Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Maryland

I spent the second half of my trip to the U.S. in Maryland. I made sure to eat as many/much crab cakes, crab dip, crab rolls, crab soup, and crab pretzels as possible. I think I filled up on enough Maryland crab for at least six months!

Over a long weekend, two of my very close friends, Roxanne and Sue, from VB came to MD to visit. We met Sue at the airport and on our way back to Bel Air, we stopped at Fort McHenry. Fort McHenry is where Francis Scott Key was inspired during the War of 1812 to write the Star Spangled Banner. The fort is located in the Locust Point section of Baltimore. The views of were beautiful. Plus, we were able to participate in raising the humongous American flag.

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We rendezvoused with Roxanne and began our Bel Air Pub/Brewery crawl. The crawl was infused with food, beer, friends, and Maryland trivia. Starting with a stop at the Black Eyed Suzie’s (Maryland State Flower).

From there, we walked our way around the quaint town of Bel Air, stopping for tourist pictures with several hearts. The hearts are significant to Bel Air because Bel Air is the “heart” of Harford County.

The following day, we went to visit Ladew Topiary Garden. The garden ranks among the top five topiary gardens in the country. The wildflower meadow was filled with Black Eyed Susan’s. I was a little confused when we first passed the Torii. Then I realized we were at the Japanese garden. Notice the topiary Buddha. He kindof looks like a Grinch / Buddha. A great example of wabisabi. The imperfections are beautiful.

She’s a fox!

The garden still had several plants blooming. The garden was divided into distinct rooms that flowed from one to the next. We enjoyed a lovely humid day.

Check out the large chess pieces in this garden room. It might have been my second favorite after the Buddha.

The last day of their visit, we took a short road trip to Annapolis. It was an absolutely picture perfect day. The weather was delightful. We ate lunch and walked around downtown Annapolis and around the Naval Academy. It was fun to share memories and experiences with my friends and Mom! Seems like a lifetime ago!!

After Sue and Roxanne returned to VB, I had a few more days to relax and enjoy time with my Mom. We made great use of our time together. We walked the Ma & Pa Nature Trail, did a little shopping, and ran errands. Plus, my Mom had the great idea for each of us to paint a piece of pottery to commemorate our Bermuda trip. I’ll look forward to seeing our finished products after they are glazed.

It really was a wonderful trip. Spending time on holiday with my Mom in Bermuda was another trip of a lifetime. Relaxing in Bel Air and visiting with friends was perfect. I left the U.S. with my happiness bucket full. My bucket flowed over when I returned home and Dave welcomed me with a happy bouquet of flowers.

I am truly fortunate to have so much love and happiness in my life. That includes everyone reading this! Kanpai! Cheers!

Let’s Begin Again

Konnichiwa! I am safely back in Japan after a wonderful holiday in Maryland visiting my Mom. We spent half of my visit in Maryland and the other half in Bermuda. In Bermuda, we spent three nights at an air b&b in Warwick. While here, we had a chance to explore the pink sand beaches, Hamilton, and Dockyard. The beaches were definitely a highlight.

The city of Hamilton had so many picturesque spots. We enjoyed walking around and exploring the city.

A popular sight throughout Bermuda is the moongate. Walking through the gate is considered to bring good luck and happiness. We walked through as many as we could!

The second half of our trip we spent three nights at an air b&b in St. George’s. We had a chance to explore even more beaches.

We experienced several rain showers and rainbows. One morning we were caught in a torrential downpour when we were about 20 minutes away from our air b&b. We had a good laugh several times throughout our trek back in the rain and later as well. I’m sure we will remember that walk for a long time! Fortunately, we were able to se several rainbows as a result of all the showers. The wabi-sabi of a rain shower is a rainbow.

Also while visiting St. George’s, we took a tour of the Crystal Caves. The Crystal Caves were discovered in 1907. The limestone Caves were full of stalactites and stalagmites.

We really had a great week. Bermuda is a beautiful island with so many beaches and quaint areas. Here are a few more tourist pictures. Please enjoy!

