Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Author: wabisabisole (Page 1 of 44)

Kombucha 102

After a week of letting my first batch of Kombucha ferment, it was time to move to phase 2 fermentation. I was a little apprehensive and intimidated by the scoby growing in the jar. I looked up pictures online to verify my scoby was healthy and not moldy. From the imagines I found, I was satisfied my scoby was healthy.

The only thing preventing me from moving on to phase 2 was finding the courage to taste the kombucha. Oh, boy. I was expecting the worst. I summed all my courage and steeled my stomach for a straw size siphon. I was pleasantly surprised. The kombucha actually tasted palatable. It tasted like sweet tea mixed with a little vinegar. The longer the kombucha remains in phase 1 fermentation, the stronger the vinegar taste. I decided to go with a sweeter flavor for my first batch. I prepped my laboratory (kitchen) work space and began the canning process for phase 2 fermentation.

I used frozen strawberries to flavor the kombucha. I mixed the frozen strawberries with a little hot water and then puréed them in the food processor. I added about 2 tablespoons to each mason jar. I saved a mason jar of tea so I could prepare another batch of kombucha phase 1. Meanwhile, I’ll let my four jars of strawberry kombucha set for 2-4 days. After that time, they should be ready to strain, refrigerate, and enjoy.

My fingers are crossed they kombucha is delicious!

Early Spring Blooms

We enjoyed a relaxing weekend. Saturday, I visited the farmer’s market being held on base. I came away with several treasures, none of them were food! I purchased two antique pieces. One is a chest and the other a tea tansu. I love them and have already incorporated them into our decor.

We also had the opportunity to visit our favorite lunch spot in Kamakura. Barchie’s remains one of our favorites restaurants. We stopped in for lunch on Sunday.

Check out this ingenious idea. I ordered a bbq rib burrito. It was served wrapped in wax paper and sliced in half. As I ate it, I peeled away the wax paper. All the juices dripped out the bottom of the burrito and were collected by the wax paper! Brilliant!

After lunch, we walked around Kamakura. A couple of the white Sakura trees are starting to bloom. Everyone was taking pictures!! We couldn’t resist either!

As you’re reading this, Jennifer, please don’t be alarmed. I took a picture of the pink grove across the pond. This is also where the peony garden is located. The pink Sakura are not blooming yet. They still have about 7-10 days. Plus, there is a lot rain in the forecast this week. The rain will slow down the blooms. I think timing will be perfect for your visit!

In the meantime, please enjoy the early spring blooms. The white Sakura, plum blossoms, and daffodils.

Beautiful Weather

The past few days, the weather has been absolutely amazing. Yesterday, I spent time gardening and refreshing my flower pots on our front porch. Today, I decided it would be best to enjoy a hike. I started in Kamakura at the end of the Red Leaf Trail. Dave and I last hiked it in November. When we did that hike, we came to a fork in the trail and decided to stay on the course of the main trail. My goal today was to hike to the same spot and take “the road less traveled.” Because I was going the opposite way, I was able to gain a different perspective while hiking the trail. Like the steepness of the uphill – normally a downhill!

Soon I made it to the first split.

Did I already mention how beautiful it was today!?! I was dressed in capris and a short sleeve shirt with a fleece. Not too long into the hike, I put the fleece in my backpack!

I made it to the second split in the trail and continued along the path Dave and I traveled before.

It was after reaching the summit, the last picture above, that I veered left instead of right. I knew following the trail to the right would lead me back to Kamakura. The hike continued to be beautiful.

At one point, I passed a huge cemetery.

I also passed numerous other hikers out enjoying the day. We exchanged “Konnichiwa” and a couple times they would engage me in a conversation They would ask, “where from?” My simple reply, “Chicago.” Their response, “Ahh, America.” “Hai, America,” I would agree. I laughed and felt a little bit badly for my Illinois friends. I don’t mean to diss the state, or think Chicago is the only part of the state. It is just easier to say Chicago because Chicago is known internationally. So, yes, I’m from: Chicago, America. I also realize I’m from the United States of America. However, when I say I’m from the U.S., it creates much confusion. So, although there are many Americas, most people I meet think of the United States of America as “America.” Sorry, I got the bit of the digression on that one, but I’ve had the question from wabisabisole fans as to why I say Chicago and not the U.S.

