I Live In Korea

My name is Ben Gwynne. I USED to teach English in Incheon, South Korea. Here's some photos, stories, videos, etc.

Jun 1, 2010


Since the “time off” policy working at an academy in Korea can be quite brutal, I had to take full advantage of any day I had. So, when one of those days off coincided with the final weekend of a sumo wrestling tournament in Tokyo, I couldn’t resist (even though the flight/accommodation cost more than my 10 day trip to Costa Rica in 2008).

For those that know me, I’ve traveled quite a bit, and I must say Tokyo is one of the coolest cities I’ve been to. As a native New Yorker, to me, very few cities have a “vibe” which stand out in a way that makes them unique and enjoyable. Tokyo is one of those places. Cool bars, amazing food, shopping, street performers, busy streets, lot’s of lights, but also the possibility of quickly escaping it and finding some hole in the wall places to eat, drink, or see some Japanese culture.

I was mainly looking forward to this trip for these reasons (that I can mention): the sumo tournament, and food.

The food, was UNREAL. The best ramen, sushi, octopus, and chicken I’ve ever had. Between my trip to Vietnam, Taiwan and time in Korea, I’ve had some of the most memorable meals of my life in the past few months alone.

Sushi isn’t at the top of my list of favorite foods, but when I had the chance to spend $6 on one piece (fatty tuna, top left one on the white plate), I couldn’t resist. It was worth every bit. Just mouth watering.

RAW chicken (at Toriyoshi restaurant, a MUST if you go there). Despite having food poisoning twice, I had to try raw chicken. If it’s a popular dish and treated in a way which makes it safe to eat, then I should be okay too. Cured raw chicken is something I’ll probably never have a chance to eat again unless I’m in Japan. I’m sure there’s all types of regulations against such a thing in the US, and we pump our poultry with so many hormones, feed it so much crap and treat it so poorly I wonder if it’s even possible to eat raw. Trust me when I say this is one of the best things I’ve eaten. This restaurant in general was a place to go for chicken. Just ordered a bunch of different kinds of chicken, pigged out, and enjoyed some great cocktails as well.

Ramen is about as basic of a meal as you can eat in Japan, but the quality of it is top notch and unlike nothing I’ve had in Korea where it’s also a pretty popular dish. You can walk into just about any place, order ramen, and get a delicious meal.

I had “takoyaki” (fried octopus dumplings) when I went to Japan in 2004, and I didn’t like it. Tasted a bit rubbery. I decided to give it another go and it was phenomenal. Really enjoyed it, and you have to cook it yourself on a grill which is always fun.

Even though I’ve always loved food, I now have a new appreciation for it since I came to Asia. The freshness of the ingredients and slow method of cooking and preparing over here is something most people take for granted or ignore. I’ve got some new cookbooks, and will have taken a couple cooking classes (Vietnamese and Korean) before I head home. When I’m back, I’m adding some more meals to my repertoire.

Sumo was awesome! Here’s a couple gifs, pictures, and videos. The one of the final match featured a white person which I thought was funny. The video of that one is recorded from the TV which replayed it afterwards, gives a better view than the one we had from our seats.

Final Fight

Couple of Matches

Proudly sponsored by McDonald's

The indoor/outdoor hot spring and public bath was pretty sweet. I got to wear a Yukata, THROW NINJA STARS, take relaxing baths, enjoy a sauna, and get my feet eaten alive. “Dr. Fish” as they are called, eat dead skin and can actually help you if you suffer from eczema or other skin diseases on your foot. To me, this was just more junk science like fire cupping. It hurt like hell as these little rats gnawed at my feet.

Many of the bars/restaurants are so small they can only fit 10 people. Even if they are 2 stories, they are tiny as hell as you can see from these steep steps. Really cool atmosphere inside of this place (which took an hour to find). Nice décor, you get a fancy bell which you ring to have the bartender come to you and take your next drink order. Awesome.

Rain put a little damper on the trip, but it didn’t interfere with anything in the big picture. All in all it was a fantastic trip. Hopefully I get to go back to Tokyo. I highly recommend making a trip.

It’s all about Korea from here on out. There will be a swarm of posts in the coming weeks. They are already locked, loaded, and ready to go.