Between Busan and Hakata

August 23, 2010

My plans to visit Japan over Chuseok holiday are underway. Best of all, thanks to my quick response to a ryokan owner in Nikko, I will be able to stay in the Japanese countryside with all expenses paid for two days.

So what’s the plan?

September 18th
Leave Bugu by bus and head to Busan (부산), the second largest city in Korea. Should take about five hours and 21,900 Won. Stay in the city for two days enjoying the sights and chilling with a Couchsurfer.

September 20th
Take the Beetle JR Kyushu Jet Ferry to Hakata. I can’t recall whether there’s a ¥3000 fee for a visa on arrival. Regardless, clearing customs and immigration shouldn’t be that difficult, and I’ve booked my favorite capsule hotel. I’m thinking late night ramen and partying in Tenjin.

September 21st
Shinkansen train all the way to Shizuoka. I have a Couchsurfer waiting.

September 22nd
Enjoy the hospitality of Ryokan Funamisou in Nikko in exchange for writing a review. Japanese food and hot springs… ahhh.

September 23rd
I have a similar arrangement with Ryokan Kiritani Hakoneso in Hakone.

September 24th
Head back to Fukuoka, possibly making a few stops en route to check out my old place, maybe see who’s around Hiroshima.

September 25th
Return to Busan by ferry. Excursion to Japan is over.

Transportation

There are several ferries running between Korea and Japan.

Beetle JR Kysuhu Ferry is probably your best option. Two hours, fifty-five minutes on a high speed jetfoil, and the price is reasonable. One thing I would add: BOOK THIS FERRY IN KOREA. It costs significantly more to buy tickets in Japan, especially if you’re on a Korean salary.

To that end, there’s just one website you need to look at for reservations: Miraejet Co. It is difficult to navigate if you don’t read Korean, but the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience. If you book in Japan with JR Beetle, the fare is ¥26,000 (~$304)… though there are discounts available. In Korea, with an internet booking, the price is a mere 190,000 Won (~$160), which must be paid in advance by credit card or bank account transfer; otherwise, it rises to 230,000 Won at the ticket office.

The Camilla Ferry is only 171,000 Won roundtrip with no reservations required for a discount, but it takes 7.5 hours for the overnight ferry (10:30 PM to 6:00 AM) and 5.5 hours for the daytime (12:30 PM to 6:00 PM), and doesn’t run as regularly. When you consider the difference between the Camilla and Beetle is only 19,000 Won (~$16), it’s worth the effort to just book the jetfoil in advance.

Tsushima (対馬)

Tsushima Leopard Cat

If you want to walk on Japanese soil, but don’t feel like taking the ferry all the way to Kyushu, Tsushima is another option. This island is situated precisely between Korea and Japan, and, like most Japanese islands… doesn’t have too much excitement. Still, if you’re looking for a good place to sea kayak, hike, or catch a glimpse of the rare Tsushima Leopard Cat, by all means, check it out. I’ll stop by before I end my Korean residency.

In other news…
I was just informed by my boss that the National Health Insurance Corporation will not cover me for my first three months of residency. Apparently, Korea had a problem with foreigners accepting jobs, getting coverage, going to the doctor for expensive treatments, then bailing on everything. I’m still researching the law, but does anyone know this to be true?

A lot of roofs are bright orange or blue in Korea because:

“During the days of the yangban, only the very wealthy were allowed to have a blue tile roof, to signal their status in life. This is why [during the New Village Movement] many of the farmers chose to paint their slate roofs blue.”
Source: http://seoullife.net/2007/04/09/village-people/

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