Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

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MariCAR Christmas

I’ve been talking about wanting to see the numerous holiday illuminations in Tokyo relentlessly. Dave had a great idea. Let’s do a MariCar ride around Tokyo and check out the Christmas lights. Brilliant! The wardroom is SRF set the date for Friday, 12/15 at 7:00 pm. Perfect for seeing lots of people and holiday lights. There were 8 of us plus the two guides. Keeping with the Mario Cart theme, Dave and I picked Mario and Luigi costumes.

Friday was pretty chilly. Fortunately, our costumes allowed for plenty of layering. I stuffed my inside and outside pockets with hand warmers and put warmers in my boots. I stayed toasty the whole way.

The ride took us around the middle of Tokyo. The sights included Ueno, Ginza, Tokyo Station, Asakusa, and Tokyo Skytree. So much fun for only ¥7000 – $70.00. This was a different course than I rode last year with Dina. Plus, before we rode the course during the day. Nighttime would be a new experience!

Here are a few shots from along the route.

Seeing Tokyo Skytree was really cool. We saw it as we approached and then stopped for a group photo.

Here are a couple pictures of the trees around the Emperor’s Palace.

From Asakusa- Kappabashi- Kitchen town.

Ueno Station.

The highlight was waving as we were stopped at lights. It was easy to make people smile.

Dave and I had so much fun. It was a little scary at first and when you go really fast or hit bumps. But, it’s super cool and fun. We talked about who in our family would love this the most. We agreed his brother Bob, niece, and nephew – Jade and Jordan would absolutely love the experience. I hope we can go during your visit. Here is what you need to do in order to participate in MariCart when you visit. I took a screen shot of the website. Basically, you need an International Driver’s License. You obtain that and I will make our reservations.

Keep in mind, you’re allowed to wear your own costume. Dave suggested next Christmas season we dress as Santa and his elves!

MariCAR

Just when I thought I had heard it all… a friend told me about MariCAR in Tokyo. Essentially, you can dress as your favorite character and drive around the streets of Tokyo in a go-kart.

Dina invited me to go on this adventure with a group of spouses. Yes, please!  It was hysterical. We decided to pick the Mario & Luigi costumes to stick with the true Mario Cart theme.

We had a total of 8 spouses.

There were 2 guides, one in front and one behind, to lead the way and help if anyone was stuck at a light. This happened a couple times, however, it was no big deal. The group ahead would stop and wait. We hit two major areas of Tokyo. First, we passed by and stopped at Tokyo Tower. Think of this as the Japanese Eiffel Tower.

Please also keep in mind, we were driving on the roads. NOT a closed course. There was traffic!!

I also have to mention how many people were taking our photos. Every time we stopped we had a paparazzi. It was hilarious and so much fun! Especially, at Shibuya Crossing! We drove through three times. Each time was more fun than the next!

One of the ladies wore a go pro camera. She is directly behind me as we rode through Shibuya. That’s me in front with my blond curly hair!!

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It was a blast. And now you’re asking, “can we go when I visit?” Maybe. You need to have an international driver’s license. It is my understanding you can get one at AAA before coming to visit. It’s really not too hard to drive on the left because you are following. I would recommend not being in the lead. The traffic lights are a bit confusing at first. Also, no rubbing. In MariCAR, rubbing is not racing – it’s breaking! Please see the rules.

Did you see number 4? I can only imagine how many pictures & posts I made on FB today. If you’re going to make a spectacle of yourself, make a big one!! Go big or go home!!

Whirlwind

To say the last week has been a whirlwind is an understatement. We found out Saturday morning (10/27) Dave would need to report to his next command much sooner than expected. We were expecting to leave at the end of January. However, due to unforeseen circumstances we will be leaving Japan at the end of this month. Since finding out the news, we have cancelled events (including my Mom’s visit – I’m really bummed!), arranged the move and begun to say the many goodbyes.

The first goodbye and actually see you soon, was to our friends Lisa and Dave who were visiting. Our last full day together, before they went on their solo trip, was to Yokohama on Wednesday 10/24. On our way we made a brief stop to visit the Great Buddha of Kamakura and visit the beach.

Our tour around Yokohama included a stop at the Marina and a trip to the top floor of Landmark Tower.

After a day of sightseeing, we were able to meet up with Dave for drinks and then dinner at Sushi-Ro. The four of us made a serious stack of plates and beer glasses!

