Hi everyone! I hope you enjoyed the long weekend back at home! I am late, but wanted to say Happy Memorial Day and may we always remember those who have served and sacrificed so that we have the freedoms that we have today. I also want to tell my family that I love them and hate I missed all being together the other weekend. It looks like they had an awesome time. 🙂
The Hoch and I are back in Seoul and have been taking it easy the past couple of days. The first couple of weeks traveling have been in GO mode so it is nice to get a break, relax, catch up on Daredevil (going to cancel our Netflix account soon), and we actually went for a short run yesterday, which was much needed after all the food and alcohol we’ve been consuming.
I want to dedicate this post to our trip this past weekend in Japan. Japan was not originally part of our itinerary since it is a bit on the expensive side and we were thinking we would save it for another time when we are not on a budget. However, our friend and old co-worker Duane contacted me as soon as he found out we were going to be in South Korea for the month of May. He was also going to be in Hiroshima for work during that time and told us we could stay with him at the hotel if we wanted to add it to our trip. He sent us his itinerary, we looked at flights, and decided to go for it (you can’t beat free lodging)! We chose his last weekend there so we could visit Hiroshima and also all fly to Tokyo for a couple of days before he heads back home.
Man am I glad we did it! I thoroughly enjoyed Japan. The people are so nice and the cities are so clean! Hoch and I were in the same boat as far as not knowing the language (Japanese and Korean are nothing alike), so I actually learned a few more Japanese words than I have Korean on this trip. In South Korea, Hoch and his family handle everything and I am just along for the ride. In Japan, we were both trying to steer, which I enjoyed. There is definitely something to be said about being able to communicate with someone who does not speak your native tongue. Even if you are using hand gestures or clucking like a chicken (we have not had to do that yet), it is a very rewarding experience in my opinion.
We were actually in Hiroshima at the same time Obama was. We luckily avoided the crowds by going to the Hiroshima Memorial and park the day before he was there. I have a few pictures from the park, but did not take any from inside the museum. We purchased the audio so we could listen as we go through, and though it was a very simple museum, it was a very somber experience. The size, amount of force, and devastation from the A-bomb always seemed surreal to me, like from a movie or something, but when you are there in the city, in that museum, it really brings it to life. It was a very humbling experience.
On a lighter note, the city of Hiroshima is a very cool city. It has a small city feel, but is still a decent size. We were also able to see the Hiroshima Castle, Shukkeien Garden, try local-style okonomiyaki, and go sing Karaoke one night with Duane’s co-workers during our 2 days there. I do not have pictures from the Karaoke night, but my NYC friends know that I love this kind of Karaoke. You rent a room for a couple of hours and sing songs with friends! The place in Hiroshima included beer and cost about $25 per person for 2 hours! We had a blast and it was the first time Duane and his co-workers tried it.
Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese layered pancake like dish. It was made of a layer of pancake, pork, lettuce, noodles, fried squid, eggs and some special sauce and scallions on top. There are other seafood variations as well. It was huge and pretty delicious, we were all satisfied.
We left Hiroshima for Tokyo and arrived there early on Saturday and only had 2.5 days to explore. Three words. Tokyo.is.massive. So this city definitely warrants a second visit since we clearly could not even come close to seeing everything we would have wanted to. Duane has built up a lot of points with his travels for work and was able to get a suite at the Hilton for us and his co-worker Ryan (who also had a ton of points) for free! The hotel was located close to the Shinjuku area which was a lot of fun just to walk and get lost in, especially at night when all the signs are lit up. We did A LOT of walking, I think one day we walked around 11 miles. We visited a couple of shrines, saw the busiest intersection in Shibuya (seriously a roll tide of people crossing), tried the madness that is public transportation, and visited a couple parks while we were there. And of course we ate sushi for dinner one night as well.
Here is a small video clip of the Shibuya intersection:
Tokyo has so many rail lines that actually have different owners. If we were there for longer, it would have been easier to buy a pass, but since we were not, we tried to just buy as we go. It was so confusing the first time we tried. We did not know which line to chose, which kiosk to purchase from, and it was super crowded. A guy, who was clearly trying to make a buck, saw all 4 of us in our state of confusion and asked us where we wanted to go. We told him, he took us to the correct kiosk and grabbed the money to pay the kiosk. When the change came out, he separated the large coins from the small ones and asked if he could keep the large ones. It all happened so fast, we just let it go. I am sure this will happen a lot more often to us once we hit southeast Asia, so you just gotta let it go, rather than get upset about it.
The following dish was a pleasant surprise. We had been walking around forever, were in a residential area, and came across this small Indian restaurant run by two Nepalese guys (who spoke fluent Japanese). We had naan (bread) dipped in curry (I had chicken curry), and it was amazing.
After Duane and Ryan left, the Hoch and I had some time to spare and decided to find a good ramen place for lunch before we needed to take off. The place we selected had a line out the door so we knew it had to be good. You ordered and paid from a kiosk type thing and it did not have English as an option, so we ordered our ramen based on the price from the picture on the wall.
We guessed right! It was everything.
I definitely want to come back to visit one day to see more of what Japan has to offer. Oh and I cannot forget to mention all of their fancy toilets! They were always so clean and sometimes it took me a minute to figure out how to work them to be honest. Anyways, Japan is awesome and and I really enjoyed our short trip there! 🙂
For those who would like to see more pictures than what is on this post, check out the following link: Japan Album
Until next time!
-I have to reiterate how polite and well-mannered the Japanese were, at least from what we saw. One thing for sure – they are very dedicated to their craft, everyone from okonomiyaki chef to parking lot attendant. It was a serious contrast from the grumpy shopkeepers and rude security guards of New York City.
-To elaborate on public toilets; most are the western-style sitters, but with bidets. Apparently they hate wiping and after this trip, I can see where they are coming from.