Back to my beautiful hike. After the cemetery, I pooped out at a rest station where I found a beautiful map. I studied it for no less than 10 minutes. I was still unclear about where I should go. There were three trail heads. One I came from. And the other two were a mystery. So, I just went in a direction that seemed correct according to Google Maps.

More beautiful trails.

Until I found a paper plant. OMG! This part of the trail sparked my vertigo. I had to stop, take a picture, and then put phone away. I was insanely worried I would slip. Thankfully, I didn’t see a snake!! I couldn’t help but wonder if he bamboo had been cleared to prevent people from falling.

I made it through and then quickly descended. Soon, I found myself on a road near where I teach English on Thursdays!! Ha!

I walked a little bit and caught the bus to Matsuura Train Station (one stop away from our stop). From there, I took the train home. (Not a picture of my train, but I love the other colored trains.)

I was home by 3pm. It was a four hour trip from door to door and about 5 miles total with 3.5 miles of actual hiking. Pretty good for a beautiful day. I rewarded myself with a glass of wine on our front patio with one of my new favorite plants. How many kitty cats do you see!?!

Kombucha 101

One thing I’ve learned from my English students about the secret to a long life is to keep learning – it keeps your mind sharp. That’s why at 60+ years old, a couple are in their 80s, they are learning how to improve their English conversion. They were my inspiration to attend a Kombucha 101 brewing class in Tokyo.

Sonia found the course online through Best Living Japan and invited me to go with her. Sure! Why not? And by the way, what’s Kombucha?

Directly translated in Japanese, kombu means seaweed and cha means tea. However, that is definitely not kombucha. Kombucha is a detoxifier and a probiotic.

The drink has become very popular in the U.S. over the past few years. When prepared correctly, kombucha is a healthy and delicious beverage. It is said to improve your energy and intestinal health.

The drink is made using sweetened tea that has been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The SCOBY looks pretty gross. Here our sensei was cutting pieces of SCOBY into each of our starter teas.

I was a bit intimidated as I watched and listened to our sensei walk us through the process of preparing the kombucha.

The first phase requires you to brew the sweetened tea and add the starter tea and SCOBY. They are put together in a large glass container, covered with a cloth, and left to ferment for 7-10 days.

The second phase is when the fruit juice is added to the fermented tea. The fruit adds flavor and carbonation. The tea from phase one is strained, the SCOBY removed, and about two cups of tea are reserved as starter tea for the next batch. For each jar of tea, 10-20% is fruit juice and 80-90% is fermented tea. The jars are sealed and allowed to sit at room temperature for 2-4 days. After that time, the kombucha can be refrigerated and enjoyed within the next 7 days.

As part of the class, each student was given a jar with starter tea and a piece of SCOBY. This would allow us to make our own initial batch.

On the way home from Tokyo, Sonia and I stopped in Yokohama at the Daiso. We needed larger glass containers for the fermenting process and elastic to keep the towel covering the jar in place. I had plenty of sugar and oolong tea to make my sweetened tea.

After brewing my tea, I let it set until it cooled. I didn’t want to scald my SCOBY. Once the tea was cool, I mixed them into my new glass pitcher. I added my cover and will check back in 7-10 days.

I’m genuinely curious as to how this will work out. I think I’m going to make strawberry flavored kombucha for my first batch. The strawberries will add desirable sweetness and adequate carbonation. Perhaps, I will be more bold if the kombucha does indeed taste delicious. The two glasses we tried in class today were very good. She offered us guava and peach. A couple of my friends in America have told me about their brewing successes. If you have any tips to share, please let me know! I’ll keep you updated on my progress as the kombucha brews. Kanpie! Here’s to intestinal health.

PS. The other two things to a long life include taking a walk everyday and eating sushi.

Tokyo Tourists

Dave received an invitation to the Kanto Plain Seabee Ball. The ball was held on March 10, 2018 at the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo. We decided to enjoy the weekend in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the New Sanno was full for the weekend. Instead, I booked us a room at the New Prince Hotel in Shinagawa. We arrived Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel. The room was on the club level. Being in the club level granted us permission to use the Club Lounge. Besides the amazing view, the Club Lounge provided breakfast, snacks, and alcohol beverages after 5:00 pm. We were happy we decided to make a stop for happy hour on Friday. Because who doesn’t love free snacks and beer with a great city view!

