Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Author: wabisabisole (Page 1 of 39)

Make it Happy

Saturday afternoon Dave and I walked around the area of Tokyo near the New Sanno Hotel. The New Sanno Hotel is on the southwest side of Tokyo. It is located near Ebisu and Roppongi Hills. Both areas have Christmas Markets I wanted to visit.

We went to Ebisu first and ate lunch at the Sapporo Beer Station.

Both the beer and my sandwich were delicious.

After lunch, we walked around the Christmas Market in the plaza. It was pretty small, but cute!

I loved the “Make it Happy” theme!

The tree and chandelier in the plaza were impressive!!

The chandelier is the feature of the Baccarat Eternal Light illumination. I can only imagine how beautiful it would look at night. The chandelier has 8,472 pieces of crystal!

After visiting Ebisu Garden Place, we hopped on the train and went two stops to Roppongi Hills. On the upper level was the German themed Christmas Market. It was a little bigger than the Ebisu Market and much more crowded! There were lines just to enter the stores!

On the lower level was a British Invasion Festival. Talk about a cultural afternoon! Germany and Britain while walking around Japan!

My favorite was the IPA craft beer option. Even if it was a Japanese sized pour!

We walked around the garden to enjoy the last of the fall foliage.

Potato chip trees!

The highlight of our day was seeing different pet owners posing their puppies and rabbits for photos. Kawaii!! They brought us happy thoughts of Hannah B.

It was such a nice afternoon, we decided to walk back to the New Sanno and get ready for the holiday party.

Tiger Gyoza

Dave and I are spending the weekend in Tokyo at the New Sanno Hotel. The SRF Holiday Party is on Saturday night. I was hoping to spend Friday night enjoying illuminations in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the rain spoiled our plans. Instead, we decided to grab dinner near the hotel. We went to Tiger Gyoza.

I have heard many great reviews of the restaurant. Factoring in the rain and the proximity of the restaurant to the hotel, it made perfect sense.

We ordered the coriander (cilantro) Gyoza and fried chicken.

The Gyoza was covered with delicious fresh cilantro and a cilantro pesto. Although it was delicious, it could have been better if it was pan seared after boiling. The Gyoza was only boiled and that made it a little too mushy. I’m not sure if that was normal or it might have just been the type we ordered.

As we walked back to the New Sanno, we walked past a lot of Ginkgo Trees.

On the drive up, Dave commented that the fallen Gingko leaves looked like potato chips. He’s so right!! I couldn’t stop laughing! (And yes, we actually drove the Hooptie to Tokyo!) The scariest part was fitting into the tiny parking spot in the basement of the hotel.

I was also thought about the last time I stayed at the hotel. It was when the Cummings were visiting and we also had a rainy day. Delaney was not happy! What is it with the New Sanno and rain? I’m hoping it clears tomorrow so I can drag Dave to a couple Christmas Markets!

Because Japan

Some days I have experiences or see something that really me me think, I love living in Japan. For example, I went to visit Miki at her house for lunch. She made us lunch (spaghetti bolognese – oishi desu) and we enjoyed a wonderful conversation. She even had answers to my questions from last week. Her hospitality made me feel truly “at home” even though I’m miles away.

Once I was home, I walked down to the post office to check our mail. As I walked down the hill, I passed a construction crew repairing a fire hydrant. Their work equipment was blocking the sidewalk. To make their work less of an inconvenience and safer, they put up cones establishing a temporary walkway in the road. Seriously. I took this picture after I walked past them.

When I see this display of courtesy, I’m struck by the kindness and consideration the Japanese show to others. It all goes back to the “wa” – the good of group is more important than what is good for the individual. The politeness demonstrated at with the construction is normal. Each time I see this type of courtesy I think, because Japan! And that’s why I love living here. Kindness is an international language!

Sea Candle Illumination

Holiday illuminations are shining brightly all around Japan. One spot I missed last year was the Enoshima Sea Candle. I decided to add it to calendar earlier and during a week day. Katie and her daughter, Virginia, met me in Zushi so we could ride the train together the rest of the way to Enoshima. We were hoping for a clear night. We wanted to see Mt. Fuji, sunset, and the super moon. Unfortunately, clouds rolled in during the early afternoon.

