Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Friendship (Page 1 of 3)

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!

Home Again

Dave and I returned home Sunday 9/24 after a fabulous two week vacation visiting with family and friends. We spent time in Indiana with his family and enjoyed the opportunity to relax and catch up. Jakob, Carmen, and the three grandboys drove up to Indiana and surprised Dave. 

Plus, there was a fabulous surprise party hosted by Bob and Tish to celebrate Dave’s promotion. Family and friends came from various parts of Indiana, Georgia, Colorado, and Florida to see us. It truly was a special week. My only regret was not snapping more pictures of everyone. I suppose I was too busy chatting! 

The second week we spent in Virginia Beach enjoying time with our friends. Dave and I made a point to see sunrise each day on the boardwalk. 

We enjoyed as much beach time as possible. 

Our friends, Jennifer, Danny, Campbell, and Chase came up for the weekend to visit. They joined us for morning jogs, beach time, and numerous laughs. 

Many of the laughs might have been because of Danny. 

Jennifer, Campbell and Chase were sports with the moisture masks. More explanation on that soon! 

We celebrated Jeff’s birthday.  

We celebrated Big Jeff’s retirement. 

It was a wonderful week in Virginia Beach. Mark, Roxanne, Sue and Jeff were amazing hosts and made coming back to the ‘hood feel like home. 

And I can’t forget to add a picture of Little Melissa aka Springer aka Small Fry. She’s always popping in with a smile and a story or five. 

Thank you family. Thank you friends. You made our trip special and full of so many memories. We miss you all so much already. 

Brent’s Ramen

Brent has been staying with us off and on over the past couple weeks. Tomorrow he will finally be reunited with Dina and the kids in sunny Southern California. Tonight, Dave and I took Brent for his final dinner in Japan. Fittingly, he choose his favorite ramen joint. 

Dave and I have passed it many times and tonight we had the chance to sample it ourselves. It was delicious! 

My bowl of ramen had extra noodles and seaweed paper. So, good. 

Saying “je matane” to Brent tomorrow will bittersweet. We will miss having our friend nearby and simultaneously, very happy he will be reunited with his family. Safe travels, Brent, see you soon! 

Mt. Fuji – Take 2

Ironically enough, Dave and I climbed Mt. Fuji the exact same weekend last summer. I was a little hesitant to climb again after our experience climbing down in the torrential rainstorm. As Sonia and I discussed expectations, I said I wanted amazing weather at the summit. I wanted pictures of being above the clouds with blue skies and a Torii gate. Realistically, I wanted it to not rain as much as it did last year. 

We took the MWR tour and left Yokosuka at 2:00 am Saturday morning. We made a brief stop in route for provisions and arrived at the 5th station of Mt. Fuji a little before 5:00 am. I decided to carry the same hiking stick from last year and fill it with stamps. This was Sonia’s first climb so she purchased a new stick to have stamped along the route. Here is the location of the 5th station. It is the furthest accessible point by vehicle. 

Of course, one of the best parts of the hike is seeing an amazing sunrise. 

From 5th station we begin our hike to the 6th station. This part of the hike is repeated when we come down the mountain. We took a quick picture at the 6th station before going up! If you look closely at the picture, you can see the results of the high winds. Most of the way up the mountain today, we were challenged with very strong and gusting winds. 

The hike from the 6th station to the 7th station consists of wide igneous rock covered trails with a lot of switchbacks. In my opinion, it is the most boring part of the hike. 

It was a lot of this! 

And fortunately, this! 

The 7th station is fun because here you can receive the first stamp on your hiking stick. Also, the terrain of the trail changes dramatically. There are a lot more large igneous rocks. I remembered how challenging they were last time to climb over because their texture is so rough. Today, they were exceptionally difficult because of the strong winds. At times I felt like a human sail and decided to keep my head down and hold onto the rocks with both hands! Sonia was smart and brought sunglasses to keep not only the sun out of her eyes but also dust. She was a great help to me by yelling “put your head down” when she felt a strong gust. We were covered in dust by the time we came down the mountain. 

The other important thing to note is how beautiful the skies were during this portion of our hike. It truly set the stage that I just might have my amazing views. 

From the 7th station we continued on to the 8th station. 

At 3100m, the views were still spectacular. 

We reached the 8th station just before 8:00am. Time wise, the 8th station is approximately halfway up the mountain. We had about three hours of hiking remaining before reaching the summit. We enjoyed my new favorite find at Family Mart. Cheeseburgers! 

As we were finishing up our mid morning snack, the clouds were building and rain started. Quickly we gathered our gear and started hiking again. The rain didn’t last too long! Whew! The next stop was the 8.5th station (that’s what the sign calls it!) or the original 8th station. It takes an average of 80 minutes to go from the 8th station to the 8.5th station.  The elevation change is a little over 300m. Along the way, we noticed new trail maintenance and a sign. It was fun to see “new things” on this journey! 

