Thursday, September 15, 2011

주석 in 일반: Osaka and Kyoto

주석 (Chuseok), or the "Korean harvest festival," is a notoriously horrible time to travel, as many Korean people use the three holidays to take trips back to their hometowns to see families. Airfares also skyrocket as an increasing amount of Koreans are foregoing tradition and taking advantage of one of two extended national holidays (the other being Lunar New Year) to take trips abroad in lieu of visiting grandfather's grave and what not.

For my past two Korean Chuseoks, I did a temple stay in Seoul with my co-teacher Jenny and a trip with my friends Anthony, Bob, and Brendan to Namhae Island (where I took some of the most beautiful pictures I think I have ever taken, btw). However, this time around, I wanted to go big. Though I just went to Japan this past December , I felt really bummed that I didn't really budget in the time to see Kyoto in particular, which many of my urbane, world weary friends have espoused is a quintessential mustdotravel experience blah blah blah. So. My friend Diana and I (Di is something of an expert on all things Japanese pop culture) made a plan to conquer both Osaka and Kyoto in four days, in what was definitely the spendiest/most awesome Chuseok I've had yet.

Things That Were Awesome About Osaka/Kyoto:
  • Green tea ice cream 
  • Lots of beautiful old stuff in Kyoto 

  • Delicious Kobe beef with one very classy looking travel buddy 

  • Beautiful views of Osaka from the Umeda Tower

  • Making our own Cup Ramen at the Momofoko Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka

  • Osaka Castle and its environs which were gorgeous 

  • Okonomiyaki (a delicious explosion of cabbage/flour/octopus/mysterious tidbits/seaweed) + delicious Japanese beer which is a zillion times tastier than Korean beer

  • Taking pictures with/of Diana in a traditional Japanese kimono (I was too cheap to rent one for myself^^

  • Surprisingly friendly Japanese locals, one whom memorably warned Diana and I "Here...DANGER" while we were roaming around trying to find our hostel in Osaka after hours. We were also hit on by a group of Japanese guys while hanging out under this sign, which definitely did not happen to me in Tokyo: 

  • Meeting and hanging out with Jade, Diana's awesome friend who teaches business English in Tokyo

Things That Were Not Great About Japan
  • Expensive taxis. I took the most expensive taxi ride of my life in Osaka this past trip. GUESS HOW MUCH IT COST GUESS WHAT I'M NOT GOING TO TELL BECAUSE IT'S EMBARRASSING
  • Finding out the hard way that Osaka has two airports--one international, one for international flights with domestic layovers. If you want to feel like you are on"The Amazing Race" for about an hour, try not double-checking your itinerary the next time you are in Osaka
  • Having to keep track of change because it is actually valuable in Japan--some coins are worth up to $7 
  • The yen, which wiped out my piddly Korean won like a tsunami of terribleness  
  • The horrible no good mind trippingly awful Japanese transit system. The subway was a nightmare of confusion with two separate, nonintegrated lines/a zillion transfer stations/trains that stopped seemingly randomly only to boot you off and force you to switch to a different trains. 
  • Rather shitty food, given that we were faced with eating stuff like this from the cheapcheapcheap convenience stores:

As you can see, however, the good far outweighs the bad/the company was great/I was sufficiently distracted from the tiny mundanities of my Korean work/social life/lives for a hot second. WOOT   

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