Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Cherry Blossoms (Page 1 of 2)

Buddha’s Pooper

Bill’s visit was work related and only provided for a small amount of time for me to give him a Julia Tour. Between the jet lag and his work schedule, it was tough to find too much spare time. We did squeeze in a few traditional Japanese experiences. Starting with ramen.


Tuesday night, I met Dave and Bill in Yokosuka after work. After a brief pit stop at the O’Club for an informal Navy happy hour, we went to the “Red Door” ramen shop in Yokosuka. This is actually the first place Dave and I had dinner when we arrived in July. It was just as delicious! Dave ordered the spicy ramen and Bill and I both ordered the salt ramen – mine with extra nori (seaweed sheets) – remember, seaweed is the pickle bite of the burger. I think Bill would have this chopstick thing down if he was here another couple days!


Bill’s flight left Wednesday evening giving us a few hours to explore Kamakura. The first stop was the Great Buddha. My favorite.


There wasn’t a line to go inside Buddha, so, we ventured in for ¥20 (16 cents). The best part, was Bill referring to this opportunity as “going into the Buddha’s pooper.” Haha! I snapped this quick picture of Bill looking in the same direction as the Japanese ladies were pointing. No, he has no idea what they are saying.


As we returned back to Hase Station, I snapped one more picture of the last remaining Sakura and the wisteria starting to bloom. Considering the wisteria photo foreshadowing for next week!


We returned to Kamakura and walked to the Hachiman-gū Shrine.


We walked up behind the main shrine and found this quiet sanctuary and shrine.


It was a beautiful morning and I was happy to share a couple of my favorite spots in Japan with Bill before he headed back to America.

After I dropped Bill off in Yokosuka to catch his shuttle to Narita, I stopped by the post office to pick up a package. The Chick-Fil-A fairy delivered again! This time from Germantown, TN and with a few other essentials to kick off grilling and smoking season! Thank you, Layla, Nick, Nina, and Noah for going to several Chick-Fil-A stores to gather yummy sauce for us. I truly appreciate your friendship, love, and support to help us taste TN in Japan. Watch out for a few Neko Atsume surprises coming your way!

I Thought You Would Get a Kick Out of This

I was asked to be the substitute teacher at an English class in Zushi. It is about a 15-minute drive from my house. It is a little bit more of a hectic drive than normal because I have to drive behind Zushi train station. In this area, there are a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists on their way to the station to catch their train. So many people combined with the narrow road sometimes makes me feel like I’m driving on a sidewalk! Also, on this route, I have to cross three different sets of train tracks. Often the traffic is blocked at these crossings making the drive take a little longer.

The class is two hours long. The structure of the class includes each person discussing an incident from the past week for ten minutes. After each person has talked, I read a story selected by the teacher. The story is loaded with a variety of idioms. I explain the idioms and then ask questions to check for their understanding of the story and idioms. One of the idioms from the story today was “to get a kick out of something.” One of my questions to each student was to tell me a time they got a kick out of something. Each shared with me an antidotal story, which were very entertaining.

The road leading up to her neighborhood was lined with beautiful Sakura. 


I thought you might get a kick out of a short video I took driving up the street. You can really hear the Hooptie engine revving as I climbed the hill! I know the video takes a little longer to load. I hope you are able to view it nonetheless. I think you will get a kick out of the Sakura tree blossom tunnel as well as me driving on the left side of the road! Please enjoy.

One More Sakura Adventure 

Tuesday it rained and rained. It was pretty ridiculous. If this isn’t the “rainy season” I’m not sure I’m gonna make it without owning a canoe! Haha

The clouds finally parted and Wednesday started off beautifully. Dina and I had plans to hike to Mt. Miurafuji and to visit the cemetery pagoda in hopes of catching a few remaining Sakura.

We set out on the hike I did last month to Mt. MiuraFuji and made the steep climb. Unfortunately, today was not a clear enough day to see Mt. Fuji. The blue skies want to promise you otherwise. None the less, the views along the hike were stunning. If we were going to see Mt. Fuji, it would be in the first picture.


At the top, we made the decision to head towards the Nobi train station. There was a trail and a sign pointing the way and I thought this might connect us to the pagoda faster. Simultaneously, we knew we wouldn’t see Mt. Fuji anywhere else on the hike. So, the pagoda became our next goal.

Off we set, back down the mountain.


Soon we came to a fork in the path and a sign. Google Maps helped to point us in the correct direction. We veered right at the fork.


Down we went.


It doesn’t look very steep from the top. How about from the bottom!


We continued hiking down and found a beautiful little over look. The dark spots in the photo are Sakura petals falling. It was so serene.


We were eventually dumped out into urbanization. We followed Google Maps to the cemetery. On our journey, we passed through a quaint little park and beautiful cemetery. Both with Sakura trees in bloom.

