Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

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.

Exploring Shinjuku

After our visit to the Yayoi Kusama Museum Thursday morning, Katie and I set out to explore Shinjuku. We visited Shinjuku back in February and still had more on our list of things to see.

Our first stop was for lunch. We stopped at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. It was delicious!

After lunch, we visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

During normal business hours, visitors are able to go to the 45th floor for free. The view was spectacular.

It’s hard to see, but in the far background of the photo below is the Tokyo Skytree.

While at the top, we went into a Japanese photo booth. They are like Snapchat Polaroids. Visiting one has been on Katie’s list. We will need to visit the ones in Harajuku. This one was kind of amateur hour. Regardless, our creations were hilarious.

After our trip to the top, we went back to area where we ate lunch. Or as we started to call it “crazy town.” There was so much going on, everywhere!

As we were walking around, we found this great craft beer and pizza restaurant called Tap Stand. We needed to visit! We both ordered the green tea IPA. Yummy! It was approaching dinner time and we were getting hungry. Who doesn’t love pizza!?!from the suggestion of our waiter, we ordered the thin crust mushroom pizza. It was delicious. This restaurant will be a place to return with Dave.

On the wall above the kitchen were numerous American brewery stickers. I was so excited to see Lakefront, Lagunitas, and Revolution stickers. It was like Chicago was welcoming us back home! As I’m looking closer at the stickers in the pictures, I realize there is a Tap Stand Brewery sticker. Now I definitely need to go back!

After dinner, it was time to head back home. It was such a fun Japanese Street culture afternoon. Between our museum visit in the morning and exploring in the afternoon/ evening we experienced a wide spectrum of Shinjuku culture. Believe it or not, we still didn’t get to everything on Katie Shinjuku list! I’m looking forward to our next Shinjuku adventure!

Yayoi Kusama Museum

Katie was able to successfully obtain two tickets for a visit to the Yayoi Kusama Museum in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. Obtaining the tickets was no small feat. The website used to make reservations for tickets is in Japanese. She used Google Translate to help her successfully get two tickets for the 12:30-14:00 time slot on June 7th. We met on the train at the Kanazawa Hakkei station. The trip to the museum took a little over an hour and three different trains. Overall, it wasn’t too difficult. The Museum is tucked away in a very quiet part of Shinjuku. The ten minute walk from the Wasada Station to the Museum was pleasant. Hydrangeas were everywhere!

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist. She is known for her infinity sculptures and paintings. At the Yayoi Kusama Museum was a very cool infinity pumpkin exhibit.

Visitors were allowed in the infinity pumpkin exhibit for two minutes at a time. Katie and I went through twice! It was very cool!

Every minute, the exhibit lights would turn off. Slowly, the the pumpkins would be illuminated. Here’s a video.


The museum was five stories. The reception area was on the first floor. The second and third floor had pieces of her work. Unfortunately, photography wasn’t permitted on these floors. The fourth floor had the infinity pumpkin exhibit room and the fifth floor was an rooftop level with an exhibit called Starry Pumpkin.

Plus, a great view of the city!

Even the elevator had polka dots!

After our visit to the museum, we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening exploring Shinjuku. Those adventures deserve a separate post! More to follow…

Rainy Season 2018

It has rained all day. I even woke up early this morning for the “sole” reason to get a run in before the rain started. Unfortunately, a 4:30am wake up was too late. It was already raining. A steady downpour with no wind and lots of humidity. According to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, June 6th was the official start of rainy season for our area. The official Facebook page of the Navy base, CFAY, posted this informative graphic. Last year rainy season started on June 9th. I have been expecting rainy season and have been making appropriate preps to deal with the extra humidity. Our strategy last year seemed to work well. So, I think we will stick with the same plan – keep the house cool and run the dehumidifiers!

I used the day to work on learning my Japanese. I decided to start memorizing the pronunciation of the Japanese Kana (Hiragana only right now – bottom left corner of each box). Using a set of flash cards Dina gave me before she moved, I have successfully memorized the top three rows of this sheet.