I took this picture Thursday morning at the train station before they left for Hiroshima and Kyoto.

They returned on Halloween. We spent the evening passing out over 300 pieces of candy. Believe it or not, we actually ran out of candy within the first hour of trick or treat time! Lisa and Dave repacked their bags and I took them to the airport Thursday 11/1.

It was a blast to have them visit and share Japan. It makes my heart happy to know we will only be an hour away very soon!

So, I guess the good news is – we will be back in Chicago, America at the end of the month. I anticipate the next two weeks will continue to be a whirlwind as we pack up our two shipments. Dave and I rescheduled our December trip to Thailand. We are giving ourselves a week of R&R after our household goods are shipped.

I appreciate you reading and following along with our journey and adventures around Japan. I’ve loved sharing Japan with you. I think my exploring Japan days are coming to a screeching halt as we prepare to move. Wabi-Sabi Sole has been a pleasurable and therapeutic part of my time in Japan. I’m grateful for so many friends and family who have shared an interest in our experiences. Again, thank you for reading.

Izu Peninsula Roadtrip

Dave and I planned a road trip to the Izu Peninsula for Labor Day weekend. We left Friday afternoon and drove to Shimoda.

Friday night we stayed at the Shimoda Prince Hotel. The hotel came highly recommended by a couple friends. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed with the overpriced dinner option and the dated accommodations. The room was plenty big for the two of us. The separate twin beds are pretty typical in Japanese hotel rooms. Fortunately, it was only for one night.

Saturday morning, we were hoping to catch the sunrise over the water. Unfortunately, rain and clouds prevented much of a view.

Originally, I planned for us to visit a near by nature reserve with 7 waterfalls. The rain made us rethink those plans. Instead, we decided to make our way to the other side of the peninsula where we would be spending Saturday and Sunday night. We kept our fingers crossed for sunnier skies on the other side.

We stopped at a marina along the way. The rain had let up a little and the view was lovely.

At the marina gift shop there were a lot of wasabi products. This area is known for growing wasabi. We purchase some wasabi, wasabi salt, and wasabi ginger dressing. In case you didn’t know what a wasabi plant looks like, I snapped a picture of the sample they had on display. The edible part is the root. The leaves resemble the leaves of elephant ears.

We finished our drive over to Dogashima and parked at our Ryokan. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese Onsen (hot spring) Hotel. Ryokans are very popular in this area because of the thermal vents near Mt. Fuji. The view from the parking lot was spectacular! Plus, we managed to get away from the rain!

We arrived before our permitted check in time. This gave us time to grab lunch and do a little exploring. We opted for a sushi lunch. The squid was the best I have tasted!

At lunch, we noticed a poster we saw during our walk. We inquired about the Nishiizu Beach Candle Night. It was scheduled for Saturday evening. The restaurant owners said the event was about a 10 minute walk. However, it was weather dependent. We kept our fingers crossed for good weather!

After lunch, we walked around the town a little more and explored some of the cliffs. This area is considered one of the top three beautiful viewpoints in Japan. It was stunning and on a clear day, I’m sure it would be even more lovely.

After our walk, we made our way back to our Ryokan. We checked into our room. Dinner and breakfast were included for each night. We were asked to schedule a time for both. We selected 7 pm and 8 am. We were also allowed to schedule time at the larger private hotel onsen. We picked 8 pm for Saturday night and 4 pm for Sunday afternoon. After arranging our itinerary, we were then escorted to our room. It was clearly marked. The room was very spacious. The floors are covered with Tatami mats. No, I didn’t forget to take a picture of our bed. It wasn’t set up yet!

The room also had a small balcony with a private onsen. Our view was incredible.

At one point as I was taking pictures, my phone slipped from my hand and fell into the onsen!! I immediately grabbed it. And to my delight it still worked. Dave suggested I use the hair dryer to make sure the charger and headphone sockets were completely dry. I can’t believe my amazing luck!! Here was the last picture I took before I dropped it and the first picture I took after I turned it back on. Whew!

The weather seemed to be holding as sunset drew closer. Dave and I decided to walk down to se if the Beach Candle event was still going as scheduled. We were excited to see everything being set up!

Soon, numerous volunteers were lighting the many candles. As the sun faded, the glowing candles became even more beautiful.

