In 9 days I’ll be heading to Seoul to begin my two week “capitals tour” of Asia. The capitals tour, as I’ve started calling it, will begin on Christmas day in Seoul. My girlfriend and I will be spending three nights, which if Seoul is anything like Tokyo, will be plenty of time to soak in the major sights. When Chiaki heads back to Japan, my journey truly begins and the schedule is thrown out the window. I’ve got two weeks to wander back to Tokyo. From Seoul I will head north to the demilitarized zone. The North Koreans have been digging tunnels across the border for 50 years and tours are available. I’ve heard from friends that the DMZ experience is surreal. Each side is still locked in a steely stare, looking through the cross hairs.
From there I will catch the evening bus south to Gwangju, where I will meet up with my Ozzy buddy Scott. Scott’s place will provide a good base to see some of the sites of the southern peninsula. Eventually I’ll head over to South Korea’s second largest city, Pusan, and arrange ferry accommodations to Hiroshima.
The Japan leg of this trip is all about living cheap and seeing some of Western Japan’s sites that haven’t made the itinerary during my first two years. The list includes Hiroshima, Himeji castle, Kobe, Nara, and Osaka.
The three yearly school holiday periods in Japan provide excellent travel opportunities. Sure, some of the attractions are a bit crowded, but most everything is crowded in Japan anyway. The main cost-cutting comes with the seishun ju-hachi kippu, or youth saver 18 ticket. For 11,500 yen, you can travel for five days unlimited on local and rapid trains. This is a steal in Japan, where transportations costs are some of the highest in the world. This ticket doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the modern high-speed trains, and shouldn’t be used by tourists staying briefly. But if you have the time, a stack of books, and enjoy the slower lane of life, this ticket is for you.
My budget for this trip is thin because I am saving for my Silk Road journey from Shanghai to Germany that will start in March. I had these 17 days off during the holidays and wanted to go somewhere on the cheap. While I had hoped to go somewhere a bit warmer, the tickets to Korea were too cheap to pass up. It will also be nice to get my last big dose of Japan before leaving this country, a place I’ve called home for over two years.