Finding Beauty with Imperfection

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Fuji Flower Carpet

I took an ITT tour on Monday. The tour had four points of interest. Because we were heading to Mt. Fuji, we left at 5:00am. Given the beautiful weather, it was totally worth it! Honestly, the weather today could not have been more perfect. Mt. Fuji was visible all day. Here was the route to get to the first stop.

1. Open Air Museum

Our first stop was to the Saiko Iyashi no Sato Nenba. It was actually the same replicated village we visited when the Cummings were in town. The sky was even more clear today and the later blooming Sakura were lovely.

The carp flags were still flying from Children’s Day this past Friday. They made for a beautiful photo.

Both of my normal liberty buddies were busy today. I went on this trip solo. However, I was able to make friends with a mutual friend who was also traveling solo. She and I took off for a little bit of a hike. Besides a beautiful trail, we saw this guy! Japanese rat snake. Gross!

My new friend, Katie, took this picture of me – what a view!

2. Shiba-Sakura Festival

The main attraction of the tour was the Shiba-Sakura Festival also known as the Fuji Flower Carpet. The Flower Carpet is a carpet of moss phlox planted in beds all around the garden. It was stunning. And of course, crowded!

The phlox is pretty. With Mt. Fuji in the background it was amazing.

Maybe a few more pictures. It was just so beautiful. Today, I opted for grape ice cream.

I took a quick video of th Flower Park from the overlook. To help you embrace the beauty.

3. Fuji Kachōen

Our third stop was at Fuji Kachōen – “A different world of flowers and birds.” Here we were able to walk through a beautiful greenhouse and view different species of birds. The greenhouse was my favorite part.

Look at these giant begonias!

The best part of the birds was having the opportunity to “hold” an owl. “Hoo you looking at?”

4. Otodome Waterfall and Shiraito Waterfall

Our fourth and final stop was to visit the Otodome Waterfall and the Shirato Waterfall. The water from the falls is snow melt from Mt. Fuji. It takes 20 years for the melted snow to make its way to the waterfall! Here is Otodome Waterfall.

To reach Shiraito Waterfall, we walked down a short path of 100 steps.

After viewing the falls from the bottom, I walked up to the overlook. The views were worth the stairs.

It was an amazing trip. I honestly can’t believe how lucky I was with the weather today. When you visit, I hope we have luck with the weather when we visit Mt. Fuji. It was such a glorious day!

Nezu Shrine

The Nezu Shrine is in the north central part of Tokyo. It was founded in 1705 and is famous for the Azalea Festival. The Azalea Festival is held from mid-April through the end of Golden Week (first week of May). I almost let this Festival slip past me.

Dina and I went up on Wednesday to see the Shrine, azaleas, and the Festival. Google Maps gave us our route to the Shrine (1.5 hours). However, we were assuming because of Golden Week, the 30-minute delay was caused by “extra passenger load” – our trip actually took 2 hours. Dina had the patience of a saint with me today!

The Shrine was very large and had a large garden full of azaleas. Unfortunately, most had already bloomed. Only a few blossoms remained. I will need to visit earlier next year to truly experience the azalea splendor. Here are a few pictures of the azaleas and the surrounding gardens.

Remember how I mentioned this is Golden Week? Looking at those pictures, you might be wondering, “where are all the crowds?” Oh, trust me. They were there. Here are several of the same pictures at different angles to include the crowds.

There were so many people!! Dina was very patient with me as I waited for the perfect shot. There was a long row of Torii gates I wanted to photograph without people. We waited… and waited. Eventually, I was able to take a people free shot. Or mostly, anyways.

Sometimes, the right person or people in a photo make it much better! Notice how short the Torii gate were! We are hitting our heads! We had to duck the entire way!!

Just in case you’re not convinced how short the gates were – Dina snapped this picture of me ducking through the gates! Ha! 

I took a few close up pictures of the remaining azalea blooms.

We were able to get a stamp in our Temple Books. After waiting in line for 30 minutes… like I already mentioned, Dina was super patient!

The other interesting thing to note, was how despite not having blooms, the azaleas looked lovely. My friend, Sara and I joke about how ugly azaleas are after they finish blooming. This is what we are accustomed to seeing. Dead brown and past their prime blooms.

Apparently, not the case in Japan. Dina and I are convinced they cleaned off the dead blossoms daily because the shrubs without blooms were green.

I must also mention the Festival. It was mostly food vendors. So many interesting and unique foods on a stick! Bananas, meats, corn, and more bananas.

Or maybe you want salty nuts and dried fruits?

Maybe squid!

