Inspiration and Stories: Japan & Korea

East Asia: home of megacities and bullet trains, but to mention incredible food, wild mountains and some of the coolest cultures on Earth. Don't worry about the language barrier -- buy the plane ticket and I promise you'll do just fine. 


S. Korea: Seoul


"seoul's homegrown hip"

In general, I try to avoid eating anything that fights back. Nonetheless, the dish before me - fully alive moments before - is still squirming. 

"Chew vigorously," my friend Nick says, as I seize a particularly ambitious piece of sannakji - a freshly dismembered bit of raw octopus tentacle - dredge it through a small dish of sesame oil, and pop it, writhing, into my mouth.

"It's the feeling of it gripping as it goes down that I've really come to love," he adds, as a peculiar sucking sensation takes hold of my tongue and cheek. I shoot him a look and swallow hard, feeling the unmasticated suction cups working their way down my esophagus.


Japan: THE DAIKIRETTO, Japanese alps



Perched sweating on a narrow ledge a thousand meters above the valley floor, my clammy fingers gripped onto a length of rusty steel chain bolted into the near-vertical rock face, the words from an internet message board that drew me here come echoing loudly back: “The goal of hiking the Daikiretto is very simple,” they say to me, clouds swirling far beneath my feet. “Do not die.”





SEOUL IS A city of sights that frequently belie its true character — medieval palaces that don’t speak to its essential, gritty joie de vivre, and polished luxury department stores that hide the easy garrulousness of its people and the city’s recent developing-world roots. A visit to Seoul’s public markets, however, brings into immediate focus exactly what makes this rough and complex city so beguiling. “The whole market experience cuts right to the heart of Korean culture,” says magazine editor and longtime Seoul resident, David Carruth. “You can’t go to a shopping mall for it -- there’s too much distance between things. It’s got to be here, in the market, with people jostling against each other from beneath a makeshift roof."