At the easterly side of East Asia, Japan and South Korea are perennial favorites of savvy travelers – and for great motive.
But if you had to decide on just 1 (we’re sorry), which one particular would get the nod? Beneath, two of our standard writers on the location make the situation for their preferred.
It’s just Japan
Common Japan customer and rail expert John Walton expounds on the quite a few ways – both of those fast and sluggish – to examine his favored place to stop by. His top rated Japanese journeys contain adhering to rural rail lines up to relaxing very hot spring cities and discovering community foodways.
I’ve traveled in both equally Japan and South Korea, and equally are fantastic. But the former is the nation I return to once more and all over again.
Japanese trains are irresistible
The incredible railway network that blankets all of Japan is one of the country’s leading draws – and wins out about South Korea’s trains, which I have also taken. Even with its latest price hikes, the Japan Rail Move delivers a amazing value for shuttling concerning metropolitan areas at up to 200mph (320km/h), relaxing on a comfortable Constrained Convey, exploring little local branch lines or savoring cultural encounter on the specific Joyful Coach excursion providers.
If I had to decide on a several favourite teach excursions, I’d go with the Tohoku Shinkansen’s best-pace part north of Omiya, the single-auto department line in between Abashiri and Kushiro in Hokkaido, the Confined Specific Yakumo from Okayama to Matsue and the SL Ginga steam trains from Takasaki.
A region for all seasons
Japan is quite a few instances the dimension of South Korea, and crosses a lot extra climatic zones – from tropical Okinawa to the northern island of Hokkaido, snowy in winter but delightfully interesting in summer time.
This implies there is not only just much more to do, but that there’s more variety, as nicely as a wider vary of seasons of pleasurable temperature.
Given that I’m no terrific fan of the rain and humidity of the tsuyu early-summer time time, I’ll head north to Hokkaido then, wherever the temperatures are balmy but not muggy, to appreciate the freshest of fish in historical Hakodate. Appear autumn, I really like to head southwest to Kyūshū to prolong shorter-sleeve weather conditions: Kumamoto and Kagoshima are delightfully sunny and warm even into late November.
Calming ryokan and onsen tradition
Official appearances can be deceiving: Japanese individuals enjoy to take it easy, and they’re excellent at it. They’re also excited to share their traditions with readers. Conventional ryokan resorts, in particular individuals with attached onsen very hot-spring baths, supply the great way to build intensive relaxation time into your journey.
From the moment I get there at a ryokan, my problems soften absent and all I have to consider about is what guide I want to study sitting by the scenic window in my home. In a picturesque onsen city I fancy going for a tiny wander in a yukata robe as I ponder which of the typically a number of onsen baths I want to slip into to soak absent my cares (and decrease my sore traveler muscle tissues). Gunma’s Kusatsu-Onsen is famed for a reason, nevertheless very small Bessho Onsen near Ueda in Nagano – up the aspect of a mountain arrived at by a tiny non-public railway – is my beloved concealed gem.
Hundreds of onsen can be located all-around Japan, from the famously attractive one in Matsuyama that inspired Miyazaki’s Spirited Away to the one particular inside the railway station at Echigo-Yuzawa. I appreciate dipping my exhausted toes into a single of the stone general public foot baths that you are going to obtain in quite a few vacationer parts.
Hiking, skiing and nature
An antidote to a quite urbanized society, Japan’s outside functions are many and common. After you get out of Japan’s metropolitan areas, the all-natural beauty is a breathtaking surprise – obtainable by both of those Shinkansen and regional trains. Climbing is incredibly well known, even though so lots of folks adore snowboarding that there is a distinctive seasonal spur of a Shinkansen bullet practice line that goes instantly to the Gala Yuzawa ski resort.
Don’t overlook the stunning Sanriku Coastline in the Tohoku area, with its rugged nevertheless human-scaled peninsulas and promontories. Rugby-loving Kamaishi or sleepy Miyako, with its breathtaking Jōdogahama Seashore, are fantastic commencing points for discovering this region.
If you’re intrigued in it, Japan has it.
South Korea will take the crown
Tom O’Malley has ventured equally north and south of Korea’s DMZ, and labored on the existing editions of the Korea and Seoul Lonely World guidebooks. His most loved Korean dish is sundubu-jjigae (spicy tofu, pork and kimchi stew).
For this toss down of east compared to a little bit extra east, I’m fighting in the K-corner – although in total disclosure I genuinely like Japan, also. Still, in the spirit of partisanship, here’s my acquire on why South Korea deserves to be your subsequent adventure desired destination.
The “It” tradition
Very first, a dilemma: how much would you have gotten in Squid Sport? I reckon I’d have produced it earlier the terrifying large doll and then died attempting to nibble the dalgona (sugar sweet biscuit) without having it breaking. The simple fact that you virtually definitely know what I’m on about illustrates a little something: Korean society is crushing it appropriate now. From Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite successful Greatest Picture at the Oscars to lady group Blackpink blowing up Coachella, the planet cannot get sufficient of South Korea. It is a phenomenon dubbed hallyu (the “Korean Wave”), and it is been creating for several years.
If you had the chance to time travel back again to Belle Époque Paris, say, or London in the swinging ’60s, you’d go, right? Japan peaked in the 1980s just before the bubble burst, yet South Korea’s golden age is taking place correct now. Why not go and be a part of it?
I value that’s all a little bit abstract, so let’s go head-to-head, setting up with dimension. Japan is virtually 4 instances larger than South Korea. And although there’s arguably extra to see in Japan overall, which is portion of the difficulty. Itinerary setting up is a headache, and obtaining around is highly-priced.
No these types of concerns use in South Korea, nonetheless. You can vacation the size of the state – from the electric money Seoul to the bustling southern port town of Busan – in just a pair of hours by substantial-speed prepare, with facet forays to any range of extraordinary locations, like the ancient tombs and temples of Gyeongju, or the dreamy peaks and waterfalls of Seograksan Nationwide Park. Or why not undertaking suitable to the edge of North Korea with a excursion to the DMZ?
And then there’s the foods, to my thoughts generally just one of travel’s chief pleasures. Japanese delicacies is stylish, subtle and often…well, uncooked. Are people genuinely the ideal food items adjectives? Personally, I want my foods to slap me around the confront with flavor, warmth and spice – and which is exactly what you get from Korean delicacies.
Whether or not you’re cooking up galbi (beef small ribs) on a tabletop grill, going challenging on chimaek (fried chicken and beer) or slurping down a fiery kimchi-and-pork stew, taking in is a hearty, visceral satisfaction in Korea. And a word about banchan, people little side dishes of delicious treats you get with most meals: they are both of those free and refillable. What is not to appreciate?
A closing phrase has to go to the real spotlight of any excursion to South Korea: the Korean individuals on their own. It’s as if hospitality, helpfulness and regard are challenging-wired into their DNA. You can guarantee that as you journey via the country, you will have encounters with locals that will depart you feeling that tiny bit far more optimistic about this earth we all share.
Certain, it could materialize in Japan as perfectly, but they’re in all probability way too occupied reading manga.
South Korea for the acquire.