Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Hydrangeas Page 1 of 2

Hasedera Temple

Monday was another overcast day with an occasional slight drizzle. Miki and I were already planning to have lunch. Since Dave and I didn’t have any luck on Saturday visiting Hasedera Temple, I invited Miki to go with me to see the hydrangeas before we ate lunch. I was hoping Hasedera Temple would be less crowded on an overcast Monday. It was probably less crowded than Saturday, but there were still a lot of people! We had a 40 minute wait to before it was our turn to walk through the hydrangea path! Our group number was 789. Miki made me laugh when she said it was like the wait at Disneyland!

While we waited for our number to be called, we walked around the Temple and enjoyed the beautiful gardens

I couldn’t believe the number of people also visiting the temple today. Last year, when we walked up the entry steps there were only a few people. This year the stairs were packed!

Despite the crowd, the hydrangeas were so beautiful. I tried to take pictures of all the different colors and varieties. There were so many!

I found several hydrangea clusters that looked liked hearts.

The view from the top of the path was beautiful. The Beach in the background is Kamakura Beach. I know you can’t tell from these pictures, but there were so many surfers in the water.

Miki and I paused along the path for a selfie. I was very surprised when she told me this was her first visit to Hasedera Temple during hydrangea season. She also suggested we return in autumn when the leaves are changing. After flower chasing, leaf chasing is my next favorite thing to do in Japan!

I love the stone pagoda. I took several pictures of it from different angles.

A few more close up pictures of the hydrangeas. I love the rain drops on some of them.

We finished walking through the path and made our way through the rest of the gardens. Everything was so lush and beautiful.

Thank you, Miki, for being very patient today while we waited for our turn to walk through the hydrangeas. I enjoyed sharing my day and your beautiful country with you!

Odawara Castle Gardens

Friday afternoon, I met up with Sonia to visit the Odawara Castle Gardens. Odawara is near Hakone and about an hour train ride from Zushi station. Here was our route on the train.

We arrived at Odawara Station in the early afternoon. I wanted to visit this area because I heard about the beautiful hydrangeas on the hillside of the castle. We passed so many hydrangeas on our walk from the station to the castle. Hydrangeas are everywhere this time of year. They are so beautiful!

At the Odawara Castle Garden, we were also greeted by irises. They were planted in the marsh area in front of the hydrangeas on the hillside. I was overwhelmed with all the beautiful flowers!

Check out these hydrangeas! I used my hand to give you scale perspective. They were ginormous!

We took time to take our “modeling” photos. Not sure I make the best model during rainy season. I feel like I’m a constant ball of sweatiness. Sonia, on the other hand, is flawless. Regardless, it’s totally worth it for the beautiful flowers.

A few more pictures of the hillside. It’s so hard to pick a favorite color. Is it ok if I just love them all, together?

There were actually two gardens connected by a little passageway underneath a vermilion bridge. Because every garden in Japan should have a vermilion bridge.

What I’m not sure I captured in my photos were the number of people also visiting the garden in the heat of Friday afternoon. That is one thing I love about the Japanese culture. They embrace and take time to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds them. As we continued to walk around the garden, we spied an art exhibit.

We walked over to investigate. It looked like art painted on some sort of waterproof canvas. Each were so unique.

Irises, hydrangeas, and art. What a great day. What more could we want? Oh, right! The Odawara Castle.

We didn’t actually visit the castle, we have both seen plenty of Japanese castles and were more interested in the flowers. It was however, fun to people watch. There was a group who rented outfits.

Also, a man made Castle reflecting pond. Everyone wanted a picture of the castle reflection!

By the time we finished walking through the garden, we were ready for lunch. We stopped at restaurant that served sushi and tempura. We both had the lunch set. It was a combination of both sushi and tempura.

After lunch, we headed back to the train station. We passed over another vermilion bridge and enjoyed seeing the koi.

Unfortunately, I led us to the wrong train and we ended up going 10 minutes in the wrong direction. No big deal. We hopped to the other track and enjoyed the coastal view while we waited for our train.

One last little story. If you ever wonder about the safety in Japan, please know, it’s extremely safe (7th safest country in the world). As we were waiting for the train to take us back in the correct direction, we watched a group of young kids. They seemed to be elementary aged. Maybe first-third grade. There was no adult around watching them. Although this picture shows them all huddled together, prior to this, they were running around, talking and just being kids. But, they were kids who weren’t caring about their safety. They were happy to be going home from school on a Friday afternoon. They were just kids, being kids.

