A vacation home

Wow, that was a whirlwind trip.  I can’t even think of everything that happend.  It was a Fantastic F bomb of Friends, Food, and Family. We had wretched jetlag in Minnesota, and our friends who’ve done it agree: the jetlag is 750% worse going to the US than in coming to Korea.

The riverboat

First of all, we have a great visit with the family. We had plenty of time with Mike’s family, going to a Twins game (They lost), and on a riverboat cruise (it didn’t sink!) on the St. Croix to celebrate the publication of Mom’s book, which has been the results of years of hard work with her father’s memoirs. Congrats one more time, mom.

Just like old times

We also went out to the lake house for a fantastic barbecue. Mike got a long-awaited session behind the grill, flipping burgers and brats, and almost felt fully American for a while. Then, we sat back and drank a few beers while the boats raced on the lake. What a great relaxing day it was.

Cotton Candy attack

We also got to spend a bit of time with the Sweetpotato and my Corazone.  They are growing up so fast, it’s impossible.  The last time we saw Sweetpotato she was talking a bit but you really had to know what she was saying to understand her.  Now she is an eloquent and articulate 4 year old getting ready for pre-school.  Corazone was 6 months old when we left, but now she has a clear personality.  She loves animals, books, running, and is begining to talk.  Her first word was DOG!  She’s so classy.

Our friend Jenni was the hostess with the mostess.  We were so comfortable in her home. There’s no way we can thank her enough. She provided us with a bed so comfy, I kept looking for the pea. Her apartment was laced with MN products and WI beer to make us feel at home.  What a babe.

Speaking of FOOD, we had the best quick-tour of Minnesota quisine in our ten-day visit. Here’s a quick shout-out of the stops: Matt’s Bar, for Jucy Lucys. Kramarczyk’s Deli, both at Target Field and at their NE Minneapolis location. Drinks at Kieran’s Irish Pub and the 331. The NE Social, for a million bites. Victor’s 1959 Cafe for bistec cubano y cordaditos. And we couldn’t get by without a visit to the best Thai in Minneapolis, Sen Yai Sen Lek! Hey guys, thanks for the Mango and sticky rice, it’s unbelievable! I’m probably forgetting something, but there you go. Sea Salt at Minnehaha Falls! Wendys! Um, okay. I got a bit carried away…

Then, there was a whirlwind day at the State Fair! Thanks to Jenni, Buzzo, and Carson for their company. Also a big shout-out for Erik, Ari, Corazone and the Sweetpotato for coming out and showing us how modern kids still love the big giant slide! It was some mighty fine screaming! (Mike, you forgot how visiting I Like You at the fair made us feel like we’d never left.)

Corn feed!

And, later, Katie and David came for a corn feed and walk through the Eco building. In all we spent 12 hours poking around, eating pronto pups, meals on a stick, milkshakes, watching butter-head sculptures, and pretty much everything else you can cram into a 12 hour day at the fair.

Thanks to everyone who came out to visit us. We’ve settled back into Mokpo, where we just sat through Typhoon Bolaven, then tropical storm Tembin. You can watch footage of Mike walking to school through the storm on YouTube.

It was 24 hours of wind, rain, noise, and canceled school. Welcome back!

On a side note.  We were sad to leave MN, but happy to return to our neighborhood, Yeonsan Ju Gog.  Everywhere we went people asked us “Where has Remi been for the last 2 weeks?”  Man, that is one heck of a popular puppy.

We began and ended the trip up in Seoul/ Incheon so there are a couple of pictures from our trip to a 1,000 year old Buddhist temple, an junk art camp ground, and our first meal back in  Korea, seafood soup.

Minnesota, we miss you so…

… we are coming home for 10 days.  We will probably be groggy and jet-lagged for a few of those days, but that won’t stop us from seeing you.

We’ll be coming home on the 13th and leaving on the 24th, it is not a lot of time to see everyone and everything, so please be kind and patient.

Mmmm…. Jucy Lucy, we miss you.

