Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Autumn

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!

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!

The Rest of the Story

I know the suspense is killing you! Thank you for returning to read about the rest our our day in Hakone. I left off the story of our Hakone Fall Foliage adventures yesterday with us riding the Ropeway. The Ropeway ended at Togendai-ko, where we boarded the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise. The cruise ship is modeled after a pirate ship! It held a lot of people!!

The boat ride took about 40 minutes. We started out standing on the “poop” deck. The crisp autumn air on the water made us chilly and so we headed down below decks. We still had a nice view of the coast line as we sailed through Lake Ashi. Please notice all the clouds, they parted later at the perfect moment!

We exited the ship at the second landing, Motohakone-ko Pier. We wanted to visit the Hakone-jinja Shrine and the floating Torii. As we walked to the Shrine, we enjoyed more fall foliage.

We crossed a cute bridge along the route and stopped for a few pictures. The vermilion bridge with the leaves was truly brilliant!

The floating Torii was impressive. If only the lighting was more cooperative.

By this point it was past 2pm and we were getting hungry for lunch. Unfortunately, we realized most of the restaurants had closed for their lunch service and those that were open had very long lines. We decided to grab a quick lunch from the 7-11 and eat on the steps by the pier. The leaves continued to impress us as we made our way to our picnic spot.

As we sat on the steps enjoying our lunch and Mt. Fuji Pale Ale, the sky started to clear.

It was as though we were beckoning Mt. Fuji to appear magically before us. I guess Sake isn’t the only thing to appease the Gods.

I made one more offering. (Side note edit about the picture below. Katie just sent me a message with the realization that the picture on the label of our Hakone Pale Ale was our viewpoint during lunch! Please notice Mt. Fuji and the floating Torii on the label. No wonder the Gods smiled and cleared the clouds off of Mt. Fuji!)

And I was rewarded with clearing skies.

The last picture was my favorite of the day. Like I have said so many times before, I am so happy for each opportunity to see Mt. Fuji. My three favorite things in Japan are: (in no particular order unless I’m hungry)

Mt. Fuji

Shinkansen

Maguro (tuna sashimi)

After lunch, we worked our way to the bus terminal to catch the bus back to Hakone Yumoto Station. This was the most confusing part of the day. After lining up in three different bus lanes, we were finally directed to an express bus which dropped us off in about 30 minutes. The whole day proved to be pretty easy to navigate and the Freepass was key to smoothly go from one means of transportation to another. We could bypass the ticket counter each time, saving time and confusion. I arrived home shortly before 6pm. It was about 11 hours of exploring and fun!!

If you haven’t started planning the dates for your trip next year, I encourage you to consider November. The weather is cooler and the foliage is stunning. A day trip to Hakone can easily be added to any itinerary. The beauty is breathtaking. Also, if you visit in late spring, there could be an opportunity to view the Hakone hydrangeas. I look forward to my next trip to Hakone and the one we make together!

Hakone Fall Foliage

On Wednesday, Katie and I decided to take a trip to Hakone. We left our houses at 7:00am and met at Zushi Station at 7:30am. From Zushi we took two more trains to finally arrive at Odawara Station. Here was the first part of our route.

Once we arrived in Odawara Station, we purchased a two day pass called the “Hakone Freepass”. For ¥4000 ($40.00), the Hakone Freepass would allow us to ride the Hakone Tozan Train, the Hakone Tozan Cable Car, the Hakone Ropeway, the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, and the Hakone Tozan Bus. Basically, we made a HUGE loop around Hakone. Here is the map we used.

We started on the far right and worked our way counterclockwise around Hakone until arriving back at Odawara.

Our main objective was to use this trip as a reconnaissance trip to see what we would like to do with our families and future visitors. Also, we really wanted to see fall foliage. We accomplished both!

Here is our first Hakone train, the Hakone Tozan Train. It was crowded! I mean it’s Wednesday!! This train had several switchbacks as it went up the mountain! It was weird to go in one direction and then all the sudden go in reverse!

We made a brief stop in Gora before getting on the Hakone Tozan Cable Car. Already, we were leaf crazy!

We continued up the mountain from Gora on the Cable Car. It was not quite as crowded.

The Cable Car took us to Souzan. At Souzan, we took a moment to savor the view.