Through this portion of the journey, we kept good tabs on our pace and level of exertion. Knowing we had about three hours of hiking to reach the summit, we remain cautious and steady. None the less, our hearts were pounding pretty hard at times! As we passed the 3240m – 3400m elevation, we stopped for a few fun photos. 

I was able to get a good picture with a Torii above the clouds. I took time to embrace the wabi-sabi. It’s may not be at the summit but, it’s a great picture! Beauty in the imperfections. As a result, I have a cute Torii picture on Mt. Fuji. 

As we arrived to the 8.5th station, the clouds started to roll in, again. 

That’s a patch of snow! 

From the 8.5th station to the summit is about 90 minutes. The elevation change is a little over 300m. It was during this stretch last year when the wheels started to fall off because of the weather and our inexperience with climbing Mt. Fuji. This year, I at least knew that the 600m sign meant we still had 25 minutes of strenuous climbing! 

As we arrived at the 9th station, we were greeted by another Torii. Perfect opportunity to catch our breath and take a few photos. 

The final stretch to the summit remained. The clouds were thick. 

Off we went. One boulder scramble, stair step at a time! 

Until finally…. we made it!! Check us out! 

At the summit, we stopped for lunch. It was just before 11:00am. About 6 hours of hiking with necessary breaks. Not too shabby! Actually, 6 hours is the average. Lunch was a delicious warm bowl of ramen! By the time we reached the summit the only spot left on my hiking stick was for my second summit stamp! 

We ate, had our hiking sticks and temple books stamped, and used the restroom. By the time we were heading down the mountain it was noon and it was beginning to rain. Oh, no. I honestly didn’t know if I had the strength to endure the descent in the rain again this year. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out. The rain stopped pretty soon after we left the summit. 

The descent without rain was so much easier. We each slipped a couple times on the loose igneous rock. But, we were ok. We were dry and warm. 

Somewhere along the descent, the clouds were beneath us and above us. 

We could stand on the ledge and I could get my cool cloud picture. 

I experienced wabi-sabi yet again. The summit isn’t the only place magical pictures can be captured. 

The remainder of the hike had a few sprinkles and maybe a slip or two. Without all the rain, coming off the mountain was a breeze. We were back at the 5th station by 3:00pm. 

We had two hours before the buses left to clean up, eat, and shop. Which we did. I enjoyed Mt. Fuji Melon Bread and a Mt. Fuji Craft beer. Delicious reward for a great hike. 

After our hike today, I’ve decided I love Mt. Fuji even more. She has a way of showing you your strengths and weaknesses when you make the climb. Mt. Fuji doesn’t give you what you want, but gives you what you need. Sonia needed to check Mt. Fuji off her Japan bucket list. She was ready for the challenges climbing Mt. Fuji would give her and she came out victorious. 

Today, I needed perspective and a dose of wabi-sabi. Finding beauty in the imperfection. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have any unfinished business with Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji is a good sensei (teacher). I came and I climbed – twice. For that I am wiser, not a fool! 

Big Sur

Monday was my last full day of my American Adventure. It ended on a high note with more views of the Pacific Ocean as we drove along the coast to Big Sur. 

We stopped frequently because we didn’t have too many miles between where we were staying on the north end of Big Sur and where the landslide was blocking the road. Each stop gave us more beautiful views. 

We were fortunate to have a bright sunny morning for our journey. 

The breeze was strong as well. Providing the perfect opportunity for one last “flock of seagulls” hair picture. Check out Roxanne. No wind can mess up her perfect style! 

As we continued south, we came to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. We stopped to walk around and took a quick walk through a few Big Trees. They weren’t quite as large at the trees in Redwood but, magnificent in their own way. 

One trail that led to the beach was one of the few trails open. It seemed like a sign. Beach friends find a trail to the beach! Off we went. 

We took a little time to play on the beach! 

As the clouds rolled in again and the breeze picked up, we retreated from the beach. We made it safely to the van, stopped for lunch, and began our trip back to the airb&b. 

We were glad to have enjoyed the beautiful sunset the night before because our last night was full of clouds. 

The clouds didn’t dampen our spirits or our time together. We finished the evening with a salmon dinner, wine, and dominoes (chicken feet – our new favorite). The time I was able to spend with my friends and family over the past three weeks was just what I needed. Dave and I are enjoying our time living in Japan with the daily adventures. Living so far away from our loved ones is perhaps the most difficult part. Thank you for taking the time to let me savor my time while I was with everyone and also for giving me time to share the experience with you. I’m so appreciative of everyone who worked their summer schedules to make this vacation possible. Thank you and I love you! 

