Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Holiday Lights

Winter Illuminations

The head Sensei of the English school where I teach on Fridays organized a school trip to Tokyo to see the winter illuminations. We met at Yokohama station at 11:00 am. Here we were able to meet up as a group – teachers and students. Our bus for the day was number 1 – Mango Poodle.

We boarded the bus and set off for our first stop. Yokohama Christmas Market in the Red Brick Area. Dave and I haven’t had a chance to visit the Yokohama Christmas Market this year, so I was happy it was included in this tour. We enjoyed about 30-40 of free time at each location to walk around. It was a sunny and cool day.

After our stop at the Red Brick Warehouse Area, we rode the bus to Tokyo. Our first stop in Tokyo was at the Washington Hotel for a buffet lunch. It was a large buffet with a mixture of eastern and western cuisine. A friend took this picture of me with my two students, Junko on the left and Haruko on the right.

After lunch, we went to Yebisu Garden Place. Some of the pictures might look a little familiar. Dave and I visited Yebisu Garden Place a couple Saturdays ago. Do you remember seeing a picture of the large chandelier, huge Christmas tree, and cute “Make it Happy” sign?

While we were visiting, I had a picture taken with my students. They are so very kind and sweet. I truly enjoy talking with them and spending time together. During trips like this one, I have the opportunity to learn more about their families and interests.

Once again, we boarded the bus and were driven across town to Odaiba Seaside Park. We arrived as the sunset and waited to boarded our water taxi. The first picture is of Tokyo Tower. Followed by the Tokyo skyline and sunset. The last picture is of Rainbow Bridge.

Once we were safely across the harbor and the sun had officially set, it was time for the illumination viewing portion of our tour. The next stop was Shiodome. The illuminations were blue and the animations were every 15 minutes. The lights were in rhythm with a variety of Disney songs.

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The other highlight at Shiodome was the artistic Christmas trees. They were so kawaii!!! My favorite was the universe tree. Junko’s favorite was the frog tree. I had a good laugh at the Japanese snack tree. The name of the tree was “Japanese Happy”, of course.

Once again, we were back on the bus. We went across town to Tokyo Station. Here we were able to view the GIANT white Christmas Tree and light show. The tree was sprayed white and then spotlights were used to change the color of the tree. There were also singers performing. Haruko, Junko, and I didn’t hang out here too long. We used our 30 minutes to grab an onigiri. Junko treated me to a salmon and fish roe onigiri. When she asked me if I liked it, I said yes, I like both salmon and fish roe. Hmm? Was her response. Roe? And then she said “fish children”? I burst out laughing. I couldn’t help myself. Fish eggs, I said. Fish eggs. Bahahaha! We enjoyed a good laugh together.

Our next stop was at Tokyo Midtown Christmas. This was probably my favorite. I will make sure to take Dave next year. The light show was spectacular. It was sponsored by Toshiba. Interesting fact I learned, Toshiba also sponsors the lights at the Louvre Museum. Anyways, the show was about 5 minutes and absolutely fantastic.

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Can you believe we still had another stop!! Two actually!! Two more stops. I must admit, by this point in our tour, even I started to lose the excitement. It was as though we saw too many spectacular lights and nothing was seeming spectacular any more. Plus, the last two I had already seen with Dave. The next stop was Roppongi Hills. We visited there two weeks ago.

The finally stop before returning to Yokohama station was the blue lights near Shibuya. Dave and I visited these illuminations last year. They were again very beautiful. I took a couple pictures of the same location. Strategically positioning my phone to cut out the people. Can you believe how many people were out on a Wednesday night at 10:00pm?!?

Overall, it was truly an amazing day. I enjoyed spending time with my students. They are so kind and attentive to my wellbeing. It is definitely a different type of teaching than I am accustomed to doing. Maybe I’m not changing the world, but I’m nurturing friendships and my soul. And selfishly, that is good for me in a place so far from home. By the end of the day, Haruko, Junko, and I all agreed “we are good tired and our hearts are full.”

MariCAR Christmas

I’ve been talking about wanting to see the numerous holiday illuminations in Tokyo relentlessly. Dave had a great idea. Let’s do a MariCar ride around Tokyo and check out the Christmas lights. Brilliant! The wardroom is SRF set the date for Friday, 12/15 at 7:00 pm. Perfect for seeing lots of people and holiday lights. There were 8 of us plus the two guides. Keeping with the Mario Cart theme, Dave and I picked Mario and Luigi costumes.

Friday was pretty chilly. Fortunately, our costumes allowed for plenty of layering. I stuffed my inside and outside pockets with hand warmers and put warmers in my boots. I stayed toasty the whole way.

The ride took us around the middle of Tokyo. The sights included Ueno, Ginza, Tokyo Station, Asakusa, and Tokyo Skytree. So much fun for only ¥7000 – $70.00. This was a different course than I rode last year with Dina. Plus, before we rode the course during the day. Nighttime would be a new experience!

Here are a few shots from along the route.

Seeing Tokyo Skytree was really cool. We saw it as we approached and then stopped for a group photo.

Here are a couple pictures of the trees around the Emperor’s Palace.

