I wrote before about my travels in OZ so I wanted to add a few comments about my travels to Tokyo and Seoul. Before I write anything, I am so very happy to be back home after 5 weeks of continuous travel.

Tokyo was definitely my favorite of the two Asian cities. I arrived to the hotel at 11:00 PM and remembered what my friend J2K said, “if I had one night in Tokyo I would spend it in Shibuya“. So, knowing that the subway stopped running at midnight and I would probably be out all night, I hopped on the subway and rode the Metro to the Shibuya stop. Now, let me mention that it took me about 20 minutes just to figure out how to buy a ticket, because all the machines are in Japanese.

When I stepped out into the streets at Shibuya it was my first experience in Japan. There was a sea of people crossing the streets and even more just hanging around and going somewhere. The megatrons (massive TV screens mounted to the sides of buildings) blasted visual ads and combined with the constant glow of neon from each alleyway seemed to light up the city and make it feel like Christmas and New Years all at once. I walked all around while simultaneously reading a novel about the area. I passed by many of the infamous Love Hotels, where people who could not mingle socially would meet for 3 hour trysts.

I then stumbled by a line of people waiting for a night club and went on in.  I danced to drum-and-bass until the wee hours of the morning, and then stumbled home along with the sea of others who strategically planned their retreat to the Metro and then home.

I spent time working and visiting with others during those few days.  I met several Americans and explored other areas of the city such as Roppongi for food and Harajuku & Omote-sando for shopping and cosplay watching.  What an amazing place and culture.

I had less time in Seoul and spent it mostly sampling the amazing food and exploring the infinite shopping.  My last night there I walked for maybe 4 hours and kept finding little neighborhoods with street vendors serving any (and all) kind of food and clothes for sale.  On the trip home I told the stewardess that I should have brought an empty suitcase for all the things I could buy.  She told me, “why bring one when you can buy it there?”  This reflected the consumerist nature of the locals and the tourists.

I spent one day visiting the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) or Military Demarcation Line (MDL) separating North and South Korea.  This is the most heavily guarded border on the planet with people on both sides very tense.  We were able to visit the actual border and sit in the conference room with S. Korean military soldiers at attention.  It was not scary, but everyone was alert as you could look 500 ft away and see the S. Korean guard tower with soldiers looking at you.  You also had to sign a form from the UN stating that you could get killed on this trip and they would not be responsible.

But that aside, the most surreal experience was driving to Panmunjom. The trip there passed along the freeway where you can look and see the barbed wire (concertina wire) fence and the river separating the two countries.  You can literally look over the river and see other country and some houses there.  I was not in Berlin when the wall was still standing, but I imagine this is how it must have felt.  To be so close to a country that is so far (politically) away.  To know that family and friends are over there and separated from you.  It cannot be easy.

Advertisements