We made our way back to the Ryokan for our dinner reservation at 7 pm. We walked into the dining room and found our table already set! I had never seen anything like the it! The spread was incredible. There had to be 15 different courses!

Several types of sushi (including lobster), a grill for steak and vegetables, salad, pickles, small appetizers, soups, rice and so much more!

The most shocking experience of the evening was the live abalone (sea snail) being cooked on the small grill in front of us. I honestly wasn’t prepared for this. I was grossed out and mesmerized watching it cook.

I did try it after it was completely cooked. It wasn’t my favorite. It was very chewy. Fortunately, they gave us a knife and fork so we could cut it into bite sized pieces and didn’t have to use chopsticks! Dave ate the remainder of what I couldn’t eat. This meal (and the three others) included many Japanese delicacies. We didn’t have an option of ordering food. The table was set and the food was prepared before we arrived. It was a culinary experience like nothing we’ve ever experienced. We were treated with wonderful hospitality. It was a wonderful opportunity and experience even if it pushed us outside our culinary comfort zone.

After dinner, we returned to our room. While we were at dinner, housekeeping setup our futons for us.

After our huge dinner and soak in the onsen, we were ready for a slumber. We did modify the futons a little bit. We brought our own pillows and placed a couple extra futons underneath us. Surprisingly, we slept pretty soundly.

I’ll share our Sunday adventures next time. More to follow tomorrow!

Sunrise at the Summit

Please grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine and settle in for the yarn I’m about to spin. It’s a pretty epic tale.

Thursday morning, I picked up our rental car at 7am. After that, I met up with Marianne and her son, Anthony. We were on the road to the Fuji Hokuroku Parking lot by 7:30am. We arrived just before 10am. So far, everything was going according to our plans. We were all a little bothered by the clouds as we approached, but choose not to acknowledge them. Before catching the bus, we changed into our climbing gear, bought our round trip bus tickets to the 5th station, and had a small lunch snack. Please notice the clouds covering Mt. Fuji in the background.

We boarded the bus by 10:30 and we were leaving 5th station to begin our ascent by 11:30. Thirty minutes ahead of our estimated schedule.

All was looking good. Until about 15 minutes into our hike, it started to rain. By the time we reached the 6th (45 minutes later) we decided we should donn our rain gear.

And so it began. The ascent to Fujisan Hotel a 4-5 hour climb in the rain. Oh, wait. I forgot to mention the wind. The wind was ridiculous. Several times I thought one of us was going to be blown off the mountain. It was intense.

The rain created another problem, too. Several of the lower stations would not stamp hiking sticks when it was raining. Talk about insult to injury! We were really bummed at the first couple stations. Fortunately, the rain let up a little and the number of hikers thinned and the stations further up would take the time to dry our sticks before stamping them. This picture was at the first station that would stamp our sticks. We were so happy!

As we climbed, the weather remained our enemy. There were several times when we were all ready to quit. We were cold, wet, and exhausted. Personally, I had to have some serious internal conversations with myself to “be cool” and “you got this” and push through step by step. I felt so badly for Marianne and Anthony. They were so excited for the climb. It’s hard to remain positives down motivated when you’re walking through clouds.

Finally, we made it to the Fujisan Hotel. We were all at a breaking point. But, there was no time for that. It was time for dinner. Curry and rice. I’m not sure I’ll ever eat Japanese curry again and not think of that meal.

After dinner, we were given instructions on where to change our clothes and then escorted to our beds. Our beds were interesting. It was like a huge slumber party with 100+ people we had never meet. But, it’s also Japan, so it was really quiet. The three of us decided to crawl into our bunks to warm up (the hut wasn’t heated). I realize now, I forgot to take pictures of the set up. Forgive me, I was in survival mode. The three of us were snuggled together with another group of hikers on either sides. We were on the lower bunk of a huge room with bunk beds on either side. There were no dividing lines between your bunk and your neighbors. Each person had a sleeping bag, heavy blanket and pillow. It was up to each individual to be respectful of your neighbor’s personal space. Marianne and I made an Anthony sandwich. My biggest surprise was how much and well I actually slept. I attribute it to the exhaustion, cold and nightcap. Marianne and I enjoyed a beer and discussed the day’s harrowing adventures before turning in. Before heading back to our bunks, we went out to check the weather. The wind was still blowing and gusting as strong as ever, but it had stopped raining!