My beautiful friend! How is she not a sweaty mess?

Me… Sweat-a-Saurus Rex! Honestly, who cares about me! Look at those Sakura Blossoms!


Ok, enough with the suspense already, we made it to the cemetery. First stop, Buddha.

This view!


A few more steps and the pagoda was in sight!


The Sakura trees in bloom with the pagoda were well worth the hike. Dina and I picked up onigiri for lunch and had our own Hanami under the Sakura trees. It was perfect. Except we forgot the Sake!!

I think the first picture is my favorite. Or maybe the second…


By the time we stopped for Hanami, I was pretty hungry. I snapped these pictures after we both finished our onigiri. Oops! It was a beautiful setting!


As we returned home on the train, clouds started to roll in and so did a few sprinkles. By the time I was walking up the hill towards home, it was full on raining. I had no umbrella, just more beautiful Sakura and a chu-hi!


Kanpie!

Sakura Chasing

On Monday, there was a break in the rain. I set out on a mission to spend the day enjoying Sakura. I set out with four locations in mind to view with a Sakura setting. The first was the Great Buddha, Daibutsu. The first picture was the one I made the trip to capture. The others were taken in the surrounding gardens and a delightful surprise. 


My second stop was at the Ōfuna Kannon Temple or also known as the White Lady of Ofuna. Visiting this temple always calms me and helps me find peace. Seeing the White Lady today with the Sakura was enchanting and serene. 


My next point of interest was at the Gumyoji Station. I have never been there before and was recommended to visit during Sakura Season by a neighbor. Google Maps help me find my way from Ōfuna Station to Gumyoji Station like a champ. 


After a short walk from the Gumyoji Station, I was along the canal where the Sakura were in full bloom. It was breath taking. 


I must take a minute and explain the Japanese custom of Hanami. Hanami is tradition of enjoying a picnic under the Sakura. As I walked along the Gumyoji canal, there were many groups enjoying an afternoon Hanami. I couldn’t help but smile and truly appreciate the way the Japanese take time to enjoy fellowship and the beautiful Sakura blossoms. Without looking creepy, I attempted to capture a few groups practicing Hanami. 


The canal stretched on for a pretty good distance. I walked from one train station to another taking as many pictures as possible! 


My final stop of my Sakura chasing experience for the day was at the Shomyoji Temple. The temple was about a 15 minute walk from the Kanazawa-Bunco train station. The temple was easy to find because the street was lined with Sakura and lanterns. 


Around the temple there were several groups enjoying the Hanami experience. 


A highlight in the temple garden was the bridge crossing over the small pod. 


A few more Sakura shots from around the gardens. 


I feel like I made the most of the non-rainy day getting out and about to see the beautiful Sakura. When you plan your visit, I hope you consider Sakura Season. I will warn you though, like most things in nature, it can be difficult to predict. 

April Showers 

It has been raining off and on since Friday. Along with this rain came humidity. We went from having dry cool air on Tuesday to having muggy wetness on Friday. Friday morning I plugged in our dehumidifiers in an attempt to keep ahead of the mold and moisture. 

As the temperatures are starting to warm up, the Sakura trees are at peak bloom. Unfortunately, the rain damped the effect of the beautiful trees. I took a few pictures of the Sakura throughout Zushi on our rainy run this morning. 


Dave and I were planning to have Sakura pictures taken in the peony garden of the Hachiman Gu Shrine in Kamakura on Saturday. The rain cancelled those plans. On Sunday, we decided to venture to Kamakura to see the blossoms in the peony garden despite the rain. First, a few pictures from our walk up to the shrine. 


In the garden, the trees were stunning and the peonies were a delightful surprise. They were ginormous and they were protected by parasols to keep them intact during the heavy rains. 


And now the Sakura trees. Can you imagine how beautiful this would look on a sunny day? 


Dave and I decided to have our own photo shoot. Just us being us. 



The Sakura blossoms won’t last until next weekend for us to have pictures and so we are working on plan B. Reflecting on the day, I realize it epitomizes wabi-sabi sole. We found beauty despite the imperfect weather conditions. We even completed a long run in the rain not because we were training for anything, just because we wanted to run. 

Ahhhhhh… wabi-sabi sole… 

Meguro River 

Sakura Season is really starting to blossom. Would you believe that Google Map actually identifies areas where Sakura present and their bloom status. One place that has received a lot of attention is the Meguro River.


Besides Sakura, in the Meguro River area is Pizzeria de Michele. The plan of the day came together quickly and I was able to convince Dina and two of her kids to join me.


Lunch at Pizzeria de Michele, followed by a walk along the Meguro River to view the Sakura.

The pizza was just as amazing. Eme said it was her favorite pizza place in Japan. I couldn’t agree more!


After lunch, we took a 20-minute walk up and over a hill to the Meguro River walk. The Sakura were lovely.

