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🇰🇷South Korea and 🇯🇵Japan - II

Food 🍜🥟🍙

The food was legendary for us, but if you’re vegan or vegetarian, it might be challenging. They consume a lot of pork, beef, fish, and seafood.

  • From what we heard and tried, the meals are generally healthy. They count ramen🍜 as fast food, the food that the drunk people eat. It might be true but all ramen or noodles we ate were delicious.
  • In Japan, make sure to grab fresh sandwiches and onigiri from convenience stores. Tuna-mayo onigiri and Teriyaki chicken with egg sandwiches were our favorites. If you need a quick bite before a tour or museum, you can get these from stores like 7-Eleven or Lawson. They have a similar thing in Korea called Triangle Kimbap. We preferred the Japanese ones, but there must be fans of the Korean version too.
  • There are 24/7 convenience stores in both countries.
  • A friend recommended Myeongdong Kyoja Main to us, and we had noodle soup + dumplings 🥟 there twice. They only have three items on the menu, so you order and pay before you sit down. Then they bring your food and some kimchi as soon as you sit. The hot noodle made with chicken broth + spicy garlic kimchi is an unbelievable combination. It’s a cure for your hangover. If we could, we’d probably eat there five more times. There might be a line when you go there, but don’t worry, it moves super quickly.

  • Street food was plenty in both countries, and nothing really upset our stomachs or seemed too weird. If you ask what we ate: chicken skewers, egg buns, pancakes with red bean paste or cheese inside, spicy fried chicken, a marshmallow with banana ice-cream inside, Takoyaki (balls with squid/octopus inside), Okonomiyaki, Tteokbokki (rice cake), and more things I can’t recall. Of course, there’s so much more to try, but we managed to fit all that into 2.5 weeks. By the way, generally, all the stands were clean. And some of them offered us wet wipes which were necessary 😅
  • There are two types of bars in South Korea:
  1. You can go to Western-style bars/pubs just to drink, usually places like Irish Pubs.
  2. But if you go to a regular bar, you have to order food too. However, you can skip dinner and just eat and drink for hours at these bars.
  • Japan has a similar setup too. If you go to Izakayas, you eat and drink, but if you go to a pub, you can drink without ordering food.
  • There’s a restaurant in Shinjuku inside the metro: Afuri Karakurenai Shinjuku Subnade. It has a spice level from 0 to 28. The recommended level is 4, I had 5 and was reaching my limit. If I go again, I want to try a higher level next time! I think you should be crazy to go for after 8, they say it’s for those who want to end up in the hospital 🌶🌶🌶

  • We met with one of my colleagues and her boyfriend in Osaka. After doing a Dotonbori tour, eating street food, and having a highball, we started searching for a good restaurant. There were plenty of all-you-can-eat places, but we didn’t like them. We went to Yakiniku Cocoro and liked their menu, but they said they were full. They said they had a sister restaurant, would you like to go there? We said yes and went. You walk about 5 minutes, and another Cocoro appears, but it’s not that one. You take an elevator to the 5th floor of a place without much signs, and you enter into a decent restaurant. You cook for yourself, there is BBQ in the middle of the table. And we loved the Wagyu beef! The price wasn’t as expensive as we feared. We’re still regretting why we didn’t order more Wagyu…

Hygiene 🫧

  • Almost all toilets, including public ones, in both countries, were clean and incredibly accessible. I mean, you can find them everywhere. It’s so strange that such a basic thing isn’t common in Europe. It should be a human right to have them!
  • You’ve probably heard about Japan’s toilets already, and they’re as good and fancy as they say. I wish I could have one installed in my apartment in Berlin. The heated seats, adjusting water temperature/pressure, music, massage — so many features!
  • Actually, it’s not just the toilets; the cities were clean, and everyone was clean and well-groomed. I got so used to the good hygiene there. When I returned to Berlin, I didn’t feel like touching a bunch of doorknobs or using the restroom…
  • All the places we stayed, Hotel or Airbnb, provided us slippers, towels, shampoo, conditioner, and soap. They don’t give you slippers in Germany even in 4-star Hotels.

