Himeji - Osaka, Japan


After a good night sleep, Adam and I went for a trip up north from Himeji. He used to live there some years, so he knew everything and it was so cool to have a guide to tell me everything. There had been a massive flood there some years back and he showed me the traces of it. We checked out some castle ruins and some cool caves with stone formations created by the earth's magnetic field. After a long trip we ended up in Kinosaki, a small, cute town famous for it's hot springs. We bought a pass for all the onsens and went to five different baths. It was a great day and we weren't home before 1 am. After a last lazy day in himeji, I started the next morning hitch hiking to Osaka.

After four rides and a subway I was at the meeting point in Osaka. My next host Aska and her friend June picked me up and we walked around in Osaka while they explained me different things. Finally I saw all the cos play people, those who dress up as maids etc, and we went to one of these photo booths where you draw on your own pictures. It was surprisingly fun. At the end of the day, her mother waited for us at home with a great big meal. I showed them the outfit I had gotten from Himeji and they started complementing it with small ribbons and swords and what not. It was fun to have a little carnival. At the very end I got to borrow a yukta, a kind of bath robe, and wooden shoes and we left for a sento, another kind of hot bath.

Aki and Mutsu met us the next day for a walk around Osaka. We checked out the streets with cos play people, strange department stores and Japanese sex shops. We then went to Osaka's "red light district". It's a normal residential area with a grid of small streets and old houses. The houses have a big open entrance and an old woman selling a younger girl, which is all dressed up and sits on a pillow with spot lights on her. Kind of interesting. Aki took us to a store he used to work in and we stacked up some beer and snacks and went to the river for some evening drinks. They had a friend working as a host at a bar close by. His job is to look like a final fantasy figure and talk to girls that want better company than drunk, stupid guys. Good concept actually, I wonder if it would work in Norway. We ended the night at 12 o'clock and got the last train home.

The next day, like every day, a wonderful breakfast awaited me, with everything from curry and rice to toast with sesame something. Aska's mother is so amazing. Aska and I went to the aquarium to check out some fish. The area also had a big market and some nice souvenir shops. They also had a belly dancing show but Aska wasn't impressed. Afterwards we went to Osaka castle to learn a bit about the downfall of Toyotomi. We got kicked out of the castle when it was closing time and hurried back home to meet her entire family for dinner. Another great day.

The instant noodles were invented in Japan and the museum is in Osaka. We went there and learned about instant noodles and it's inventor. We got to make our own cup noodles and it was very cool. After checking out Korea town, we went home and had more great food and and origami night. Folding paper is awesome! In the evening we met up with some high school friend's of Aska and watched them play sketches, football and arm wrestle. Last full day in Osaka we had a lazy day since it was raining, but I found a great water melon ice cream. We also did origami again hehe.
Kyoto next!


Fukuoka - Himeji, Japan


I look like a hippie and so do the customs in Japan think. Out of everyone, I was the only one interrogated and they went through my bag. They also asked if I smoked. Hrmpf! After getting ashore and collecting my first yen, I took the bus to my first host. A German girl met me at the bus station and took me to our mutual host, Hiro san. He had prepared an excellent meal, and a hungry Hawk was happy. The next day, Michelle, Hiro and I went out to see castle ruins, museums and watched the sunset at the beach. I had my first ramen noodles as well. Hiro drove us around in two different Volvos, which I found amusing. I miss Anna, my Saab. Shogun Hiro taught me some samurai Japanese which I would use to impress new friends. Very useful! The next day the German left and I went for a walk in Fukuoka. In the evening a Dutch, a Mexican and a Japanese couch surfer came along and we had a great evening with Hiro, his mother and his friend. Carla, the Mexican, gave us all gifts and I got myself a new bracelet! After some good Shoju we called it the night and I went to bed, gathering strength to my Hiroshima trip. Radiation time!

In Hiroshima I was standing in the epicenter of the a bomb. It was really cool to be standing where the bomb once fell. I checked out the museums and parks around as well. My Hiroshima host, Miiko, met up with me and we went for okonomiyaki, a delicious speciality in the area. Afterwards we walked home and I met her cat Karaage, meaning fried chicken haha. The next morning I met up with Keigo, a friend from Fukuoka, and two of his friends. We were checking out the Mijemya shrine, a shrine that's "floating" in the water. It was nice, but unfortunately under restoration. In the evening Miiko and I put wallpaper on one of her walls, made a great dinner and watched Toy Story 2, a perfect way of ending the Hiroshima stay. She also helped me make a poster that says something in Japanese that would help me get picked up when hitch hiking.