What do we want to do on our vacation you ask? Well, we miss our burgers and parks, so we’re kicking off our return with jucy lucy’s at Matt’s bar at 5 (please be prompt if you’re coming- they don’t do reservations there.) Then, we’re off to movies and music in the park at the Walker till we pass out from hugs and jetlag.

We’re gonna get in some baseball, family time including a boat ride to celebrate Patsy’s new book, hang out with the the nieces and nephews, and all that. Oh, and of course we are going to the 1st day of the Great MN get together!

Princess Kay of the milky way

We’re staying with the hostess with the mostess, Jenni Hibberd.  Her place is o the light-rail, hwy 55, which can get us across a chunk of the city pretty darn quick.  We’d love to plan our meet ups to be near the line so we spend our time with you and

The hostess with the mostest

Other than that we’d love to:go tubing on the cannon river, picnic at the Minnehaha Falls, canoe/kayak the chain of lakes,

Just chillin

sit in your backyard and watch the fire pit, run through sprinklers, go to the MIA or history museum, have a drink at a local watering hole, picnic at the lakes/river, and a million other things we can’t think of, but you can.

Relaxin

More PhotoBooth fun

PhotoBooth SuperFriends

August is peak travel season for the US and Korea as both are on summer vacation.  The tickets home were a lot more than we expected.  So, whenever possible, we’d love to go low budget.  Parks, your back yard, n.e. patio bars are all within our budget.

Is there anything you want us to bring home?  Korea really doesn’t know what a souvenir is.  Good luck finding a postcard, snow globe, key ring, or other tchochkies.  But we could bring you green tea,  ramien in strange flavors, Korean candy, berry wine, semi-obscene socks, or K-pop cute stuff .

The zoo animals will be staying with some kind friends who will hug them, squeeze them, and call them George.

Palaces and Baseball: a weekend in Seoul

Well, we spent another weekend away, this time up in Seoul. We left the dog at our local vet’s, a very sweet man with a very nice shop, and headed north Friday night with the hopes of eating some western food and catching a couple of baseball games. We weren’t sure we’d be able to since Akasha had attempted to buy tickets on-line and discovered they were sold out. But, trusting to fate, we went on up anyway.

Deoksangong palace grounds

Our first night we stayed in a nice little motel near the train station, a sweet little find that only cost us around 30,000 won (25 USD). Rested up, we set out in the morning to find some lunch and visit temples. We walked through the Nangdaemun market and into the Deoksungong Palace, one of the five main palaces of old Seoul. This is a nicely wooded site with the typical low, one-story palaces with elaborately painted pagoda roofs.

Embassy street.

Also on the palace grounds is the National Museum of Contemproary Art, which was showing paintings of Lee In-sung, who was an important artist of the 1930’s. He was important for helping Korean artists transition from the old traditional forms of painting to the modern, western style, though under circumstances – the Japanese colonial period – that were no doubt very difficult, if not tragic.

Outside the palace grounds, we took a unique walking tour through the Jeong-dong area, a nice old neighborhood that was one of the first places opened up to the west in the late 1800’s. Here the first missionaries built churches, and the Russians and other foreign countries opened their first legations to what had been known as the Hermit kingdom. It’s still home to a few foreign embassies, and it’s a beautiful, hilly, almost meditative walk.

Mokdong Stadium

Then, we went to the ballpark! We’ve been trying to visit all 7 stadiums in Korea.  As of this trip we have 4/7!  Mokdong stadium is the smaller of the two stadiums in Seoul, where three teams host ball games. Mokdong is the home to the Nexen Heroes, and seats only around 18,000 people. Despite there being no tickets available on-line, we were able to get a couple of nice seats at the box office for 16,000w ($13)! We settled into the first base side only to discover that we’d picked the cheering section of the Hanwha Eagles, the visiting team. We decided to cheer for them anyway, and were rewarded with a win when, in the late innings, a pinch hitter stepped to the plate and drove a liner over the right field wall for a go-ahead home run. The crowd, unusually heavy with fans for the visiting team, went crazy.

