Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: 2018

Setsubun 2018

Setsubun is held on February 3rd. Last year, I went with Miki and Dina to a Setsubun festival. This year, Setsubun was on a Saturday. On Saturday mornings, I normally have a session with my English student, Manami. Instead of having our traditional class, I suggested we go to Kamakura and visit the Hachiman-gu Shrine for the Setsubun Festival. (A Julia School field trip).

Setsubun means “change of seasons” and celebrates the upcoming Spring. Beans are thrown as a means of purification.

One of Dave’s coworkers translated the website for me on Friday night. She told me to be inside the perimeter of the ropes near the Shrine required a special ticket. The tickets would be passed out at noon on Saturday. The website recommended arriving early because the line could be very long and the tickets would run out. Manami and I decided to meet in Zushi and take the train together to Kamakura around 10am. We arrived at Hachiman-gu Shrine by 10:15.

Manami asked the official where we needed to wait for a ticket. He directed us to the line. Believe it or not, we were not the first in line!

We waited patiently. Fortunately, the day wasn’t too cold. Every minute that passed the line grew and grew. By noon the line was double sided!!

Shortly before noon, we were given our tickets.

However, we still had an hour before the ceremony started and two hours before they would throw the beans. We took about 45 minutes to warm up in a little waiting area before the events began. We returned to the area and waited patiently and secured our spot.

Soon it was time for the official party to arrive.


The official party continued to grow! The members included business owners, Miss Kamakura, and politicians.

The ceremony included a blessing of the crowd. The wooden boxes hold the packets of beans that will be thrown to the audience.

The official party members then entered the Shrine. That permitted Manami and me to be even closer to the front of the Shrine!! The large guy in the middle is the owner of the famous Kamakura dove/ pigeon cookie. The lady to his left is a famous Tokyo reporter. The ladies in the beautiful Kimonos are Miss Kamakura. We were so close to the front! Perfect for catching lots of lucky beans!

Finally, it was time to toss out the beans! Throwing the beans drives out demons and allows for good fortune to enter. Look at the crowd! Good fortune for everyone!!

Before living in Japan, I could never imagine such an orderly crowd. Another reason why I love Japan. Everyone is polite even when trying to catch good fortune beans! We caught several packets of soybeans. Enough for both of us and plenty to share. Each person must eat the same number of beans that corresponds with their age. Dave and I both enjoyed our respective piles of beans!

Manami also ordered us special sushi rolls to eat called “Ehoumaki.” I brought it home for Dave and I to share. It is important to eat the roll in the direction of the God of Happiness and Wealth. This year, Manami told me we should eat the roll facing south-south east. As I was opening the roll, I noticed the compass on the wrapper. It also pointed to the SSE. I used the compass on my iPhone to ensure we were facing the right direction.

It was such a special day. I enjoyed the opportunity to experience a Japanese custom in conjunction with my English session. As the first Julia School field trip, I think we were very successful!

Ikebana – New Year

Ikebana International January Event was held on Saturday 1/20/18. Dave and I were fortunate to be able to attend. It was held at The Great Buddha of Kamakura- Mrs. Sato’s residence. The gardens and flower arrangements were beautiful even in winter.

The event included a Taiko drum performance, mochi pounding, and sake tasting. The Taiko drum club is a group from Zushi High School. I took a picture of the information from the itinerary.

They were incredible. They had a total of five performances. I took a short video of each one for your pleasure. Please take time to enjoy. Their performances are amazing. They do not use a conductor during their performance. The first one I filmed from our seats.


After the first performance, Dave showed me a much better vantage point to capture video and pictures.


The third performance.


The fourth performance.


The final performance included eight members each taking a turn on the large drum. We learned the large drum cost the same amount as a Toyota Prius. The strength they use to beat the drum is incredible. Notice, there is at least one person holding the drum during the performance. I filmed several, this one was one of my favorites. Please remember, these are high schoolers!!!


After the Taiko drum performance, we observe mochi pounding. The Mochi pounding was an orchestrated dance! Fresh mochi is delicious!


