Uneo Park in Tokyo, Japan

Uneo park is a wonderful place to spend a day if you happen to be in Tokyo. I really enjoyed Tokyo, and this park was fantastic.

Uneo Park, Tokyo, Japan




In Tokyo there are many wonderful places to visit. One of those places in Uneo Park. It’s a beautiful place to see cherry blossoms in the spring. Anytime of year is good to visit though, as it has Tokyo’s first zoo and a variety of other entertaining things to see.



The swan boats are a nice way to pass an evening




The swan boats are affordable to rent, and they are a nice way to see the park. In the pond, there are Koi fish, and turtles. There are also a variety of birds to see.



A six stories Patagonia in the park.




In addition to temples, pretty sights, and the zoo, you can see many other wonderful things. Street performers hang out in Uneo park. You can watch them do magic, dance, and and mime. It’s very exciting. They even have a park for kids with rides and games.



Here is one of the shrines in Uneo Park




You could easily spend an entire day in Uneo Park. I only spent a few hours there, but I rushed through the zoo and skipped the museums. They looked interesting, and I would have liked to see them, but I had other places I wanted to visit.



The kid's play area.




If you want to visit Tokyo and see some beautiful sights without having to travel a lot, I highly recommend Uneo Park.



Given to the Japanese Royal family by the Thai Royal family. In Uneo Park.

Nami Island

Nami Island was a lot of fun. There is a lot of beautiful artwork, and the plants and animals are fantastic.

Winter Sonata was filmed on Nami Island




Nami Island is an enchanting place. Most people go there because the movie “Winter Sonata” was filmed there. Sadly, the star of “Winter Sonata,” Park Yong-Ha, recently killed himself. In spite of this, it’s a very lovely island.



Huts on Nami Island




Nami Island has a lot of really wonderful artwork. There are a few galleries, but there are also several sculptures around the island.



Some nifty statues near the boat dock




In addition to the artwork, there are several varieties of wildlife. Ostriches, rabbits, squirrels, and a variety of colorful small birds roam the island freely.



Friendly Ostrich




Love is certainly the overall theme of the island, which makes it an excellent place to take a loved one. There are several hearts around the island.



Some of the many hearts of Nami Island




Many couples take pictures with the various hearts around the island.



Another of the hearts on Nami Island



Renting a bike is an excellent way to see the island. Unfortunately, the bicycle-rental area is kind of a hike from the boat dock. But if you follow the main path, you’ll come to it. There are several lovely trails that you can ride on.


A pretty bike path



Take time to stop and look at all the interesting art in random places.



Statue of lovers




I spent about two hours on Nami Island. I could have spent a lot longer there, as there is a lot to do. I could certainly see spending a day there. There are restaurants and even a place that serves beer.



More statues
More statues




If you visit Gangwon Province in South Korea, I recommend taking a tour of Nami Island. It’s definitely beautiful, and touring the island was a wonderful experience



Wood statues

Suwon’s Folk Village

Suwon’s Korean Folk Village is a great place to spend a day. Break out your walking shoes and give it a try!

The lake (with traditional boat)



Suwon’s Folk Village is a really interesting. It’s a re-creation of a historic Korean Village. There aren’t any original historic villages in Korea, because most of their historic buildings were destroyed during WWII and the Korean War. But this re-creation looks really authentic and it was really neat to tour.



These are the prayers people have left.




I have always had the impression that in America we don’t think much about history. I guess this has a lot to do with the fact that we really don’t have much in the way of history to think about. Our country is younger than the Korean written language (Han Gul) which revolutionized writing in this part of the world in the mid-fifteenth century.



Traditional Korean House



The history we do have is sordid, and we try to forget it and pretend slavery and the extermination of the native people happened long ago and should be respectfully swept under the rug where no one can see it.



Me in front of an aristocrat's house




From the perspective of an American, Korea has an amazing history. It’s thousands of years of mostly peaceful and spiritual lives farming the land. The Korean Folk Village in Suwon demonstrates this history very well with old farm equipment, re-creations of ancient houses, and even rows of traditional crops.



Tight rope walker




Don’t get the impression that the Folk Village is like a museum. There is a lot going on. From traditional wedding ceremonies to tightrope walkers, there is plenty to see in the way of entertainment. And the more I learn about Korea and its people, the more impressed I am with their heritage. It makes me feel like a punk kid sometimes coming from such a young and vain country. Meanwhile thousands of years of the Korean’s ancestors’ bones are buried here. It really makes you think.