The next day I was slightly scared. I was going to hitch hike from Hiroshima to Bizeniri, a small place a bit far away. It was difficult to get out of the city, but a guy who had been hitch hiking in Canada himself, picked me up and drove me out so I got close to the highway. There a second great guy, Keisuke, got me to another highway intersection. With the help of a girl I got up on the highway but in the wrong direction. But three rides in the right direction got me to the doorstep. A nice guy took me the first lap, second guy, 60 years old, got me lunch in addition and at last an old couple drove me all the way to my destination. I gave away some sweets and Norwegian stickers since that's what I had. I love Japanese people! When I finally arrived, people started feeding me energy drinks and candy outside their work. I gave some sweets back and they came with even more out haha. Man, I had a smile on my face all day! And after checking out the little village, Akane picked me up and we went home to her mother and grandfather, who was a decorated soldier and had a letter from the emperor! Her mother had prepared the most delicious meal and I couldn't stop eating. And a laughing girl on the other side of the table made it all even better. Their ninja house was soooo cool, really Japanese, with a million sliding doors and secret rooms. If Japan and Japanese continue to be like this, I might have to move here.

After waking up in my own big living room I had a shower and we headed out to the town she's working in. Turns out it's Ako, where the 47 Ronin revenge story started. Such a cool surprise! At the castle ruins I also read that one of the young samurais was often mistaken for a girl. I guess I know which Samurai I'll be. After saying good bye to Akane, I went hitch hiking again and got picked up by Yumi and she took me to Aioi. There I had to walk a bit, but on the way an old man found me interesting enough to give me a bag of fresh strawberries, and by the way, the berries are so delicious in this cuntry. I got a ride with a man and his father and they took me all the way to Himeji. I checked out the awesome castle there, it's incredible even when it's under restoration! Adam, my new host, picked me up after work and took me to his place a bit outside of Himeji. There his girlfriend Shinobu had dinner ready and we sat down and ate and drank. She had a Hakumen and Haori, traditional Japanese clothes, that she gave me! Super happy with my new possessions, I put them on and had a great night! Awesome first week in Japan!


Namwon - Busan and Ulsan Temple stay


I arrived in the evening in Namwon and met up with Calvin. Turned out he was a Japan expert, so he helped me out a lot planning my trip there. Next morning I got up early and started heading for the mountains of Jirisan national park. After some walking I arrived at the tourist information stall. The guy there spoke a hundred English words, but after some gesticulating and map pointing, we agreed on where I should go and how I would get there. He kept on saying "sorry" because of his English, but I was super happy because he helped me out a lot since I didn't have any plans at all. I gave him some oreos as thanks and he then ran into his little door and came out with a pen of the love city (Namwon) and gave me a proper map over Jirisan Park, which would make my day later! I got on the right bus and went to a small town that had an Azelea festival. I managed to order fish soup for breakfast, but I developed a new skill(!) and I can now eat stuff without tasting it. I breath only with the mouth at any given point and I finished the whole bowl.The pink flowers were blooming everywhere in the mountain and it was quite nice. I started hiking and was fairly fast up the first mountain. The mountains in Korea are packed with old Koreans, equipped for climbing mount Everest. The only thing they lack is the oxygen tanks. People seemed to be amused by a Norwegian running in their hills and there was a lot of food vs biscuits exchanges. After a long hike I ended up at the other side of the park and was in need of getting home. I hitch hiked with three different cars and then had a bus ride the last part. This day was packed with lovely Koreans and I was so exhausted when I got back home. My biscuits had gotten me one pen, one map, 1,25 cucumbers, one whole kimbap and three rides. They turned out to be a good investment. In the evening I had dinner and beer with Calvin and his nice friends and went to bed early. Perfect day!

I got to Busan Saturday and bought my ferry ticket over to Fukuoka, Japan for Wednesday. Matt, Amanda and I went out in the evening for a last soju night in Busan. Matt wasn't drinking because he was going to study, Amanda wasn't drinking because she had a rough Friday, but I was since it was my last Saturday. They both got hammered haha. We went out and met up with underpants Nav and some other friends. I also met some cool Koreans outside while eating my nightly instant noodles. It was a good, last night. Sunday I went to have a quiet evening in Ulsan. I was going for a temple stay on Monday and I relaxed at Sunny's place with movie and food to gather my strength. At the temple I was kind of bored, but I met some great people, including Germans, which made it worth while. I constantly had the feeling of being in church at 24 December. Somebody is chanting about something I don't understand, the time goes painstakingly slow, and all I want to do is go home and eat pork. Difference: the temple stay lasted 20 hours and we had to get up at four in the morning. The others that signed up for two days envied me as I left after just one day. That felt good. Archery at the end was great though, I wouldn't mind doing that again. In the evening I arrived in Ulsan again and stayed there one night before going to Busan in the morning. I had a good steak, which I haven't had in a long time, and it will be nice to see how well Kobe beef is compared to it. My host even made gave me a bag with cookies and what not for the trip. Gotta love Koreans!