We walked along one side, crossed the bridge, and then came down the other side. The other side had fuller blooms and at times gave the feeling of being surrounded by the Sakura. At night, the lanterns light up!


Along the way down the other side, we stopped for Sakura mochi. Because Japan!



As we made our way to the train station, we passed several different varieties of Sakura. The first were white!


The other set were bright pink along an office building.


Sakura Season is so beautiful. It was interesting to see how many people were there walking along the river. On a weekday!

Tall and Small

Dina and I went to Kamakura to do a little shopping. After walking down Komachi Dori for a little bit, we were ready for lunch and decided to enjoy a bowl of ramen. The first place we found was closed. I did a quick “ramen near me” search on Google Maps.

 Google Maps led us to Hirano. 

Turns out, Hirano is the Japan’s smallest ramen joint. The sign out front was hysterical. 


As we were reading the sign, we thought we should first check to see if there was room for us before determining our order. As luck would have it, when we opened the door, three people came out. Therefore, plenty of room! 


There were actually two more seats available. Seven seats total. (Can you see all 4 customers? Plus me taking the picture.) 

Our chef in the kitchen. 


Ironically, the smallest ramen joint in Japan still serves ginormous bowls of ramen. 


I ordered the #4 special ramen. Miso base with a little spice. It was good. It made the top five of my favorite ramen joints mainly because of the restaurant itself. 


Seriously, could this place be any funnier!?!


Perhaps, when Dina poses for me! 

Kamakura is full of so many bizarre and unique experiences. I truly can’t wait to take you there when you visit! 

Here are my finds from our shopping. Can you tell it is Sakura Season? A couple bowls, plates, chopstick rests and adorable cats. Kawaii!! 

Miurakaigan Sakura

Miurakaigan is located towards the southern end of the Miura peninsula (where we live). I went today with several spouses for my first true Sakura viewing. I was AMAZED! They are more beautiful than I ever imagined!

I took these pictures right outside the train station!


We had to walk about 10 minutes to the main road where the Sakura line the side of the road.


On one side is the train tracks and the other side is the street. Seeing the blue train zip past was picture perfect.


The red was pretty, too.


A few close up pictures.

I caught a bird in one!


The yellow flowers with the pink Sakura!!


After walking down the street, we were able to walk through a small park. Cute pink and white lanterns lined the path. Yay! Yellow train!


My friend, Karen, took this picture for me with my iPhone.


Karen is a professional photographer and took this picture with her fancy camera with a crazy swirly filter attached. Obviously, her camera provides better lighting! This is the second time Karen has lived in Japan and she has lived here a year already. She has promised to take me to all of the “good” Sakura, wisteria and hydrangea spots this spring. I’m super excited.

Besides Sakura in the park, there was also a small shrine and Japanese snacks!


After the park, we crossed a bridge over the train tracks. 

A few more pictures close up.


Maybe just a few more…

 
The sad thing about the Sakura, they only last a couple weeks. The good thing, each species and location bloom during different times. I wasn’t joking when I said Sakura Blossoms were my new obsession!! If you want to see Sakura Blossoms this year, you will need to visit before the first week of April. Or next year, plan to visit between the last week in February and the first week of April. I can’t wait to explore with you!

Ume or Sakura

This time of year is very special in Japan. It is the beginning of Ume and Sakura season. Ume is the Japanese word for Plum Blossoms. Sakura is the Japanese word for Cherry Blossoms. 

As to be expected, there are Ume and Sakura forecast for the different regions in Japan. The Ume trees bloom a little earlier than the Sakura. Right now, the Sakura is expected to be in full bloom in the Tokyo area towards the end of March. Perfect time to plan a visit!! 

My struggle was identifying the difference. Yesterday when we were at the Seto Shrine with Miki, I asked her to help me identify the differences between the Ume and the Sakura. First rule, do not judge by color! 

Here is an Ume blossom. The first thing to notice is the petals are rounded. Also, the flowers occur individually. 


Here is a broader picture. Notice the blossoms are attached to the tree. 


Comparatively, let’s look at the Sakura blossoms. The Sakura petals are not quite as rounded and the blossoms occur in clusters. 


Also, the blossoms are attached to the tree by a short stem. 


The trunk of the tree is also a good indicator. A Sakura tree will have “cracks” in the trunk. 


Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to identify whether the blossoms pictured are Ume or Sakura. Test yourself. The answers are at the end of the post. 

A.

B.

C.

D.

E.


F.


G.

H.


Hopefully, the variety of these blossoms help you to understand why color can’t be used as a determining factor. Here are the answers. 

