Well, we’re back in Ireland for some quality family time and this thing called a holiday (I’ve almost not checked work emails) for a few weeks. So once again I get to blow the dust that has woefully collected over the last few months off the camera and explore the streets and city.
The last few times out I’ve worked to wander the side streets and alleys; more interesting to me than the posh streets, high-end stores, and crowds of damn tourists that plague cities in the summer! I love seeing the book-store striving to cling to life next to its derelict counterpart, or the old and clearly well loved chairs outside the more recently created Blacksheep Pub. I was pleasantly surprised to see a burgeoning craft-beer scene and some amazing food ( L. Mulligan’s Grocer, Oxmantown plus others) here too, but that’s another story.
Next up on the list Belfast and Edinburgh…
Seoul was a really interesting city to venture around (only saw a small portion) as it was a little less polished than Tokyo. There were more markets, street vendors, and little side stalls to eat in than I had seen living in Tokyo on average; there also seemed to be a more vibrant and thriving art/street art culture. It gave a interesting sense of daily-life.
Admittedly when myself and my colleague came up with the idea of a Japan-Korea trip, given that we had each lived in one of the respective countries, it seemed like a great plan. While it turned out well there was a significant amount of leg-work to get done before we even left and for anybody thinking of taking students to two countries it definitely bumped the trip price. We spent most of our time in Japan, but managed to slide in about three days in Korea, where we were based out of Seoul.
Seoul is a like any other mega-city with millions of people – vast and sprawling; it also happens to contain some interesting albeit rebuilt palaces. For good measure it is also shockingly close to the Demilitarized zone and as our guide there pointed out all of the North’s artillery was aimed straight at Seoul. While it’s a titch onerous to do I’d highly recommended a trip to the DMZ if you ever get the chance, the tunnels are interesting (small) and the forward base camp and buildings where the armistice where signed are kind of one-of-a-kind experience; the whole tour’s also an amazing example of propaganda and opinions.
This post is a mash-up of images – much like Japan. Sprawling Megapolis’s abound where beleaguered salaryman start early and end late, often in bars and clubs. Artists can be found paint in the various temples and shrines, while a variety of vendors hawk their goods and services. Only in Japan could a massive stack of beer be left outside the store and still be expected to be there when the owner next stepped out. Bicycles, with significantly less pretentious and self-important owners, and trains are the mode of primary travel here and parks are for looking at; not walking in. The whimsical and quirky exist right next to or even just behind the drab and seriousness that can be so common. Keep an eye out for.
During the recent trip to Japan we took the opportunity to visit Hiroshima, which was fantastic as I had not managed to make it there previously when I lived in Japan. With students in tow we were able to visit a few different locations and distances from the Hypocenter of the 1945 atomic bomb, as well as the Memorial Museum. It was a really powerful and profound experience to listen to survivor stories passed down from their son’s and daughters, to see the scarred remains of the atomic dome, and the peace park memorial. Inside the museum you can see amazing old artifacts, many of which served as the only evidence of some of the victims caught in the blast. The willow lashed together with rope survived the blast and was located at Hiroshima castle; near this site is also where the first reports of the attack are reported to have come from. I can better understand peoples fear during the cold war about the threat of nuclear war having seen the images and results in the museum.
Not being a particularly religious person myself I don’t tend to be moved when I visit holy or religious places like many others seem to find. I can however, appreciate the cultural significance and role that such places play in forming the psyche of a culture or group of individuals. I can also definitely appreciate the craftsmanship and sheer scale of some of the construction projects that many of these sights must of been. Kiyomizudera Temple for example sits high up on a hill and relies on wood joinery techniques to hold it together, while Sanjusangendo, a Buddhist relic site, was intentionally built to allow the building joints to move and slide together during earthquakes. Just think too, all of these were built well before the use of computer generated models and massive industrial tools. Inside Matsumoto castle you can see the notch marks on the large woods beams; evidence of hand-crafting. The Thatched roofs of Shirakawa village in the north while technically less intricate, were likely just as challenging and laborious to do well and they had to hold snow-load as well.
All of these are significantly more impressive when you are standing next to them…time to ante up for your plane ticket.
The West coast culture and style of Lululemon leggings and plaid (of which I myself am fond) for the respective genders pales pretty quickly in comparison to the stylish and ornate kimonos found in Japan. Granted the kimonos don’t look like the easiest of pieces of clothing don or wear around the city.