Jamsil Stadium

The next night our friend Alice took us to a delicious Thai restaurant that made us homesick for Sen Yai Sen Lek and Joe. We went out to Jamsil stadium, which is the home stadium of Seoul’s other two teams, the LG Twins and the Doosan Bears. It is nearly twice the size of Mokdong at 30,000 seats, and is quite a bit louder. Tonight was the Bears turn to be home team, and the opponent was the club from Busan, the Lotte Giants. Despite Busan being on the other end of Korea, once again the visitors had a large, rowdy contingent on hand. For much of the first five innings, while Lotte belted out four early runs and Doosan remained hitless, the visitor’s crowd was in a frenzy while the home crowd seemed to have given up all hope. The final score was 7-1 Lotte. Once again, we’d brought in lousy luck for the home squad.

N Seoul Tower

That night we went to the Seoul Tower, the highest structure in the city. There’s a cable-car that takes you up to the base, but the line was long and we needed a hike, so up the stairs we went. It’s quite romantic, with a great view of the city spreading out below. There’s a tradition that couples in love bring a padlock and lock it to the fence, so over the years quite a few thousand padlock have built up. It’s kind of romantic, but also kind of heavy metal-looking, but mostly it’s a sweet tradition.

Mmm.. Pale Ale

From there, tired though we were, there was one more destination: Craftworks Tap House in Itaweon. This bar is one of the few brew-pubs in Korea, and one of the only places to find a good Pale Ale, which is one of my (Mike’s) favorite beers. So, we settled in, found a nice spot at the bar, and had a drink. Akasha ordered a Weiss beer, and we chatted with the bartender and waitress, in English. It felt for a while like we were home. They also poured some beer into growlers for us, and we carried them home to enjoy in Mokpo.

Well, that’s a brief summary of our trip up north. We’re back now and enjoying the more bucolic pleasures of Mokpo, but we’re looking forward to August, when we get to hop the Pacific and hang out in Minnesota for a few days. See you soon!

Nara, the 1st capital of Japan, and Kyoto, the 2nd

From Osaka, we went up to Kyoto, which was the capital of Japan for several hundred years. The trip up there is amazingly simple, as there are several competing rail lines in Japan. So we had the choice of JR (the national line) or Hankyu, the regional private operator. We went up by the JR express, which was nice enough, and only took about 40 minutes to go the 35 miles north. This may seem slow, but when you consider the population density in Japan, the mountains, and the traffic invovled, it’s really quick.

Once in Kyoto we hopped on the subway and got up to the

Enjoying the hotel's common space.

region with our hotel. Once we came up from underground, Kyoto impressed us with its small-town feel. There were lots of wood-frame buildings, kind of like a ski village feel. Our hostel was located on the same street as a traditional, covered market, with fresh fish on display next to tofu and radishes, and kindly old merchants watching us warily as we dragged our suitcase down the narrow streets.

Finally, we got checked in to the Hostel Haruya, which was a charming, traditional old Japanese house with sliding screens, tatami floors, and a narrow, steep staircase that was best gone down backwards, like a ladder, to avoid falls and injury. Our host, like everyone else we met, was friendly and generous, always telling us the local sights, and how to get there.

We started out with a nice walk up

Rubbing Buddha's Belly

into the hills surrounding the Eastern edge of Kyoto. This random walking, like all walking in Kyoto, took us up into a temple grounds. This one happened to be under renovation, though the grounds were still beautifully landscaped. We passed through an old traditional village just below Murayama park, an area filled with narrow cobblestone streets, kind of a touristy area, with signs pointing out several sculptures whose bellies you could rub for luck. We tracked down several, and took our fill.

From there we wandered back into the city, stumbling onto one of the most famous districts in the city: Gion. This is where the greatest concentration of the traditional Geishas live and work.

Sushi chefs at work.

The Gion district has elegant lanes of reed screens, cobble streets,  and a bamboo lined creek.  There were a few  adult-looking storefronts, but there’s also a lot of good food in the area.

