I am back in Korea! These past three weeks have been a wild ride. Let’s start by talking about my trip to Japan, shall we? I spend a total of eight days in Tokyo, Japan before the start of this semester and the experience was something I will never forget. Tokyo was more or less what I expected it to be, lively, full of excitement and, yes, sometimes weirdness, at every turn. I was very excited to visit the temples and shrines, while I was there I visited the Meiji-Jingu Shrine and Sensoji Temple. Apart from the obvious beauty of the temples and shrines, there are also many fun and interesting activities to do at these kinds of places. For example, for 100 yen, which is around $1 US dollar, you can get a fortune by shaking a metal container, where a stick comes out with a number, which you later match to a drawer with the same number that contains your fortune. If you receive a bad fortune, you must tie the paper on a provided rail so the bad fortune does not stay with you when you leave. You can also write a message or wish on wood, which you hand at the temple/shrine as well. There are spaces to pray and spaces where you can just sit down and relax while enjoying the scenery. Out of everything there is to do in Japan I highly recommend visiting the various temples and shrines.
I previously mentioned that there was a little bit of weirdness in Japan. What do I mean by that? Well Japan is the land of anime, and for someone like me who is not very familiar with anime and personally am not a fan of it, some things in Japan can seem a little strange but super entertaining at the same time. There is anime everywhere in Japan, on giant billboards and screens around places like Shinjuku and Harajuku, thousands of anime/manga merch stores and the occasional person dressed as a full on anime character. If you are interested in seeing this part of Tokyo right at the source, I highly recommend paying a visit to Akihabara, which is known as an “otaku” center. In Akihabara you will find all kinds of anime/manga/videogame shops, maid cafes, and tons of people dressed as anime characters on the street inviting you to visit their shop or cafe. It is truly an experience you cannot miss if you visit Tokyo, even if you’re not too interested in anime like me!
Now, my favorite part of my stay in Tokyo was the food. I cannot express my love for Japanese Ramen enough. It is something I cannot put into words. I tried all kinds of things but Ramen has to be at the top of my list. A definite favorite was Ichiran Ramen, which is a very famous chain of Ramen restaurants, where you sit in solo cubicles that have a separation in the middle that can be opened if you wish to do so. This concept has made it very famous. Another thing about eating ramen in Japan is that most of the time you order on a ticket/vending machine! This helps a lot of travelers because there is no need for any Japanese skills. On this note, drink vending machines are everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE in Japan! Sometimes there would be four or five vending machines together, then you turn a corner and there are three more. It is insanely convenient for whenever you are thirsty on the go but as a warning I must say: whatever you bought will have to stay with you after you are finished drinking it. Why? There are no trashcans in public areas in Japan, even less than in Korea.So, if you are ever traveling in Tokyo, prepare to carry around your trash for quite a while.
Enough about Japan, what about Korea? I have been back in Seoul for two weeks already and the semester started a week ago. I do not have much new to say about Korea since I’ve mainly been starting back up my class routine. So far my classes are very interesting this semester. I am currently taking American Foreign Policy, East Asian Civilizations, Intermediate Korean II, and a psychology course called Sensation and Perception. I do not have much to say about my courses yet, as last week was mainly “syllabus week”, but I will have an update on that soon! My friends from last semester and I have already met new friends who are new exchange students through the buddy program in my university. It seems, just like last semester, that the next five months have a lot to offer. Can’t wait!