A Travellerspoint blog

May 2018

Tokyo-Nerd and Freak Town

Yesterday, i left the hostel early as per usual. I had a walking tour scheduled for 01:30 pm-but was anxious to explore Tokyo. The first thing I wanted to do was change my room for part of my stay from a 4 bed dorm to a 8 bed dorm, which saves $6.00 per night. I just want the cheapest room possible. The girl at the front desk told me it could be done-but she said it was a complex transaction since I did part of the booking online, and extended my stay with the front desk while I was here, involving refunds and recharging, which I couldn't understand. I said I would talk to the manager when he got in, which was later.

So I left the hostel, and took the train to the starting point for the tour, which was in a part of town called Akihabara. This was a fortunate starting point, because although there was over 3 hours to the start of the tour, there we're lots of camera stores I could explore. I walked around the area, looking at various camera stores.

The area also had casinos, dealing with a game called Pachinko, one had a line that wrapped around an entire building an down the block-which was exclusively guys. The folks admitting them into the parlor we're women in short skirts.

Otherwise, the people on the streets we're freaky. There we're a lot of white folks wandering around, including a couple where the guy had a all-black cowboy outfit and the woman a gothic long dress. A lot of stores we're selling anime, which seems like high-tech cartoons. It seemed like thousands of stores we're selling this anime stuff. A lot of these stores had dozens of boxes in front of them, which you would put money in for a little character in a round container, much the same as the gumball machines the supermarket had when I was little (and maybe still does)-except there we're many many of these boxes, and they we're for adults. I found a little character with a cat with a pineapple top, which I sort of liked but didn't buy.


I had two lunches, of salmon pizza (I was hungry), and then ramen noodles, which wasn't that great at a raman place. Then I went on the free walking tour.

There we're about 30 people on the tour, and the guide was most interesting and informative. I learned that before the 1800's Tokyo was called Edo, and the entire country of Japan was led by Samurais, who reported to the Emperor, and the Samurais, who led different parts of Japan, we're required to come to Edo, bring gifts to the Emperor, and spend their money. I also learned that there was an isolationist policy until the mid 1800's-when the US came with a modern new ship, and that is when trade opened up, and the Samurais culture was voted against in favor of a democracy, and samurais we're ordered to stop carrying their swords.

I learned about the religious in Japan-mainly Buddhism and Shinto, which is indigenous to Japan. Shinto is centered on the natural world. Most Japanese aren't religious, but go to the Shinto temple during life, and for funerals, go to the Buddhist temple. In front of the Shinto temple, a group was doing Tai-chi. I learned about bathouses, and tatoos forbidden because they usually indicted someone was in prison. (although it wasn't always enforced).

I learned that Japan is slowly dying off. The birthrate is largely 1.46 per adult is below 2, which would be required to keep up it's population. The population would half by 2060, it was predicted. Also, because the Japanese (A) go to school within Japan, and (B) only travel to Hawaii and Paris, and always in large groups, their English is by and large terrible or nonexistent, and because of this, they are falling behind in the world. I wanted to know more about why Korean and Chinese kids greeted me in pretty coherent English, and these people could barely speak it. When I asked, a large Russian woman on the tour snapped at me repeating the tour guides answers, and I snapped back at her, and she accused me of being rude.

I felt bad about bad vibes, and snapping at that lady, and I walked alone to the starting point of the tour, and had sushi off a conveyor belt sushi place for dinner, which came to $12.00. Another thing the guide explained is that sushi restaurants vary in price and quality-from $10-$12 to over $300 for dinner. I ate at the cheapest one, in fact one he used as an example, and it was good.

I then went back to the hostel, returning about 7:30. I straightened out with the manager moving to a less expensive room,and receiving a refund for some of the money already paid. I talked to some others in hostel, including a Swedish guy who was also alone, and a group of folks from Canada and the US. One was 24 and mentioned he liked my energy, which I don't hear often. It was his last night, so I had some rum (I Believe) and beers, and got to bed around 1:00 am.

Posted by DavidPearlman 15:52 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Busan to Tokyo-at the Cruise Ship Hostel

Yesterday, I left South Korea. I enjoyed my time here-but I felt my time in Busan was over. I didn't think there was more to see from the city and more to get from the country. The folks there tend to dress very well-I noticed. And it is hard to find a garbage can. If you have trash very few are looking to take it from you. But I had a good time here-the food was good, and the people are very friendly. I never mastered the language. Hello is something like ansenio, and thank you is a word like konsumida-but it was hard to master those two words.


So I went to the airport to get the flight to Tokyo. I checked in and found my checked bag was over the limit by 7 pounds, which would have meant paying $35 for my bag. The check in agent offered to let me put stuff in my carry on/camera bag-so I took my pants and a pair of shoes and put it in to my carry on bag. So that is what I did-plus I had an additional plastic bag to bring on the plane. The two hour flight was uneventful and we we're served dinner of some type of pork which I usually don't eat but I tried.

