Monthly Archives: February 2018

Japan & South Korea

I got to visit South Korea and Japan and I have to say I have a new favorite country and city..Tokyo, Japan is my favorite city to visit for now.

I can confidently say both countries live in the future. They are so far ahead technologically and socially and it was a marvel to see.

Unlike some countries I’ve been to. They didn’t bother with you or even stare as a foreigner. They were immersed into their phones and gadgets on the trains and subways. It felt good to just go about your business without worrying too much even though I kinda stood out.

At the airport at Incheon, Korea you can rent a pocket Wi-Fi instead of getting a local SIM card. It costs about 5 bucks a day and I had booked one online before I got there. I just stopped by their airport stand, showed them the confirmation email. They hooked me up with the mouse-sized device, turned it on, set it up and I had instant Wi-Fi. It was fast and reliable whenever I went. It comes with a USB charger too. I loved it. I just dropped it off on my way out of the country and that was it. They even deliver it to your hotel if you land at crazy hours of the night and they are closed. Living in technological future and customer care.

One thing I noticed around South Korea was every available space is used for greenhouse farming. That was interesting. They farm by hand and also use machinery around and in the green houses. They utilize small parcels of land to grow wheat, fruits and vegetables. Very innovative.

The food was also very interesting. They had make-your-own-barbeque where they gave you raw beef or pork and you barbecued it on gas grills on the tables. Then they served more than 5 types of vegetables to accompany the meats.

Their common alcoholic drink is a very potent spirit served in a small soda bottle called Soju. It’s mainly made from rice or other starches and it’s alcohol content can vary from 16-50% alcohol content. I saw many Koreans having the drink with meals and shared the drink in shot glasses. I tried it and can attest to it’s potency.

The subway system is very advanced with local and intercity lines. The same with their road network with a lot of tunnels in mountainous areas.

They offer hot beverages vending machines. They had hot coffee & chocolate. I loved it.

Did I tell you they serve beer at KFC in Korea. Go in and order just beer, mko chicken. Yes, that was one of my highlights there.

I downloaded an app which I used to communicate with Koreans, you just wrote or spoke in English and it interpreted and translated making ordering for food and asking for directions that much easier.

It’s a 2 hour flight from Seoul to Tokyo. In Japan, it was another futuristic nation. I got to the airport at night. Cabs are ridiculously expensive in Japan. They mainly use trains and subways. Since I had luggage that I needn’t need in Tokyo. I found out you could lock your stuff in lockers at the airport for a fee. You got a receipt with a password for unlocking.

I used google maps for directions and they had attendants at all train stations to help with how to pay and where the platforms were. They had about 8 different train operators. Some shared tracks and for others you had to exit a station, cross a street and go into a different station. It was quite a challenge at first but I got the gang of it after a while.

It was easy to navigate and I had a great time in Tokyo. It is my favorite city thus far. They have train attendants to push people into the train cars for the doors to close during rush was funny to watchπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

I took an organized trip to Mt. Fuji, 2 hours southwest of Tokyo. It was a beautiful drive through the forests and tunnels through the mountains.

Drove past the Maglev train test site tracks in Yamanashi prefecture. The train has hit speeds of upto 374mph (603kph) during tests. The train doesn’t use tracks but a set of magnets and kinda floats with no friction. It’s launch is planned for 2027. That futuristic Japanese stuff I was telling you about πŸ€”πŸ€”

It was a clear day and we were able to clearly see the top of Mt. Fuji, drove up to the Fifth station viewpoint, had Mt. Fuji shaped cakes and checked out the souvenirs on offer. Then had lunch at Lake Kawaguchi at the bottom of the mountain. Drove to Lake Ashi and took a cruise to the Hakone Komagatoke ropeway. We had a beautiful view of the nearby Odawara city overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Japan is an island and the nearest neighbors are Russia and Korea.

We ended the day long roadtrip with a ride on the Shinkansen bullet train back to Tokyo. With speeds upto 320kph the 2 hour drive took 40 minutes.

For some Kenyans who ‘shrub’ or have a tribal accent they would blend in so well as Japanese really mix up their ‘l’s and ‘r’s..🀣🀣🀣

There is so much to do in Tokyo, I barely scratched the surface but I was able to check out a few things. A cat themed cafe.. yes, a cafe full of cats where you just chill, have coffee or food as you pet cats.. random..i know. They also have Owl, Rabbits, Dogs, Snakes, Parrot themed restaurants. Interesting stuff.

For some of the fast food restaurants you pay into a machine outside the restaurant, got your receipt and change and only went in to grab your food.. no cashiers.

At one of the busiest intersections in the world at Shibuya there are over 1,000 people crossing at a time during peak hours at this intersection.

Japanese dress up in suits and their laptop bags, very official looking and they have some unwritten rules. When going up escalators they stand on the left side, those walking up or down use the right side. It’s interesting to watch especially during rush hour.

You don’t tip in Japan, if you try they get offended and will chase you down to give back your tip. Very interesting. Some off them also wear mouth masks which come in interesting designs. It was explained they are worn by many due to allergies brought about by certain tree pollen especially during summer. Masks are also worn to prevent spreading diseases due to the close personal space especially on public transport.

I did a bit of shopping at the famous budget friendly Japanese mega store Uni-Qlo. With 5 floors it was quite the shopping experience.

On my way out at the Narita airport, they had one of the biggest shopping areas of regular stuff I had seen. None of that duty free perfume and chocolate you see at most airports. It was more of a big market with local Japanese merchandise and Japanese tech stuff from outdoor gear to cameras. To crown it all they had an upstairs aircraft viewing deck. As a planespotterand aviation enthusiast there was no better place to be taking pictures of landing and departing aircraft. I nearly missed my boarding time snapping away.

I loved loved Japan and will be back to explore soon. It’s only 8 hours away from Alaska.

Komsa-Hamnida , Arigato… thank you in Korean and Japanese.