A parade with traditional clothes and music




I was thrilled with the parade of people playing traditional Korean instruments because I bought my grandmother a Korean drum, and she wanted a picture of someone playing it. So now I have one to show her.



Just a haystack. But it made me smile. How often do you see a haystack just chillin' like this?




I admit, Korea isn’t anything like this anymore. Its one MacDonalds after another, and girls running around with Gucci handbags. But seeing it for what it used to be makes you appreciate the perspective these people have on life, (even if they are currently importing a mass amount of our worst culture here.) Americans may have cornered the market on being an upstart country with fresh ideas and dreams too big for reality; but Koreans blend our culture with something we know nothing about: Moderation. And when you mix it with such a novel and un-American concept, it’s really not so bad.



Me and a stone lion in a quiet little garden area.




I particularly like Buddha. I mean, nearly everyone here is a Christian now… but Buddha’s ideas live on in their society even as they convert en mass. We could stand to import some of those ideas ourselves, and it wouldn’t hurt us to get some historical perspective either.



The Buddha is everywhere, even as the nation becomes Christian




I would recommend the Korean Folk Village to anyone who visits. It was a fun day, and it’s a very peaceful place. (Oh, except for the huge kid’s play land. That’s not peaceful at all- though it looks like a paradise for children.)



Kid's play land inside the Korean Folk Village

The Suwon City Wall and Hwasong Fortress

If you go to South Korea, spend some time looking around the Suwon City Walls and Hwasong Fortress. It’s a wonderful historical experience.

The caption is in Korean, Japanese, and English




Suwon City was once totally surrounded by walls, like other cities in South Korea. Most of the walls and fortresses were completely destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and then again during the Korean War. But the walls have been rebuilt in Suwon as a tribute to Korea’s past.



It's a long way up, but it's worth it




The stairs are pretty intense. And all along the walls on the way up, you can see holes for archers to shoot from. It’s pretty amazing.



One of the guard towers




There are several guard towers along the walls. There are also bells, which were used to warn citizens in the valley below of incoming invaders.







The Fortress and all its surrounding area are really beautiful. There are many things to see. There is a war memorial for Koreans who died in both WWII and the Korean War.







Taking a tour of the Suwon City walls is a really fantastic historical experience.



The Art of Sumo

Korean sumo match- Seoul South Korea. Off the beaten path.

I had read about sumo wrestling. I had heard it was an ancient Asian art form. But to be honest, it all sounded kind of boring, until I actually saw it.



The wrestlers being introduced




The position the fighters have to be in is precarious, to say the least. They have to hold each other in specific places, and then try to push or flip their opponent. Of course, because they are stuck holding each other, they have no leverage, and so it is based almost entirely on strength. It’s really impressive to watch.



The Starting Position




I looked up Sumo wrestling on Wikipedia, and I was horrified to find the entry stating that Sumo is only practiced professionally in Japan. The match I went to was in Seoul, Korea! Clearly the Wiki page is wrong.



One way to win- throw your opponent down
First way to win- throw your opponent on the ground




However, Sumo did start in Japan. I suppose the Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII influenced their culture more than they want to admit.



Other way to win- push your opponent out of the ring




My friends and I were the only non-Korean audience members, with the exception of two other guys. I guess it’s not something tourists generally participate in. However, that does not mean tourists are unwelcome. When our group walked in, we got a very warm welcome from the Koreans, who helped us find our way to our seats and gave us balloon sticks to clap with.



The balloon clapping sticks they gave us.




The matches were exciting, but there was a lot more than that. Traditional Korean dancers and even cheerleaders added to the event to make it far more than just a wrestling match. It was a cultural experience.



One of the dancers in a very fancy Korean outfit.




I would highly recommend attending a sumo match if you travel to Korea. It is a unique experience that most tourists don’t see, and it’s definitely worth checking out.



One of the cheerleaders. Sumo isn't popular with young people so I expect the cheerleaders are supposed to help with that.




Best moment ever: I was amazed at how big the wrestlers were (after all- I’m a big westerner and Koreans seem kind of small to me.) Suddenly it occurred to me that the wrestlers aren’t huge at all. They are just the average size of Americans! That made me laugh.



The winner being honored

Moved to Korea

I’ve moved to Asia for awhile. Had to get out and see the world, as much as I love Phoenix.