We took our time climbing up to the top and soaked in the view as we went.

I also had the chance to use my Apple Watch to take a picture of the three of us. It’s a great feature and made even easier because in various places around Japan we have seen little smart phone stands. Brilliant!

At 17:00 the lights were illuminated. They made an announcement about five minutes prior and people started rushing into the garden. Right before 17:00 there was a 10- second count down and then the lights were turned on. Everyone cheered. It was really cute. The gardens of the Sea Candle were so beautiful. It was fun to walk through and absorb the serenity of the garden. Plus, there was music playing to help set the holiday spirit.

The highlight was the long light tunnel. It was so beautiful. There were large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and crystals hanging from the sides.

It was cool to see the Sea Candle through the tunnel.

We walked through the tunnel a couple times. It was just so beautiful with all the lights.

The Sea Candle was also illuminated.

The view from the top of the Sea Candle was a delight as well.

Our evening out was just the break I needed. I spent most of the day working on rerouting our Christmas holiday plans. We were planning a trip to Bali. Unfortunately, the ash cloud from Mt. Agung continues to threaten flights. We decided to play it on the safe side and reroute our trip to Phuket. It was a bit of a hassle to change, but worth it in the end for piece of mind. I did a little more research and found a different part for us to visit this year and enjoy a relaxing holiday together. We can save Bali for next year.

Yokosuka Theater

On Saturday, Yuka and I went to the Yokosuka Theater to see a Noh and Kyōgen performance. The Theater was beautiful. We arrived early had had the opportunity to snap a couple pictures before the show. No photography or videos were permitted during the performances.

Here we are in the lobby. I knew Yuka and I would be friends the first time we went out on a Friday night because we both have great taste in purses! Look how cute we are with our matching Longchamp bags!

Noh and Kyōgen are traditional Japanese stage performances. Both types of performances are passed down from one generation to another. There were two performances. The first one was the Kyōgen performance of Chasanbai – “An International Marriage Problem.” I was given an English insert to help me understand the performance. Kyōgen is a more folksy, comedy performance. It is intended to portray the life of a commoner. I love that the advice given to the wife is to give her husband saké. Even though I didn’t understand the words being said, the acting was comical. Especially, when she chased him off the stage!!

The second act was the Noh performance. Noh is considered the world’s oldest stage performing art. The Noh performance we watched was called “The Chinese Ship.” The stage during the Noh portion was illuminated with candles giving it the appearance of being a harbor. It was much more formal and included a larger group of background singers and stage musicians. There were three different types of drums being played and a flute. The music supported the actors and the story telling. Also during this performance, Japanese subtitles were used to help the viewer follow the plot.

It was such a great experience. I enjoyed having the opportunity to see the performances. Plus, it was fun to have a girl’s night out at the theater!

Long Way Home

Two things were notable during my English class this afternoon. First, my students loved the cakes I brought back from Nagasaki for us to enjoy during tea time. Second, one of my students gave me a huge hug when she saw me. “Sensei, good to see you!” It feels good to be missed!

After my English class, I decided to take the long way back to the train station and walk through Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Shrine. I haven’t been to visit in a few weeks and thought I might have a chance to see a little fall foliage. And who knows what else, I mean it’s Friday!

Check out these crowds! While I was there I observed three weddings and a plethora of school groups.

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I walked up the stairs to the top of the Shrine to make my Christmas wish. (Layla, these stairs!) 😳😬

After sending off my Christmas wish, I was ready to find Fall foliage. It was my lucky day! Fall foliage and vermilion bridges.

Plus, a Torii gate.

I found a very secluded spot. The serenity was amazing.

I had to wait patiently to capture some of these pictures without too many people. Like I said, it was crowded.

As I walked back to the train station, I did a little Christmas shopping along Komachi Dori. It was a delightful afternoon doing things I enjoy: teaching, snapping pictures, and shopping! Happy Friday!

