Monday, November 19, 2012



The Jinju Lantern Festival happens for two weeks in October. 

The river that runs through Jinju was dotted with hundreds of lanterns.

They had a variety of festival foods.

Dried squid and silkworm pupae

Full roasted pig

This event also allowed for businesses and neighboring cities to contribute their own lanterns to the festival. Here are a few of them:

Changwon's! Nubija with Pioomi!

There are literally thousands of lanterns at the festival of all kinds. They had life size lanterns of people and bigger-than-life-size lantern flotillas depicting ancient and mythological events.

They also had spanning archways lined with hundreds and hundreds of red-glowing shoebox sized lanterns.

And of course the best views are at night.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012



With the help of two friends I was able to put my bed up in the upper half-story of my 1.5 story studio apartment.

This opened up my studio apartment to have a living room area. I got a hand-me-down couch and had another friend help me move it using her SUV.

All these things came together and I was able to entertain some guests by hosting a taco night. I bought some tortillas, corn chips, cheese and salsa and made some Mexican chicken with lots of cumin, cilantro, lemons and green onions.

Two of my Korean friends had never had tacos before. With about 10 guests I considered the party a success.

Pictured (l-r) Peter, Candace, Courtney, Kelly and Walker

Pictured (l-r): Peter, Candace, Kelly, Walker and Caley
Pictured (r-l): Caley, Kelsey, Lucas, Peter,
Ange Walker, Kelly and Courtney

Tuesday, November 13, 2012



I got back to Fukuoka that evening. I made loose plans to rejoin Rob and Michelle for a parting drink as we were all leaving Fukuoka early the next morning.

On my way from Hakata Station to my hostel, riding my bike, I saw to white backpackers riding folding bikes. Curious of their story, I raced them down. I then got with in shouting distance and stopped them.

Now I’ve spent a great time of self satisfying energy tooting my own horn about what a great idea having a folding bike was for my trip to Japan.. These two guys brought their folding bikes with them from CANADA to Japan. They were like me version 5.0! I had to get a picture.

Me 5.0

I got back to the hostel at dark with a few hours to kill before meeting up with Rob and Michelle. Hungry for another meal of Tonkatsu Ramen I had set out to eat at the same place I went a few days ago.

I was about to leave, when two Italian college students on holiday, one blonde and one brunette, stopped in to the hostel. I figured I could use the company, so I asked them if they wanted to go out to dinner. I told them I knew a great Tonkatsu Ramen place. They asked if I could wait 10 or so minutes. I said sure.

Now these girls had attitude to boot. Pretty and European, my guess is, not many people said no to them. Anyways I should have seen a red flag.  The blonde says to the hostel purveyor, a Japanese guy, “Could you be my hero and make this call for me? The confirmation email they sent me is all in Japanese.” From where I’m standing, sure, that’s fair. Language help comes with the territory. After he helps her with that problem, she then says to him, “Could you be my hero one more time and carry our bags to our room.” My jaw literally dropped and I had to have the quick wherewithal to close it to hide my visible disgust. Keep in mind: this was a HOSTEL!!! But of course the smiling hostel purveyor grabbed the bags and hauled them upstairs.

The brunette asked if I could wait while they got ready. I said sure. About 20 minutes later, they come down stairs and I’m ready to take these people that I’m fairly certain I do not like, out to ramen. As I was walking them, I got a little turned around and realized I had been taking them the wrong way.

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” snorted the blonde.
“Yes” I stated. “And you’re welcome.”

We get to Tonkotsu Ramen, the food is fantastic, but obviously the company is leaving a little to be desired. The blonde had an air of European arrogance being from Rome, the proclaimed “best city in the world.” (At this point I’ll note that the brunette was never particularly abhorrent but just kept lousy company). I grew tiresome of their company so after I finish my meal, I merely state that I need to go because of commitment I had made earlier (which was true). I scooted my money on the table and promptly left, feeling the true benefits of solo travel. If I don’t like something, who says I have to stick around for it?

Tonkotsu Ramen again

I met up with Rob and Michelle at the agreed time at the ex-pat bar. I ordered a Japanese IPA which was the best IPA I’ve had since being in Asia (yes even better than Rogue’s IPA I had in Busan). We talked into the early night and each departed on the early side because of our morning departures.