I’ve moved to Asia for awhile. I really do love Phoenix, but sometimes you need to get out. So here is a bit about my new adventure.



The mountain next to the building I work in.




First, Korea is not a third world country. I heard a lot of silly things like that when I announced I was moving here. For the record: It’s much more modern than the US. We have great public transportation and fantastic medical care, not to mention thousands of years of interesting culture. Plus, the buildings are more modern than in the US and we have nifty doors that slide open when you walk up, just like in Star Trek. You may not hear a lot about Korea as a citizen of the US, but that’s not because there’s nothing going on here. The US is just a bit… self-absorbed.



This is Korean Money. Pretty neat, huh?




Yes, North Korea is communist. Yes, they are our neighbors. But the North Koreans and South Koreans view themselves a lot like separated cousins. If North Korea attacks anyone, it won’t be us. They would rather convince their cousins to join them. I worry more about my friends in the US than I do about myself.



Yeoungtong, in the city of Suwon




No, I am not being deprived of all things American. From 7-11 to MacDonalds, there are plenty of American things here. They even sell Pringles at the corner store. I can get almost everything here that I can get in America.



At the grocery store.




So to put it quite simply; it’s not anything like people seem to think. It’s much nicer. And no, I am not here as a journalist. I am not going to sneak across the border into North Korea for some story on Communism. I am actually just here for adventure. I am teaching English to pay for it. It’s a lot of fun, and I promise to stay away from North Korea.



Best Strawberries ever

Fall Color In Arizona

For a few weeks, you can go up north and see colorful leaves. It helps me a lot. I need to see leaves change color in between the hot season and the cold season here.

Me in the woods
Me in the woods

 

It’s fall, and that means the seasons are changing. It’s not all that apparent in the city (we noticed it was over 100 degrees one day- and then suddenly 80 degrees the next.) But if you go out of town, you can see more changes than just the temperature. I headed up to Flagstaff for some great fall color.

 

The Mountain
The Mountain

 

I was headed for the hiking trails just below Snowbowl Ski Resort. The mountain has more aspen trees than you find down around the town. When I arrived at noon, it was 48 degrees on the mountain. The night before, it had been below 32 degrees and there was a tiny dusting of snow. It didn’t stick, but it was the first snow of the year.

 

No more ferns & grass, but lots of color
No more ferns & grass, but lots of color

 

You can tell there had been a frost the night before, because there was very little undergrowth left. I hiked The Katchina Trail because I hiked it in the spring, and I wanted to compare.

 

Trail Head
Trail Head

 

 In the spring, this trail was all ferns and lush green plants. Now it’s covered in bright yellow falling leaves. It’s still beautiful- though in a different way.

 

Sign in sheet for the Katchina trail
Sign in sheet for the Katchina trail

 

 If you hike the Katchina trail or any forest service trail, always be sure it sign in at the trail head. This helps the forest service track how many people use the trail, and it also leaves a record of where you were just in case anything were to happen to you.

 

Holding a fallen leaf
Holding a fallen leaf

 

 I was excited to dig my sweaters out of the closet for the first time in months, and I definitely needed one! Under the trees it’s dark and chilly as can be. Dress warm if you’re going up north, particularly if you’ll be there later in the day than I was.

 

The picnic rock
The picnic rock

 

This rock is a favorite picnic spot of mine. I like to bring a blanket to sit on and some snacks, and just sit and enjoy the woods. Also, the view looking up when laying on the rock is pretty great.

 

Laying on the rock looking up
Laying on the rock looking up

 

There are several trail heads in the area. The Katchina trail is the last one before you are actually on Snowbowl property. But there are many others, and they all offer long walks around the mountain and beautiful sights.

 

As close as my car has ever come to "off road."
As close as my car has ever come to "off road."

 

This particular meadow (above) always catches my eye because of the amount of aspen trees around it.

 

Me (in my "Firefly" shirt) and aspens
Me (in my "Firefly" shirt) and aspens

 

And here I am enjoying them. The leaves will stay of the trees for another week or two, unless there is a huge storm (which I doubt) so if you haven’t been up north yet, don’t worry! Take a day sometime before Halloween and head up.

 

Bright red tree
Bright red tree

 

Oak Creek Canyon has some very pretty colorful leaves every year as well. Even in Flagstaff, there was a variety of colorful views to enjoy.

 

Very orange bush
Very orange bush

 

Get up north and check it out! It always feels a lot more like fall once you’ve seen some leaves falling.