A. Ume

B. Ume

C. Sakura

D. Ume 

E. Ume

F. Sakura 

G. Sakura

H. Ume

Shinjuku Seven Lucky Gods

The “Shichifukujin” or Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimages are quickly becoming one of my favorite adventures. The pilgrimage reminds me of a modern day urban scavenger hunt. You must find the Seven Temples/Shrines, stamp your temple book and retrieve your cute figurine. All of this while using Google Maps, a map found on the Internet and if you’re lucky, a little bit of broken English from a monk. Or as in case today, a monk who spoke no English but was great with giving directions in Japanese while pointing at a map. I’ll come back to that story in a little bit.

This is my third Seven Lucky Gods adventure. First in Meguro and then in Zushi. Each time, I receive information about the God’s meaning. I will share what information I was given today, which may vary a little bit from what I have told you previously.

Dina and I set out this morning to Shinjuku. Shinjuku is located on the northwest side of Tokyo. It was a little over an hour away. Here was our route.


Yesterday, I marked all of the temple/shrine locations with a star so it would be easier to navigate between them. We started at the bottom and walked toward the center cluster. Then walked to the temple on the far left. Then we took the train to the two temples on the far right.


At our first temple, Taiso-ji, we collected Hotei and purchased the boat the Gods would rest upon. Hotei: God of family, peace and protection from illness and disaster.


From here we walked towards the Hozen-ji Temple. However, we were sidetracked along the way by an amazing bakery.


I enjoyed a delicious chocolate croissant. I felt super lucky it was chocolate and not red bean paste!

Around the corner was the temple.


Here we collected Jurojin. Jurojin: God of long life and protection from illness.


Our third stop was at the Itsukushima-Jinja Shrine. It was literally in the corner of an intersection. There was a Koi Pond, Tori Gate and Shrine. Yet, no person was present.


We decided to continue our journey to the fourth temple, Eifuku-ji Temple. We thought perhaps we could ask at the fourth temple where to go for the third stop.


As I learned in my previous pilgrimage, one must be bold and knock on a door or ring a bell or even just walk inside the temple. Feeling brave, Dina and I went into the temple. There was a small doorbell next to a cushion. In English, it said “bell.” So, we pushed it. Simultaneously, there was a motion detector that kept going off when we moved. Behind the closed doors, we could hear someone moving around. In fact, it sounded like he was doing gymnastics. So, we waited. And rang the bell again. And waited. And rang the bell again. Finally, a monk came out not because he was responding to our ringing. He was doing his monkly business and we startled him so badly we thought we might have helped him finish his path to enlightenment. He almost fell over. We tried not to laugh. He recovered immediately and promptly came over, greeted us, set out cushions for us to sit upon and then went to stamp our books. It was incredibly hard not to giggle. When he returned, before we could even ask how to get to temple number three, he took out a map and started explaining how to get there, in Japanese. Very fast Japanese.


To summarize, we were at the purple dot and needed to got to the small blue dot. We had been at the large blue dot in the middle of the intersection. Again, all in Japanese with finger pointing and charades.

Before leaving, we collected Fukurokuju. Fukurokuji: God of health, happiness, and long life.


The other strange part of the conversation was that the monk was so happy to give us directions he almost forgot to give us Fukurokuji. We finally asked and held up our fingers showing little God. More charades…  Ahhhh, hai!

Perhaps, the funniest part, we actually made it to the Itsukushima Temple. Here we collected Benzai-ten. Banzai-ten: Goddess of music, arts, and speech.



Plus, a few early cherry blossom pictures!


Our fifth stop was at the Inari Kio-jinja Shrine. This shrine was so tucked away!!


We collected Ebisu-jin. Ebisu-jin: God of prosperous business.


My favorite picture at this shrine was of the banana at the alter. It seems to be glowing!


To get to the final two temples, we took the train to save a little time and warm up!

Our sixth temple was at the Kyo-o-ji Temple. Here we collected Daikoku-ten. Daikoku-ten: God of grain harvest and wealth.


At this temple, there were many cute statues.


Inside the shrine, we were greeted by a monk who encouraged us to open the window and shake the mallet three times for our wish to come true. So, of course, we shook and wished!!


Our final temple was Zentoku-ji Temple. This temple is dedicated to Bishamon-ten. Bisamon-ten: God of protection from disaster and evil.

The completed Seven Lucky Gods of Shinjuku.
We never received an explanation of the boat during our adventure and so, I looked it up when we returned home. One explanation is the Seven Lucky Gods travel together on a treasure ship (Takarabune) and visit Japanese ports on New Year’s Eve to dispense happiness. Also, the symbol on the flag of the ship is the Chinese character for BAKU. BAKU is a fictional creature said to devour or prevent nightmares. Children are told to place a picture of the ship with the Gods under their pillow on the evening of January first. If the child has a good dream that night, they will be lucky all year.

It was a fun and successful day exploring another part of Tokyo. Honestly, I was pretty impressed with our navigation skills and ability to find all seven Temples/Shrines.

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