It was here that one night we found a place serving Paella from a chef who had trained in Spain. The next night we ate at a sushi place with a highly affluent-looking crowd, served by stern, older master sushi-cutters. On the third night, still hungry for more sushi, we found a Kaiten Sushi restaurant, where the sushi is put on a conveyor belt and led around a counter much like a toy train on a track, and you grab plates till either the conveyor belt is empty or you can’t stuff in any more. Each plate was 130 Yen ($1.60), which sounds like a good deal until we looked up and found the plates were stacked up to our chin. The sushi kept coming, but we were no match for it, and left stuffed and happy.

The next day we went to the Toji flea market. It was amazing.  It is in the Toji temple.  Beautiful.  We were walking along the aisles for two hours and we barely saw anything.  As the day progressed and  the crowds got thicker it started to rain.

rice drink at the flea market

Annoying, but we were amazed and stuck with it.  There were nick-knacks and tchotchkes, fabrics, yarn, snacks, paintings, clothes, plants, tools, anything and everything you could ever want.  I was on a mission.  There is very little fabric down in Mokpo.  And most of it is yucky rayon and polyester.  I was shopping for fabric.  I got some amazing silk pieces intended for making kimonos.  I wllll be making a skirt. I also bought two thin scarves that I will use as a belt.  They were made with hand dyed, hand spun silk.  Awesome!  Afterwords a traffic cop directed us to this fabulous noodle shop that looked like Sister Fun exploded all over it.  I had soba noodles with broth, green onions, and raw quail egg.  Mike had an enormous bowl of Udon.  I think we sat there for an hour people watching and decompressing from the crowds before we went to see more temples.

In Korea we are accustomed to people seeing us and shouting “waygookin” (foreigner!)

Koreans we found in Japan

So we were only a little surprised when we were walking through a quiet Japanese temple and we heard “Waygooken!”  I (Akasha) turned and saw five boys pointing at us.  I really wanted to point out that they were gaijin (Japanese for foreigner.) Turns out they attend the university in the biggest city near us.  They asked to take our picture, also common, and we took theirs.  The pose was “rock, scissors, paper!     

Nara
In between meals in Kyoto, we went to Nara, which was Japan’s very first capital, back in the day the feuding warlords gave way to an Emperor (710- 784 b.c). Legend has it that when the capital was established they prayed for God to come to Nara.  When they looked up they saw  a white deer bowing to them. They took that as a sign that God was present.  In respect for that deer, all deer are considered sacred, and are allowed to wander about the park freely. They sell little wafer cakes you can feed to the deer, the deer bow to you in exchange for a deer cake. They get very aggressive. Akasha bought some deer cakes, and for her trouble was butted (literally, on her butt) several times by pushy deer looking for handouts. (They kept lifting my dress up!  Freaks.)

A deer, asking for a snack. With his head.

There is a deer sanctuary in the park where deer are assisted with illness, delivery, and have their horns filed down.

Big Buddha at Nara

We were also lucky in finding a guide in Nara. At the train station’s information booth, we were told of a free guide service provided by the local YMCA. We snapped up the offer and for the next four hours were guided around Nara by a lovely woman named Yasuko, who teaches English at an immersion kindergarten.

We saw the two main Buddhist temples, one of which is the largest wooden building in the world, and houses a bronze Buddha which is several stories tall. Here, one of the support posts has a small tunnel carved into the base. It’s locally know as ‘Buddha’s nostril’ and, according to legend, anyone who crawls through it receives enlightenment in their next life. Mike decided to take the challenge, and after a few moments of panicked scrambling (the opening is about the same width as his shoulders), he made it through! So now he has enlightenment coming in his next life, which is, you know, better than never.