Or perhaps octopus balls. Three different octopus ball vendors. They are actually very delicious and tasted great washed down with a chu-hai.

Or mystery meat? Or mochi? Or noodle tacos with an egg on top?

Whatever Japanese street vendor you were searching for, you would be able to find and eat until your heart was content!

Yokosuka Shobuen

I had one more garden on my list to view wisteria, Yokosuka Shobuen. Yokosuka Shobuen is actually known for being one of the largest iris gardens in Japan. The wisteria is an added bonus. The garden has over 140,000 iris. They were beginning to sprout but, not yet in bloom. Guess, I will be returning next month!

The garden opened at 9:00am. I decided to drive because my research told me there was plenty of parking. I arrived 9:30 and was ahead of the crowds. Here was my route.

The funniest part was the Japanese parking attendant coming over to my car after I parked. Following the protocol, I backed into the spot. However, I parked the Hooptie a little crooked. The attendant came over and asked me to re-park with her assistant, of course. Haha! If she only knew crooked parking is pretty much how I roll. Or stop rolling for that matter.

Moving on to the garden. The entry ticket was self-service. Fortunately, there was English.

Also, remember yesterday I mentioned the carp streamers being hung for Children’s Day. There were some at the garden entrance.

The wisteria was delightful. The garden wasn’t very large, I was able to walk around the entire garden in about an hour. I took a lot of pictures. I’ll share my favorites. Hopefully, not too many.

Here is the view when entering the garden. The beds in the foreground are the iris.

The first stop was the wisteria arbor.

The path then led to the wisteria garden. There were so many different colors. The scent was intoxicating!

The path then took me through a wisteria tunnel. So much pink and purple! It was magical.

The next area was the trellis of Japanese wisteria. There were actually several trellises. One was set up for hanami.

The others were a little lower and beautiful as well. More pink and purple!

I couldn’t resist a wisteria selfie.

My other favorite thing to do was to literally stand under / inside the wisteria.

In closing, a few close-up shots of the blooms. Do you have a favorite? Pink or purple?

Ashikaga Flower Park

Sonia and I took an ITT tour up to visit the Ashikaga Flower Park. The park is well known for the wisteria trees. Here is a picture of the Google Maps of our trip. 

This time of year, when the wisteria is blooming, the park becomes very crowded. We arrived promptly at 9:00am, when the park opened. By the time we were leaving at 11:00am, the park was significantly more crowded than when we arrived. 

The park had several different types of wisteria. There were purple(early blooms) pink(full bloom), and white(not blooming yet). Also, there was a species of double blooming wisteria. We were a little early to see the large wisteria trellis in full bloom. It was beautiful none the less. The smaller trees were at their peak bloom and absolutely stunning. 

There was an area set up for hanami under the light pink wisteria. The light pink was reaching peak bloom and very serene. The bottoms of the wisteria are a little blurry because they were blowing in the gentle breeze. 

There are two large trees that together make the Large Wisteria Trellis. It was stunning even though it wasn’t in full bloom yet. 

There was also a large screen of purple wisteria. It blocked the view of the parking lot. Trees were planted behind the screen and attached in an espalier style. 

I didn’t edit the wire holding up the structure. I thought it provided good perspective of how massive the structure was. 

The Light Pink Bridge might have been my favorite spot in the park. The wisteria was in full bloom and the scene was truly picturesque. 

Another amazing feature was the Wisteria Dome. It was also set up for visitors to enjoy hamani. 

There was another large wisteria tree also supported by a huge trellis. 

Another beautiful section was off in a smaller side garden. Poppies were planted around the edge of the bed. The contrast between the colors was stunning. 

A few more pictures- because it was just so beautiful with so many different colors. 

And now for the funny story of the day. I first realized people were watching me / staring at me / taking my picture when we were on the bridge. I mentioned something to Sonia and she said because they think you’re a model. Haha. Jokingly, I posed for her to snap a few pictures. While we were doing this, people waited for her to stop and simultaneously, took my picture as well. Here is the funny shot. 

The flattery continued. When we were shopping at the gift shop, one of the workers came up to me and asked where I was from. Chicago is always my response. It’s the last place we lived and it is a place most people have heard of. Anyways, she tells me, “you’re so pretty. You’re hair pretty.” Arigatōgozaimas! But wait, there’s more. We were asked to have our picture taken and to return the favor by a single man. Sure. As he taking our picture, he says, “beautiful! You and the flowers!” Ha! Arigatōgozaimas! The pictures he took. 

I felt like a celebrity or to quote Melissa, “Blondzilla.” The compliments were delightful and sweet. However, the sweetest part of the day was the wisteria soft cream. 