I’m realizing this blog post is getting rather lengthy and full of photos. So, let me leave you with our happy memories of our Bermuda trip. Tomorrow, I’ll share our adventures in Bel Air.

Summer Vacation

I’m flying to the U.S. this evening. My ultimate destination is Baltimore. I’m going to spend a few weeks in MD visiting my Mom. During my visit we are going to take a trip to Bermuda. I’ve planned out some sightseeing and beach hopping for our week.

Also, during the trip, a couple of my favorite friends from VB will visit me in MD. (Sorry, you couldn’t move sooner, Sara!) Besides seeing loved ones, here are a few things I’m excited about to see / experience in America. In no particular order:

1. American Air Conditioning

2. Shopping

3. Maryland Crabs

It’s going to be a great visit. As I’ve mentioned before, when I travel out of Japan, I can’t promise I’ll have connectivity. I have to rely on wifi. I’ll post when I can and be sure to share our adventures when I return. Thanks for reading! Happy Summer!

Japanese Hanko

Sonia met me in Kamakura after my English on Friday afternoon. We had an appointment at a Kamakura Hanko to make our own personal Japanese Hanko.

A Japanese Hanko is a personalized stamp used instead of a signature. Just like your signature, the Hanko is hand drawn and includes at least part of your name in kanji. Each Hanko is original, like a signature, and then registered with the city for official authenticity.

The first step for designing your personalized Hanko is selecting the kanji that represents your name. I used the drawing Miki made for me last year when she had my name engraved on my sushi knife.

Sonia selected her kanji from the book the store provided.

The owner of the store printed the kanji for us and then we drew (traced) it on a piece of paper.

Tracing was trickier than you might think. Especially, after the owner took out the super fancy calligraphy pens. I clearly had no clue how to use the pens. He gave me a quick lesson after he watched me use it like a paintbrush!

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We left our masterpieces at the store to be engraved on our Hanko stamper. We both selected the cute kokeshi dolls for our stampers.

We had a couple hours to wait for our Hanko to be carved. We made good use of our time.

We returned to the shop a couple hours later to collect our Hanko.

There was a little bit of a “lost in translation” moment when we were picking up our Hanko. We both thought we selected this kokeshi stamp with a stand.

We liked the stand the kokeshi was placed in because it made a nice souvenir and conversation piece. The other option is keeping the Hanko in a case. In my opinion, a case would just get lost in a draw.

Well, to our surprise and disappointment, the kokeshi stamp we selected was the larger stamp (more official) and did not come with a stand. It came with a case. Sigh.

We attempted to explain we wanted the stand. There was a lot of back and forth and promises to make phone calls to the manufacturer of the kokeshi stamp to inquire about having a stand specially made for the larger sized kokeshi stamp. All we can do is just wait and see. And keep our fingers crossed. Despite not having the stand, I do love my personalized Hanko. And even as frustrated as I was, I couldn’t help but laugh. Even after almost two years of living in Japan, I still have “lost in translation” moments.

Summer Solstice

Happy first day of Summer! The Summer Solstice is one of my favorite days of the year because it has the most daylight. In the Land of the Rising Sun, that means we are experiencing a very early sunrise.

Honestly, the early sunrise doesn’t bother Dave and me too much because we are usually out the door for our run by 4:15am. The early light makes an early morning jog to Zushi Beach possible.

Despite the first day of summer and the expected abundance of sunshine, it is still rainy season in Japan. Today was overcast and drizzly with 97% humidity. Tomorrow is forecasted to be more of the same.

Here’s a little fact for you about Japan. The Japanese name for Japan is 日本. It is pronounced either Nihon or Nippon. Both pronunciations are correct and used for different purposes. The kanji 日 (nichi), means sun. The kanji 本(hon) means origin. (When nichi is combined with another kanji, the chi is silent.) The name came about during the Edo Period. From the view pint of China, the sun would rise above Japan. Thus, making it the land of the rising sun. Fast forward to today, with a 4:26am sunrise in the summer, the name “Land of the the Rising Sun” is still very much appropriate.

For all my logophile readers, people who love words, Japan is an exonym. An exonym is a word used outside of a geographical area to describe a country or a group of people. Japan is the English exonym for Nihon or Nippon.

