Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Land of the Morning Calm - Land of the Rising Sun?

So, two funny things:  early November I went briefly to South Korea, for work (briefly as in off on Monday back on Sunday), and my Korea series of posts will start with a Japan entry!

First, a quick note about the Korea trip - I'll be writing more (like, a lot more) in the coming days.  I mean, it was my first trip there ever!  Yes, even after having lived a total of 7 years in Asia, I never went to Korea (either one).  And it was one huge, pleasant surprise.  But, like I said, more on that later.

Now, on my way there and back, I had very short layovers (just a few hours long) in one of my favourite countries - Japan!  The layovers were so short, in fact, there was no point in leaving the airport.  But I like that country so much I even enjoyed my brief airport stays!  To begin with, on my Japan-Korea layover, I made sure I got a hearty bowl of udon with plenty of seaweed and a big sour plum!  I hadn't had any (ANY) Asian food since we moved two Mexico and, after all those years in China and a weekly dose of Asian food in Canada, these noodles tasted like 天国のような味 (tengoku no yōna aji, like the taste of heaven) - even with the usual fish broth substituted with water! 

On a full and happy stomach, the flight to Korea was beautiful too.  I even got to see Mount Fuji in the distance!  I do have a pic, if you want to know, but I took it with my smartphone and, frankly, Mount Fuji looks so tiny in it only me could get excited with that photo.  But the views of the sea, the deep blue sky and snow-capped mountains was absolutely breathtaking too, Mount Fuji or not!

Now, between this layover on my way to Korea and the one on my way back, there are five days of experiencing Korea.  Like I said, I'll be writing about that soon.  So, back to the Korea-Japan layover...  I was doing everything possible to switch back to Mexico time to avoid jet-lag, so I didn't sleep the night before, and at the airport I availed myself of two quintessential Japanese delicacies - saké (日本酒, Japan's national fermented rice alcoholic drink) and edamame (枝豆, immature soy beans in the pod, boiled or steamed and served with salt), so I would go to blissfully sleep as soon as I sat in the plane!

Naturally, no trip to Japan - however brief - would be complete without a peek at Japanese TV which, for those of us who could barely say "thanks" and "please" in Japanese, is totes mesmerizing and intriguing.  Like this shot of an adult, dressed as a baby, under a table where two formally dressed but barefoot adults seem to be discussing something.  

And once back home, I unloaded my bag of goodies like a true サンタクロース (Santa Kurōsu, Santa Claus), with nigorizake (濁り酒, or unfiltered saké), warabimochi (蕨餅, or jelly-filled starch sweets with different coverings like sesame seeds or sweet toasted soybean flour), and arare (あられ, or snacks made from glutinous rice and flavoured with soy sauce), all from the fantastic Japanese shop you can see in my first photo on top.  

I think my Japan stay couldn't have lasted more than 6 hours total, counting both layovers.  But it felt so good to be back, even in those circumstances! 

And now that I've paid my dues to the Land of the Rising Sun, it's time to begin writing about that other amazing place - the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea.

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