Next year, I think I will be more bold and potentially drive myself to the Flower Park. I would really love to see the wisteria tree trellises in full bloom. The drive and the crowds would be worth it! 

Kameido Tenjin Shrine 

Spring in Japan means one blooming session after another. Right now, the wisteria is about to reach full bloom. Having a free day, with no adulting obligations, I decided to travel to Tokyo and visit the Kameido Tenjin Shrine to view the wisteria. It was a schlep, 1.5 hours one way. Far enough for me not to impose the trip on my husband or friends. Here was my route.

The Shrine is located near the Tokyo Skytree. It provided a delightful backdrop to several pictures.

I wish I could share the scent of the wisteria with you. It might be the one thing I will never have much luck sharing with you. It was truly delightful.

I decided to venture up today because next week is Golden Week. I’ll tell you more about the meaning of Golden Week later. For now, it means Japanese holiday and lots of crowds. I was glad to have smaller crowds today. Occasionally, I was able to snap a picture without people. First, a few of the crowds.

Flying solo, I could take my time and wait for the perfect shot. And I did. I waited and I was totally ok with it. Because the shots were worth it. Here are my favorites. The red bridge is in most of them – #becausejapan

Have you noticed the structures supporting the wisteria? Some are wood others are artificial. All are strong.

According to my research, Kameido Tenjin Shrine was founded in the 1660s to honor the memory of the ninth-century scholar, Sugawara no Michizane. The temple was just as beautiful as the wisteria.

While at the temple, I enjoyed my own miniature hanami. Japanese yam and a chu-hai. Life is as sweet as these roasted yams with sugary topping.

When you’re planning your springtime visit, we will see as many flowers as possible. You will need to be willing to travel. As my friend Jen reminded me, seeing stuff requires a little bit of effort. Just a few more pictures….

It truly was an amazing experience and worth the travel. I’m ranking this temple in my top five “seasonal” temples.

Jogashima Park

Jogashima Park is located at the Southern tip of the Miura Peninsula. I am the blue dot in Zushi and Jogashima Park is the red marker at the bottom. 

It has been on my list of places to visit for a couple months. We had another glorious spring day that demanded an outdoor exploration. I was able to convince Sonia to go with me and she convinced me we should take the train and bus vice driving. This would be my first Japanese bus experience! 

We met in Yokosuka and headed south on the train and then further south on the bus. Here was a shot from the bus ride. To ride the bus, you can use the same pass that is used to ride the train. You just have to remember to swipe it when you board. We missed that the first time and the driver adjusted our fairs when we exited the bus. 

I forgot to screen shot the trip down, here is the shot from the trip home. 

The grey stops are the bus stops. The bus wasn’t very intimidating after all. Pretty simple. Google Maps once again helped me navigate there and back without issues! 

Jogashima Park was beautiful! The views of the water and horizon were impressive. 

The trails were a combination of pavement, stairs, and dirt. Overall, it was very easy to navigate the park with the many cute signs directing the way. 

Besides the Japanese Seahawks, we also saw the country’s largest earthworm! 

In several places along our hike, the water was so clear! 

Simultaneously, the rock formations made me turn into a little bit of a Science geek on Sonia. She laughed and was a good sport about my teachings. These guys paid me little attention… 

Maybe my favorite picture of the day. 

We continued on our hike to the lighthouse and enjoyed more amazing views and lunch along the way. 

For lunch, we ate ramen and black vanilla ice cream. Whitebait (whitefish) was also a flavor. Gross. Almost as gross as corn ice cream. The black vanilla ice cream was very good. It tasted like vanilla! 

After lunch, we walked around a little more and found more beautiful rocks and a shrine. Also, on a clear day, we would have been able to see Mt. Fuji across the water. 

Finally, one last set of stairs took us up to the lighthouse. 

We shopped at a couple cute local stores as we headed to the bus stop. We wondered if it would be difficult to find the bus…. nope. Not too difficult in the least! 

I am super proud of myself. I can now add “capable of taking the bus” to my Japanese transportation resume thanks to Sonia’s encouragement! 

Mt. Nokogiri

Dave and I took an ITT trip with Sonia and her husband, John, to Mt. Nokogiri on Sunday. Mt. Nokogiri is located on the Chiba Peninsula. The Chiba Peninsula is on the other side of the Tokyo Bay from where we are on the Miura Peninsula. The bus ride on the way there took us through the Aqualine. 

The Aqualine is a tunnel that goes beneath the Tokyo Bay. I timed our transit. It took us a little over eight minutes with no traffic. Once we were through the tunnel, we stopped at the rest stop to purchase snacks for our hike. The views were incredible. 

