Sorry I've turned into such a bad blogger...
Anyway, this post begins with Vammy's visit. We had lots of fun though she was here too short a time, especially since one of the days she was here I got sick and had to go see a doctor. I sure know how to show my friends a good time. Thankfully the next day I was feeling better, probably due to the drugs I got from the doctor.
We went to Kamakura, Asakusa, the Imperial Gardens, Meiji-jingu, and Harajuku (Vammy also went to Ueno with Rachel while I was sick). Even though these are all places I've been before, I've got a few pictures for you...
This fountain is in the Imperial Gardens.
More at the imperial gardens.
Blossoms! Not many trees were blooming yet at the time.
Vammy in Kamakura. This bridge is at Hachimangu.
So as soon as Vammy left I had to turn around and pack for my trip to Korea with Rachel. That was an interesting feeling. Here I am living in a foreign country and I went on vacation to a different foreign country. Pretty cool right?
Anyway, the day we left started out kind of bad since it was super windy so there were lots of train delays and even some cancellations (I had an issue because of this). However, we made it to Narita just fine and luckily our plane was leaving from terminal 1 not 2 because there was a plane crash that caused several plane cancellations over at terminal 2 (the plane crashed because of wind in the early morning while trying to land). But Rachel and I made it out of Japan just fine (did you know Japanese security doesn't make you take off your shoes? It was awesome!)
So when we got to Korea, one of the first things we did was change some money. We decided that Korean money (won) looks a bit like Monopoly money and has far too many zeros (that blue 1000won bill is worth less than a dollar).
One of the first tourist spots we went to was a palace (there aren't going to be many place names in here by the way. Me and Korean words don't get along. Sorry). This palace was apparently partially destroyed at some point so much of the time we only saw pieces of it, but here's a picture of an intact bit. Korean architecture and Japanese have many similarities since they have a lot of shared history.
After looking at this palace, we decided to go check out a Buddhist temple that Watt-sensei (our resident director and expert on Asian religion especially Buddhism) suggested when I told him about our trip to Korea. You can get a free tour in English. However, the tour guides for foreigners were out to lunch so Rachel and I decided to eat then we went back. That temple was AWESOME in my opinion.
So here's a picture of me at the temple in front of what I decided is a super adorable Buddha. Behind me and to the left of the picture is the temple's great hall. Around the walls of the great hall are painted panels depicting the life of the Buddha. I took a bunch of pictures of these panels and was thinking of putting them up in order with a bit of narrative.
Also, behind me, hanging up are lots of very colorful lanterns. These were being hung all around the temple. The Buddha's birthday is coming up in a few weeks or something like that so those lanterns are being hung for that. It was awesome with all of the color everywhere.
As you can see in this picture, they even had them in the trees. Mostly I'm putting this picture up because I like it...
After visiting the temple we decided to try and find a park that was nearby though we had a little trouble and got a bit lost, but the park was worth it since it was really pretty and we got to go pretty high up so that we had some great views of the city.
This guy was not in the park. This was at some random street near the temple I think. I thought he was cute so I made Rachel stop so I could take a picture. I like that it looks like he's pouncing on the world, and he's got that smile on his face...
So here's one of the views from that park. I really love parks in big cities. You get such a wonderful feeling of escape.
This place had a tram that went up and down, but we didn't know that until we were already halfway up and I don't think you can just take it from the top down. I think it's only a round trip thing since we couldn't find a path leading to the station at the top.
I'm sure this place is even now starting to look really spectacular since there were a few trees blooming while we were there. Both Rachel and I really loved these flowers. I kept trying to get close ups of the blossoms, but my camera would just focus on the branch instead so the flowers were all blurry. It was quite annoying.
The next day we did a shopping expedition since stuff in Korea is pretty cheap. I had to buy a new bag anyway since the strap on mine broke in Narita airport (made it very annoying to carry).
The day after shopping we visited another palace. This one was not partially destroyed so there was a lot more to see. There were lots of pretty little paths and very ornate buildings.
Here is a pretty little path. And a very ornate building.
After going to the palace, we found a cute little restaurant that had great food for really cheap (seriously for 7000won you got soup, bread, a drink, and a huge entree. That's about $5.50 folks). Then we went to go see Nanta. This was the absolute best part of the trip, no contest. They do world tours so if you ever get a chance to go see Nanta (I believe the English title is Cookin' or Cookin' Nanta) DO IT. Basically, they use kitchen utensils as instruments and they have very good non-verbal humor so that everyone was laughing whether you were Korean, American, or Japanese. Since photos and videos were not allowed during the show, I've instead included a video from youtube.
The best part of Nanta for me was that it included audience participation. At one point, they make a soup (seriously, on stage while banging pots and stuff, they actually make a real soup) then they get a man and a woman from the audience to go up on stage and eat it. The "sexy guy" (that's the name of the role...and, in my opinion, the truth) picked me out of the audience. So I got to be led up on stage by a very good looking, very fit Korean guy then given yummy soup to eat. It was awesome. And the picture there is to prove it. This picture is actually up on their website (which is good because while I got a couple of photos from the Nanta people of me onstage, I don't have a scanner so I couldn't put them up here so I yoinked the one from the website).
As I said, best part of the whole Korea trip.
After the show, we still had time on our hands so we visited a Korean history museum (free admission!) which was pretty cool. Since I knew nothing of Korean history (except vague bits that I learned when I learned about Japanese history) it was pretty interesting.
This picture is of some cool looking totem type things that they had around the museum building. I think the plaque said they were to protect villages from demons or something like that.
Our last day in Korea was a bit more wandering around and buying souvenirs. We didn't have any real specific places we had to go, but we wound up entertaining ourselves at a shopping district then going to a university area (the university is apparently well know for its art programs so the area was pretty quirky). There I saw this cute mascot thing though I'm not sure what it was for. It saw me taking a picture though thus why it's facing me and posing.
We also went to a coffee shop in that same area called Coffee Prince. The shop is also the set for a very popular Korean drama called (in English) "First Shop of Coffee Prince". Rachel had seen a few episodes so when she saw that there was a bit about it in our guidebook, we decided to go. We got turned around a few times and had to ask directions (we did this in English since we don't speak Korean. Such tourists.), but we made it. Each of us got a coffee of some kind and a piece of cake. It was a kind of expensive place (though being the site of a tv show, I suppose that's understandable since they can get away with it), but it was also tasty so I didn't mind so much.
So here's my cake (rasberry cheesecake) and latte.
The next day, we packed up, left the hotel, and headed back to the airport and Japan. Once again, security and immigration and stuff were not that bad (I dread going back to the States to deal with all that airport crap especially since I'll have soooo much luggage).
And that's about it. Classes start on Monday and Kendra's coming to Tokyo Tuesday (actually Yokohama, but it's close). This weekend I'm going to a welcome dinner for Mami's parents host student who arrives this week, and we're also going to two different hanami (blossom viewing parties) I believe so you can expect lots of pictures of cherry blossoms soon.
So I may be a bit slow about the blogging, but I hope the sheer length of this post makes up for that.