After landing in Tokyo and getting my bad, I looked at my phone for directions to the hostel. Somebody on Trip Advisor wrote that getting to this exact metro station near the hostel took only one change of trains, after an hours-ride near the airport. I took a picture of the post with my phone, and showed a ticket agent at the airport rail station. She said that those trains stopped running for the day, which I found hard to believe-it was around 5:00 pm. I asked her how many of those trains we're-she said 20 every day. When I further questioned her, she said another train would come in an hour-so I just had to wait an hour-or in 24 minutes, a train would come with an additional change of trains across the platform. I made that change, and after a long train ride to the city, I was at the hostel by 7:30.

The hostel is a big hostel, in a outlying neighborhood of the city. It had an escalator and a giant lobby. I checked in, paid to do a little laundry, and learned there was a meet and greet in the lobby at 8:00 pm. It was announced on the loud speaker, aka cruise ship style. I decided to go-7 folks we're there-including two Japanese folks, a freshman in college and her mom, who weren't staying at the hostel, but came by to help with their English skills. I talked to them, with another guy from Canada. I learned that the English taught in Japan isn't speaking, but reading and writing, and the classes are horrible-the student's class was boring. I learned Mcdonalds is called something like Mcs-call Japanese people can't say Mcdonalds. I also learned the girl was learning French in school, but her French actually seemed worse then mine, and I don't know much.

The meet-up lasted about 2 hours. I still hadn't had dinner-but there was a supermarket next door, and I had what looked like salmon sashimi, but it was a very salty fish, and what looked like potato salad-but was actually about 50% wasabi, so I had an extremely salty and extremely spicy dinner. Then I walked around and went back to the room, and went to bed.

Posted by DavidPearlman 15:11 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Final Busan

Yesterday was the last day in Busan.

It was a beautiful day, and I started the day by going to the United Nations national cemetery here in Busan. It is the only United Nations Cemetery in the world. The cemetery was only about a 20 minute ride on the metro. I went to the Memorial Hall, which showed a lot of pictures of the war, each divided by the various countries that we're involved in the conflict. I also saw a video on the Cemetery which was touching. One woman, who died in old age, was buried along side her long-deceased husband at the cemetery, although they have been married for only 3 weeks before he was sent off to war. I than walked alongside the part of the cemetery with tribute fountains and the graves.


After the cemetery, the Lonely Planet Guide listed too places to go to-one was the best sight in Busan, which was a Buddhist Temple, and the other was a "sight that makes you go wow". I decided on the second one-which entailed a sort of long metro ride (about 45 min I would guess)-but not as long as the other. This sight was a Buddhist Hermitage in the forest. I took the metro to the stop where I would soon catch the cable car, but re-read the Lonely Planet, and learned it was a 2 hour hike from the cable car. I didn't have the time or patience for that. So I got back on the metro to the-second-to-last-station on the line, got on a shuttle bus,and went to the "best sight in Busan" which is called Beomeosa.


The temple consisted of various buildings, set against evergreen trees behind and a beautiful view of the city and sea in front. It was beautiful, but since arriving in Hong Kong I have seen many Buddhist temples, and this one wasn't much different from the others. I walked up the steep hill and checked out the buildings, adorned with colorful lanterns and flags (for Vasek Festival/Buddha day) every May. As I walked down the steep hill, I found I left my jacket somewhere, so I walked back up the hill to a gift shop for the temple, and found I left my jacket there.

i then took the Metro downtown, bought a book at a bookstore with a small English section, and went for dinner at the Jagalchi Fish Market-where fresh fish is caught, and you can eat it there to. That was an option for around $30.00. I didn't want to spend that much-but I found a place serving sushimi for $10.00 (with soup and many sides), and that is where I ate.


i continued to walk around the fish market, looking at the various types of raw fish, and the booths that sold them.


I then took the metro back to the Centrum city mall, and walked around a little, and went back to the hostel.

Posted by DavidPearlman 17:04 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Busan, South Korea-From Africa to Peru and Greece

Yesterday, I started the day trying to talk to a couple in the hostel. I asked them if they we're from New England, because of their hat which I was sure was of the New England Patriots. I learned they we're from Toronto, and the cap was from the Blue Jays. So that went nowhere.

After breakfast, I walked outside, and it was cold and rainy. it was a good day for the museum, which I already decided I would go to. I took the metro to the Busan Modern History Museum. It was a small museum, but they had some interesting exhibits. I learned that during the Japanese occupation, the port of Busan was enlarged, and railroads we're developed-as Busan was the access point for Japan to begin conquering the Asian continent. I also learned Busan was the capital of the country while Seoul was under North Korean control. There was talk and an exhibit on all of the Korean solders forced to fight for the Japanese in World War II, and comfort woman-woman who we're used to "comfort" Japanese solders, being taken as sex slaves. The video showed some of them speaking as elderly ladies and it was heartbreaking.


