Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Sunday Flowers

Dave and I decided to spend our Sunday chasing flowers in Kamakura. First, we stopped for lunch at Barchie’s, our favorite bar in Kamakura. We both ordered wraps with a side of rosemary fries. Dave had the pulled pork and I had the pulled chicken. Both were delicious washed down with a Heartland beer.

After lunch, we went to the Hachiman-gu Shrine to see the peony garden. They were stunning. The snow huts were replaced with parasols.

We couldn’t get over how big the blooms were!

The peony garden is one of my favorite “off the beaten path” spots in Kamakura. It is meticulously groomed and very peaceful.

The warm weather has encouraged the wisteria to bloom as well. A large trellis opposite the peony garden held so many wisteria blossoms.

We walked up to the Shrine and passed a wedding couple. Talk about a following! Look at all the tourists taking their picture.

It was such a beautiful Sunday. No matter how many times we visit, Kamakura remains one of our favorite cities.

Thanks for reading! I hope Spring weather is finally making its way to you!

Frozen Coca-Cola

On April 16th, Coca-Cola released a new product called Coca-Cola Frozen just in time for summer. On my way home from English class today, I stopped at a Family Mart to grab an onigiri for lunch and found the new Coca-Cola product in the freezer section. They had lemon flavor and also Fanta Grape Frozen.

On the back of the packages, were directions for properly consuming the product. It is best to let them sit for 15-20 minutes before attempting to drink.

I haven’t been drinking much Soda lately and so the first sip of each was an intense blast of sugar. The Coca-Cola Frozen reminded me of an American 7-11 Slurpee. I’m sure as the heat and humidity of summer approaches, these will become very popular. It’s an easy and convenient way to sip a cold beverage. Even if you don’t drink it, pressing the frozen Coca-Cola to your forehead will help cool you off!

Blooming Azaleas

Over the past week, the azaleas have really started to reach full bloom. I wanted to visit the Nezu Shrine this week, unfortunately, the weather hasn’t cooperated with my plans. We’ve had a couple days of rainy weather. My “don’t let the weather stop you” rule doesn’t apply to flower chasing! The skies started to clear as I headed out on a few errands in Zushi. One of my stops was to pick up sushi for dinner.

By the time I returned to base, the rain had stopped and the clouds parted. Once back on base, I took a few minutes to enjoy the massive azalea mound near the parking lot of the mini mart.

The sunshine mixed with the rain drops on the petals were a bright ending to a dreary day.

The weather looks amazing for Thursday – Sunday. Rain returns Monday – Wednesday. I have English class Thursday, Friday, and Saturday this week. Looks like I need to break the news to Dave that Flower Church might be at the Nezu Shrine in Tokyo this weekend!

Tea Box Covering

Saturday morning, Atsuko and Manami taught me how to cover a Japanese tea box.

This is the third tea box I have covered and by far the largest.

Atsuko helped me select the fabric for the tea box. We picked out a fabric with many Japanese symbols. If you look closely, there are two different images of Mt. Fuji.

We had fun working together, talking and laughing. Like I said, the tea box is very large. I’m standing on my tippy toes to see over it!

I have one more tea box that we will cover in a couple of weeks. Atsuko and Manami are so kind to help me to create these beautiful additions to our home decor. The tea boxes are very practical storage solutions and unique keepsakes from Japan.

Kombucha Update

My kombucha brewing seems to be taking off. My scoby has grown considerably. I think it looks disgusting even if it is super healthy!

Last week, Jennifer helped me brew a double batch. Today, I bottled a total of eight mason jars and brewed another double batch. I hope our family in Indiana appreciates the fact I used two of our Nicks mason jars. My kombucha may not be the best tasting beverage ever served in a Nicks glass, but it’s definitely the healthiest!

I did switch to using fruit juice and it has made a noticeable difference in the taste. This is the first batch I used the mango juice. I’ve used the purple energy root and it was good. I’m hesitant to say delicious just yet!

I will claim a small victory. One morning during Jen’s visit, she actually asked if she could have some! I consider that a significant milestone in flavor improvement!

Thank you for sharing. Ok. Subject change.

I have to share my funny story trying to get to English class today. On Fridays, I catch the 11:55 from Jimmuji Station to Shinzushi Station and then I walk to Zushi Station and catch the 12:12 train to Kamakura Station. From Kamakura Station, it is about an 8-minute leisurely walk to the community center.