Korea was great! Men looked like women and women looked like girls, old people were running in the mountains and they were all very friendly and helpful. A very homogeneous country with good food and nice mountains. I wanna come back when North Korea opens up!
Thanks everybody for a great stay in Korea! Now it's time to go to Japan!


Seoul, Korea


I arrived in Seoul and went up to the north. There Jintastic picked me up and I got to live with her and her dog Aston. I threw my stuff into her apartment and we went for dinner and a language exchange meeting. Back home again, the dog peed on her bed and we planned some of my days in Seoul. The next morning we climbed the biggest mountain in Seoul. I was a bit impressed that the tiny creature, my host,  was able to get all the way to the top. I used to call her a mouse, but upgraded it to chicken after her achievement this day. In the evening we met up with Sam, my next host, and we went to a Jimjibang (Korean spa). Back home her dog peed on me and we watched an animated movie before going to bed. The last day at Jin's place, she, Aston and I went on a stroll through some sightseeing areas in town before ending up at the Seoul tower. In the evening she made me dinner, Korean barbecue of course:), and dessert! For this achievement she advanced once again, now from chicken to squirrel. She hopes to get the status of human one day.

After some black noodles for breakfast with the squirrel, I headed over to Sam's place and met up with him and the French Arnoud. These guys turned out to be quite cool and the soju would not be safe when we were around. Thursday we just had dinner and got used to each other's faces. Friday night however, would be brilliant. Sam knows his way around and has found a crew that gives free leftovers and beer to English speakers if they sit and chat with Koreans. The Koreans were really cool, especially Paul Please, and the beer and soju just made it better. Afterwards we got a lift from Philip to Haendae, the clubbing area of Seoul. We got the soju we needed and tried to find a place to shake our beautiful bodies. At one place they didn't let me in because I wasn't Korean, so I got to experience racism for the first time in my life. In the end we met some American soldiers and they took us to a club full of black people. It was really cool. Later that night, I fell a sleep on the bus and got kicked out at the end station, Sam slept four hours on the circle line and Arnaud kept falling a sleep missing his stop, and went back and forth some times. Quality guys!

Saturday we met up with some good friends of Sam and sat down near the river bank. The French and I were freezing and we tried to finish our soju bottle as quickly as we could so we could get into a warm bar instead. What happened was, we ended up in a park and the only remedy for us was more soju.The night ended like the one before, we lost each other and the first one that got home was there 6 o'clock. Later that day a bloody Sam told good stories about how he face planted while running in the mountain that morning, still drunk. He also had some good stories about how they all ended in an apartment with a girl when suddenly her, presumably, ex-boyfriend barges in. "Don't you remember yesterday? We broke up!", she said. "I don't even remember now!", he replied. Being an angry American soldier twice their size, Sam and the crew decided to split as quickly as they could. The French fell asleep in the bar and got woken up in the morning by the cleaning crew haha. All I know about myself, is that I was able to get to my own, i.e. Sam's, bed. All in all another great soju day and the next day we woke up at 18.00. That Sunday nothing happened except for some after parties as they say in French.

Monday was another museum day for me and in the evening I went to a swing dance club. Turns out Seoul has the world's biggest swing scene and it was really cool. The amount of people and their level was quite impressive. Needless to say, the clumsy big elephant crushed some toes that belonged to creatures weighing in at 35kg. Tuesday Jin and I went to the War Memorial museum. Yet another brilliant museum in Seoul. There was also a lot of stuff from Norway there, because we gave them some medics during the Korean war. The subway station outside was full of advertisement for Norway. Seemed so random to me. In the evening I met up with my last host in Seoul, Youngju. After a day of planning my trip to Japan, I went to dinner with all my friends from Seoul. It was great and I had a great stay! Thank you all.

Before leaving Seoul on Thursday, I went to the DMZ (De Militarization Zone). It's the spot between North- and South Korea where they meet. The tour was fantastic and one of the best I've had on my trip so far. We got to go into the Joint Security Area, tunnels dug by the North Koreans and shrines around. I went there alone, but a nice Dutch guy didn't have his girl friend with him, so he hung out with me. There was also an amusement park in the area. We even had a deflector from North Korea in the bus who answered all kinds of questions. It was so cool! And she was cute!

Seoul was great and it was time to go south again and finish off my Korea trip!