Knowing we had a 2am wake up, we were falling asleep by 7pm. I woke up once and Anthony and I used the toilet. Oh, I haven’t mentioned this yet. The toilet is outside and adjacent to the hut. Plus, you have to pay ¥200 ($2.00) per person each time you use the toilet even with reservations! And did they ever stink! Ugh. What an experience. Anyways, I did wake several times during the night to someone snoring or talking, but each time I fell back to sleep quickly. Fortunately, I didn’t hear the person puking from altitude sickness – Marianne told me about that in the morning! By 1:30am I was awake and ready to go and so was Marianne. We began our preparations to finish the ascent to the top! Breakfast was awful. Cold rice with mystery meat. I opted instead for the yummy pancake I brought with me.

We were on our way to the summit by 2:30ish. It was not raining just very very windy. Horribly windy. I honestly thought I was going to blow away a couple times. I found myself grabbing onto the rocks for support!

But, we made it. And so, without further ado, here are my favorite sunrise pictures from the summit of Mt. Fuji. I think you’ll agree, they were worth the wait and effort.

After sunrise, I was ready to begin descending the mountain. I was yet again in survival mode and just wanted to get out of the wind. As the sun continued to come up, the day became more and more beautiful. The trek down the mountain was breathtaking.

Thursday we couldn’t even see where we were going to climb. I took this picture looking up at the trail Friday morning. From this perspective, Mt. Fuji looks pretty flat. Trust me, it’s not!

Just so we are clear on the difference between the two days. I took the same pictures on each day. Please notice the difference in weather.

Day 1

Parking Lot

Station 6

Day 2

Parking Lot

Station 6

I did suggest to Marianne and Anthony that we should walk back to the 5th station, refuel and then hike it again. Since the weather was good… they gave me a “hard” NO!

This was my third and yes, final Mt. Fuji climb. Our hiking sticks are full of stamps, I’ve climbed through all kinds of weather, with a wonderful husband and great friends. Now that I have seen sunrise from the summit, I can officially say I have no unfinished business with Mt. Fuji. This trek up Mt. Fuji was a lesson in patience, persistence and perseverance.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” -Sir Edmund Hillary

From Fiji To Fuji

It’s true. From the Fiji Islands to the Mt. Fuji summit, this land was made for me to see.

I’m climbing Mt. Fuji for a third time tomorrow (Thursday). This time, I’m climbing it with my friend, Marianne, and her son, Anthony. To prepare, I read my post from the previous two years. Here is the link from when Dave and I climbed in 2016. Also, the link from when Sonia and I climbed in 2017. I’m glad I took the time to read through both posts again. I’m mentally preparing for rain. My fingers remain crossed for sunny skies. I also find it funny that in both posts I talk about not hiking it again. Famous last words.

Perhaps you’re thinking, why would you climb it again, Julia?!? Excellent question. I’m a sucker for a sunrise photo opportunity. I really wanted the chance to see sunrise from the summit. In order to do that, we need to climb during the day and spend the night at the Fujisan Hotel. The Fujisan Hotel is located at the original 8th Station (3360m). The summit is 3776m and about an 80 minute climb from the original 8th Station.

Here is a clear picture of the map for reference.

This could be considered the ultimate Julia Tour. We rented a car and I’m going to drive us to the base of Mt. Fuji. At the base, we have to park the car and take a bus to the 5th Station where we will start our trek. I think it should only take us about 4-5 hours to climb to the Fujisan Hotel. At the hotel, we will receive dinner and then sleep on a mat in a large room with many other climbers. From what I read, we will start hiking to the summit at 2am Friday morning! If all goes as planned, we will see a breathtaking sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji. (Fingers crossed)

I managed to squeeze all the essentials into my day pack. My hiking stick has no more room for stamps, so I’m going to carry Dave’s. Having your stick stamped is a fun part of the climb.

I’ll let you know how things go once I’m home Friday night. Please keep your fingers crossed for sunny skies! Because I’m definitely not climbing Mt. Fuji next summer!!

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.

Meatball and Beer

On Sunday, Dave and I went up to our favorite barbecue and beer spot in Yokohama – Bashamichi Taproom. Our beers were refreshing and delicious after our 40 minute train ride.

We both enjoyed our meals. Dave opted for the Lucky Seven Anniversary special.

I happily picked my favorite, the brisket sandwich.