We spent the rest of the evening exploring the area around Shinagawa Station. You just never know what or who you will see in Japan!

The place where we stopped for dinner had a true local flare. Like tiny sardines in my grilled rice ball and the homemade Japanese pickles served with our beer.

When I attempted to order a second beer, some how I managed to order two – of different sizes. Clearly, there was a bit lost in translation. Fortunately, Dave helped me drink the extra beer. Team D for the win!

Saturday before the ball, we took the train to Shibuya to walk around and shop. It’s always fun to be tourists in Shibuya Crossing.

This cute puppy was outside a coffee shop. He was there with his owner for several hours. We passed him on both Saturday and Sunday morning. Kawaii!

The Seabee Ball on Saturday night was a blast. I had the chance to wear my favorite gown and Dave looked extremely dapper in his mess dress. I love fancy date night.

No ball in Japan is complete without a sake barrel to open.

And traditional music performance.


We took a group picture of all those who represented SRF. Not too bad of a turn out and everyone looked amazing.

The rest of the evening included dinner, speeches, and dancing. Lots of dancing and so much fun! Kanpie!

Mori Art Museum

The rain arrived overnight as promised. This created the perfect day to visit the Mori Art Museum. The Mori Art Museum is located in Roppongi. It is actually in the same building as the Tokyo Sky View. Sonia and I planned a trip to the museum and then lunch. The Museum currently has an exhibition by Leandro Erlich – Seeing is Believing.

The exhibition was contemporary and unique. Several of the exhibits were interactive, creating an even more impressive experience. Here is a picture of the explanation of the exhibit. To truly understand his intentions of his art, please read the third paragraph. He creates art that challenges our perceptions.

The first exhibit was the floating boats. I didn’t read about it before entering. It took Sonia pointing out that there was no water for my brain to comprehend. Please note, the boats were also rocking adding to the impression that they were in water.

Here is the explanation.

The next group of artwork were of clouds shaped like countries. The exhibit stressed how we as humans try to make order out of the chaos. We seek to find images in clouds or create constellations in the millions of stars. The same can be said about country borders. Although they seem permanent, over time they also shift and change shape. Pretty poignant, huh? The images were created using ceramic ink on multiple layers of glass. Can you identify the countries?

If you said, Japan, France, United Kingdom, and Germany, you are correct!

One of our favorites was the changing room. It was a changing room design with a mixture of mirrored and non-mirrored walls. The non-mirrored walls allowed you to pass through. It was like a dressing room maze.

A couple of other pieces really spoke to me. I loved this one of the house with roots. The intent was to show how intertwined cities truly become with nature. To me, it was more personal. I reflected and thought it illustrated our life. That is our house that we create into our home wherever we move. Then with each move, we rip our home out of the ground. Most of our roots come with us, but we can’t help but leave some behind.

I also loved this piece illustrating the effects of climate change on buildings. It was constructed in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Convention.

The main attraction of the exhibition was the mind bending building. It truly looks dangerous and gravity defying!

What in the world!?! How is this possible? With a huge mirror!

The art exhibit was one of best I have seen in a while. I truly enjoyed the experience. Afterwards, we went back down to the fifth floor and had an amazing lunch and even better conversation. Pretty good adventure for a rainy Thursday.

Before the Rain

I think we all are experiencing strange weather patterns. The back to back Nor’easters blowing up the east coast have us all captivated and thinking about our loved ones. Here in Japan, we are having lots of rain and wind. The humidity is starting to return with the rain. Yesterday and today were overcast and cool. Amanda and I decided to get a hike in before the rain returns tomorrow. We hiked the trail close to our house, Mt. Takatori. I always giggle when we pass by the nursing home at the start of the hike. There are always cute and strange statues.

Amanda and I came to a crossroads at the beginning of the trail. Here is the route we normally would take.

We hesitated because there seemed to be a very clear unmarked trail. Neither of us had ever taken it and decided today was a day for exploring!

Off we went and up we went!

Check out the worn areas on the rocks. Perfect for foot placement!

The trail went up and up and up. It was a total thigh burner!