Shinto lanterns

With all that luck, we moved on to the third major site in the Nara park, the large Shinto shrine. Shinto and Buddhism are separate religions, but many Japanese overlap.  Our guide said that many  practice both, so shrines and temples are often kept together. The Shinto shrine we visited is a sharp contrast to the Budhist temple, which are set in fields. The Shinto shrine is set on the mountain side in the middle of an primeval forest. Also, they have collected over 2,000 stone and wooden lanterns over the years, and they stand alongside the wooded paths, often two or three deep. They are also mossy, and it gives the scene a peaceful, surreal feeling.

After our tour our brains were full.  There are so many things that we see all the time in Korea and have never understood that she explained.  She took us to a lovely restaurant where we prcessed everything we learned as we enjoyed a typical Nara meal of kakinohazushi, or salmon/ mackerel sushi wrapped in a cured persimmon leaf and a bowl of somen, or thin noodle soup

From there we returned to Osaka, which we covered in our previous post.

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Wow! I can’t believe we ate it all.

As public school teachers in Jeollanamdo, we get 24 days of winter vacation.  (There are also national holidays, summer vacation, and  a vacation for renewing our contracts.)  Anyway, we took 10 of those days and went to the Kansai region of Japan.  It was an overwhelmingly mind-filling trip. It was a deliciously stomach filling trip as well.

Sadly, it started with my (Akasha) getting a nasty stomach virus.  (I’ll post on the awesomely different Korean public health care system later.)  We had to stay home a bit longer and miss our previously planned Seoul leg of the trip.  On Sunday night we headed up to Busan for two nights.  I was tired and only “eating” broth, so I got to watch Mike eat a beautiful burger and  Korean grilled lamb ribs as I nursed myself up to drinking smoothies.  Torture.  I love lamb. It is like really cute bacon.  I miss hamburgers so much…

Leaving Busan Harbor

On Tuesday the 17th, we left for Osaka on the 16 hour long Panstar Ferry.  It is pretty cool.  For about $200 USD round trip each, we went to Osaka.  There is a cafe with full bar and 3 window/ walls providing a spectacular view of the ocean with wifi.  The bunks in our rooms were small but comfy.  The buffet was okay.  The “show,” which was either a guy with a ponytail playing the flute or a woman in a ballgown playing electric cello, both to a pre-recorded background music (sort of a jazz-fusion karaoke) was as ultra cheesy, as you’d imagine.  The staff was kind and the boat was very clean.  It is in serious need of a costmetic update, has very 80’s decor, but the staff are constantly polishing every bit of glass and brass in their downtime.  It had a Korean style spa that needs an update, but the facilities were clean.  Best of all, we traveled internationally without the stress and rush of an international airport.(grrr, airports aren’t fun anymore)

Vamping at the castle

After a night being swayed gently to sleep by the rocking of the boat, we arrived in Osaka at 10 or so on Wednesday morning, and began to look around the city. Our previous stay had been in Fukuoka, a smaller, working class city; by contrast Osaka is larger (22 million in the Kansai region), more cosmopolitan, with a host of world class attractions including huge ferris wheels, long suspension bridges, and great art museums. We intended to see as much as we could in the five days we had.

Our first hotel was the Hostel 64 Osaka , a quaint hostel run by an architecture firm, so it was artistic and comfortable, with a great, friendly staff. So we checked in, dropped off our bags, and started the walk across the city to Osaka castle.

Shinsekai district

From here, we took the subway down to the Shinsekai district to get a look at the great tower that was first built over a hundred years ago, then rebuilt after World War II. The district around here is retro-futurey, with lots of exposed steel, neon, cheesey golden statues, crowded streets and colorful ‘characters’ who want you to eat in their shops and play pachinko in their parlors.

Then, it was up to the HEP 5 shopping mall, where there is one of the two great ferris wheels of Osaka.

Hep 5 Ferris Wheel

We went up just as the sun was setting, so we saw the city spread out below us in the great reds and oranges of the sun reflecting off the glass and metal of the buildings in the great sprawl of Osaka. It was romantic, and beautiful, and we wished we could go around again, but it was getting late and we had to find dinner.