It reminded us of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. But, in Japan, not quite as long, and with a better rest stop! 

Dave & Julia Sashimi

Taking the helm

Tokyo skyline – Tokyo Skytree is on the right. 

Here was a cool illustration of the Aqualine. 

Once we arrived at Mt. Nokogiri, we took a cable car to the top of the mountain. The views were spectacular throughout the day. We all agreed, this tour is worth doing again in the fall when the leaves are changing. 

One of the scenic lookouts was beautiful. Sonia and I waited in line for 35 minutes for these pictures! First, the line… 

And then the views! 

We walked up and down so many stairs on the mountain. Along the way, we observed 1,500 stone figures of different Arhats (Buddhist Saints). I captured a lot of them and only will share a few pictures of them! Many of the statues are in poor condition as a result of an anti-Buddhist movement during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). The statues have been under repair during recent years. 

His green head looks a bit alien-like!

Watch your head… the statues are missing theirs!

The highlight of Mt. Nokogiri is the stone Buddha (Daibutsu). The stone Buddha is the largest in Japan. It measures 28 meters high. It was built by Jingorō Eirei Ōno and his 27 apprentices. They completed the structure in 1783. It was recently restored between 1966-1969. The Daibutsu was constructed to symbolize world peace and tranquility. It was ahh-mazing. 

Dave, me, and Buddha! 

And a selfie, of course – the filters were a bonus. 

The shrines around the temple included thousands of small Buddhas. 

Just a few pictures of the flowers on the mountain before we head home.  

To return home, we took a ferry across the Tokyo Bay to Kurihama. This is the alternative route to get across Tokyo Bay. 

The ferry ride was the perfect end to a great day. Enjoying time underway with friends and adult beverages. Kanpie! 


Earlier this week, Yasuko-San called to tell me our Friday English class would need to be cancelled. That gave me a whole day to do – whatever! Happy Friday to me! 

Dina also had a free day and we planned to go to collect more sea glass at Sea Glass Beach. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for the day. It never rained but, remained overcast and cool. Not so much beach weather. 

Instead, we decided to venture up to Motomachi shopping district in Yokohama. Here is the gateway welcoming shoppers. 

Motomachi 500m upscale shopping street in Yokohama. It is located between Chinatown and Yamashita Park. Here was our route on the train. 

The street was filled with a couple of familiar stores. 

There were also a variety of other stores. Like this men’s purse store. The St. Bernard bag was too cute! The sexy lady men’s pins were just weird. 

Speaking of purses, I did buy a new purse from Kitamura2. 

I’ve been searching for a new crossbody bag to replace my tired Longchamp bag. This purse was a 40th birthday present from my Mom before we went to Paris.  I have enjoyed carrying for the past two years so much. It is absolutely perfect. If Longchamp still made it, I would buy at least two more in blue and black.  Considering the miles and continents it has travelled, it’s in pretty great shape… just like me! Ha

Today, I welcomed Blue Boy into my life. He is cute, functional, multicolored, and my first Japanese purse. He has a few more zippers than Longchamp and a very big job to fill. 

I was so thankful to have Dina along with me. She provided sound support as I invested in my new traveling companion (my new purse) and she provided comic relief at a fine leather goods establishment. First, you must stick your hand in his mouth. Which I did… it was furry and warm. 

And then there was the all-American fire truck… in Japan. 

The best was helping Dina find a new hat… maybe not this one. 

It’s Japanese size! 

And there was the incident with the BIG chair. Honestly, I wanted to sit in it. I was just too scared of making a scene! A selfie will have to do. 

One more place to mention as we walked through Motomachi was the adorable pet store. Kawaii!!!

These two puppies were ridiculous. The first one will not get bigger than a soda can. He was only ¥199,800 or about $1800. 

This little fluffy friend was ¥299,900. For shock factor, let’s say $3,000. (I know, I rounded the wrong way) by the time you buy supplies he will be that much! Crazy cuteness. 

We reached the other end of Motomachi and we were ready for food. 

We decided to head to Chinatown for lunch. On our way, we passed this adorable group of teenagers. Pandas in Chinatown, of course. 

Eventually, we found a delicious sushi restaurant in Chinatown.  Tuna rice bowl made complete with a grapefruit Hi-Ball and corn on my salad. 

Tuna rice bowl…. Nom nom nom…

As we headed back to the train, we saw our Panda friends again. This time, the were more than willing to pose! Kawaii! 

Happy Friday! May we always have a good friend(s) to laugh, shop, and drink with!  Kanpie! 

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!


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!

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