It turns out Japan has some of the cute too!!
We traveled from Hakone to Tokyo in the morning. Janet spent the afternoon exploring Harajuku, a trendy neighborhood with shops selling girly and goth styled items. We enjoyed cocktails at the Westin lounge before a life-changing sushi dinner. The chef described each piece of sushi to us, and even showed us the fish it came from!
We began the day with a trip to Tokyo’s famous fish market. What a chaotic and busy place! We explored the Akihabara neighborhood, then changed hotels (to a traditional Japanese-style ryokan. We visited the Shibuya area. It reminded us of Times Square! Then we went out for a nice dinner for Janet’s last night in Tokyo.
We climbed a mountain! Mt. Kintoki, to be exact. At the top, we had an amazing view of Mt. Fuji. Then we went to a beautiful onsen (hot spring) for a nice soak to relax.
We explored the Nishiki market, then had lunch in the department store basement (where there are many counters each selling a different type of food). In the afternoon, Nuri visited Nijo-jo Castle, and Janet went on a quest to buy some better shoes…not an easy task as all the Japanese women’s shoes were too small! For the evening, we had arranged a Nagomi visit — dinner with a local family in their home. Eiko prepared a delicious meal of sashimi for us, and we enjoyed sharing conversation about Japan and the US.
We spent the morning visiting Fushimi Inari-taisha, a very popular Shinto shrine. Then we were headed to Hakone, a small mountain town near Mt. Fuji. To get there, we took the shinkansen (a super-fast train, 300 km/hr!), followed by a local train, then yet another train that took us up the mountain through a series of switchbacks! We enjoyed a relaxing evening at our guesthouse, chatting with fellow travelers from Germany and Australia.
Our flight from Korea was delayed… Another typhoon! We arrived in Osaka in the afternoon and caught a train to Kyoto. We got settled in to our room and walked (in the pouring rain) to have sushi for dinner, then to a craft beer bar.
No rain today! We visited the Tenryū-ji Temple in Arashiysma. It has a beautiful Zen garden dating to the 14th century! Then we headed over to Higashiyama, for a visit to the Nanzen-ji Temple. We wandered through the Higashiyama and Gion neighborhoods, and ended up having Spanish tapas for dinner!
We needed a rest day. We took it easy in the morning, had Chinese food for lunch, then traveled by KTX train 30 minutes to Busan in the afternoon (first class!). We visited Shinsegae, the world’s largest department store. It has a spa, an ice skating rink, many restaurants, a movie theatre, and, inexplicably, dinosaurs on the roof! We relaxed at Spaland… the baths and saunas felt amazing for our sore muscles, and finished our evening at the fancy Westin with some cocktails overlooking the beach.
Our day began with morning chanting in the temple at 4:30, followed by seated meditation outside on the deck overlooking the mountains. We loved meditating with all the bird and insect sounds around us. Next, walking meditation, then finally it was time for breakfast! Then Sunmudo training again, this time focused on yoga, followed by tea with the Grand Master of the temple, then a Sunmudo demonstration. A temple day is busy and full! We really enjoyed our time there, but we are SO SORE! We stayed the night in Gyeong-ju at a charming guesthouse, and went out for an amazing vegetarian Korean dinner followed by a walk in the town.
Travel day! First, off to the train station to catch a train to Gyeong-ju. We easily found our bus to the city center, where we changed to yet another bus, which dumped us off on the side of the road on the middle of nowhere! After a nice walk, we arrived at our templestay — Golgulsa Temple, a Buddhist temple that is headquarters for Sunmudo, a meditative martial art. After a delicious vegetarian dinner, we participated in the bowing and listened to the evening chanting of the Buddhist teachings. Then it was time for our 90-minute Sunmudo training! Wow, what a workout! Fun, but extremely challenging!
We visited the National Folklore Museum, the Coex Mall (maybe the largest underground mall?…it was huge!), and walked around the Gangnam district. Janet got to buy cute stuff!!