Tag Archives: religion

Busan to Fukuoka

Three weekends ago, during the Lunar New Year holiday, I took a trip across the East Sea to Japan. It’s been on my list of places to visit for a long time, so I was excited to finally go.

Instead of flying, I took the Beetle speed ferry from Busan to Fukuoka. A round trip ticket cost about 200,000 won ($185) and took just under three hours. The port worked much like an airport. Passengers go through security, show their passport, and present their ticket at the gate before boarding.

Port of Busan Security

Busan to Fukuoka Speed Ferry

The boat also felt like an airplane on the inside. It was a jet-ferry, so it even sounded like an airplane.

I naively expected Japan to be similar to Korea, but the two countries are quite different. The most obvious differences are cultural and not aesthetic. Japanese people seem to be more aware of the people around them, which makes public places in Japan much more pleasant than in Korea. There was a noticeable absence of pushing, spitting, and loud cell phone conversations. When I made an effort to be polite, like holding the door for people, they didn’t look at me like they caught me fingering a cat.

Escalator in Japan

People even follow the rules on escalators, keeping right so others can pass on the left.

I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see any of the weird sexual stuff for which the Japanese are so famous. With the exception of a few women in costumes and a baby-themed liquor bottle at the hotel bar, I didn’t see any weird stuff.

Weird baby bottle liquor in Japanese bar

The liquor bottle shaped like a baby’s milk bottle openly was the only hint that there might be some weird fetishes that don’t carry the same social stigma as in the west.

I stayed at the Crowne Plaza ANA hotel in downtown Fukuoka. Ordinarily out of my price range, I was able to stay at an upscale hotel by using credit card points. After checking in, I went out and explored the city. I tend to travel with a loose itinerary, so most of my time was spent wandering. I managed to incorporate a few of the heavily advertised local tourist attractions into the trip.

My favorite place was Maizuru Castle. This 400 year-old defensive structure was built on a hill in the center of town. It offers stunning views of the surrounding city. The original wooden buildings are gone, but the stone walls remain intact and some replicas wooden buildings have been constructed.

Maizuru Castle in Fukuoka Japan Entrance

This is the castle’s main gate. The Naka river acts as a natural moat.

Maizuru Castle in Fukuoka Japan Stairs

The castle is built in levels. To get from one level to the next, you must pass through a narrow stairway. This allowed for easier defense.

Maizuru Castle in Fukuoka Japan house on wall

All along the walls are guard towers from which defenders could shoot arrows and drop stones.

Maizuru Castle in Fukuoka Japan Panorama from top

The top level of the castle offers beautiful panoramic views of the city.

Not far from the castle was an indoor street market. I never learned the name of the market, but I spent over an hour walking around and checking out the shops. It stretched the length of six city blocks and included several hundred businesses. The shops ranged from fresh produce to traditional clothing to touristy trinkets.

Fukuoka Japan indoor street market

At the far end of the market was a Buddhist temple complex. I walked inside to look around and realized that I had seen the golden steeple of the temple’s shrine several times before. It is visible from several other places around town, including my hotel room.

Fukuoka Japan Buddhist Temple Entrance

The entrance appeared to be decorated for some celebration, but I have no idea what it might have been.

Woman worshiping Fukuoka Japan Buddhist Temple Entrance

The golden column atop the shrine is visible from miles away.

The most surprising thing I found while walking around Fukuoka was a familiar face.

James Brown statue in Fukuoka Japan

That face is pure nightmare fuel.

My only regret was that I didn’t have more time to spend exploring the city – especially the nightlife. I was so tired from walking that I wound up in bed early both nights. Next time, I”ll budget more time for relaxing during the day and hitting the town at night.

Until next time.


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Second Temple Stop

This is the one I’ve been waiting to show you!  It was my favorite stop of the whole trip.  As usual, I had no idea what was going on when we arrived.  The bus pulled into the parking lot of a small flea market that was an odd mix of fish and the normal cheap crap that you find at flea markets.