The next day was cold and rainy, which was a disappointment, as we had planned to take a short train ride up to Minoh and see a waterfall in the region. But no matter. One of the hotel clerks, a very friendly woman named Nami, gave us directions to the art museum, which was right next to her favorite Udon noodle place. So, we spent the afternoon with a belly full of fresh-made noodles, looking at some recent modern art by Yayoi Kusama, who I’d never heard of but has been creating conceptual and ‘obsessive’ art since the 1950’s. Good, but weird, stuff.

After completely exhausting everything there is to see in Osaka in 36 hours (Mike jokes) we went up north, to Kyoto, former capital of Japan and still its traditional cultural heart. But Kyoto deserves its own post.

Exhausted in the subway

Not the real whale shark

When we returned to Osaka, three days later, there was surprisingly still a lot of city to see, and a lot of great meals to be eaten. First, we went to the Osaka aquarium, which has one of the largest tanks we’ve ever seen. This one was large enough to hole an entire whale shark, a school of groupers, and devil rays about the size of a beach umbrella. We stood enchanted, watching them circle, for at least two hours. Then there were jellyfish, giant crabs, and seals that wanted to kiss Akasha through the glass. It was amazing!

After the aquarium, we’d planned to ride the other ferris wheel in Osaka, a monster called the Tempozan, which is one of the largest in the world. However, due to strong winds, it had been shut down. Akasha was very disappointed. But, this meant we could go have burritos in a place across town. Bad news, however, was that the burrito place was closed, so we had to go across the street to a bistro that served up some nice pizza, a fruit tort that was pretty incredible, and wine by the glass.  They were playing Amelie on their wall .

Minoh Waterfall. No monkeys.

The next day, we were able to take a day trip up to Minoh, a small town on the end of the Hankyu line. This was another nice little town whose main road leads up the side of a mountain until the village disappears and you’re taking a nice nature walk that ends in a pretty fifty-foot waterfall. We kept seeing signs that featured monkeys, and wondered why. Later, we learned that Minoh is famous for semi-wild monkeys. How we missed them, we have no idea. Maybe their vacation matched up with ours, and they were out of town…

When we got back to Osaka, we made another attempt at the Ferris wheel, and it was working! So we went around and got another spectacular view of the massive sprawl of Osaka. And then feeling lucky, we returned to El Zocalo, the burrito place that had been closed the day before, and… it was open! So we had a lovely dinner of burritos, homemade chips, and Dos Equis. El Zocalo is run by some Osakans who lived in San Francisco for years and the burritos were the real thing. Osaka is a fantastic international city. We also chatted with a nice guy named Guido, who turned us on to the best sushi place in town, which we vowed to visit before our ferry left the next day.

After the sushi

The next day we ended our Osaka adventure by visiting Endo Sushi at the Osaka fish market.  This place is amazing.  It is allegdly where the fish buyers go to taste what they buy.  It is open from early dawn until 1 p.m.  These bloggers did an excellent job describing the experience, I’ll let them do it for us.

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Fukuoka! -or- a short trip to Japan

So much has been going on, it’s hard to know where to start. We have finally, after four or five months, gotten off of the mainland and made a trip to Japan, which many people consider the heart of the Pacific Asian Rim. It was, of course, fabulous, even if it wasn’t exactly, or even close, to what we had planned.

The first hint that our plans would be disrupted came at immigration. Akasha grabbed a nice lady who chatted with her about her plans – we would be there three or four days, visit Osaka, see a baseball game – and then was waved through. Mike’s customs guy was crotchety and nearsighted, and was offended, first of all, that I hadn’t filled out the back of the form. Then he wanted to see my return ticket. When I told him I didn’t have one, he face-palmed. He said, Do you have money? Where will you stay? Show me your reservation, he demanded. Akasha had it, so I had to get her involved. Eventually, he let me through. (A Japanese man had pantomimed to me that Mike was having problems and I should go back and help.)

