I will no longer be posting on SoKoreazy.com, since I can’t really continue to write about and photograph things in Korea without actually being there! However, I hope that people will still be able to use my site as a helpful resource. Thank you guys for your kind comments and for following my blog over the past few years, it means a lot! ^^
I feel very grateful to have had the chance to work as an ESL teacher in Korea, especially since I got my first job just before the hagwon bosses decided to stop offering free round-trip flights to and from Korea! I had the opportunity to work in three very different hagwons, and can safely say that no two ‘English schools’ are alike, even if they are owned and operated by the same company. If you are considering working in a hagwon, I highly advise getting in touch with the other foreign teachers prior to making your decision. Be specific with your questions, particularly about being paid regularly and on time, tax deductions, working hours and overtime, accommodation, and expectations and responsibilities. Also, ask how long the other teachers have been working there for. Unfortunately, many hagwon managers, directors, and owners can be manipulative and deceptive. It’s an incredibly competitive industry in which only the ruthless survive. For example, every employee is given ‘severance pay’ upon the completion of their contract; however, some hagwon owners terminate teachers’ contracts just before the end in order to avoid handing over the severance pay, consequently saving themselves a significant sum of money. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it is absolutely unfair and infuriating. But it’s not all bad! Feel free to leave me a comment if you want to know anything more about working or living in Korea.
When we decided that we wouldn’t be renewing our ESL teacher contracts in Korea, and made the subsequent decision that we wouldn’t be staying in Asia as ESL teachers at all, we knew that we just had to make a ‘farewell’ trip to Japan. I’m sure that we will return to Japan again someday, but we certainly won’t be visiting it as frequently as we have been over the past three years. I feel so incredibly lucky that we were able to visit Japan 8 times (consequently, 8 is a lucky number in Japanese culture!) You can check out a recap of our adventure here.
We didn’t just stuff our faces with food during our summer holiday (though, from my past few posts, it probably seems that way!) We also did a whole lotta shopping in the cutest and kookiest places we could find, from Tokyo Station to Nakano Broadway and, of course, Harajuku, here are some of my favorite kawaii finds! 💖
While it seems like more and more vegan restaurants in Seoul are shutting down (Loving Hut Thien Dang, Achasan Loving Hut, Garobee, New Start Buffet, and Mimi & Kelly’s have all disappeared within the past couple of years,) Tokyo’s vegan and healthy-eating scene seems to be growing! When I was scoping out HappyCow prior to our Tokyo trip, I was so surprised by the amount of new restaurants and cafes which had popped up within the past year. That’s gotta be a good sign for sure! First things first, though: a trip to my all-time favorite veg-friendly hang-out, Pure Cafe in Aoyama! ♡
One of my favorite things about Japan is how easy it is to find tranquility within its urban metropolises. In Tokyo, it’s not hard to find ethereal shrines adjacent to winding highways and looming office blocks…
Thanks to Japan’s awesomely efficient railways, we were able to travel from Kyoto to Hiroshima, with a stop at Miyajima Island, within a single day (we got home just in time for dinner at Matsuontoko, too!)
We visited all of the grandest temples and shrines in Kyoto on our initial visit, but we overlooked Toji Temple: a UNESCO World Heritage Site founded in the 700’s! Luckily, it was located within walking distance from our hotel, so we stopped by for a gander.
Last week we set off to Japan for our summer holidays (our fifth trip to Japan! Bwaha!) Last year, our hagwon only allotted us 4 days of vacation at a time, but this year we got a whole week off for summer (and we may very well be getting ten days off for winter; amazing or what?!) We divided our week in Japan into hotel stays in Kyoto and Tokyo, with day trips to Osaka, Hiroshima, and Miyajima. I had grand delusions of squeezing in day trips to Nikko, Okunoshima (a.k.a. Rabbit Island), and Mt. Fuji as well, but there just wasn’t enough time (a great excuse to go back again, right?!)
We flew into Haneda Airport in Tokyo, and thanks to our 7-Day Japan Railways passes, hopped onto the Shinkansen straight down to Kyoto. About the JR passes: holy shmoly, these things were quite possibly the smartest holiday purchases we’ve ever made! You have to buy them before entering Japan (from this website), and at $281 per pass they will seem a tad overpriced, but TRUST ME: if you have any intention of traveling between at least two cities, you will certainly get your money’s worth and then some. You can also use the pass to make seat reservations on Shinkansen trains at no extra charge, and you can use them on local JR trains. I have no idea how much money we saved by using these things, but it was a buttload.
We stayed at the super swanky ANA Crowne Plaza hotel in Kyoto, which I got for a ridiculously cheap deal on Expedia. We stopped in at an information office in Kyoto Station to find out how to get to the hotel, and an exceptionally polite and kind old man informed us that the hotel operated a free shuttle bus between Kyoto Station and the hotel every 15 minutes or so; this also saved us heaps of money!
This was our second visit to Kyoto; we fell head over heels in love with it the first time, and our feelings only intensified during this trip.
I am always amazed by how seamlessly Japan weaves its past and present together, and this is so evident in Kyoto, where its brightly-lit shopping arcades are punctuated by dim alleys leading to tiny shrines and ancient relics.