After waiting for two weeks for a day when it wasn’t raining I finally made it out again, but even so the sky over Guui was overcast and it was questionable whether or not the rain would hold off long enough for me to explore the neighborhood. I left Exit 1 and headed in the direction of Konkuk University and down Achasan-ro (아차산로), which was dominated by the elevated tracks running above it. The area around the station looked to have had some recent development, with newish buildings and traffic islands manicured with shrubs and flowers, but the buildings got older and lower as I went west.
In the backstreets were the expected red brick apartments, but also a couple pairs of mothers and sons out taking walks, one to the corner store for ice cream. Away from the main roads it was quiet, and I could hear the sobs of a TV drama seeping out of an apartment window and, shortly after, the leisurely notes of a bossa nova-y pop song from a delivery truck whose driver had left running with the windows down while he made a delivery. Another deliveryman a bit further up unloaded crates of makkeolli for a local convenience store.
After drifting through the side streets for a bit I headed north on Jayang-ro (자양로). Up on the left was the Gwangjin District Office (광진구청), which had a small park in front of it where a few moms were chatting while minding their kids. There was also an old man seated in a chair under an umbrella, and he’d turned the stone block next to him into a display for chops, which he probably either personalized or repaired for any parties who might be interested. At the moment, however, he was missing out on any potential business he might otherwise have had, as he had fallen asleep, a bit of drool escaping his mouth and dripping onto his tie.
On the opposite side of the road and above the first street to the right was a large, Tetris-like piece of perforated metal. This marked the entrance to Jayang-ro-18-gil (자양로18길), known around the neighborhood as Migaro (미가로). Signage trumpeted the road as both ‘Guui-dong Food Culture Street’ and ‘Youth and Romance Street,’ and while I’ll concede the former, the latter seems something of a stretch. Basically Migaro is like many other streets throughout the city that get tagged with a label like ‘Eating Alley’ or ‘Taste Street’: It’s a long street with a ton of restaurants. Unlike some food streets, Migaro didn’t have any particular specialty; it was a bit of everything, including a seafood restaurant that had made a rather ill-advised décor choice by using a couple of Shell Oil logos on its door. It was around noon when I took a walk down the street, and nearly all of the customers coming and going appeared to be businesspeople on their lunch breaks. At a three-way intersection partway down the road there was a large metal plate with the Migaro logo set in the pavement. It was attached rather too loosely, and every time a vehicle drove over it it would rattle noisily.
Much of the area south of the station is taken up by government facilities. These include the Seoul District Eastern Court and Prosecutor’s Office, but the dominant one is the East Seoul Mail Center (동서울우편집중국). Near Exit 3 is its distribution center, where fleets of delivery trucks were lined up in the parking lot, awaiting their next load of packages. Meanwhile, south on Jayang-ro from Exit 4, was the main entrance to the campus and next to it a statue of a swallow carrying a package it its beak, the entire structure formed out of Hangeul syllable blocks that spelled out various messages, among which one was ‘화이팅.’ The entrance was watched over by a large security gate that seemed more like what one might see in front of a government ministry or research park, and it underscored just how much big the operation is here. There’s even a wedding hall on site.
On the opposite side of Jayang-ro and down Jayang-ro-13-gil (자양로13길), past some small restaurants, bars, and a neighborhood park, I came upon Jayang Alley Market (자양골목시장). There was some market spillover to the left, but the market proper began to the right, underneath a white tent roof and an arch spelling out the market’s name in blocky green letters. The cover on the ㄱ in 목 was missing and I could see the exposed neon tubing; it was the only letter in the sign that was lit up.
I picked up the sweet odor of fried food as I walked in, then soon caught sight of the woman with homemade donuts at a stall near the entrance. A bit further in a man was demonstrating the amazing cleaning power of small, Swiffer-life hand dusters to a pair of middle-aged women, and past that group an ajumma stirred a big vat of red bean porridge. Besides all the usual produce, there were also several places to eat, including one doing handmade kalguksu for just 2,900 won a bowl, and although it looked terrific it was just far too hot for me to contemplate eating.
Jayang was clean and neatly organized, all of it covered by a white fabric canopy just like the tented section at the entrance. The market was arranged in a long T-shape, with shorter arms running off to either side at the main alley’s north end. Every so often I’d pass a sign with the market’s (or neighborhood’s, perhaps?) mascot: a guy dressed in a horse costume and giving a big thumbs up to shoppers.
Gwangjin District Office (광진구청)
Right on Jayang-ro (자양로)
Right on Jayang-ro (자양로), Right on Jayang-ro-18-gil (자양로18길)
Jayang Alley Market (자양골목시장)
Left on Jayang-ro (자양로), Right on Jayang-ro-13-gil (자양로13길)