From Asakusa- Kappabashi- Kitchen town.

Ueno Station.

The highlight was waving as we were stopped at lights. It was easy to make people smile.

Dave and I had so much fun. It was a little scary at first and when you go really fast or hit bumps. But, it’s super cool and fun. We talked about who in our family would love this the most. We agreed his brother Bob, niece, and nephew – Jade and Jordan would absolutely love the experience. I hope we can go during your visit. Here is what you need to do in order to participate in MariCart when you visit. I took a screen shot of the website. Basically, you need an International Driver’s License. You obtain that and I will make our reservations.

Keep in mind, you’re allowed to wear your own costume. Dave suggested next Christmas season we dress as Santa and his elves!

SRF Holiday Party

Saturday evening the SRF-JRMC holiday party was held at the New Sanno Hotel. The holiday decorations at the New Sanno Hotel are spectacular.

The Christmas Trees and fireplace make the perfect setting for holiday pictures.

The party had everything any good holiday party should have:

Decorations, delicious food, prizes, and dancing. We danced so much, I eventually had to lose my heels! My friend, Saori, sent me this picture – she drew the heart doodle. Dave was singing his own karaoke to “Faithfully” by Journey. It was obviously later in the evening because my shoes are no where in sight. The best part, Dave’s the sober one. (Still no alcohol for military in Japan.) I’m still laughing almost two days later. It was such a fun night.

One more funny story to wrap up the weekend. Before Dina moved, she gave me a gift certificate for the New Sanno Hotel. The gift certificate had been given to her by visiting friends. She and the kids left Japan before Brent returned from deployment and was never able to use the gift certificate. Knowing we had plenty of opportunities to use the gift certificate, she gave it to me. I put it in a safe place and was thrilled when I remembered to bring it with us this weekend. I gave it to Dave to use towards the room when he checked us into the hotel. I was surprised when I met Dave in the lobby and learned the front desk said it couldn’t be used towards the room. Hmmm. Where can I use it? In the shops. Oh, ok. Saturday afternoon, I went to the small Navy Exchange and attempted to buy Dina a cute purse with the certificate. “Sorry, ma’am, you can not use this certificate here.” Try the downstairs gift shop. I go downstairs and was going to buy Dina a beautiful silk Obi she could use as a table runner. When I presented the gift certificate, I was again greeted with, “sorry ma’am, you can not use this certificate here.” Hmmm. I returned to the front desk and asked them where I could use the gift certificate. They said at the restaurants or bar. Considering we were having dinner at the party later, I was left with only one option. The bar! Kanpie! A couple cocktails, a bottle of wine for me and O’douls for Dave and eventually we spent the gift certificate!

Cheers, to you Dina! I wish you were still here to not only share a drink in person, but to also experience the “sorry, ma’am” with me at each location! You would have been laughing hysterically!

Huis Ten Bosch

During my visit to the IACE travel office in Sasebo, I saw a brochure for Huis Ten Bosch. Huis Ten Bosch is theme park with a Netherlands inspired theme. What caught my eye in the brochure were the holiday light displays. I immediately added this to my list.

We arrived before the sunset on Saturday in order to see some of the park in the day light. We took a 20 minute train ride from Sasebo to the Huis Ten Bosch Station. We were amazed by the view from the start!

That huge building is the main hotel of the park. Dave and I decided we needed a return trip to experience all the park had to offer, including a stay at one of the hotels!

At the entrance of the park, visitors walk through a field with three large windmills. This time of year the fields have pansies and lights. In the spring, the fields are full of tulips. Just like Holland. Before dark.

After dark…

We enjoyed a walk around the park taking in the sights. One hotel is completely run by robots. Check out this guy!

There were tons of cute photo opportunities.

Even roses blooming!

Lots of decorations.

I also had a giggle seeing another pirate ship. My third one in the past 10 days! Notice the cute Amsterdam Row Houses in the background.

As the sun set, lights started to come on. I was giddy! We worked our way to the magical waterfall.

I hope I captured the beauty in the video. It’s truly amazing to watch.

We walked through the blue garden lights. Enjoying the lights and singing “Blue Christmas” and wishing those wine glasses had wine!

Our next highlight was a ride on the Ferris Wheel.

The ride around was 11 minutes. I’m happy to report the cars were Dave proof. They were completely enclosed so he couldn’t drop water on anyone! The views were spectacular!

After the ride, we walked to the huge tree so we could enjoy the tree lighting ceremony.

It was mesmerizing!

I took a close up of the fountain. Notice the wine fountain sign, Santa, and all the muses. Amusing!

The last highlight of our visit was the boat ride. We rode through the canal and were able to enjoy the lights and animations.

The best part was the canal light show. I recorded part of it for you.

One last funny. The parade was going on while we were on the boat. After we got off the boat, we saw part of as we were walking around. There were lots of Santas dancing and floats and Christmas music and a dinosaur. Yes, a dinosaur. Apparently, nothing says Merry Christmas like a dinosaur float!

All the lights and holiday music truly helped us get in the Christmas spirit. The theme park and illuminations were over the top. I hope we have the opportunity to return in the spring. I would love to see the flowers!

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