Monday, January 7, 2013

My thoughts on Korea and Japan - Blog conclusion

Sorry it took me a few days to finalize the blog. Thank you everyone for following this Japan/Korea travel blog. I'm just going to summarize my thoughts about the trip starting with Korea.

The nightlife in Gangnam and the food all over Seoul was great. I got to try many delicacies that were delicious, odd, and downright disturbing.

I really enjoyed visiting the Bongeunsa Buddhist temple. The architecture, drum ceremony, and statues were incredible.

The Gyeongbokgung Palace where the Joseon Dynasty lived was impressive. If you have ever seen some Korean soap opera's, you may recognize that the time frame they often use is during the Joseon Dynasty reign.

Visiting the Demilitarized Zone and getting the special tour to the Demarcation Line had the deepest meaning to me since I have family who fought and fled during the Korean war. We got to meet and talk to a North Korean defector who waited until the Han river (river which separates the two Korea's) froze over so she could walk across the ice to the south. It was surreal to step over the demarcation line into North Korea. I also now have a better understanding of the war itself along with the impact the US and UN had on the outcome. The appreciation towards the US was obvious in the shrines and monuments at the War Memorial.

I feel like I have to mention the weather. It was cold! For example, I was told that the last day we were in Korea it had a low of -26 degree's celcius. That is about -14 degree's Fahrenheit! The last day we were there Chris and I walked about 3 miles in the chilly night trying to find our hostel.

Seeing my cousin and his friends was also important to me. Mike, Diane, and all of their other friends took us out on many occasions. The food was delicious! It will definitely be one of my most memorable birthdays/Christmas's.

I'm going to start this summary off with how impressed I was with the Japanese citizens. The hospitality and helpfulness they showed to us every day we were there was amazing. If you looked confused and were searching through a map in the train station, people would always come up and help you find your way. They would also give you their spot in line if they thought you may miss the next train. I can't recall ever receiving this type of courtesy. Ok, now onto the rest.

The Shinkansen bullet train was very impressive. Not only was it extremely fast (capable of 300km/hr), but it was a smooth and quiet ride as well.

In visiting Hiroshima I am much more aware of how devastating nuclear warfare is. They made it a point to try and identify all the different types of people who were killed in the explosion and after the explosion.

Visiting the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto was memorizing. The giant orange archways that line the mountainous trek was beautiful. I would say this is one of the most memorable experiences I had in Japan.

At the Shibuya crossing was the most amazing NYE celebration I have been a part of. The amount of happy people and the ambiance of being surrounded by huge buildings with tens of thousands of people celebrating together was touching.

That's it for this blog. Thank you again for following along! See you all in February when I head to San Francisco for 3 days!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Great Buddha, Tokyo Tower, Shinjuku Red Light District.

So today was yet again another jam-packed day. The morning started out with a train ride to Kamakara to see the Great Buddha statue. After that we checked into our traditional style hostel in Shin-Okubo then headed to the middle of Tokyo to get a view of the city at the Tokyo Tower. After eating some street food we walked the strip of Shinjuku and stumbled into the red light district! After being haggled by creepy dude trying to get us to buy hookers we finally made our way back to the hostel. Here are some pictures from today.


Traditional Japanese styled hostel.

Tokyo Tower.....also known as Japan's version of the Eiffel Tower haha.

The bridge in the background also looked like a copy of the Golden Gate Bridge. Japan needs to work on their architectural originality!

Shinjuku strip.

Shinjuku red light district.

Thats it for today. Tomorrow we will probably try to hit the Sky Tree in Tokyo then catch our flight back to Seoul. Goodnight.

New Years Eve at Shibuya Crossing.

Last night in Shibuya, which is a district in Tokyo, we had the most amazing New Years Eve experience. There had to have been about ten thousand people screaming and partying in the middle of the Shibuya crossing, waiting for the new year to begin. Here are a few pictures.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto.

Yesterday morning we went to the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. I have made more prayers at the many shrines along this mountain then I have the entire trip combined! I will make this post quick since we are trying to see the imperial palace and sky tree in Shinjuku soon. Here are some pictures of the shrine.

I dont know why only the first picture enlarges....oh well.

Gion District in Kyoto.

On the night of 12/30/12 we went out to the Gion District in Kyoto, also known as the Geisha District. We did not see any Geisha's but we did see about three different Shinto temples. Shinto being the largest religious organization in Japan. Check out some of the pictures!

I have given up on trying to get the images larger...sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Oh well!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Missed flight, Hiroshima, and Kyoto.

So the reason I havent posted on the blog in a few days is because we missed our flight on 12/28/12 from Seoul to Tokyo and were pushed back a day. We ended up drinking at the Incheon airport bars, shipping gifts home, and sleeping like hobo's on the terminal benches.... we even had a cart with us to hold our bags. On the 29th we caught our flight to Tokyo and upon landing we immediately took the Shinkansen bullet train to Shin-Osaka station where we transferred to another Shinkansen bullet train to Hiroshima. The whole travel time from Tokyo to Hiroshima was approximately five and a half hours. We arrived in Hiroshima around midnight and immediately stayed in a hotel right next to the station so that we could wake up early to go to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park the next morning (12/30/12). After walking through the whole today, we walked over to Hiroshima Castle. After seeing the castle we packed our things and took the Shinkansen heading back east to the Shin-Kyoto station. We are now in the city of Kyoto at our hostel. We plan on going to Gion tonight which is the most famous Geisha District in Japan. Here are some pictures we took along the way! By the way we are having some technical difficulties with the i'm aware that only the first picture is of high quality.

 Waiting in the airport terminal

Drinking at the Mojitalk bar at Incheon airport.

Sleeping at the airport.
Shinkansen bullet train in Tokyo.
Hiroshima dome, very close to the epicenter of the first atomic bomb explosion.


Peace bell. We got a chance to ring the bell with the wooden pole.


Before and after.


Memorial rememebering the 20,000 Koreans who were killed during the explosion. They accounted to 10% of the deaths from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Hiroshima Castle.



Shinto shrine.

Chris and I performed the cleansing ritual in order to enter the shrine. We also performed the good luck prayer.

Navigating our way through Kyoto station.


I have been blown away by the friendliness of the Japanese people. They love to come up and start conversation as well as help you if you look lost. Often they will give us their spot in line at the subway station. I have never met people who are so well mannered and patient. Sometimes too patient...(crying baby on the subway with docile parents) haha. Well we are off to the Geisha District, i'll update soon.