One last closing thought. July 31st marks our one year anniversary in Japan. I have enjoyed “wabisabisole” as a means to share my experiences. While I can’t say I fit in like a local, I can definitely say I’ve developed a new sense of confidence, adventure, and independence as a result of living abroad for the past year. I appreciate all your love and support throughout our Japan Journey. I look forward to sharing even more stories with you over the next couple years. Simultaneously, if you are thinking about coming to visit, now might be a good time to start planning your own adventures! 

Monterey & Carmel-By-The-Sea

Sunday, 7/22, Sara headed back to San Diego and the rest of us took a short road trip from Paso Robles to the coast. Our first stop was in Monterey. We enjoyed a walk through the quaint little town. It was fun to see Cannery Row. Since high school, I have been a huge John Steinbeck fan. 

The Pacific coast enticed me yet again. 

After our visit in Monterey, we continued towards Carmel-By-The-Sea and drove along the beautiful 17 mile drive. Slowly, the clouds started to lift. 

17-Mile Drive is a scenic road that runs along the coast and connects Monterey to Carmel-By-The-Sea. There are several golf courses. The most famous being Pebble Beach. I honestly, just loved seeing the rocky shoreline of the Pacific. 

It didn’t take long for the clouds to settle again. Bird Rock is pictured on the background. Again, you can’t hear all of the California sea lions lounging on Bird Rock. Using Mark’s binoculars, they were easy to spot. Using a picture from my iPhone, not so easy to spot. 

One of the most iconic spots along the drive is the Lone Cypress. The clouds had definitely settled by this point. Nonetheless, we enjoyed taking tourist pictures! 

We stopped in Carmel-By-The-Sea for lunch. 

After lunch, we continued driving south to Big Sur. For the next two nights, Sue arranged for us to stay in an amazing airb&b at the top of of Palo Colorado Road off of US1. Before heading up the mountain to our airb&b we made a quick stop at the grocery store. Would you believe our luck – they had a wine tasting! Thank you, don’t mind if we do! 

The house were we stayed was spectacular! The views were incredible. We literally were above the clouds. The Pacific Ocean is under the clouds. 

We enjoyed a lively game of dominoes as we watched the sunset. 

Watching the fog roll in after the sunset was captivating and eerie. 

Despite the low clouds, Allison and I enjoyed a clear night sky to stargaze. We saw two satellites and three shooting stars! 

Paso Robles Wine Camp

The third part of my American Adventure was uniting with my friends from Virginia Beach. Friday, 7/21, I linked up with Mark and Roxanne at the San Francisco airport. After enduring a bit of rental car drama, the three of us drove south along 101 to Paso Robles. The traffic was awful. When finally made it to our airb&b rental we were beyond relieved and excited! Here we rendezvoused with the rest of our VB friends. Sue, Jeff and their daughter, Allison, had spent the week in San Diego visiting our friend, Sara and her family. They were driving north to Paso Robles. 

The reunion was magnificent! And definitely better than our selfie stick pictures. Somehow we couldn’t quite get all seven of us in one picture! Or smiling. Or looking at the camera. 

After our snack, we decided to charge our glasses and take a walk around the grounds of the airb&b. 

The owner’s dog acted as an escort. 

As the sunset, we seized the opportunity for a few modeling shots. 

This one makes me laugh. Mark and his paparazzi’s shadows.

Allison and her paparazzi! 

After dinner, Roxanne began the first lesson of Wine Camp. She used her socks to school us on her expectations. 

Saturday morning, before our day of Wine Camp, Sara and I enjoyed a run through the J. Lohr vineyards. 

Our first appointment for wine tasting was at 10:30 at the J.Lohr vineyard. Off we go! 

Another friend in VB helped to arrange a personal tasting experience with Elisa. Despite having an appointment and being told not to be late, Elisa seemed to have no clue who we were or why we asked for her. None the less, she provided us with a VIP experience. 

Perhaps you notice the cat ears? I brought them with me from Japan for us to wear. We spent the day explaining the purpose. They are “kawaii”, Allison (our driver for the day) was the cat herder, we wanted to be able to find each other, we wanted to fit in with the numerous bachelorette parties, and well, because Japan. We never quite perfected the story. Personally, I think cat herder was most appropriate. 

Our second winery of the day was at Eberle winery. This winery was our favorite for several reasons. 1. The staff was super friendly. Even when we broke a glass! 

2. The wines were delicious. 

3. The tour of the winery caves was interesting and our tour guide was super animated. 

4. Free pizza.  

After a stop for lunch, we continued to our third winery, Sculpterra.  

The wines were delicious and the sculptures throughout the gardens were really impressive and unique. 

Our fourth and final winery was San Marcos Creek Vineyard. It was a quiet winery with delicious wines. It was the perfect quiet ending to a lively and exciting day. Kanpie! To dear friends! 

Our five souvenir bottles from the day! 