We came to another crossroads and decided to go left. This led us back down and close a school where we started. Check out the wire mesh stairs. Brilliant idea on a potentially muddy slope!

At this point, we could either turn around and go back up the hill or end our hike and head home. We decided to double back. We finally knew we were on the right track when we started seeing the numbered signs!

We continued up and down and had an unrelenting burn in our thighs by the time we made it off the mountain.

Before getting on the train to head home, we stopped by the grocery store. I thought sushi sounded like the perfect dinner. Dave and I have a goal to eat sushi once a week while living here. It’s one of our favorites. Plus it gives me an excuse to use my Japanese pottery!

I hope everyone in the path of the upcoming storm remains safe. You’re in my thoughts!

Let’s Catch Up

Konnichiwa! I apologize for a little bit of a pause since my last post. Let’s catch up. Cindy made it home safely. After she left, I had three days straight of English classes. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They went well. The weather over the weekend was a little taste of spring. Dave and I were able to get out for a jog after the sun came up!

We also went for a shell collecting walk on Saturday and Sunday. We found almost 30 sand dollars!

I need to start thinking about a way / craft to use them. If you have any ideas let me know. So far on Pinterest I’ve found how to clean and preserve them.

As we were walking down to the beach on Sunday, we passed this cute little neighborhood garden stand. It is just so cute. He puts out things from his garden for sale. I took a picture from Sunday and today. His garden stand illustrates the honesty and trust prevalent in Japanese culture.

We had a big rain storm come through on Monday. The storm brought lots of rain, wind and a migraine for me. I’m starting to feel better this afternoon. The fresh air walk down to the beach helped. Plus, I found another 10 sand dollars. I really need to get crafty!

We have more rain in the forecast towards the end of the week. I think spring is trying to make its appearance!


Wednesday morning we decided to venture out to an area of Kyoto called Arashiyama. It is an area of Kyoto I had never been. So, this was an unscripted part of Julia’s Tour. It was an easy 16 minute train ride followed by a short walk to our first destination.

The first location I had in mind for us to visit was a bamboo forest. I’ve heard many good things about it and thought it would be a good addition to Cindy’s growing Japan list. The forest was beautiful.

As we were walking through the forest we happened upon a cute little Shrine.

The Nonomiyama-jinja Shrine was first used as a location for imperial princesses to reside during their purification process. There are mentions of the Shrine in several Japanese tales and poems.

This next picture made me chuckle. I have seen umbrellas used for so many reasons in Japan. Rain, snow, and blocking the sun. This is the first time I’ve ever seen one covering a shrine! It’s just so cute.

After we left the Shrine, we continued our way through the bamboo forest. Before too long, we came to a Temple. We decided to stop and take a walk around. Again, we were amazed with the beautiful gardens.

We had a good laugh with seeing another set of stairs. We have definitely walked a lot a stairs over the past week!

One of the main features in the temple grounds was a pond. The still morning air created a perfect reflection.

As we came to the exit, we realized we were at the entrance. The entrance of a really large temple! Tenryu-ji Zen Temple. We apparently found the back entrance from the bamboo forest! Funny.

We came to a cross roads of sorts and could either head back to the bamboo forest or walk in the other direction to the Arashiyama Monkey Park. I left the decision up to Cindy. She choose the monkeys! Ha!

On our way to the monkey park, we passed a cute exhibit known as the “Kimono Forest.” Each of the poles are lined with a Kimono. The fabrics were beautiful.

we continued on our way to the Monkey Park.

Again, we laughed at the stairs. The joke was on us though. The monkey park was located at the top of a hill 160m high. Better get to stepping!

We finally made it to the top. It was worth it to see the view and the monkeys. The monkeys are Japanese Macaques. They same type of monkeys as the snow monkeys. These monkeys are just lucky because they don’t live so far north!

At the top, there is a rest house where you are permitted to feed the monkeys. We purchased a bag of cut apples and a bag of peanuts so we could feed the monkeys.

It was fun to feed the monkeys. They were so cute. I took a video as we were leaving. The monkeys started to argue. It lasted for about a minute. Notice at the end of the video the Japanese worker comes over and says something very softly to quiet them. Cindy and I decided he was the monkey whisperer.


