The Seoul Of Christmas

Christmas the JWs way has been different every year. We have yet to establish a tradition, because, after four Christmases together now since marriage, we have yet to do anything the same. And so far, we like it that way.

Our first year involved staying home and eating mail-ordered turkey legs, lamenting the lack of Christmassy things in Japan, which was rather sad and lonely and we resolved never to do again. For our second year we set off for Christmas with my family in the Philippines, which involved days of preparation for a feast that disappeared within… minutes; but it was awesome. Last year we made our house the center of all the festivities, serving up turkey and mulled wine to any who graced us with their presence, except for obvious logistical reasons to our Skype visitors; it was a lot of fun, but a lot of work. This year we set off in search of the Seoul of Christmas: a meandering quest for the best Christmassy things Japan and Korea had to offer (sorry, I just can’t help myself).

JWs Christmas Tree

This year we had an early, humble Christmas morning before setting off on our adventures.

Kobe Chinatown and Port Area

After an several-days-early Christmas morning in our apartment, we packed our things and some of our newly received presents and set off for Kobe. We had originally planned to see Kobe’s world famous Illuminari (sounds like “Illuminati,” heh), but it apparently ended before Christmas. So we checked out Chinatown and the port, both of which were beautiful at night.

Kobe Chinatown

Entrance to Kobe’s Chinatown

Kobe Port Night View

Kobe Port had a great view at night – Not only the tower, but all the surrounding buildings were glowing.

Kobe Tower

Port of Kobe Tower, illuminated at night.

Kobe Christmas Tree

We found this tree at the port, in front of an extremely popular Danish cheesecake and fondue cafe full of couples. Christmas is a very romantic affair in Japan.

Osaka and the German Christmas Market

The next day we headed for Osaka and the German Christmas Market. Christmas in Osaka was bittersweet, because – as some of you may know – I have been on a so-far-fruitless quest to find the Giant Rubber Duck, and much to my dismay the duck was actually in Osaka that night, happily inflated, pretty close to where we were, but I had no idea. I only found out after the fact and was quite depressed about missing it. I had initially heard the duck would be there from the 26th onward, so I planned to see it after we returned from Korea on the 27th, but by that point it was already too late. Anyways, the Christmas market was nice at least…

Osaka Station Night Christmas

Osaka Station was all lit up for the pre-Christmas nights.

Christmas Market Tree

The German Christmas Market is located beneath Osaka Umeda’s famous Sky Garden Observatory landmark building. The giant tree in the centre of the market stretched up probably more than 30 floors.

Brats at the Christmas Market

One of the big draws, for us, of the Christmas market is the food. Real brats, ham cut straight from the hock, and mulled wine, oh my!

Giant Rubber Duck Osaka Dec. 2013

The Giant Rubber Duck was in Osaka until Dec. 25th. I had been told it would be there from the 26th. Thwarted again!

Finally we were off to Korea to find the Seoul of Christmas. Which we were certain would involve a little bit of love, a lot of delicious food, and a much better chance at seeing snow than we’d get in Yokkaichi.

Christmas Morning: Seoul Tower of Love

On Christmas morning, we headed for Seoul Tower at the recommendation of a friend. Apparently Seoul Tower is the place to be on Christmas Day. There are various ways to get to Seoul Tower, which is located on Namsan Mountain in the middle of the city, the most interesting of which is by gondola. Obviously, we chose that route.

N. (for North, or Namsan) Seoul Tower is also called the “Tower of Love,” which probably explains why it is so popular on Christmas, which is more like the Valentine’s Day of Japan and Korea. There are a multitude of ways couples at N. Seoul Tower can celebrate their love, including love message tiles at the top of the tower, and locks of love below it.

Namsan Gondola

The gondola up to Namsan, and the base of N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower

N. Seoul Tower, stretching into the clouds.

Love Message Tiles

Love message tiles at the top of the tower. Our good friend Evan married his love Kate in Australia just the day before, and we sadly weren’t able to make the trek Down Under to be there, so we were thinking of them and decided to leave a message for them up there.

North Pole View from Seoul Tower

We also waved hello to Santa from the top of the tower…

Locks of Love

We bought a lock and sealed a token of our love to the base of Seoul Tower forever.

Locks of Love J and J

Can you spot the J+J lock?

N Seoul Tower was relatively peaceful in the morning, which leads me to believe that evening is the time to go for the festivities. We were content to avoid the inevitable lines and chaos, though, and move on to more Christmassy adventures around Seoul.

Other Christmas Highlights in Korea

Unreal Santa wall graffiti

“This is not real.” Or maybe Santa just has the same powers as Link and can transform himself into a wall painting at his convenience… (Can you tell what I’ve been playing lately?)

Santa's Reingoats

Santa’s Rein…goats? Spotted in Insadong, Seoul on Christmas Eve.

Lantern Santa

I found this Santa hanging out in a traditional village we explored on Christmas Eve.

Ben and Codi, our travel companions

Ben and Codi, our awesome travel companions to Seoul, taking a breather in the aforementioned traditional village (they are also from Vancouver and also live in Yokkaichi, how random is that?!)

Seoul Palace Kancho

On Christmas Day we checked out a palace in the afternoon… This might just be my favourite photo from our trip. Ben had no idea Jordan was behind him about to kancho him when I took this photo.

JSA Border to North Korea

On Boxing Day we went on a tour to the DMZ/JSA and were able to cross the border into North Korea (while safely inside a guarded building that straddles both sides).

DMZ Christmas Tree

It snowed at the DMZ, so I finally got my Christmas wish! Even the most heavily fortified border on Earth deserves some Christmas joy! (Although apparently the soldiers despise the snow. But who can blame them, really?)

All in all, we had a very merry happy Christmas galavanting around Kobe, Osaka, Seoul and the DMZ. Unfortunately we ended up in a terrible hostel for our four nights in Seoul, which resulted in me struggling to function on increasingly compounded amounts of sleep deprivation, and probably enjoying myself less than I should have. But it was still a good time overall, and we got to see and do a bunch of stuff we didn’t on our first trip to Seoul. 

As I write this, the last hours of sunlight wane on the final day of 2013. After all the traveling we’ve done (and still have to catch you up on) this past month, we’ve decided to spend New Year’s Eve in the comfort of our own home, to ring in the new year relaxing with our new video games and a lot of delicious chocolate chili mulled wine. We’ve celebrated the fourth Christmas of our marriage and of our life abroad, and are looking forward to lots of changes in 2014. The most significant of which is, of course, leaving Japan next summer and (probably) returning to Canada in search of new challenges and adventures in the next stage of our lives. 2013 has been long and tiring, and while it’s been quite eventful I think we’re both looking forward to leaving it behind and, despite the uncertainty that lies ahead, setting our sights on 2014.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the JWs!

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5 thoughts on “The Seoul Of Christmas

  1. As a former English teacher, I’m assuming your statement…looking forward to lots of changes in 2013 is a typo!!!!! 2014!!!!!!!!! is probably what you meant, e’est-ce pas?
    Anyway, we have thoroughly enjoyed your BLOG (new word for us old folks) over the years & wish you both well in 2014! Happy New Year from snowy & overcast Mississauga. Love, hugs & kisses, cuzzy CAM

    • Haha! We have a time machine so we were gonna try 2013 again… just kidding of course thanks for catching that. Thanks for always reading the blog, a very Happy New Year to you!!! (^_^)

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