I want to give a special shoutout to our driver, Allison. She drove us around all day and patiently waited for us at each winery. She earned the highly esteemed honor of Cat Herder. Thank you, Allison, for enduring the day and keeping us safe! 

Day Three – Yosemite Falls

Friday, was our last full day in Yosemite. Audry and I discussed possible hiking options. We both decided we wanted to avoid Vernal Falls, Mist Trail, and John Muir Trail all three were part of our hike to Half Dome. Instead, we took the Valley Shuttle to Lower Yosemite Falls. A few pictures of our approach to the falls. The first picture is Upper Yosemite Falls. 

Lower Yosemite Falls was magnificent. The extra snow and late season storms in Northern California really enabled the Falls to be a beautiful spectacle this time of year. So much energy! And wind! It’s our “Flock of Seagulls” look. 

After visiting Lower Yosemite Falls, we eventually found the trail for Upper Yosemite Falls. It was only 3.2 miles to the top. The guidebook said it would take 3-6 hours. Let’s go! 

The trail was a steep vertical ascent with countless switch backs. The views of the Valley floor as we climbed were breathtaking. Half Dome will always be one of my favorites. 

Up and up and up we continued to climb. 

After about two hours, we reached the halfway point. Here we had a stunning view of Upper Yosemite Falls.

And in the other direction, Half Dome. 

As we rested, we contemplated which direction we should go. Further up the mountain, about two more hours to the top of the Falls, or back down. We made a wise choice to head back down. By the time we were back in the Valley, We were both famished. We stopped at the Yosemite Village Grill for a cheeseburger. I quickly gobbled mine down with a Lagunitas IPA.  

We hopped the shuttle back to our tent. I attempted to convince Audry we should go see Mirror Lake. It’s flat and only three miles round trip. Nothing I said convinced her. Smart girl. It was 6:50pm. I said if I’m not back by 8:00pm, look for me. Off I went. Expediently. I only paused for a few pictures. 

Mirror Lake was pretty and serene. I’m glad I went and glad I didn’t force Audry to go. Because it was a bit anticlimactic after the earlier views and without perfect light and weather conditions. 

I returned a faster route and arrived back at our tent at 7:59pm. Audry was making preparations to come find me! What an amazing friend! Our time together was truly an adventure. Thank you for filling my happiness bucket. Xoxo 

Easy Day 

After our long and strenuous Half Dome hike (19 miles), Audry and I thought we deserved a break on our second day in Yosemite. We decided to hike along the Valley Loop Trail from Half Dome Village to Bridalveil Falls. The guide book described the hike as being an easy flat hike. This sounded delightful and manageable after the strenuous Half Dome hike. We set out with the intention of hiking four miles round trip from our tent to Bridalveil Falls. After we had been walking a while, we passed a sign saying Bridalveil Falls was 3.4 miles. Hmmmmm. That seemed longer than we expected. No worries, we can just take the free Valley Shuttle from Bridalveil Falls back to Half Dome Village. 

We continued walking and enjoyed the views the trail gave us of El Capitan. 

We could also see Upper Yosemite Falls. 

And view Bridalveil Falls as we approached. 

It was beautiful! Mesmerizing! And crowded! Strategic camera angles enabled me to crop out most of the people. 

After our visit at Bridalveil Falls, we were ready for an adult beverage. We started looking around for the shuttle stop. But couldn’t find one. We saw a sign when we passed the split for El Capitan for the shuttle and so we walked back. And had a few more chances for amazing views. 

Eventually, we found the shuttle stop and made it a little closer back to Half Dome Village before getting caught in traffic and deciding it would be faster to walk. By the end of the day, our simple four mile loop turned into 11.5 miles! Ha! Easy Day! 

We earned and enjoyed a pint. Check out what we liked to call our “Yosemite tan” – or just dirt. 

Parallel Universe

Today, we celebrated our 11th month of living in Japan. This journey has been incredible. Personally, I have been tested and grown more than I ever imagined. Obviously, I couldn’t have and wouldn’t have wanted to experience any of it without Dave and without the support of our family and friends. Over the past couple of weeks, I have enjoyed our friends and family sharing their experiences in America that parallel my experiences in Japan.
First example – My friend, Sue, shared with me a picture from a restaurant in CT. She captioned the picture with “on a clear day…” 

My mom found a vase specially designed for Ikebana in Bel Air, MD. She claims, had I not lived in Japan, she wouldn’t have know the meaning of Ikebana. I wouldn’t have either! And I had my first personal experience at making an Ikebana arrangement. Check it out! 

My sister-in-law, Bobbie, shared a picture of sunflowers and puppies after my blog yesterday.

I have many more examples of so many friends reaching out to me/us and showing love. It means the world (literally) to us. From the bottom of my heart, I/we thank you. Being apart is hard and by sharing your experiences with me/us, it makes the world seem that much smaller. Xoxo

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