South Korea is country number 14 in our round-the-world trip, but our visit here is only short as it was a useful way of getting to Beijing and the start of our train journey to Europe. We're currently relaxing in the former Korean capital of Gyeongju with its myriad of burial mounds and excavated treasures.
The second part of our Japanese tour was excellent. The Japanese Alps were beautiful, especially as we got great weather on the day we hiked amidst them in Kamikochi. We stayed in several 'ryokan' which are the equivalent of bed & breakfasts at home, but Japanese style. So we were sleeping on futons (which were very comfortable) and passing our evenings in various sitting positions on our tatami mats and cushions. The communal hot bath was also an experience. We managed to participate in a tea ceremony at one ryokan which meant dressing appropriately in 'yukata' (see the photos). When we were allowed to have a go ourselves, Fran almost let the side down by lunging towards the brasier as she stood up to bring Andy his whisked green tea.
The food was very tasty (well .. for the most part). Despite a surfeit of noodles, we failed dismally in the slurping department as you are supposed to slurp your noodles to show your appreciation to the cook. Another surprise to us in the culinary area was the amount of cabbages and leeks the Japanese consume.
We had a moving visit to Hiroshima, particularly after reading the testimonies of survivors and the stories of a few of the individuals who died. The peace park there was a very beautiful place to reflect on the desolation of nuclear war.
We spent our last 24 hours in Japan enjoying the hospitality of Tom (a brother of one of our good friends, Rhona), Izumi and Kento who live near Yamaguchi in the south-west of Honshu which is Japan's main island. Thereafter it was a very smooth overnight ferry trip to Buzan in South Korea.
There were two historical events that took place during our stay here. The Japanese elections were held and the opposition won for the first time in 50 years. From our point of view the best thing was the end of the distorted loud speaker messages rallying people to vote. The second event was our 10th wedding anniversary! We celebrated in style with Guinness and fish & chips at an Irish pub in Kyoto where Andy was the only Irish person there.