Before lunch, we posed for a few pictures in the garden. Me with Dave and Miki.

For lunch we enjoyed a gourmet bento box.

It was a delightful afternoon. Probably for everyone’s sake, I put my phone down before we started tasting sake. Happy New Year! Kanpie!

Furusato Matsuri Tokyo

Furusato Matsuri Tokyo is a 10 day festival held at Tokyo Dome. The event includes local food dishes and short demonstrations of local performances. Katie and I took the train up to Tokyo Tuesday morning. After a 30 minute detour caused by me getting us on the correct train line at the correct time, but going in the wrong direction… we finally found our way to Tokyo Dome. We followed the crowd to the ticket line. For ¥1400 we had all day access.

Despite the 30 minute delay, our timing was perfect! We arrived just as the Tatemon Festival was beginning their performance.

The Tatemon Festival is held on the first Friday and Saturday in August at the Suwa Shrine in the town of Suwa, Uozu. I took a picture of Google Maps to help identify where the festivals are located.

During the festival, offerings and dedications are presented at shrines to pray for a good haul of fish and safety at sea. The lanterns on the large structure have lobsters on them.

I took a short video of each group to help you appreciate the experience.


After this performance, Katie and I walked down to the floor area where the numerous food vendors were located. So many people and so many food choices!

It was easy to become overwhelmed walking around. We both rejoiced with glee when we saw the Baird Beer stand. A Wabi-Sabi IPA makes everything better. Kanpie!

We continued taking in the sights and found a giant Daruma doll. Who doesn’t need a little extra luck in the new year!?

By the time the next show started, we were directly in front of the performers. And no one was telling us to leave. We felt like we were breaking rules. But, no one seemed to care!

The second show was a folk story reenactment. From Kanazawa City, the Kagajishi is a story about a lion being chased out of the city.

The performers included the warriors who were fighting each other and the lion. Eventually, the lion was driven from the city.


After the performance, we walked around some more and selected a delicious fried snack. I realize now I didn’t take any pictures of my Festival food. We shared dumplings, croquettes, and a fried dough cheese stick. All were delicious. Although I did need a couple Tums by the time I got home!

Anyways, back to the festival. The third show was my favorite. This presentation was called the Goshogawara Tachineputa Festival and comes from Goshogawara City, Aomori Prefecture. Located in the very northern area of the main island, Honshu.

During the performance, the group moved the 23 meter tall statue weighing over 19 tons across the floor.

We had fantastic seats to watch as the giant Tachineputa floated its way through the performance arena. During the actual parade, more than a dozen of the Tachineputa are pulled through town!


By the time the fourth performance started, Katie and I were losing steam. The event was becoming more and more crowded. This made it difficult to find a seat and walk around without bumping into people. Katie and I agreed we started to feel like we were in a human pinball machine.

We decided to stay for one more performance. The last one we watched was the Tottori Shan-Shan Matsuri Festival. Tottori Prefecture is on southern end of Honshu.

The performance is conducted using “Shan-Shan gasa” or rice paper umbrellas.

In 2014, the Tottori Shan-Shan Festival celebrated the 50th anniversary. With over 4,000 participants, set a Guinness Book of World Record for the largest umbrella dance.


We only experienced a small portion of what the 10-day festival had to offer. It was great to be able to see festival demonstrations from areas further away where we might not have the opportunity to visit. I hope you enjoyed the videos!

SRF / JRMC New Year Celebration

The SRF / JRMC New Year celebration was held on Friday, January 12th. The event was held in one of the large “shop” spaces within the SRF / JRMC compound. There was a plethora of food and beverages.

The celebration included a speech given by the Commanding Officer and the presentation of awards.

After the speeches and awards, the traditional ceremony of opening a sake barrel was conducted.

I recorded a short segment of the music.


At the correct moment, the master of the ceremony (his hand is in the left corner of my photo and video) directs the openers to crack the lid.

