Tōdai-ji, Nara, Japan

Tōdai-ji, founded in 728, sits at the northern edge of Nara Park. As with much of Nara, the deer roam freely here, and small gates keep them from entering buildings. Entry to the grounds is at Nakamon, the Central Gate. Tōdai-ji’s most renowned features are the Daibutsuden, the world’s largest wooden building, and the Great…

Nara Park, Nara, Japan

Deer. They are what Nara are famous for, and they’re what thousands of visitors come to see. Considered the messengers of the gods in Shintō, the deer are designated a national treasure, and there are strict rules on interacting with them posted throughout the park. By “rules” I mean “warnings”. You see, the deer are…

Korea’s DMZ from the South

There aren’t a great many ways to get inside the Demilitarised Zone, and only one to visit the Joint Security Area itself. USO Tours offer a day-long coach trip from Seoul, just down the street from the War Memorial of Korea. Booking the USO Tour proved a fiddly process: they require payment at least four…

Hwaseong, Suwon, South Korea

Only 19 miles south of Seoul lies South Korea’s only remaining walled fortress, Hwaseong. It surrounds Suwon city centre, and was completed in 1796 to house and honour the remains of Prince Sado. More on him in a moment. Within the fortress walls is Haenggung, the palace built by King Jeongjo in 1789. The evidence…

Gyeongbokgung, Seoul, South Korea

Completed in 1395, three years after the founding of the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeongbokgung was completed. The first of Seoul’s Great Palaces, it has been razed, left derelict, reconstructed, torn down, and reconstructed again in the subsequent 700 years. Arrive at the Gwanghwamun gate on the hour between 10:00 and 15:00 and you will witness the…

Changdeokgung, Seoul, South Korea

One of Seoul’s Five Great Palaces, Changdeokgung was built during the Joseon Dynasty, after Gyeongbukgung. It came about as part of a power struggle between members of the Royal Family. King Taejong had killed his own brothers in Gyeongbukgung, so built a new palace further to the east. This Palace is packed. I mean very,…