Morning in Fukuoka

I rode early to the ferry terminal and watched sunrise over the ocean.

As I waited to board my boat there was a press event for the Japanese Coast Guard. It seemed like a fitting end to my time in Japan.

My final takeaways for Japan:

            The people are very nice. I had a wound that kept reopening and I nicked it and
   it started spilling blood. A Japanese woman stopped at gave me some tissue.
            It’s first world Asia. They have cream for their coffee.
            It is very clean, as are their trains (thanks to bike bags)
They are looking around when they walk and are aware of their surroundings. In contrast Koreans are not. In the US we have a silent conversation when we are walking on the street with an oncoming pedestrian. With eye contact we calculate a way for us not to run into each other. This doesn’t happen in Korea. People barrel through. Uncaring and unaware. They aren’t rude just unaware.

Bike bells: It took one ring of my bike bell in Japan from several yards away and people would turn, recognize me and move accordingly to avoid being hit. In Korea: good luck. I can ring my bell 30 times in succession and be directly behind someone and then when I finally speak, they will turn around, genuinely be surprised to see me (the person that has been ringing the bell consistently for the last 30 seconds) and then move. It’s a culture thing and I get that, but in Japan, it only took one ring.

Japan is expensive but not as expensive as I thought. I had a budget of about $800 for travel (not including the boat), I came back with about $150 unspent.

Monday, November 12, 2012



The next day, Marcus, Karsten and I headed to the Hiroshima Peace Park, the Atomic Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The Hiroshima Peace Park encompasses the Atomic Dome as well as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Hiroshima Peace Park

Atomic Dome

The Atomic Dome is a structure that withstood the blast and has been left standing as a reminder of the atrocities of the atomic bomb.

Pictured (l-r): Karsten, Me and Marcus

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is definitely worth a visit. Like the Holocaust Museum in DC or in Israel, it’s not a pleasant place, but unfortunately history is often not pleasant.

The museum was split into 2 floors. The first floor was a lot of the technical information as well as the nuts and bolts and history that led to and explained why and how mankind’s first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Here is the short list of why Hiroshima was chosen:

•Hiroshima hadn’t sustained any bombing damage in the war at that point, and partly because the Atomic bomb was in many ways a big science experience in action—they wanted to see all the damage it could do. They needed a blank slate.

• There were Japan military bases in Hiroshima

• There were no allied POW camps.

The second the bomb was dropped

Other interesting things learned on the first floor of the museum:

• The bomb was not detonated on impact but was in fact detonated 600 m about
the city to create more damage.

• Since WWII The Mayor of Hiroshima has written a strongly worded letter (especially for a Japanese person) to world leaders every time there is new Nuclear weapons testing, dissuading them and imploring that they abandon their nuclear armaments programs.  The letters are all addressed the same: To the honorable Mr. Bush, Carter, Putin, Chirac, Obama, Blair, etc… There were about 8 just for 2012, mostly addressed to Obaama.

• Not only Japanese died in the blast. There were Koreans in Hiroshima who had been taken from Korea against their will, and used as forced labor in Japan.

• Parts of Hiroshima had electricity as soon as 2 days after the blast

• Parts of Hiroshima had railway cars running as soon as a week after the blast.

The second floor was more about personal stories and the damage caused by the blast to people and infrastructure. The personal stories in the museum were particularly hard to see.


"black rain" as a result of the blast

After a sobering and emotional visit to the museum, Karsten, Marcus and I went out to try Okonomiyaki (as previously recommended a few days prior)

Okonomiyaki. is a pancake-egg tortilla sandwich with noodles and vegetables inside. I ordered mine with shrimp, cheese and bacon. They serve it to you on a hot table and you eat it with a chisel and chopsticks.

After a very filling lunch, we all said our goodbyes with hopes of one day having our paths cross again.

I broke off from my friends and went to the (obviously) rebuilt Hiroshima Castle.

It was full of a variety of samurai artifacts and relics. However, I didn’t stay long. At this point I was a bit history’d out.

Nazi samurai? Nah. He's just Buddhist. (I guess)

I headed back to Fukuoka in the late afternoon and slept on the train ride home.