One last funny story from the monkey park. We were walking down the hill and there were two monkeys lounging. One was grooming the other. I started recording them. All the sudden, one makes the “angry” face we read about on the way up the mountain. At first, I thought he was smiling at me. Then Cindy says, he’s making the angry face. Oh! Yikes! I think we should all be able to make an angry face when we’re annoyed! Tell people to leave us alone!


By the time we left the monkey park, it was time to work our way back to Kyoto Station. We needed to retrieve our bags from the hotel and grab lunch for the train home. Mission accomplished with ease.

The ride home was enjoyable and despite the cloudy skies we caught a glimpse of Mt. Fuji!

The Shinkansen train ride took about 2.5 hours to Shinagawa Station. We had another hour on the train home. Once back on base, we dropped our luggage and met Dave for Cindy’s farewell dinner. Sushi at Sushiro! Ironically enough, we saw my friend Miki as we were waiting for our table. She kindly offered to take our picture.

We had such an amazing time sharing Japan with Cindy during her visit. I will never forget our adventures, laughs, and experiences. It truly was a trip of a lifetime for all of us. Japan is a beautiful country with a wonderful culture. I’m happy Cindy could experience the beauty. I sent her home with extra love and hugs for everyone. Hugs and smiles across the many miles!

Nara Day Trip

Tuesday morning we set out for the day to visit Nara. Along the way, we stopped at the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. This is one of my favorite Shrines. Fushimi Inari Taisha has many parallel rows of Torii know as Senbon Torii or thousands of Torii gates.

The grounds are so expansive. There are multiple shrines of all different sizes. This was one of the larger ones. Many people were making their wish.

This large Torii near the center of the main shrine leads the way to the Torii paths.

As we walked up, we saw a cute lucky cat on the Shrine. He was there during our entire visit!

The passageways with all the Torii are really unique to walk through. The Torii were donated by local businesses. The writing on the Torii identifies the donor. The smaller Torii cost about ¥400,000 or ($4,000). The larger ones cost well over ¥1,000,000!

We waited patiently to take a few pictures without people. Well, almost with no people. The sweet lady in the last one waited while our picture was being taken.

The Shrine is dedicated to the God Inari, the Shinto God of rice. I also love the foxes serving messengers and sent to protect the shrine.

We left Fushimi Inari Shrine and caught a local train to Nara.

The first stop in Nara was at the Kofukuda-ji Temple. The most prominent feature of this temple is the five story pagoda.

The main temple hall is adjacent to the pagoda. Cindy was able to obtain another temple stamp. While we were waiting for the nice man to complete the stamp, he asked where we are from. Chicago, we replied. With his limited English he replies, America and Trump. Yes, we laugh. America and Trump. 🇺🇸🙄

We worked our way through Nara Park on the way to the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. Cindy had a chance to see all the deer. Perhaps the best entertainment is watching people feed the deer. Before too long, she was ready to buy them treats.

Quickly they came running!

Oh, how funny. They start out so sweet. Before long they are aggressive and nipping your butt!

The deer were hilarious. Check out this one. He’s sticking his tongue out at Cindy.

Eventually, we found a sweet one.

We continued our walk through the park and worked our way towards the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. This shrine has many lanterns along the path as you approach. They are so cool with the moss covering them. Occasionally, you will spot a deer with the lanterns.

I loved this picture. I was able to capture Cindy in the middle of so much Japan. The deer, the lanterns, the couple in the Kimonos, and the Torii gate.

The deer fountain to cleanse before visiting the shrine.

After our visit, we walked across the park again to the last temple on our Nara tour. The Tōdai-ji Temple is home to a large bronze statue of Buddha Vairocana. The building is 157 feet high and remains one of Japan’s largest wooden buildings.

We enjoyed our walk through the temple and viewing the Buddha. As we made our way back to the train station, we decided there was one more thing on Cindy’s Japan list we needed to complete. We needed a visit to a cat cafe. With ease using Google Maps, I was able to locate a cat cafe in Nara very close to the train station. For ¥600 we spent 30 minutes pestering and playing with the cute and not so cute kitties.

This guy was asleep in the toy box!!

We caught a limited express train back to Kyoto and enjoyed a delicious pizza for dinner.

This was a great day. We saw 4 Shrines/Temples, deer, and cats. It was a fun day exploring and experiencing Japanese culture!

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