I have a few minutes at Zushi station before my train arrives. I use this time to pick out my tea de jour from a vending machine. I bought my tea and turned around expecting a train to be on the track. But, no train. That’s weird. Japanese trains are always on time. I stand on the platform for a few minutes and still no train. At this point, a station master starts using a bull horn to alert everyone. I watch the people lined up with me for the 12:12 train look at him and then walk to the crossover for the other platform. Hmmm. What to do? Well, I follow them, of course, and watch as they all go to the train on track 2. Still confused, I asked another station attendant for help. Actually, I said, “Kamakura?” And pointed at the train. Hai! Then I asked, “at :22?” “Hai, :22.” Oh, boy. My stress level was through the roof. My class starts at 12:30. The 12:22 train would arrive at 12:26. I would have to run like a maniac to arrive to class on time. Back to my rules- wear sensible shoes. Once the train arrived at Kamakura Station, I think I broke every Japanese etiquette rule trying to get to class on time. I went down the up stairway, zigzagged through the crowd and then sprinted down the street and through crosswalks. No doubt I looked hilarious. Tall blondzilla running through the streets of Kamakura! I arrived at the community center at the same time two of my students where arriving. I was out of breath from my 4-minute sprint. I explained my train never came to the station. The best part, they asked me why no train!?! Haha! As if I could begin to have a clue.

Chureito Pagoda

Before moving to Japan, my brother gave me the Eyewitness Travel guide for Japan.

It was a very thoughtful gift. The guide has been a valuable resource and accompanied us on many adventures. The picture on the cover has always intrigued me. I wasn’t sure if it was an actual location. I mean, Mt. Fuji and a pagoda sounds pretty amazing. Well, it is a real place and somewhat easily accessible. Dina told me about visiting it in 2016 during Sakura season. I purchased this wall hanging recently of the Chureito Pagoda, Mt. Fuji, and Sakura. All I needed was a picture I took to hang with it!

I knew I needed to place this trip high on my list this spring. Katie and I decided the weather would be optimal on Tuesday and rented a car for the adventurous road trip. We had a few setbacks this morning before finally departing around 8:30. We hit a little traffic once we were off the expressway causing our trip to take about 2.5 hours.

We parked in somewhat of a random location near a hospital and Shrine.

From the parking lot, it was about a 15 minute walk to the base of the pagoda.

To reach the pagoda, we first had to tackle 400 stairs. Of course there are stairs…

Up, up, up, we climbed. We reached the pagoda and Katie stopped to take out her phone for a picture.

It was at this point she realized she must have set down her her phone when she bought a bottle of water and left it on the counter. Down, down, down, she went. Her phone was exactly where she had left it. Because, Japan. The Japanese are so honest and helpful. One of the many things we all love about this country.

Katie deserves serious respect for climbing the stairs twice. Meanwhile, I was snapping pictures.

I took a lot of pictures.

Here is one I took and cropped to look like the one on the book cover.

At first, I was disappointed there were so many clouds around Mt. Fuji. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of wabi-sabi and my favorite quote. “You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing.” The view with Sakura, my exploring friend, and the opportunity to see and take this photo were all pretty amazing.

We walked around the pagoda twice. On our second lap, we saw a wedding couple. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo. They were stunning.

We walked back down the steps and stopped for a quick lunch of gyozas and spring rolls. We were back in the car and heading home around 1:30. Traffic was super light and we were on base within two hours.

Experiences like today leave me feeling grateful for the opportunity to live in Japan. I miss you all and appreciate the fact I have my blog to share it with you. It is definitely an opportunity of a lifetime. Thank you for reading!

Flower Church

For the past three Sundays, Dave and I have spent Sunday morning exploring blooming flowers. Two weeks ago we went to Gumyoji to see the Sakura. Last weekend on our way to Shinjuku Gyoen with the Thompson Family, the phrase “Flower Church” was used to describe our mission to see the Sakura. I enjoyed the phrase and decided to make “Flower Church” part of our Sunday routine. Especially, when there are so many beautiful gardens and parks to explore.

This weekend, we went to Yokohama Park. The park is located in Yokohama by the Baystars Stadium. It was a quick train ride to a beautiful garden full of tulips.

There were so many different colors. We soaked up the beauty as we walked through the park.

We stopped for a Flower Church selfie.

Besides so many different colors of tulips, there were so many varieties.

Walking through the parks is also very entertaining. There are so many people to watch. My favorites are the people photographing their dogs. I can appreciate their dedication and their love of their puppies. This time we also saw people photographing their anime dolls. Simply proving, everyone has a hobby.

Adjacent to the tulips was a more traditional Japanese garden. I noticed right away the wabi-sabi of the garden. The peaceful and serene garden contrasted with the giant orange and white antenna. Ahhh, the beauty of the imperfections.