The cards are super helpful because they give examples of words and also a pneumonic visual to help memorize the shape. I was able to memorize their shape as well as write them.

Despite the rainy day and Netflix indulging, I felt productive. I also spent time researching things to do on rainy days. Because, according to my weather app, the next week holds a lot of moisture. I’ll have to make great use of the beautiful day on Friday!

One thing is for sure about rainy season, my plants love it!

Sunset Beach Walk

Errands consumed most of my day today. By the time I returned home this afternoon, I was way behind on my step goal. It was a fine evening and so I decided to walk down to Zushi Beach and watch the sunset. Along my way, I took pictures of some of the hydrangeas. They are blooming everywhere. This is only about half of the ones I passed! I love how they are literally growing everywhere. Behind fences, through fences, underneath unused clotheslines, and in the smallest of flower beds. Most are the traditional hydrangeas.

Plus a few of the lace ones.

I arrived at Zushi Beach at 6:30pm. My timing was perfect to catch the sunset.

I took a brief video. It was a pleasant evening. Small breeze and cooler temps by the water.


As the sun went down behind the mountain, Mt. Fuji became even more predominant.

Thanks for letting me share the simple beauty of Japan!

You Had Me At Pagoda

As I planned out my month of June, I anticipated Dave being home this weekend in between work travel. Because of this, I didn’t schedule an English classes for Saturday morning. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Dave is still on travel and I didn’t have English class. This gave me an entire day to plan something. I decided to shoot for the moon today and do something completely off the beaten path. I read an article recently about the top five places to see hydrangeas in the Tokyo area. Two of the places are in Kamakura, Meigetsuin Temple (where I went on Friday) and Hase-dera Temple. Another temple that was mentioned in the article was Takahatasonko-ji Temple. Takahatasonko-ji Temple is west of Tokyo. Google Maps showed me it was about 1.5 hours away and four trains.

I left at 9:45 this morning and was cruising around the Temple grounds by 11:15. It was very easy to find once I was off the train. It was less than a five minute walk and there were plenty of signs pointing the way.

I wasn’t only drawn to the Temple because of the hydrangeas blooming. As I was reading about the Temple, I learned there was also a pagoda. Say no more. I must go! Just as beautiful as I imagined.

The grounds of the Temple are beautiful. There was a small pond with huge koi and hydrangeas.

There was also a small Inari Shrine. I truly love the fact that the Japanese accept all religions. (Temples – Buddhist, Shrines – Shinto – two separate religions) If only the rest of the world could be more accepting, we would definitely have less wars.

Also on the grounds of the Temple is a path through the woods. The path is highlighted with 88 Jizo statues. They are inspired by the Shikoku – 88 Temple pilgrimage. I love the idea of the pilgrimage, but I don’t have the time or drive to complete it. Instead, I enjoyed taking a walk through the woods in the early afternoon and enjoy hydrangeas! Here is the map I followed. The little red numbers represent the statues.

I think I was a little bit early to see the hillside covered in hydrangeas. Regardless, I wasn’t disappointed. Here are a few pictures of hydrangeas.

At one point along the trail, you have a vantage point of the pagoda.

I probably took 88 pictures of hydrangeas. However, I didn’t photograph all 88 Jizo Statues. I just took a few pictures to give you an idea of what they looked liked and how they were marked.

There were so many varieties of hydrangeas. Here are several pictures of what we’ve started calling “lace hydrangeas.” They don’t fully bloom like traditional hydrangeas. Instead they have a few blooms on the perimeter and then a cluster in the center that looks like lace.

The view from the top of the hillside was spectacular. Tokyo is way off in the background.

Here is the view from the other side. Guess what you could see on a clear day… Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, not today.

As with all the hikes in Japan, the trail included a lot of stairs! It was so peaceful, it was worth every stair!

A few more hydrangea pictures. They truly were beautiful.

I enjoyed my day Temple and flower chasing. The sunny and less humid day was perfect for walking through the woods. Just when I was smitten with Sakura season, I’m falling bloom over bloom in love with hydrangea season! I live the blue ones!!

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