Minoru Nakazawa / Marubeni Korea Corporation
South Korea is increasingly popular as a travel destination among Japanese. As our office is located on an upper floor of the Lotte Department Store in central Seoul, the elevator also serves customers who shop there, and it is now well known that the elevator gets so crowded that you can’t ride it!
It is not very well known, however, that there are a wide variety of festivals in the rural areas. Festivals are held according to the season in each region, with themes such as plums, cherries, whales, fireworks, Matsutake mushrooms, Asian ginseng, kimchi, and the like. Among these festivals, I will introduce some that everyone has heard of, but that few have actually gone to—even among people from Seoul.
[Boryeong / Mud Festival]
At this summer festival, people wear swimsuits and have fun rolling around in the mud and getting it all over their bodies. Full of international flavor, this festival is a big hit especially with Westerners, and they look at each other and laugh as they roll around in the mud. The mud that you get from the beaches of Boryeong—located on the central west coast of South Korea—is good for the skin, and it would be suitable for mudpacks, which were said to have been a favorite of Cleopatra.
[Jindo / Mysterious Parting of the Sea]
Jindo is a southern island that has the parting sea… the emerging road that Japanese Enka (genre of Japanese popular songs that are characteristically melancholy) singer Yoshimi Tendo sings about in the Tale of Jindo. During the ebb tide on a certain day around April every year, the sea parts, and a road appears, leading to the small island on the opposite shore two kilometers away. When the road appears, the ladies busily dig clams. They are in quite a hurry, because the parting only lasts about an hour, so if they were to dilly dally, they would find that the sea closes back up during their trip back and forth!
[Hwacheon / Landlocked Salmon Festival]
This is a winter festival held along the North Han River, upstream of the Han River—a large river that runs through the center of Seoul. The highlight of the festival is the event at the special pool on the festival grounds where participants catch landlocked salmon with their bare hands. Participants change into T-shirts, jump into icy water all at once when given the signal, and catch fish with their bare hands. The water is so cold that it takes your breath away when you put your face in to look for fish, and it seems as if it might stop your heart as well! Afterward, you can get into an open-air bath and have the landlocked salmon that you caught prepared as sashimi or grilled with salt. Even if you don’t speak Korean very well, you can have a great time with the friendly locals by toasting with Chamisul (liquor similar to vodka).
Marubeni Group magazine "M-SPIRIT" VOL.70 (July, 2012)