After lunch, we walked around the local area a little bit before going back to the train. We found this little bar called Thrashzone Meatballs. The sign outside said “meatball and beer.” Yes, please.

We popped inside to check it out. The beer list was longer than the meatball menu! Look at the last beer. Lagunitas IPA! My Chicago heart was so excited.

However, I did choose to drink local. I selected the Speed Kills. It was excellent.

The meatball menu consisted of two options. Regular or the Special. Regular meatballs were served with marinara with mozzarella. The Special was a Moroccan style meatball. The meatballs were served by the size number.

We started with four regular meatballs. They were served in small cast iron skillets.

The meatballs were made using a “takoyaki” maker. Takoyaki is an octopus dumpling very common in Japan.

As we sipped our beers, we chatted with one of the managers. He is an ex-pat making a go here in Japan. We decided we couldn’t leave without trying the Special. The Moroccan meatballs were served with small pitas.

We couldn’t help but make Happy Gilmore jokes with each bite. “That’s good meatball.” With all fairness, they were delicious and the beer list was extreme as promised. It was worth the stop and I will make sure to stop in again soon.

On a slightly different note. I know I mentioned the strong winds we have been having. Sunday was glorious. Sunny and no wind. Monday was sunny with strong winds. I took a couple videos from our walks to the beach each day. Check out the difference a day makes!

Sunday 1/14/18 – so calm and peaceful.

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Monday 1/15/18 – watch for the wind surfers!

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Buddha & Brews

The weather on Tuesday was beautiful. I decided to mix up my day trips and use the lovely day to explore Fukuoka. The Midori-Huis Ten Bosch Limited Express train makes the trip to Fukuoka from Sasebo in about two hours.

I arrived at the Sasebo train station with plenty of time to spare before catching the 8:06 train. I’m glad I did. I’ve learned in Japan that trains with special names require a special ticket at a special price. Such was the case with the Limited Express. I needed two tickets. One ticket for the train and one for Express Train! Yikes! And that is only one way! I needed to make the most of my day!

Once arriving at Hakata Station, I switched to the JR lines and took a local train to Nanzō-in Temple. I first learned about this Temple from my friend, Paula. She and her husband were stationed in Sasebo and went to visit the Temple. Her pictures were so cool, I knew I had to add this to my list. The Nanzō-in Temple is known for its large bronze Reclining Buddha statue said to be the largest bronze statue in the world.

The statue is about 134 feet long, 36 feet tall, and weighs 300 tons. It was spectacular. Better in fact than I anticipated. I thought I would stop by really quickly, snap some pictures and leave. Instead, I lingered and enjoyed the serenity and harmony I felt during my visit. The long cord from his hand is connected to the prayer area so visitors can “touch” Buddha as they pray. His feet are decorated with symbols to represent healing powers.

The statue is reclining because it represents Buddha at the moment of death or as he enters nirvana.

Besides my feeling of serenity, I also wasn’t expecting fall foliage to decorate the beautiful temple.

These two might be my favorite.

But, then there’s the one with the waterfall and bridge.

Like I said, I spent way more time here enjoying a sort of fall foliage meditation. I’m so glad I decided to visit today while the skies were clear.

I returned to the train station and caught he 12:02 train back to Hakata Station. I wanted to take the 15:32 Limited Express back to Sasebo so I could meet Dave for dinner. The 15:32 put me back at 17:24. So, I had about 3 hours to kill before my train. On my way to Fukuoka, I researched different options. Parks, foliage, “Fukuoka” ramen, and/or shopping were all viable options. As I was on the train after my visit to the Temple, I was ready for a beer. One divine search for zen leads to another. I searched “breweries” in Google Maps and the Asahi Brewery popped up. It was only one stop from Hakata – 4 minutes. Perfect. I arrived at the Brewery around 12:40.

The receptionist was so welcoming and asked if I had a reservation. No. Ok, then how about 1:00 tour? Hai! Arigatōgozaimas! She gave me a set of headphones so I could enjoy the tour in English.

The tour took an hour. It was really fun despite the language barrier. Oh, and did I mention – FREE! The hops were not edible but the barley in the canister was available for sampling.

A couple more pictures of the packaging process. Did you know the only place in North America that brews and packages Asahi is the Molson Coors Plant in Canada!

A couple pictures to help you understand the volume of beer brewed and packaged at this plant. This is where cans are filled with Asahi. It fills 1500 cans per minute.