Just when it was time to take a break from learning, I give you a school lesson. Thanks for reading! Next time you play Scrabble, please try to use exonym. Happy Summer!

Hasedera Temple

Monday was another overcast day with an occasional slight drizzle. Miki and I were already planning to have lunch. Since Dave and I didn’t have any luck on Saturday visiting Hasedera Temple, I invited Miki to go with me to see the hydrangeas before we ate lunch. I was hoping Hasedera Temple would be less crowded on an overcast Monday. It was probably less crowded than Saturday, but there were still a lot of people! We had a 40 minute wait to before it was our turn to walk through the hydrangea path! Our group number was 789. Miki made me laugh when she said it was like the wait at Disneyland!

While we waited for our number to be called, we walked around the Temple and enjoyed the beautiful gardens

I couldn’t believe the number of people also visiting the temple today. Last year, when we walked up the entry steps there were only a few people. This year the stairs were packed!

Despite the crowd, the hydrangeas were so beautiful. I tried to take pictures of all the different colors and varieties. There were so many!

I found several hydrangea clusters that looked liked hearts.

The view from the top of the path was beautiful. The Beach in the background is Kamakura Beach. I know you can’t tell from these pictures, but there were so many surfers in the water.

Miki and I paused along the path for a selfie. I was very surprised when she told me this was her first visit to Hasedera Temple during hydrangea season. She also suggested we return in autumn when the leaves are changing. After flower chasing, leaf chasing is my next favorite thing to do in Japan!

I love the stone pagoda. I took several pictures of it from different angles.

A few more close up pictures of the hydrangeas. I love the rain drops on some of them.

We finished walking through the path and made our way through the rest of the gardens. Everything was so lush and beautiful.

Thank you, Miki, for being very patient today while we waited for our turn to walk through the hydrangeas. I enjoyed sharing my day and your beautiful country with you!

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day! Dave and I went up to our favorite barbecue spot in Yokohama for lunch, Bashamichi Taproom. It is about a 15 minute walk from Hinodecho Station.

Besides delicious barbecue, the Bashamichi Taproom also has a variety of Baird Beer on tap. We started with an appetizer of smoked nuts.

Followed by our main course of a brisket sandwich, smoked macaroni and cheese, and a smoked meat platter.

It was all so good. By the time we left the restaurant, the sun was trying to come out. We enjoyed our afternoon and we hope you do as well. Happy Father’s Day! Kanpie!

Make the Best of It

My week was filled with Japanese and English classes and rain drops. I’m definitely not complaining about rainy season, when it’s actually raining. Even though it’s humid, the clouds keep the heat away. It’s when the sun breaks through the clouds that it becomes a steamy mess.

Today, was filled with more clouds and drizzle. Despite the weather, Dave and I were willing to do a little flower chasing. Unfortunately, so was everyone else! We took the train to Kamakura and then switched to the Enoden line to visit Hase Dera Temple. The line for the train was so long!! Too long to make flower chasing enjoyable. Instead, we decided to make the best of our Saturday together and enjoy a walk around Kamakura.

Our change in plans gave us a great surprise! We were greeted by cute streamers along the main shopping street!

I loved the contrast between the rickshaw and the van! Both crossing in front of us on the same street.

Since we were in Kamakura, we decided to enjoy lunch at Barchie’s. Beer, smoked nuts and homemade sausage – taste great on an overcast day.

As we were walking around, we stopped at our favorite public restroom in Kamakura. It costs ¥100 to use, but it’s totally worth it. About 10 minutes after leaving, I realized I left the gift I bought my mom in the restroom! I doubled back and of course, it was right where I left it. Because, Japan.

Since I was there, I thought I would take a few pictures. The toilet actually has a faux garden!

Plus, a self cleaning toilet. The toilet also has a heated seat and is a bidet. It’s totally worth the ¥100.

We had a nice day relaxing in our favorite closest tourist spot. I love reading articles encouraging tourists to make the trip to Kamakura from Tokyo. Kamakura is worth the trip! And will help you make the best of Japan’s rainy season!

