We spent 5 days in Busan, waiting for our visa numbers and wandering about the sea cliffs and beaches. Early Tuesday morning, we got a surprise message from our recruiter not only that our visa numbers were in, but also that our school wanted us to start work the following Monday, a week earlier than we had previously discussed. This meant that in order to get our visas back on time, we had to leave that day.
In order to get a visa to work in Korea, you need to leave the country, so we went to the ferry station in Busan to catch a boat across the Sea of Japan to Fukuoka Japan, home of the nearest Korean embassy. Our choices were between a slightly cheaper 12 hour, overnight ferry ride and a slightly more expensive 3 hour hydrofoil (quite the fancy invention). The choice would seem obvious, but after traveling on reserve funds for a month, the mind begins to question the wisdom of spending $60 to avoid sailing overnight, sleeping on the floor with sixty other individuals. However, being unable to read the Korean directions for the liquid motion sickness medicine we found, we decided to go with the hydrofoil and were in Japan by Tuesday afternoon.
Japan, like ourselves, is all about being cool. Style abounds and there are rock and roll haircuts aplenty. Smoking is an undoubtedly cool activity in Japan, and most cafes and restaurants allow smoking. But we weren’t quite cool enough to go buy some Lucky 7’s.
Our combined Japanese lexicon totals 2 words (konichiwa and arigato), so we learned a good deal about inferencing and body language. Despite our clear lack of knowledge, it seemed that people still spoke to us far more extensively than any shopkeeper or waiter in America would. Not only this, but many people were happy to practice their English on us as we walked through the city.
We were able to feast on Italian food most everyday (oh, how I missed spaghetti carbonara), as there is an Italian restaurant every block or two in Fukuoka. Also among the goods that we have not found in abundance in Korea was cheap wine. Needing to take advantage of this, we washed down most of our tasty pasta dishes with a glass or two or three of wine.
The neighborhood our hotel was in was a huge shopping district, so we spent a lot of time meandering around huge outdoor malls open late into the night. Fukuoka is the 6th largest city in Japan, so it was surprising that during the day the neighborhood was fairly quiet. After 7 PM or so, huge crowds filled the stores, restaurants, and malls in the area.
One of our finest Japanese days was filled with a walk around Ohori Park and the neighboring ancient castle grounds. In the dense trees with no sound but cicada cries all around, there existed an unusual atmosphere in the middle of the big city. Topping off the beauty of Ohori Park was the Japanese Zen Garden, which demonstrated a perfect symbiosis between man and nature.
After a couple of days in Fukuoka, we had our visas in hand and headed to Seoul to move into our home for the next year and start working.