I did a little research to understand the sake opening ceremony a little better. The ceremony is called “kagami biraki.” Kagami means mirror and biraki means to open. Obviously, no mirrors are used or opened during the ceremony. The lid is broken using a wooden mallet called a kizuchi. Then using a wooden ladle, hishaku, the sake is is poured into masu cups. The masu or sake cup is a square cup made of pine. The pine adds a nice flavor to the sake as you sip.

The reason the ceremony is called “kagami biraki” is because the surface of the sake looks like a mirror when the lid is removed. The ceremony is believed to bring good luck to the organization.

It was a fun afternoon. I mean, what’s not to love? Drinking sake during the work day with my husband in uniform. I wore one of my new Thailand skirts.

And if sake wasn’t your drink of choice, there was plenty of Miller Lite! The pine also added a nice taste to our Miller Lites.

Plus, I had a chance to catch up with a couple of Wubas. Class of ’00 & ’97 represented in Japan!

As always, it was fun to observe another Japanese traditional ceremony. Happy New Year! Wishing you good fortune, friendship, and prosperity. Kanpie!

Zushi Seven Lucky Gods 2018

Katie and I arranged to complete the Zushi Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage with another spouse. Julee, our tour guide for the day, offers to guide groups of spouses on the tour each year. She was even so kind as to drive us to each of the Temples. The Zushi Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage is special because it is only offered from January 1st – 10th. Off we go!

Since it’s been a while since I’ve posted about the Seven Lucky Gods, let me give you a quick recap of their significance. The Shichifuku-jin are the Seven Gods of good luck. Each God represents good fortune in a specific area of life. Together the six Gods and one Goddess bring good luck, long life, and prosperity. The Zushi pilgrimage is only available for the first 10 days of the year. Other pilgrimages are available year round.

Our pilgrimage started the Toshoji Temple. Here we collected our branch to hold all of our Gods and the first God, Fukurokuju. Fukurokuju is the God of longevity.

The little figures are so adorable. They are very similar to the ones I collected last year. Since 2018 is the year of the dog, I added a small gold puppy charm to the end of the branch.

The second stop was at the Enmeiji Temple. This temple is dedicated to Benzaiten. Benzaiten is the only Goddess of the Seven. She is the God of art, music, and cleverness. We were able to enter the Temple. It was absolutely beautiful.

The third stop on our tour was at the Sotaiji Temple. Here we collected the God of wealth, Daikokuten. Please notice the bag of coins and mallet he carries. Both are signs of good fortune.

At the Temple we were given four keys to a long life. Our guide, Julee, translated it for us. 1. Don’t tell lies. 2. Stay calm. 3. Be kind. 4. Don’t get angry. Seems like sound advice to me!

While we were stopped, I had Katie take a picture of me in front of the temple. It seemed like a lucky spot. Plus, I wanted to share a picture of one of my cute skirts we had made in Thailand. Dave actually picked out the fabric for this one.

The fourth Temple was Chounji. Here we collected my favorite God, Hotei. Hotei is the God of Happiness.

The fifth Temple was Gyokuzoin. At the Gyokuzoin Temple, Ebisu is honored. Ebisu is the protective God of the Sea, farming, and development. The long rope is actually tied to the God’s hand inside the Temple. On busy days of the pilgrimage, it isn’t possible to go inside the Temple. By holding the rope, you are able to touch the God.

Here I am, holding hands with Ebisu.

However, it wasn’t too busy today. So, we went inside. All of the rope in the ceiling eventually winds around to a bell. From the bell a small string is looped around the God.

We also enjoyed a cup of tea at the Temple and collected Ebisu for our branch. Check out my adorable gloves! Thanks, Audry, for making the year of the puppy even better!

The sixth Stop was at the Senkoin Temple. Here we collected Bishamonten, the God of success. I took a peek inside the Temple. It was beautiful, also.

Our final stop was at the Koshoji Temple. Koshoji Temple is dedicated to Jurojin, the God of Health.

We were able to finish before the rain sprinkles started. I really enjoy the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimages. Although, we won’t be able to complete this one when you visit, we can pick one of the others to complete if you are interested. They are a great way to see more of the “off the beaten path” of Japan. Plus, a little extra luck is always good.

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