Other Random Notes

  • One of the charms of South Korea was how widely cards were accepted. We only needed cash for the T-money card and street food. It’s more digitalized than Japan and Germany for sure. In Japan, on the other hand, we entered plenty of places that didn’t accept cards, even in touristy spots, they only took cash.
  • The beaches in Busan are beautiful. And compared to big cities, it has a calmer, more relaxing atmosphere.
  • Tax-free shops are everywhere. But our favorite franchises in Japan were Don Quijote and Yodobashi Camera Multimedia. In South Korea, we liked Olive Young (cosmetics) the most.
  • Both countries felt extremely safe to me. Sometimes, while walking on the street, I even thought, “I probably look like the most dangerous person here right now.” Maybe there are crazies among them, but there weren’t things like eye contact on the street or excessive yelling and shouting.
  • I used Couchsurfing Hangouts more on this trip and met with locals a few times. Even if you meet in the most touristy place, they take you to a local spot. I was the only foreigner at the places we went with them. The food was good, and the prices were more reasonable naturally.
  • They don’t use Google Maps like in Europe. Most of the places you look at will have a low rating. 4 and above means it’s a decent restaurant. Even recommendations from locals were around 3.6 or 3.7. We didn’t always love every meal, but overall, our stomachs had a great time during this trip.

Random Stories

  • Losing the umbrella gifted in Seoul, from Lost & Found in Hiroshima… ☂︎

We had Okonomiyaki cooked by a very sweet chef in Hiroshima. He cooked it right in front of us, and there was a big Japanese family next to us. We used Papago translator to chat a bit, and everyone was laughing and having a good time. After paying the bill, the chef handed me the umbrella. I said, “Hey, this isn’t mine, what are you doing?” He said, “Someone forgot this here, consider it a gift.” So, we laughed and I took it, and the next day, I forgot it on the airport shuttle to Seoul. I wonder where the Lost & Found journey is continuing now for it. I’m curious about how many owners it’s passed to… I really tried to bring it to Berlin, but it didn’t work out…

  • Volcano Hot Sauce 🌶️

We managed to meet up with a friend from Berlin in Hongdae, and we went to Chicken and Beers together. We ordered Volcano Hot Sauce. The waiter asked: “Are you sure? It’s very hot”. We answered, “Yep! We’re sure.” And guess what? It wasn’t that hot… The kimchi in the restaurant that’s in the Michelin Guide was hotter than that. But this disappointment didn’t stop us of course. After that, we continued with highball + soju at another place.

  • Almost breaking my new camera 📷

It was the first time I traveled with my Fujifilm camera. It’s not weather-sealed, so we almost lost it on a rainy day while climbing to Fushimi Inari-Taisha 😢 It got better after 2 days, luckily. My amateur photography career will continue where it left off. I struggle a lot when posting a story for the first time or selecting photos for this post because there are many many good photos…

  • Drinking and partying in Itaewon 🍸

It started at 5 PM with me saying this to my travel buddy: “Yeah, we will sleep early tonight.”. After many bars/clubs, it ended around 4:30 AM. I got a taxi back from Itaewon with a 1% battery. Luckily, someone called the taxi for me and paid upfront. Then as soon as I got in, I tried to show and tell the driver my hotel name. Luckily it had some numbers in the name(318 stay). We definitely didn’t understand each other but I managed to find the hotel 😄

  • Korean aunties = Turkish aunties

They resemble our old Turkish ladies a lot! Without even talking or getting to know each other, you immediately feel their warmness. Whether it was someone mixing my bibimbap, noticing we didn’t have napkins and going to get us some, or trying to rip us off in touristy areas (yeah it also happened and it also happens a lot in Turkey 😄), we saw plenty of aunties and likened them to ours.

  • Golden Gai bar with 3 Japanese people

We passed Golden Gai and checked bars almost every night. It’s usually full and there are lots of tourists. But luckily just on our last night, when we went there again, a large group was leaving one bar. We entered immediately, and there were two of us, two American tourists, and the bartender. We all chatted for a bit. Then two Japanese people arrived, and the place filled up. Americans left shortly after, and we started talking with the others. It turned into an entertaining/unique evening. A professional photographer, a filmmaker/bartender, an editor of an erotic magazine (for 30 years!), and us — despite the language barrier, we chatted and laughed for hours.

A Very Short Epilogue

Do you want to know how exhausting this journey was for me? I managed to sleep 8–9 hours without reclining my seat while flying economy:

It was that much exhausting 😄 but it was worth it for sure! By the way, the neck pillow is a big game-changer.

If you have read until the end, thanks a lot! Here is a ❤️ for you.

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