destinations. Everyone knows about Narita Airport, but few think about the Narita City housing said airport that has many quintessential traditional Japanese experiences just a short 20 minute train ride away.
This makes Narita City the perfect place to get a taste of authentic Japan during a long layover or as the relaxing start or end to your Japan adventures.
Will fashion writer Zoe Zeng be able to hack it (pun intended) in the startup world of Silicon Valley? After years of “paying her dues” only to still be underpaid and overworked, Zoe is offered a job that will take her from the mean streets of New York into the tough world of tech. As the brand new VP of marketing for FitPick–an app that allows users to poll on OOTD options–Zoe has her work cut out for her. A new field, coworkers skeptical of her reason for being there, thousands of miles from her best friends . . . has she made the right choice or will she fall flat (and lose her job)?
Zoe is a delightful protagonist. And though this is published by Berkley, so you know there’s romance, it’s really about Zoe’s growth, how she navigates the ups and downs and advocates for herself and her vision to make fashion more inclusive. The female friendships she develops (shout out to Bern) are warm fuzzy hugs — as worthy a Galentine’s Day read as a Valentine’s Day read. And Zoe makes some questionable judgment calls, but you cheer her on, even while you wait for the other shoe to drop. And Zhao doesn’t shy from dealing with some of the bad sides of tech, or honestly the workplace in general, including a storyline about sexual harassment (with the front of book heads up that has become more and more common).
Eric Toda, Third State Author, Global Head of Social Marketing at Meta
Dion Lim, Third State Author and a two-time Emmy Award–winning TV news anchor and reporter for ABC7 News in San Francisco
Norman Chen, CEO of The Asian American Foundation, a Third State Books Partner
Before the talk, I didn’t really know that much about the book publishing industry except that I was briefly involved with ebooks back in the early 2000s when I worked for Adobe (and was even quoted in a Harvard Business School case). Charles Kim has been in the publishing industry for over thirty years and first gave a high level overview of the industry hat really got me fired up early in the event. Here are some facts he cited about the U.S. publishing landscape and how consolidated the book industry is:
“Big 5” publishers control 60% to 70% of English-language book sales
Publishing is centered in New York City – majority minority (over 70%+ non-white, but the “Big 5″is 85% white)
80% to 90% of book agents, editors, marketing, librians, etc are white – and are more white the more senior the role in the book industry
African Americans are approximately 14% of the U.S. population and there are over 100 publishing houses focused on African American authors and stories, etc.
Asian Americans are growing to almost 7% of the U.S. population – and Third State Books is the first publishing house focused on Asian American authors and stories.
Before Taipei was even a thing, there was Hsinchu, the first northern city to be developed in Taiwan in the early 1700s. Savvy international investors and world leaders have definitely heard of this rather small, unassuming town because even though it is older than the United States of America, it is practically the exclusive producer of the world’s most advanced semiconductor chips–you likely have one in your phone or computer–thanks to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) based there along with the nation’s Science Park and multiple universities specializing in science and technology.
Despite producing world class cutting edge technology and being only about an hour and a half drive away from the bustle of international Taipei, Hsinchu has some of that old Taiwan that is no longer easy to find in the capital city. If you’ve got time for a day trip away from Taipei or a long layover at Taoyuan International Airport and want to experience Taiwan’s yesteryear, Downtown Hsinchu is a convenient and storied destination.
“The year is 1972. Popeyes has just opened, and they have some groovy, far-out, and tasty fried chicken. Unfortunately, it will be over fifty years until they will offer chicken wings. Sweet ‘N Spicy, Ghost Pepper, Signature Hot, Honey BBQ, Roasted Garlic Parmesan. Crispy, juicy, and still decades away from your early seventies taste buds. Faced with this mouth-watering quandary, what would you do? How could you ensure that you would be around to taste these modern marvels? Well for one man, the answer was simple. He cryogenically froze himself. And now, the world knows his story. This is that man’s journey to loving that chicken, and those chicken wings, from Popeyes. Of course, for you, the wait is over, too. Because Popeyes finally has wings. What a time to be alive.”
The park includes signs talking about the history of Heinlenville Chinatown. Heinlenville is named after a German immigrant named John Heinlen who leased land to the local Chinese community. From a previous historical tour, I learned what Heinlen did, but the description in the park (see picture below) was a revelation to me in terms of the amount of opposition he encountered in his plan to allow the Chinese to live there. Given the past history of the deliberate destruction of Chinatowns, an eight foot wall was constructed around the area.
Japantown sprouted up next to Heinlenville and Pinoytown would emerge there later. As residents gradually integrated into the rest of San Jose, Heilenville Chinatown faded, and the last remnants were torn down in 1949. San Jose Japantown revived after the internment and is still there today, one of the three remaining Japantowns in the United States.