My assumption was that we were there to check out the flea market and take a quick restroom break.  I walked into one of the shops and started to look around.  When I looked back up, the whole group was walking through the parking lot.  By the time I caught up, I realized they were heading toward a small trail head.

As we snaked our way up a large hill beside the parking lot, one of the teachers told me that we were going to a Buddhist temple that overlooks the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan).  I don’t know exactly what I expected to find when we crested the hill; all I know is that I was totally surprised.  It was a lot more than a temple – it was a whole village of beautiful Buddhist buildings.  I think the photos speak for themselves.

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Until next time.


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Sorely Disappointed

I should preface the following by clarifying that this post is not meant to upset anyone or belittle other people’s opinions.  Read carefully and remember that this is not intended to be an affront to your personal beliefs.  This is as much about law and the purpose of our legal protections as it is about religion.


North Carolina Amendment One


For those of you who are unaware, North Carolina’s state constitution was amended today.  The new amendment, Amendment One, reads as follows: “Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”


Since 1995, North Carolina has had the following law on the books: “N.C.G.S. 51‑1.2.  Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or performed outside of North Carolina, between individuals of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina.”


So what purpose does Amendment One serve if a law already exists that serves the same purpose?  Why create a redundant constitutional amendment that does nothing to alter the legal landscape for gays?  The reason for such an amendment is to serve as an exclamation point.  To express powerful majority’s hostility toward a disenfranchised minority in the most conspicuous and mean way possible – by etching it into the constitution.


Not NC’s First Rodeo 


Amendment One is not North Carolina’s first redundant constitutional amendment.  In 1875, the state’s old constitution was amended for a surprisingly similar purpose.  Despite the fact that a law already existed outlawing interracial marriage, the constitution was amended with the following language: “all marriages between a white person and a Negro or between a white person and a person of Negro descent to the third generation inclusive are, hereby, forever prohibited.”


Sadly, the aforementioned amendment remained on the books for nearly a century.  It invalidated in 1971 when the state constitution was rewritten.  This came four years after the US Supreme Court declared that all bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional.


Like Amendment One, the amendment banning interracial marriage was redundant and did nothing to change the legal landscape.  It was a way for the majority to express their ardent disapproval for a lifestyle with which they disagreed.  It was a way to enshrine their religious intolerance and bigotry in the most important legal document in our state.  Like Amendment One, the majority used the Bible to support their position.  Unlike homosexuality, which the Bible addresses sparingly (if at all), there are dozens of verses that clearly state that interracial marriage is sinful and that it angers God.


Legislating Morality


The purpose of a constitution is to grant and protect rights – not to deny them to the minority.  Since the United States Constitution was drafted, there has only been one (federal) constitutional amendment that sought to deprive citizens of a right.  The 18th Amendment (prohibition) another embarrassing effort to legislate morality that did not last.  It took another amendment (21st Amendment) to undo that mistake.  It failed as an amendment because it had no business being one in the first place – much like Amendment One.


You cannot legislate morality.  Morals are subjective on the small-scale and constantly evolving on the national scale.  This is often referred to as “moral relativism” – the opposite of which is absolutism (or fundamentalism).  Throughout the history of our country, the collective ideas about what is “right” and “acceptable” have changed.  This is why every generation is frustrated with subsequent generations.  Grandparents will always feel that their grandchildren’s generation is “going to hell in a handbasket.”


To legislate morality, especially using a constitutional amendment, is to deny the inevitable.  In 1875, the majority believed that interracial marriage was immoral.  They created a constitutional amendment that is (should be) an embarrassment to subsequent generations.  Amendment One is no different.  Even NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis admitted that gay marriage is, “a generational issue.”  He added, “I think it will be repealed in 20 years.”


The bottom line is that North Carolina’s Christian majority (predominantly the over-40 crowd) is fighting against the tide of progress to force their personal beliefs on younger generations for a few more decades.  This is the legacy they have chosen.  They managed to throw sand in the gears of moral progress and enlightenment on their way out.  Now we, the generations that follow, are left to waste precious time and energy removing intolerance and religious bigotry from the North Carolina constitution.


Until next time.




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