After the museum, It was all of hot and sunny. I then took the metro on to a bus to the Gamcheon Cultural Village. Apparently the village was a slum by the hillside, but was converted into a cultural village by taking money and painting the hillside houses all sorts of bright colors. There are also artist galleries, and works of arts throughout the area.

The area is called the Machu Picchu of Busan-with steep steps, alleyways, and hills-and was quite beautiful. There is also comparisons to Santorini, as many of the roofs are blue. I also found it very touristy and in-your-face with souvenir shops and lots of crowds. I walked up and down the hills, and while it was quite beautiful, I never quite got the history of it.


After a few hours-I got back on the metro. The weather turned sunny buy cold. I wanted to watch the sunset, and wait for the laser show over the Gwangan Bridge, a large suspension bridge connecting two parts of Busan. I walked around the area for a few hours, as it was only around 6:00, and the laser show was due to start at 8:30. The area along the beach had all sorts of bars and restaurants. Folks we're walking their dogs. One woman was being filmed, as she was part of the African convention I saw the day before.


it was a nice scene, and the bridge was pretty-but the laser show advertised in the guide I have never happened. At roughly 9:00. I tried to find my way back to the hostel, but got lost. I found a bus stop, got on the bus, which took me to the metro, and made it back.

Posted by DavidPearlman 16:14 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Busan, South Korea-from the Worlds Largest Store to Africa

IMG_4384.JPGYesterday was my first full day in Busan.

For another cool day, after breakfast at the hostel I took the metro to Shinegae, the world's largest department store, located in Busan. That's right, despite the sign on the outside, the world's largest department store isn't in the Big Apple and doesn't have a parade every Thanksgiving. I walked in right around opening at 10:30, and like every department store, it was full or workers behind every counter-except here they pretty much all bowed to me.


I looked at the guide to the store-which is 11 stories tall, and includes a ice skating rink (Which was closed when I tried to check it out). I walked around a little bit, and it looks pretty much like any other high-end department store. Actually, the world's largest store is more like a mall, and seems to have an H&M, Gap, and many other stores within the world's largest store-so it is hard to tell where the store ended and the mall began (and there is an adjoining mall-called the Centrum mall.)

I then walked over to Busan Cinema Center, right near Shingegae, which is a large hall with an outdoor plaza-I have found out that Busan is the film center of Korea. An African festival was going on, with a band playing African music, and booths from the various African countries going on. There was food being served as well. it was sort of odd to see South Koreans wearing African dress.


I had some African beef patties, and some cake for lunch. Additionally, I had French fries at a food truck named Belgium Travel, where they specialized in French fries. I met some high school girls from Chicago there, who we're on a one year exchange program. These girls had last name like Alvarez and Rodriguez. Being from Chicago, they we're probably of Mexican (or other Latin Country) descent. That would mean these girls from the US who descend from Mexico (or somewhere else) we're in South Korea attending an African festival at a Belgian food booth.

After the festival, i got back on the metro and on to the hop-on hop-off bus to check out other places in Busan. The hop-on hop-off saw some interesting and not so interesting sights-such as the first draw bridge in Korea. Supposedly, it opens every day for 10 minutes, and tourists go to see it. On the hop-on hop-off bus, there we're three mothers and 6 kids who made a l ot of noise.


The bus then went up a hill to a neighborhood called "The Santorini of Busan", which has houses on the hill-it didn't look much like it. I wanted to get off anyway-but couldn't, because by the time I got up to get off at the stop the bus continued going. I did get off at the next stop, hopefully to escape those kids-which didn't happen because they got off to. The stop was an observation deck high up on a hill overlooking the sea, with steps going down to the sea. The observation deck was actually a seawalk, which had a view through the floor where you can see what was below you. It was an impressive view. I walked down to the sea, and took pictures on the rocks.

I got back on the bus a while later. I took a picture of a stranger with his camera, and he gave me some food he was eating. Additionally, a little girl on the bus gave me some candy.

The bus kept going, up hills to the top-I got off at another observation desk, which was called Oryukdo, which was a large park. Here there are 5 or 6 islands out at sea, which vary according to the tide. i only counter 3 or 4 from the angle I was at. But it was a nice walk up the hill and back down, and through a park.


I returned to the bus. It went over to a beach, with cable cars, across the beach. And across large bridges.

It then got back into town-I got off and had some sushi (Busan supposedly has better sushi than Japan-not sure but it was good).

Posted by DavidPearlman 15:14 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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