Cutest Corner Garden

Along our normal running route is a cute little garden. The garden is special for a couple reasons.

1. It’s not really a garden. It’s actually a parking area, but the owner doesn’t appear to have a vehicle (just a bicycle). In their parking area, they made a little garden because the cement pad is not as cute as plants.

2. The owner of the garden changes out the plants every month. This enables them to showcase what is blooming during that season.

3. It’s down a dead end alley. We run down it because at the dead end is a way to cut through to park. The alley is mostly used by pedestrians transiting to the park, making the garden even more appreciated.

In March, I decided to start documenting the garden with a photo each month. At this point, I have four months of pictures. Two things are in each picture, the bicycle and the bark pieces. The bike is so Japanese and the bark makes it all seem more garden-like. Also, with all our runs, we’ve never seen the gardener!

March 2018 – the highlight for me was of course the daffodils.

April 2018 – the azaleas are so beautiful! Also, notice how big the hosta has become.

May 2018 – Roses and a huge hosta. Different than the one in the other pictures.

June 2018 – many tropical flowers. I recognized jasmine and bougainvillea.

I’ll continue to take a photo each month and share again next quarter. I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as we enjoy passing the garden everyday. You just never know where you will find beauty. It’s the wabisabi way!

Odawara Castle Gardens

Friday afternoon, I met up with Sonia to visit the Odawara Castle Gardens. Odawara is near Hakone and about an hour train ride from Zushi station. Here was our route on the train.

We arrived at Odawara Station in the early afternoon. I wanted to visit this area because I heard about the beautiful hydrangeas on the hillside of the castle. We passed so many hydrangeas on our walk from the station to the castle. Hydrangeas are everywhere this time of year. They are so beautiful!

At the Odawara Castle Garden, we were also greeted by irises. They were planted in the marsh area in front of the hydrangeas on the hillside. I was overwhelmed with all the beautiful flowers!

Check out these hydrangeas! I used my hand to give you scale perspective. They were ginormous!

We took time to take our “modeling” photos. Not sure I make the best model during rainy season. I feel like I’m a constant ball of sweatiness. Sonia, on the other hand, is flawless. Regardless, it’s totally worth it for the beautiful flowers.

A few more pictures of the hillside. It’s so hard to pick a favorite color. Is it ok if I just love them all, together?

There were actually two gardens connected by a little passageway underneath a vermilion bridge. Because every garden in Japan should have a vermilion bridge.

What I’m not sure I captured in my photos were the number of people also visiting the garden in the heat of Friday afternoon. That is one thing I love about the Japanese culture. They embrace and take time to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds them. As we continued to walk around the garden, we spied an art exhibit.

We walked over to investigate. It looked like art painted on some sort of waterproof canvas. Each were so unique.

Irises, hydrangeas, and art. What a great day. What more could we want? Oh, right! The Odawara Castle.

We didn’t actually visit the castle, we have both seen plenty of Japanese castles and were more interested in the flowers. It was however, fun to people watch. There was a group who rented outfits.

Also, a man made Castle reflecting pond. Everyone wanted a picture of the castle reflection!

By the time we finished walking through the garden, we were ready for lunch. We stopped at restaurant that served sushi and tempura. We both had the lunch set. It was a combination of both sushi and tempura.

After lunch, we headed back to the train station. We passed over another vermilion bridge and enjoyed seeing the koi.

Unfortunately, I led us to the wrong train and we ended up going 10 minutes in the wrong direction. No big deal. We hopped to the other track and enjoyed the coastal view while we waited for our train.

One last little story. If you ever wonder about the safety in Japan, please know, it’s extremely safe (7th safest country in the world). As we were waiting for the train to take us back in the correct direction, we watched a group of young kids. They seemed to be elementary aged. Maybe first-third grade. There was no adult around watching them. Although this picture shows them all huddled together, prior to this, they were running around, talking and just being kids. But, they were kids who weren’t caring about their safety. They were happy to be going home from school on a Friday afternoon. They were just kids, being kids.

The world needs more kids being happy. And flowers.

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