From the sounds of it, the tsunami that hit Japan in March and the ensuing nuclear disaster has hurt it in a lot of ways, including its tourism. There is a ferry that travels from Busan to Fukuoka on a regular basis, and normally the price is around 200 dollars, but since the tsunami, the price has gone down to 90 dollars. When Dan saw this, he decided that this was our chance.
It turned out that quite a few others saw this as a good opportunity to visit Japan as well. There were 17 of us that boarded the ferry in Busan Saturday morning, including Alisa, Jane, Canadian Dan and his wife Natasha, who are from Ottawa. 2 hours and 55 minutes later we were standing on Japanese soil.
Now, I really had no idea what to expect Japan to be like. Naively, I pictured it to be somewhat similar to Korea. But I was very wrong. I'm surely generalizing, only having been in Japan for less than 36 hours and also having a limited Korean experience, but I couldn't help but be blown away by how different the two countries are. What I discovered to be true is that Japan is a more developed country than Korea. And this shouldn’t have surprised me. Korea hasn’t been a developed nation for a very long time. It has a unique history of wars and foreign occupations that it still is recovering from. While Japan, on the other hand, has a history of being a powerful country; of being the occupants, not the occupied. So I don’t mean to put Korea is a bad light by stating these differences. Korea has a lot of character and I like it a lot. But I found that I like Japan a lot too.
|Coming into Japan|
I noticed another major difference when we jumped on a bus to go downtown. The Japanese drive on the left side of the road! I totally didn’t see that coming. And while I’m on the subject of transportation and busses, I found the Japanese to be quite eco-friendly. Whenever our bus driver stopped at a red light, he would turn off the bus and then turn it on again when the light turned green. I thought that was pretty cool.
Also, I found Japanese people to be very friendly. Little things like a smile, eye contact, or a hello (konichiwa) seemed to be more common than in Korea and maybe other Asian countries as well.
Japanese food is different too (I expected it to be, but it’s a good intro to my story). We were all pretty hungry when we got off the ferry and Japan Dan had told us all about how good Japanese ramen was. Some of you might be thinking, “ramen? You mean noodles in water ramen? Like, midnight snack in college ramen?” That’s what I thought too when I first heard about it. But no, it’s not just noodles in water. Japanese ramen is delicious. The place we went to had a variety of ramens to choose from. Dan read the menu and one of the options was egg ramen. That sounded good to me so I ordered that. But what the word ‘egg’ means to many people in the world, doesn’t mean the same thing to others – at least not the cooks at this restaurant. What ‘egg’ meant to them was fish eggs – tiny little red ones. But not just fish eggs on their own – fish eggs inside a fish womb. I could describe the pink, veiny body part that I found in my soup or I could show you.
Afterwards, I opened the womb up and ate the eggs and they were actually really good. But certainly a new experience for me.
After lunch we took a train out of town to a spa which was very much like a Korean Jimjilbang. Then, hoping to find a temple, we took a beautiful walk in the rain through a rural neighbourhood up in the hills. We didn’t find the temple, but I really enjoyed the walk.
|Cars in Japan are different as well|
That evening, we had sushi for supper. You’d expect sushi in Japan to be good. And you’d be right. It was good sushi.
Later, after experiencing Fukuoka’s night life, we headed to our hostel and to bed – which wasn’t particularly easy – the going to bed part – because the owner of the hostel had given away some of our beds during the day. He still had some room left for us, but it meant that we had to cram nine of us into a very small room with four beds. And Alisa slept in a room with a group of Japanese girls who were having a birthday party. I think if you’re going to stay in hostels, you have to zero expectations. That’s kinda cool.
Sunday, we explored the city a little more. We found a nice temple-like building…
|a massive wooden 'float' that a large group of people carry on their sholders at a special celebration|
But wait. So far this trip sounds like it was stress free. This was not true. Before the trip there were predictions of a typhoon in the area. Some of us were a little worried about how this might affect our trip and we joked about the fact that we could get stuck in Japan. I didn’t know much about the typhoon (or about our trip for that matter), so I just trusted that it would all work out. But then, Saturday evening, we got a call and were told that our return ferry was cancelled due to the weather. Now it looked like our jokes could turn into a reality. Instead of the ferry we were expecting to take, we were given the option to take another one instead – one that left later and moved much slower and would arrive in Busan on Monday morning. It was either this or flying home, which would have cost a lot more. We chose the ferry. Those of us who had to be at school Monday morning called our directors to let them know we would most likely be a little late to school, and we wondered and worried about how this would all work out.
It turned out to work out wonderfully. We took a bus to another city on the coast and then boarded the biggest boat I’ve ever been on. It was smaller than a regular cruise ship, but large enough to be pretty impressive. And we made the most of it. We stood on the deck and watched the beauty of the Japanese coast go by; we ate a scrumptious dinner; we took showers and relaxed in the spa; and, best of all, we played an awesome game of hide-and-go-seek and sardines. Picture this: playing hide-and-go-seek on a big boat in the East Sea in a Typhoon – pretty cool.
|This is a small model of the ferry we took.|
|The Titanic-esk staircase|
'Arigato gozaimasu' -Thank you for reading,