On school holiday, I just returned from an amazing week hitting three major capital cities of Asia. My mom flew into Tokyo to start our whirlwind tour. The aesthetics of Tokyo are mesmerizing, simultaneously fast paced and precisely organized. One of the most impactful memories I will have from Tokyo is learning about Shintoism, the ethnic religion of Japan. Shinto rituals believe humans are fundamentally good and through prayers and offerings one can be purified. Hills, trees, flowers, Mt. Fuji, and places can have a "god" like spiritual manifestation. Check out these tranquil Shinto inspired gardens.
Our next stop was Seoul, only a two hour flight from Tokyo. Seoul has five grand palaces and you could spend months exploring these incredible complexes alone. I especially liked the Bukchon Hanok Village, where we visited a traditional home for cups of morning tea. An hour outside of Seoul lies the border with North Korea, known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). To enter we had to go through several passport security checkpoints with South Korean guards. Despite being the most heavily militarized zone in the world, and all of the media I have heard about the Korean conflict, I was struck by the strong sentiment in the DMZ for unification. Many of the sites we visited including a border train station dreamed of a day when the train could continue on to Pyongyang. Just as we returned from the DMZ that afternoon we watched the news that North Korea had tested a missile launch over Japan. Thinking of all of the families that are separated by this division and the aspirations of a unified peninsula, I now see Korea in a new context.
Our final stop was to Beijing. Highlights here included the Summer Palace, the Imperial Palace, an acrobatic show, Peking Duck and the Great Wall. We also got to see Tiananmen Square and the embalmed body of Mao Zedong in his Beijing mausoleum. Having learned about Chinese history and always dreamed about traveling to China one day, finally arriving in these sites was a surreal experience. I feel so fortunate to be able to spend a week with my mom in these incredible cities! Here are some photos from the last part of our trip (featuring the Beijing smog, which was no joke).