Torinoichi Festival

My friend, Miki, invited me to go with her to the Torinoichi Festival on November 30th. Torinoichi means Festival of the Rooster (2017). The purpose of the festival is to sell good luck charms and the promise of a profitable future. One of the main items to purchase is a Kumade (a wide bamboo rake). Each of these creations are displayed on a bamboo rake. It’s like a diorama of lucky Japanese items. But, instead of a shoebox, a rake is used. There were many vendors selling Kumade.

The Kumade symbolizes bringing in a huge profit like a rake brings in leaves. There were so many options for what specific lucky charm you wanted on your Kumade. I took a couple close up pictures to help you see the details. Lots of animals, sake barrels, rice clusters, coins, Seven Lucky Gods, dogs (2018 is the year of the dog), welcoming cats, and daruma dolls.

As we walked around the festival when someone purchased a Kumade, it was blessed. Look closely at the Kumade, you can see it is indeed a rake.

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Another lucky purchase.

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The festival is held three times in November and the vendors sell their Kumade late into the evening. We went early before it was too crowded!

The prices of the Kumade are not listed. You must ask the seller for the price. Miki did a little Google research for me. Here is the information she supplied about the prices.

From Miki:

Private person ¥1,000-¥3,000 (smallest).

Private industry ¥5,000-¥15,000.

Small-Medium company ¥10,000

Big company ¥30,000-¥200,000

Corporations ¥1,000,000 (Biggest)

The big ones are HUGE!

Here is the interesting part. Each year, new Kumade are purchased and the old ones are returned. The same amount of money is paid for a new Kumade. It is considered bad luck to keep the old Kumade. The old Kumade are returned to the Shrine and placed in huge dumpsters. Out with the old, in with the new!

The Shrine is illuminated with lanterns. The lanterns announce the name of donors. The higher the lantern is placed, the larger the donation. The line going through the lanterns is for making your wish.

As with any festival, there were a lot of food vendors. Such an amazing variety. It was great to have Miki with me to translate and explain items.

Like the fried and salted spaghetti.

Or the smoked and salted fish on a stick.

Some needed no explanation.

So many bananas.

I enjoyed the evening learning more about Japanese culture from Miki. She is such a wonderful person and great friend. I’m lucky to have met her!

Hiking Mt. Takao

After visiting Mt. Takao last March for the Fire-walking festival, I really wanted to return to hike the mountain this fall. Rain spoiled my plans to go a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule the hike today and I invited my friend, Amanda, to join me. In the end, it worked out perfectly. We caught the 7:21 train from Jimmuji and made it to the base of the mountain by 9:30.

After leaving the train station, we found this extra large map showing the mountain and various hiking trails to the top.

One quick picture before we started our hike!

We decided to take the darker orange trail. The Inariyama Trail.

The English description provided says, “while some sections are a little rough, this ridge top trail offers refreshing wonderful views.” It left out the ridiculous number of stairs we would climb over the next 90 minutes!! These pictures only show a portion of the stairs. According to my Apple Watch, we climbed 139 flights of stairs! My thighs were on fire by the time we reached the top.

Honestly, I’m not sure we could have enjoyed better weather. It was such a glorious day. The foliage was spectacular! Here are just a few pictures from our ascent.

Once we reached the top, the view didn’t disappoint. We were able to see Mt. Fuji. Look at her snow cap!! Beautiful. Absolutely, beautiful.

At the top, we enjoyed a cold brew and warm bowl of Udon.

The biggest surprise of the day was the number of people! Despite the hard climb to the top, I’m glad we decided to hike the Inariyama Trail. We passed so many people coming up the paved (easier) trail as we were walking back down.

We walked about part way down before taking the tram down the mountain. The leaves were so beautiful.

I’m so glad it worked out for us to hike Mt. Takao on such a beautiful day. Fall in Japan might take a little longer to arrive, but it’s worth the wait!

Sasebo Sustenance

One final discussion to wrap up our trip to the southern part of Japan. A couple of culinary experiences were on fire, literally! I already mentioned first time our food was set on fire. It was the searing of our steak at the SRF dinner on Wednesday night.