After a brief stop, we took the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani. The views of foliage from the Ropeway were spectacular! Can you see the shadow of our Ropeway Car?

As we boarded the Ropeway, we were given damp towels to use in case the Sulfur smell was too strong.

As we came over the mountain on the Ropeway, the Sulfur mines were visible. The steam is being released from the Earth because of the thermal vents associated with the volcanic valley. Wow!!

After we exited the Ropeway, we had an opportunity to walk around and look at the Sulfur mines from above. The steam rising was so cool. The science teacher in me was completely geeking out. Poor, Katie. She was a sport to put up with my giddiness!

Here was a fun surprise that I wasn’t expecting. I had heard about the “famous black eggs” of Hakone, but I didn’t understand exactly what they were.

The eggs were sold for ¥500 for 5 eggs. I bought a sack of eggs for us to share.

From my research I learned, the eggs are boiled in hot sulfur springs. The Sulfur causes the egg shells to turn black. The black eggs are called Owakudani “Kuro-Tamago” by locals. Legend goes that eating the eggs will add 5-7 years to your life.

The eggs appear to be from out of this world, but they tasted like a normal hard boiled egg or tamago. I took a picture of my half eaten Kuro-tamago with the cute egg seat! Kawaii!

As we finished our egg snack, we couldn’t believe our eyes! For a brief moment, Mt. Fuji was visible!!

Our next leg of the journey was the second part of the Hakone Ropeway. We took the Ropeway down to Togendai-Lo where we would board the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise. The ride down the Ropeway was beautiful.

I hate to leave you hanging on the Ropeway… but, this post has potential to gone on and on. I’ll tell you the rest of the story tomorrow. Stay tuned for Hakone Fall Foliage Part Two tomorrow!

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens – Fall Edition

I went to visit the Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens in June. This garden made the list of five gardens to experience wabi-sabi in Japan. I recently read an article published on savvytokyo.com, identifying eight places to visit in and around Tokyo to see beautiful Autumn foliage. To my surprise and joy, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens was listed in the article! I took that as a sign to go and visit the garden again! It was beautiful. I arrived around lunchtime and enjoyed a tuna onigiri with green tea while sitting on a bench in the shade enjoying this view. 


After my lunch, I took a stroll around the garden. So much fall color! 


Up close, the vermilion bridge stood out in the still very green tree undergrowth. 


From further away, the bridge was almost swallowed in the upper layer of slowly changing leaves. 


The view across the pond might have been my favorite. Just to be clear, those are Japanese maple leaves. 🍁🍁🍁


From the other side of the pond, the view was lovely as well. The pond was so still.  


Part of the reason I love this Garden is the serenity it provides in the middle of Tokyo. The other reason is the beautiful plants, ponds, and paths. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch followed by an afternoon stroll. What do you think about my new exploring shoes? Kawaii! 


Perhaps, this will become the Garden I stalk and visit at some point each season! My attempt to capture its year round beauty. 

Gingko Goodness

Happy Halloween! 

I went leaf chasing today. I am so ready for fall weather and changing leaves. I think I might have a head start, but I just couldn’t help myself. I set out for a cute tucked away street in the middle of Tokyo. It is famous for the many Gingko Trees lining the street. 

The Gingko Trees are slowly starting to change to the beautiful yellow. Each side of the street has a large sidewalk with benches. 


I enjoyed my onigiri lunch on this bench. It was peaceful and serene. 


Walking through the trees had its own meditative powers. I think I walked up and down each side twice! It was so relaxing and peaceful. 


One last thought about the experience of living in Japan on “American” holidays like Halloween. There are some decorations at shops and restaurants. And many decorated homes on base. Trick or Treating only occurs on base, not out in town. Japan doesn’t give off quite the same “Halloween” vibe I’m accustomed to experiencing in the U.S. As I was getting dressed this morning, I gave a second thought about wearing my favorite Halloween scarf. I thought I might stand out too much. Then I remembered, I live in Japan! Standing out is what I do best. So, I wore my cute scarf. It makes me happy and so did the nice lady who offered to take my picture with the Gingko Trees. 


As I was leaving the Gingko Tree Street, I passed this guy. I realized my scarf was nothing compared his ensemble!! Haha! I guess a little Halloween spirit lives in us all. 


Happy Halloween!

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