Blog Archives

Life in Taipei: the old city walls

Beimen (North Gate) in Taipei

Taipei was only founded in the late 1800s when Taiwan was part of the Qing Empire, and the city walls were pulled down a short time later in the early 1900s when Taiwan was part of the Japanese Empire. The Japanese administration did this to make way for the wide boulevards which are still there today,

Read more ›



Tokyo’s Controversial Yasukuni Shrine and Yushukan Museum

Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo

This isn’t a politics blog. But when I travel I like to learn about the history of the places I visit, and to at least somewhat get a handle on the political landscape. Fact is that politics & history are closely intertwined, and if you travel without paying any attention whatsoever to those things you’re travelling with your eyes half shut.

Read more ›



Yokai: the monsters and demons of Japanese folklore

Tengu at Yakuo-in temple, Mt Takao

Japanese folklore is a rich tapestry of mischievous spirits, child-eating monsters, and shape-shifting animals, a little knowledge of which can give great insight into the culture when you visit.

Most trips to Japan will involve visiting some (usually many) temples, shrines,

Read more ›



The Five Grand Palaces of Seoul: which Seoul palaces should you visit?

Cherry blossoms at Gyeongbokgung palace, Seoul

The Five Grand Seoul Palaces of the Joseon Period, along with Jongmyo Shrine, make up the main traditional sightseeing spots in the Korean capital. Although the sites mostly date back to the 1300s – 1500s, the majority of the buildings standing on them today are actually recent reconstructions,

Read more ›



Viewing the Disputed Kuril Islands from the Shiretoko Peninsula

Hokkaido’s remote Shiretoko Peninsula in the far northeastern corner of Japan was a place I’d wanted to go ever since I spent a ski season in Sapporo. At the time I’d made a trip out that way to Abashiri (famous for its once-notorious prison) and taken an ice-breaker cruise out on the frozen Sea of Okhotsk,

Read more ›



Life in Taipei: Remnants of the Empire of the Sun

Rinzai Zen Temple, Yuanshan, Taipei

As a former resident of Japan who moved to Taipei, it was fascinating to see the Japanese influence on this originally Chinese culture, Taiwan having been colonised by the Qing Empire in the late 1600s and then the Japanese Empire for 50 years from 1895 to 1945;

Read more ›



Visiting the DMZ (De-Militarised Zone) Between South and North Korea

North and South Korean soldiers facing off in the JSA, Panmunjeom DMZ

Visiting the DMZ (De-Militarised Zone) is one of the most unusual and interesting things you can do on a visit to Korea (or indeed anywhere), giving you the opportunity to take a peak into the hermit state and even step across the world’s most heavily fortified border and stand on North Korean territory.

Read more ›



Preah Vihear: failing to visit the disputed temple from the Thai side

“No, you can’t go there, army fighting with Cambodia now.”

What? I’d just checked two hours earlier with the policeman on duty back at Surin bus station, and he’d told me the situation was calm, so I’d continued on towards Preah Vihear; now this motorbike driver at Kantharalak bus station was telling me Preah Vihear was off limits again…

Read more ›



Sapporo to Kyoto by local train; a bizarre encounter in Tomakomai, the dog-eat-dog-politely world of busy Japanese trains, and a heroic last stand in Hiraizumi

Part One: A Bizarre Encounter at Tomakomai Station

“Hey. Fuck you!”

…what the? I heard this woman before I ever saw her; she’d sneaked up behind me while I was on the phone and suddenly started screaming in my free ear…

“Fuck you! Hey,

Read more ›



Antisocial media:

Subscribe to the 4corners7seas mailing list:





Heading to China? Make sure to set up a VPN first:

Express VPN banner

Click for $35 off your first stay!

Flexible travel insurance, even if you’re already overseas:

Top