Monday, May 31, 2010

sendai mediatheque trinkets

bird no. 17

White Strawberry
by Mika Ninagawa

Then on the way home we saw these lovely swan creatures...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Korea, part 2: Busan, Busan

A hazy view on the coast of Busan. On our first day in the South-Eastern city we went on another hike, this time around a pretty little coastal track.

We hula hooped in this sweet little outdoor gym place. It was full of old people in tracksuits using those weird swinging leg walky machines. Also hula hoops though.

And around the rocky beach area we stacked rocks and looked at real dinosaur footprints. But gosh, we didn't actually take a picture of the prints, as they just looked like kind of circular dimples in the rock. Not all that impressive really. Sorry.

We saw this really great musical collaboration between the above Korean singer, Itta, and a couple of guys, one Japanese and one Chinese. The Chinese guy was doing throat-singing and beatboxing, while Itta wailed and made noises and the other guy programmed beats and things. It was something that we hadn't really seen anything like in a long while.

Later we went out with some of those guys we met way back in Seoul (they told us about the gig). We eventually went to a nice little bar, but on the way we were led into one of those awful "foreigner bars", full of boneheads singing Journey and Bon Jovi, totally bro-ing out and wearing backwards baseball caps and high-fiving each other.

It was terrible.

The next day we checked out Beomeosa, a rather picturesque Buddhist temple in a beautiful foresty, mountainous area. It was really lovely, and all decked out for the big man's 2500-ish-th birthday (can't find his actual age on google).

These Buddhist statues have very intense, staring eyes. I like them though.

Later that day we checked out the beachfront at night. There was a big outdoor art show on, including these amazing BOLD LETTERS projected onto the sand.

Then we saw some guys taking mid-jump shots and we decided to copy them.

The guys we copied saw us doing this so we did a big group shot. We couldn't get everyone jumping at the same time though.

Rad. Next we went back to Seoul for more capital city action and excellent punning.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Korea, part 1: getting on board the Seoul train

As we've said before, public holidays in Japan are plentiful indeed, and during the first week of May, we get a super sweet Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday triple deal, thanks to Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day and Children’s Day. Add another one, Showa Day, the week before, and it’s an obvious chance to take a holiday without killing all your paid leave. So it was off to South Korea for us, tagging along with our Brit-friends Jill and Hannah.

For a start, we changed some cash at the airport, from yen to won. A whole 1000 won is only worth about 100 yen, so here’s a picture of me holding 1,000,000 units of currency. A millionaire at 27 – top of the world, ma!

The trip from Sendai to Seoul consisted of an overnight bus from Sendai to Tokyo, then a wait of about four hours at Narita airport, then a two-and-a-half-hour flight into Seoul, so we were a bit ragged by the time we made our destination. We had booked a backpackers in Hongdae, a kind of trendy university area, and spend the first night taking it pretty easy, wandering around various bars, clubs and pubs. We also ate the first of many delicious barbecue dinners.

The next day we were off to check out a cute market in the area.

We gave some sunscreen to some English teachers from Busan there, and they told us about an all-day music gig with 51 bands playing on a (de?)construction site, something about protesting the plans to knock over a building, gentrification and all that. We made a mental note to check it out in the evening.

Later we headed to Changgyeong Palace.

The multi-colours in the buildings, flags and costumes here were quite different to the more subdued Japanese style we were used to. We got there just in time to see a changing of the guards, and got to snap loads of pictures of said guards’ snazzy beards as they stared straight ahead, doing their best to ignore us and all the other tourists doing the same.

The palace grounds were quite lovely, and we actually intended to visit some of the other palace areas nearby, but then we got distracted and we ran out of time. I guess this is indicative of just how much there is to do in Seoul. It was a pretty happening place.

The distraction in question was our stomachs rumbling, so we diverted our attention to finding jeonbokjuk, a type of Korean porridge. Jill and Hannah tried the pumpkin, I had the vegetable and Mirabel had the azuki bean. M’s was too sweet, mine was too bland, but the pumpkin was pretty delicious. There’s a tip if you ever find yourself in Korea and sweating over a porridge menu.

That evening we headed to the 51 bands thing, and we were amused to see Korean metal, psychedelic nerd-rock, and a guy wailing exceptionally badly on a bongo, amongst other things. Each band played about four songs all up, so it was a good way to get a little taste of the music scene.

The next day we readied ourselves for a big old trek up Dobongsan mountain.

It may have been a mistake to go on a weekend, actually, as the track was packed with hikers from top to bottom. Everyone but us was sporting high-tech tramping gear – jackets, walking poles, backpacks – while we trundled up in our sneakers, jeans and t-shirts and/or dresses. We think lots of people we passed were talking about our shoes in particular. The track wasn’t very difficult though, although it did get a bit steep at the top.

In the end we weren’t allowed to go the last 20 or so metres to the summit, as a beady-eyed ranger spotted our inappropriate footwear. But why place so much importance on getting right to the top anyway? What makes the peak so much more desirable a destination than just below it? We still saw this amazing, slightly hazy view.

In fact, hazy was a common theme to most views we saw in Korea. Stay tuned for more, as we head south to Busan in our next update.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flying fish

On the fifth of May it is children's day, and if people have a boy in their household, they hang fish flyers outside their houses (girls get their own day in March, so don't worry about gender equality issues). We're in Korea right now (!) so we're missing the day itself, but here's a lovely picture that Mirabel took before we left.