It Seems Like Chuseok Was Just Yesterday

Life has gotten in the way a bit, so my little notes of things to blog about have been gathering dust. So, Chuseok was about two months ago now, and here I am, just getting around to looking at my notes, which I’m sure would have made much more sense to me if I had written this up a few days after we got back.

Craig had been wanting to see Japan, so we decided to visit Kyoto and Osaka for Chuseok. It fell on a weekend this year, but there was another holiday just two days later, so we were both lucky enough to get the “sandwich day” AND lucky enough to be informed of that far enough in advance that we could change our tickets.

After a rocky start, we got off okay. We turned up at the airport one hour early, which is usually plenty of time, but the long lines meant we queued at the check in counter nearly half an hour, then just as long at immigration and security. We arrived at our gate after the plane was meant to take off, but since the people who checked in after us stopped to pick up breakfast, we were far from the last ones on the plane. In the end, we were about 45 minutes late taking off.

Since WE had not stopped for breakfast on the way to the gate, I was about to start gnawing on my fingers by the time we arrived. So, we ate at the airport. Honestly, it was the best meal we had in Japan. I’m not going to lie, the secret to its awesomeness was that we put our money in a machine and pushed a button to choose our meal. The server took our tickets and brought us our lunch– strips of beef on top of a bowl of rice with a little broth.

We took the train to the train station, where we were staying, and got ready for our first sporting event of the trip: Gamba Osaka v Kashima Antlers. Despite the rain, it was a full stadium. The tickets cost far more than in Korea, no surprise there, with a pair of seats going for about $100. It was a good game, and by the end I had decided that Korean boys and Japanese boys are pretty much exactly the same. The entire row in front of us was filled with a group of kids about 5th or 6th grade. They spent the entire game fighting over who was going to go get the next round of snacks, who was going to pay, and who was going to throw away the trash. Okay, that last part was decidedly UNKorean, because the trash would have been on the ground before it occured to anyone to make someone throw it away.


Snack time.

Red Fans

Blue Fans


The next morning, we took the train to Katata for a 3rd division game. Craig had thought the game started at 11, and we weren’t sure how long it would take us to get there, so we showed up four hours before the actual kick-off time. After watching us for about 15 minutes, one of the kids setting up (probably the RSP loser) came over to tell us the gate opened at 11:30. This was at 9:30.

The train to Katata– a few grades below the bullet train.

There was a museum next door, so we decided to take in a little culture, since we had several hours to kill in a relatively isolated area and it was starting to rain. About an hour of culture is enough for the two of us, so we hung out in the coffee shop and enjoyed the most expensive coffee ever. We each had two coffees and the bill came out to $30. I was expecting a dusting of edible gold on top for that price, but no.

By the time the game started, it was pouring, so I sent Craig out with my umbrella, and I stayed in the coffee shop, watching the rain sheet off the roof into the pond and wishing I hadn’t taken my book out of my bag that morning. Craig didn’t stay for the entire game, because the rain was actually a typhoon and it was just too much. When we got back to Osaka, we found out that trains were stopped for the rest of the day. So, we were pretty lucky we left when we did.

Our plan for the next day was to wander around Osaka and try some Kobe beef. Neither part of the plan was particularly successful, but it was a relaxing morning walking around. In the afternoon, we went to Osaka Castle which is similar to a lot of historical Korean sites in that it has been rebuilt numerous times. The grounds are free to wander around, but the castle costs over $5.  They’ve turned the inside into a museum/ gift shop, so you can’t even tell what the interior originally looked like. So, the $5 is basically a cover charge to look at the souvenirs. There is a 360 degree observatory, so it wasn’t a total fail, but I would recommend just having a wander around the grounds and skipping the castle itself.

A confectionery college across from the castle. I went to the wrong university.

Osaka Castle

From there, we headed to the Osaka Dome for a bit of baseball, Japanese style. The Orix Buffaloes aren’t ranked very high, but the crowds were enthusiastic and it was a good night out.

Korean star, Lee Dae-Ho

At some point during our trip, we went to Kyoto, but I seem to have lost that page of notes, so it’s gone forever. I do remember that we spent the better part of the day looking for the Weller’s Club, which one guide book made sound like a Paul Weller/ Jam Mecca. We found it, by the hardest, and with no help from the map in the guide book or the website. It was smaller than my bedroom and the band and owner all seemed surprised to see customers. We had a couple of drinks before deciding we had had enough of black lights and odd musical choices by the DJ. We didn’t take any photos, so imagine you put black lights in your guest bedroom and hung a Union Jack for decoration and stuck a Vespa in one corner for Mod cred, throw in a couple of old sofas and coffee tables you got free from Craigslist and that’s Weller’s Club.

And that’s what I did on my Chuseok vacation.

Everything is smaller and cuter in Japan.