While there are some trees and a play area, but Heilenville Park seemed more like a plaza than a park. Apparently that was a design choice, as local associations wanted an open space to hold events.
The mural below commemorating Pinoytown was added recently around the corner from the park. If you want to visit Heinlenville Park, it is located on 6th street in San Jose, between Taylor and Jackson. Documentarian Jessica Yu also created an award winning short film about Heilenville called Home Base: A Chinatown called Heinlenville.
Mike Chen’s latest novel A Quantum Love Story is a delightful romp through a time loop. Carter Cho is stuck. He wakes up on Monday morning. On Thursday, the particle accelerator explodes. And when he opens his eyes again, it’s Monday morning again. Then he meets neuroscientist Mariana Pineda. And he meets her again, and again, and again. He needs to convince her (a) that they have met before because (b) they are stuck in a time loop and (c) they need to stop the impending explosion, which hopefully will also break the time loop.
As each grapples with the ramifications of all this (turns out you can order unlimited takeout! bank accounts and cholesterol levels reset! but also! you! are! stuck!), Carter and Mariana get to know each other, their likes, dislikes, Carter’s troubled relationship with his family, Mariana’s grief over her best friend’s death. Their friendship takes center stage, with the romance part coming late in the game. Mix in a lot of science (but not so much that your brain hurts reading it), experiments in solving the unsolvable, and a little bit of classic time traveling troubleshooting, and you’ve got quite an enjoyable page turner.
East of the major Metro Manila area, past Antipolo in the rainforests of Rizal is the award-winning Masungi Georeserve, a private conservation area which serves as a sanctuary for various wildlife as well as a limestone landscape and unique geo-landforms that inspired its name. This nature reserve is a result of painstaking efforts and proud dedication of the people in the conservation organization, a true story of environmental heroes standing up in the face of greed threatening to destroy a national treasure and potential World Heritage site.
When visiting Manila, this is definitely worth the 2hr drive out for the 4hr guided conservation tour hike on a path that traverses not just rock formations but also includes rope climbs up sheer cliffs to hanging rope bridges and tree houses. It feels a lot like a jungle gym for adults, emphasis on the “jungle”.
After the Shyamalan debacle Avatar: The Last Airbender film, aside from the fact that it was an awkwardly cut and executed version of the otherwise amazing and fun source material inspired by Asian culture and mysticism, there was widespread outcry, including here on 8Asians, on the ways in which the clearly Asian and indigenous cultural heritage roles were white-washed.
Apparently, Netflix heard that criticism loud and clear as the the current cast, at the very simplest visual level, actually looks like the original characters in the widely successful animated series. Representation aside, as a long time fan of the original series, I very much appreciate that and feel it bodes well for this reboot of the story.
Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu, written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Crystal Kung, is a fun and imaginative retelling of the classic tale of Rapunzel. No hair is chopped off, there’s no evil witch, and its the alluring — ok, maybe pungent is the better adjective — aroma of stinky tofu that convinces Pu Zel to leave her tower.
In this version, our heroine, Chinese princess Ra Pu Zel wants nothing more than to cook and eat. But those around her have other ideas about proper behavior. It’s got matchmaker scenes in Mulan (the animated one) vibes. So she locks herself in her tower (she has agency!). Cue many attempts to come out — songs, kites, scaling the tower… And then the ever controversial stinky tofu arrives on the scene. To anyone who has ever been to a night market in China, you know the smell, you’ve had conversations about it, maybe you’ve eaten it. You love it, you hate it. Regardless of how you feel, it’s nice to see it get it’s due.
The illustrations are fun, drawing inspiration from Chinese art and with plentiful food that will have you drooling. Luckily, if you’re hungry (or your child is hungry), there’s a recipe for “non-stinky pan-fried tofu” at the end.
Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu
Written by Ying Chang Compestine
Illustrated by Crystal Kung
Rocky Pond Books
Ages 5-8 Amazon|Bookshop
Every year, Apple releases a short film for Chinese New Year that is shot on their latest iPhone, and every year I look forward to the story that is created. This short for this 2024 is called Little Garlic. Apple’s Description:
Usher in the Year of the Dragon with a story about a young girl who has a special shapeshifting ability. Together with Director Marc Webb, Apple brings you this charming and heartwarming tale about self-discovery in our pursuit of life in the modern world.
I thought that this short was wonderful. While it focuses on young people in China, it resonated with me because I could see some of the same challenges with my own children as they struggled to establish themselves in the work world.
As usual, a “making of” video has been released (you can see it below). Also, while this was shot on an iPhone, additional hardware and software were used and it was professionally edited.