We left the park and walked around the area before deciding on a lunch spot. As we were walking we found a street lined with Sakura. What a lucky bonus.

We decided on Charcoal Green Grill. It was still just as delicious as it was over a year ago! Clearly, we need to go back more frequently.

Yokohama Afternoon

After we got Danny off to Haneda Airport on Friday morning, the girls and I headed to Cup Noodle Museum. This stop on the Julia Tour was especially for Chase-Chan. The little one loves ramen. First step, stand in line to buy your cup to decorate.

Next, we spent time decorating our Cup Noodle.

Then we added our noodles, seasoning, and flavors.

Finally, our perfect, made-to-order Cup Noodle is packaged and sealed.

After making our personalized Cup Noodle, we spent time exploring the Cup Noodle Museum. The museum encourages innovation and persistence in pursuing your dreams.

The Cup Noodle Museum is on top of my list of places for kids in Japan. However, it might be one of the loudest places in Japan. Therefore, I like to incorporate a beer stop before or after for the adults. This time, we choose the KIRIN City restaurant in Yokohama. Jennifer and I ordered a frozen beer. After our adventures in Miyajima and seeing the sign missed labeled for beers as bears, we decided they should be calling the frozen beers “polar bears.” Haha! The foam was completely frozen. It was a little different, but nonetheless refreshing.

We finished up the afternoon with a little shopping before heading home for a relaxing night before their flight on Saturday.

Saturday morning, Jen and I enjoyed one more walk to Zushi Beach. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. It was our lucky day.

A few hours later we were saying our goodbyes as they waited for the Narita Express.

Dave and I enjoyed a wonderful week sharing Japan with the Thompsons. I still can’t believe how quickly the week passed. We enjoyed so many laughs and created so many memories. We will see you soon, friend-family aka fri-amily. Ja Matane

Kamakura Highlights

We gave ourselves time to relax and recharge after our trip home from Hiroshima Wednesday night. Thursday was dedicated to exploring Kamakura. Dave and I really enjoy walking around and shopping in Kamakura. We were excited to share our favorite spots with our friends. The first stop was at the Great Buddha of Kamakura. We were again lucky to see Sakura still blooming.

By the time we left the Great Buddha, we were ready for some ice cream. Not a problem. In fact, we enjoyed ice cream and croquettes.

We took the train back to Kamakura from Hase and stopped for lunch. We went to the conveyor sushi restaurant Dave and I visited a few weeks ago. We made quite the stack of plates. Strong work for a party of six!

Next up on the itinerary was a stop at the Owl Forest.

During our visit, we found Jennifer’s Patronus (Reference: Harry Potter – aka spirit animal).

Speaking of Harry Potter… We found Hedwig!

We walked up Komachi Dori, the main shopping street, and made our way to The Hachiman-gu Shrine.

We had fun posing by the sake barrels.

Our visit at the Shrine was cut a little short because we had reservations at 5:00pm at the newly opened Shiba inu cafe. Yes, a puppy cafe. In Kamakura. We were beyond excited and it was even more amazing than we imagined. I might need to make a stop here on Friday afternoons after my English class. Because puppies.

After the puppy cafe, we worked our way back home. We stopped for one last picture of Chase and a huge teddy bear at Tully’s Coffee. So, cute!

Hiroshima Day 3

The tickets for our return trip on the Shinkansen didn’t depart Hiroshima until 1700. That gave us time to do a bit more exploring and shopping in Hiroshima. We gave the girls a chance to sleep in and have a little down time. Meanwhile, Danny, Jenn, and I went for a morning walk. There was a long green way trail stretching along the river. The best part was the Sakura lining the path.

After breakfast, we headed out to explore more of Hiroshima. The next area on our visit list was a stop at the Gokoku Shrine.

The double fish statue at the Shrine represents family happiness. Happy family indeed!

Especially, when our next stop is for ice cream! Ice cream makes everything better and everyone happy.

Finally, after all that we got down to business. We made our way to the Hiroshima Castle.

I’ll just cut to the “Chase” and summarize our visit to the castle. The highlight was obviously dressing up these two as a Samurai and a Lord.

I’m still giggling when I look at those pictures. We managed to climb to the fifth floor of the castle and enjoy a spectacular view.

By the time we finished exploring the castle, we were ready for an American lunch. A beer, cheeseburger, and fries filled the need. The crane and driftwood were an added bonus.

The remainder of the afternoon we shopped and prepped for our Shinkansen trip home. We had plenty of food to keep us happy. Cheers!

We had such an amazing trip to Hiroshima. We made it home safely and with so many memories.

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