A charming side street near Canal City

Our next adventure came when we tried to get train tickets for Osaka. Long story short, none of our cards went through. Panicking only slightly, we decided we would be staying the night in Fukuoka. As we’d been planning to come back and see a ball game here two nights later, this wasn’t wholly disastrous. We’d save the train fare, and still be in Japan. The nice ladies at the information desk called a hostel for us, and we started the walk.

I’m pretty sure this is when it started to rain. It started slow, then built up, and by the time we found the hostel, it was raining pretty hard. The Khaoson Fukuoka hostel is plain, clean, dry, and friendly. The staff at the hostel sent us to a great local diner where we waited in line for Hakata Ramen. It was awesome, and erased some of the damage the heavy rain had done.  It was served with locally made Asahi beer.

In the morning, we called our card companies to clear them for use in Japan. Then, we walked back to the train station. We found a cute little VW Westfalia that had been converted to a mobile diner, so we had a breakfast of taco meat on cabbage and rice. As we walked, the rain continued. And not only rain, but thunder! We would see a flash of light in the sky and moments later honest to god thunder was rolling down the street for several long seconds. It was a sound we hadn’t heard in months, not even as the typhoon was passing by. It was, oddly, a welcoming sound of home.

Shrine in Fukuoka behind mossy tree

Then we came to a shrine temple. Right in the middle of the city, just off the busy streets, stand calm open lands, which would seem to be parks, but instead are religious sites with working shrines and dormitories for the monks around the back. People walk in off the street to perform their rites, and lit candles and insense, available in the entry way. Then they walk up to the gate of the temple, throw in a coin. They bow. They clap twice, then pull a cord to ring a bell. Then they stand still, perhaps praying; then they leave. I don’t understand what it means or why they do it, but it seems calming, and meditative.

Temple in the rain.

This particular temple had one of the largest wooden buddha sculptures in Asia. It sat on the second floor of a side building, behind a pot where you placed incense to burn. Buddha was maybe twenty feet high, and slightly angry looking. Behind Buddha was a pathway decorated with scenes of what appeared to be souls being tormented by demons; behind that was another tunnel that looped back twice, and was completely unlit. We passed through the darkness holding hands, guided by the handrail, through the hairpins, until we emerged into the light back under Buddha’s watching gaze. It reminded me of the Basilica in Mary in Minneapolis, quiet, beautiful, ornate, reflective, but completely outdoors and open-sided.

Fukuoka itself is a beautiful, small, working class city. There’s a large harbor, and a lot of steel buildings; the streets are wide and uncrowded, despite what you may imagine as crowds of Japanese being stuffed into subway cars.

Canal City courtyard

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We wandered through the intermittent rain to Canal City, a waterside shopping mall, and found a cool series of alleyways along side it.  We grabbed an awesome 5,000 yen sashimi lunch and a very small lunch stop.  It was delicious, affordable, and our host was very generous.  He drew us a picture of our plate and labeled it in Kanji.

The next day we went on a tour of the Asahi factory. They gave us a choice of a Korean tour or  Japanese tour.  We did the tour in Korean, picking up bits and pieces here and there. It was mainly a tour of a bunch of signs and where the cans go into boxes.  Akasha did the Leine’s tour last summer and went to several of the mash tanks there.  At the end we were given two eight oz “super dry”  beers and beer snacks (shrimp and squid flavored crackers.)

From there we made our way to the Yahoo Dome to see the Soft Bank Hawks play the Chiba Lotte Marines.   It is a great dome with a retractable roof (closed for the night), with fewer seats than Target Field, clean and neat with awesome food.  There is so much to say about how Japanese baseball is same/different from US baseball, but it was all said by Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations. It was an incredible day with delicious food, and people were so kind to us along the way. After the game we followed Bourdain’s advice and went to a neighborhood bar by the dome.  It was a cozy bar, and as he said in the episode, beers are 40 yen (50 cents)after the game.

The next morning we took a quick trip to a Shinto temple, then boarded the hydro foil back to Busan.

Here is a video tour of the Shintotemple in the middle of downtown Fukuoka, a city of about 2.5 million people.