This is a picture of the bottle filler. It only fills 600 bottles per minute.

After our tour, we were given the opportunity to sample Asahi beer. Asahi encourages consuming alcoholic beverages in moderation. Therefore, you only have three FREE samples to consume in 20 minutes with your bag of beer snacks. Moderation is the Wabi-Sabi of life. I think so.

Just in case you were wondering what it was like to be a blonde American traveling alone today, I felt like a rockstar. I railway staff helping me buys tickets, use my PASMO, and find my correct track. At the Brewery, the tour guide checked on me throughout the tour and sat me at my own table. It went above and beyond excellent customer service. My third sample and my fellow tour members.

I purchased some of the beer snacks for Dave as a little present. I would bring him beer, but there is an alcohol restriction on American service members stationed in Japan after a Marine killed a Japanese man in a drinking and driving accident Sunday morning in Okinawa. The incident is very sad, preventable, and unfortunate.

As the sun sets on my day trip and I reflect on how I spent my time, it was pretty perfect – for me. I didn’t see the amazing shopping mall or sample Fukuoka ramen. But, I was able to enjoy Buddha, fall foliage, and a beer (or three). My take away from this outing was – you can’t do everything, you can’t please everyone. So, do what you love and make sure you have fun doing it!

Nara

We took a quick trip on Friday from Kyoto to Nara. We expedited the trip by traveling on a Limited Express Train. The typical hour trip only took 35 minutes! 

Not only is the route orange in Google Maps, so was the actual train!

Once in Nara, we made our way towards Nara Park. Within Nara Park are several famous Shrines, Temples, and deer!! The deer are a sacred part of Nara Park and considered “messengers of the gods”.

For ¥150, you could buy deer crackers from street vendors. The deer started early begging for crackers from this vendor. Look at the first picture- the deer in front is sticking his tongue out at me! 


We didn’t buy any crackers. Instead, we enjoyed watching other visitors feed them. 


The deer weren’t shy. They walked right up looking for a snack. 


Our first Temple we visited was Kofuku-ji Temple. Pictured here are the Temple’s Golden Hall and five-story pagoda are a National Treasure and date to 1425. The Eastern Golden Hall was built by Emperor Shōmu and the pagoda by his wife, Empress Kōmyō. The pair of buildings represent the ideal of marital harmony. 


Other beautiful buildings were also on the Temple’s grounds. 


As we continued through Nara Park, we saw even more deer. My favorite was watching people take selfies or pose with the deer and the deer would poop or pee and the tourists didn’t notice! Ha! 

The first Shrine we visited was Kasuga Taisha Shrine. The walkway to the Shrine has over 3,000 stone lanterns. No worries, I didn’t take a picture of them all. Although I tried! They were really impressive and unique. 

In keeping with my tree theme of the summer, look at the tree growing inside the remains of an old tree! 


After visiting the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, we were ready for lunch. It was approaching 11am and starting to really heat up. We doubled back to the area around the train station where there was a conveyor sushi restaurant. It was well air conditioned, served cold beer and delicious sushi. For those reasons, I could have stayed all afternoon. 


But, we had the Todai-ji Temple to visit. The Todai-ji Temple is also a World Heritage Site. The current structure was completed in 1709. The Great Buddha Hall is the largest wooden building in the world and houses the largest bronze image of Buddha dating back to 752 (the head however has been replaced and only dates to 1692).  

Now that’s a Big Buddha! 


My favorite spot in the Great Buddha Hall was behind the Great Buddha. There was a lattice door allowing a delightful breeze to come through. Plus, as Bill would say, we got a chance to see Buddha’s pooper. Can you tell how hot it is!?! The breeze felt amazing! 

Buddha’s Gold Pooper. 


We continued around enjoying the great hall. 

The fierce warriors are guardians to protect Buddha from evil. 


And how about this guy? If you rub the corresponding body part on him as the part that ails you, you will be healed. I rubbed his knees and gave him a high-five! 


We started to make our way back to the station to head back to Kyoto. We chased the shade the entire 20 minute walk. We purchased our train tickets for the 1400 train to Nara. While waiting to depart, I checked the weather. No wonder we were so hot! Heat index of 119!!!! Wow! 


Returning back to our hotel, we enjoyed a siesta that we earned from enduring the days heat and humidity! Plus, as Dave continues to remind me, we are on vacation and naps are always ok! 

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