The second time we had our food placed on fire was on Thursday evening. We went to Michele Brown Steakhouse. The restaurant was recommended to us by my friend, Paula. She and her husband were stationed in Sasebo. She recommended the wings. We went Thursday night and when the waitress brought out the wings, she promptly set them on fire!

They were pretty good. I have no doubt the fire added extra taste.

Sasebo is also known for the famous Sasebo Burger. Each time we passed one of the certified Sasebo Burger locations, my desire to eat one grew.

Finally, Saturday night we stopped in Sasebo Burger Shop and ordered a Sasebo Burger with fries.

While we were waiting for I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the dinosaur on the wall. There seemed to be a dinosaur theme occurring Saturday night.

The Sasebo Burger was pretty delicious. I was definitely satisfied with my cheeseburger. Looking at the first picture makes me think of the “where’s the beef” commercial.

The fries were alright. I would have preferred to have them without pepper. Don’t worry, I didn’t waste any! I ate them anyways.

My favorite Sasebo snack I ate all week were the custard filled cream cakes. My mom makes amazing cream puffs and these were almost as good as hers!

Oh. My. Goodness. They were so good. How good were they? They were so good, I ate two on Friday and purposely went back on Saturday and ordered two more!

On Friday, I ordered two hard and two soft puffs with chocolate and custard. This would give Dave and I a chance to sample both.

The worker filled the puffs to order. She laughed at me taking her picture. She laughed harder when I came back the next day and ordered more.

I didn’t really like the chocolate cream. Dave didn’t really like the custard. Team Dwyer wins again!

It’s probably a good thing we weren’t stationed in Sasebo. Two of the magnificent treats a day would wreck a healthy diet in about a week. I was happy to indulge and will be sure to stop by if I make a second trip!

Huis Ten Bosch

During my visit to the IACE travel office in Sasebo, I saw a brochure for Huis Ten Bosch. Huis Ten Bosch is theme park with a Netherlands inspired theme. What caught my eye in the brochure were the holiday light displays. I immediately added this to my list.

We arrived before the sunset on Saturday in order to see some of the park in the day light. We took a 20 minute train ride from Sasebo to the Huis Ten Bosch Station. We were amazed by the view from the start!

That huge building is the main hotel of the park. Dave and I decided we needed a return trip to experience all the park had to offer, including a stay at one of the hotels!

At the entrance of the park, visitors walk through a field with three large windmills. This time of year the fields have pansies and lights. In the spring, the fields are full of tulips. Just like Holland. Before dark.

After dark…

We enjoyed a walk around the park taking in the sights. One hotel is completely run by robots. Check out this guy!

There were tons of cute photo opportunities.

Even roses blooming!

Lots of decorations.

I also had a giggle seeing another pirate ship. My third one in the past 10 days! Notice the cute Amsterdam Row Houses in the background.

As the sun set, lights started to come on. I was giddy! We worked our way to the magical waterfall.

I hope I captured the beauty in the video. It’s truly amazing to watch.

We walked through the blue garden lights. Enjoying the lights and singing “Blue Christmas” and wishing those wine glasses had wine!

Our next highlight was a ride on the Ferris Wheel.

The ride around was 11 minutes. I’m happy to report the cars were Dave proof. They were completely enclosed so he couldn’t drop water on anyone! The views were spectacular!

After the ride, we walked to the huge tree so we could enjoy the tree lighting ceremony.

It was mesmerizing!

I took a close up of the fountain. Notice the wine fountain sign, Santa, and all the muses. Amusing!

The last highlight of our visit was the boat ride. We rode through the canal and were able to enjoy the lights and animations.

The best part was the canal light show. I recorded part of it for you.

One last funny. The parade was going on while we were on the boat. After we got off the boat, we saw part of as we were walking around. There were lots of Santas dancing and floats and Christmas music and a dinosaur. Yes, a dinosaur. Apparently, nothing says Merry Christmas like a dinosaur float!

All the lights and holiday music truly helped us get in the Christmas spirit. The theme park and illuminations were over the top. I hope we have the opportunity to return in the spring. I would love to see the flowers!

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