The world needs more kids being happy. And flowers.

Sunset Beach Walk

Errands consumed most of my day today. By the time I returned home this afternoon, I was way behind on my step goal. It was a fine evening and so I decided to walk down to Zushi Beach and watch the sunset. Along my way, I took pictures of some of the hydrangeas. They are blooming everywhere. This is only about half of the ones I passed! I love how they are literally growing everywhere. Behind fences, through fences, underneath unused clotheslines, and in the smallest of flower beds. Most are the traditional hydrangeas.

Plus a few of the lace ones.

I arrived at Zushi Beach at 6:30pm. My timing was perfect to catch the sunset.

I took a brief video. It was a pleasant evening. Small breeze and cooler temps by the water.

As the sun went down behind the mountain, Mt. Fuji became even more predominant.

Thanks for letting me share the simple beauty of Japan!

You Had Me At Pagoda

As I planned out my month of June, I anticipated Dave being home this weekend in between work travel. Because of this, I didn’t schedule an English classes for Saturday morning. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Dave is still on travel and I didn’t have English class. This gave me an entire day to plan something. I decided to shoot for the moon today and do something completely off the beaten path. I read an article recently about the top five places to see hydrangeas in the Tokyo area. Two of the places are in Kamakura, Meigetsuin Temple (where I went on Friday) and Hase-dera Temple. Another temple that was mentioned in the article was Takahatasonko-ji Temple. Takahatasonko-ji Temple is west of Tokyo. Google Maps showed me it was about 1.5 hours away and four trains.

I left at 9:45 this morning and was cruising around the Temple grounds by 11:15. It was very easy to find once I was off the train. It was less than a five minute walk and there were plenty of signs pointing the way.

I wasn’t only drawn to the Temple because of the hydrangeas blooming. As I was reading about the Temple, I learned there was also a pagoda. Say no more. I must go! Just as beautiful as I imagined.

The grounds of the Temple are beautiful. There was a small pond with huge koi and hydrangeas.

There was also a small Inari Shrine. I truly love the fact that the Japanese accept all religions. (Temples – Buddhist, Shrines – Shinto – two separate religions) If only the rest of the world could be more accepting, we would definitely have less wars.

Also on the grounds of the Temple is a path through the woods. The path is highlighted with 88 Jizo statues. They are inspired by the Shikoku – 88 Temple pilgrimage. I love the idea of the pilgrimage, but I don’t have the time or drive to complete it. Instead, I enjoyed taking a walk through the woods in the early afternoon and enjoy hydrangeas! Here is the map I followed. The little red numbers represent the statues.

I think I was a little bit early to see the hillside covered in hydrangeas. Regardless, I wasn’t disappointed. Here are a few pictures of hydrangeas.

At one point along the trail, you have a vantage point of the pagoda.

I probably took 88 pictures of hydrangeas. However, I didn’t photograph all 88 Jizo Statues. I just took a few pictures to give you an idea of what they looked liked and how they were marked.

There were so many varieties of hydrangeas. Here are several pictures of what we’ve started calling “lace hydrangeas.” They don’t fully bloom like traditional hydrangeas. Instead they have a few blooms on the perimeter and then a cluster in the center that looks like lace.

The view from the top of the hillside was spectacular. Tokyo is way off in the background.

Here is the view from the other side. Guess what you could see on a clear day… Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, not today.

As with all the hikes in Japan, the trail included a lot of stairs! It was so peaceful, it was worth every stair!

A few more hydrangea pictures. They truly were beautiful.

I enjoyed my day Temple and flower chasing. The sunny and less humid day was perfect for walking through the woods. Just when I was smitten with Sakura season, I’m falling bloom over bloom in love with hydrangea season! I live the blue ones!!

Meigetsu-in Temple 2018

I started my hydrangea Temple chasing a little earlier this year. Last year I waited until the end of June to visit Meigetsu-in Temple. This year, I wanted to visit a little earlier. Last night, several of my neighbors were discussing going to the Meigetsu-in Temple this morning to see the blue hydrangea. They have young children and were able to arrange child care specifically to visit the Temple today. I was more than happy to tag along! Oh, and give them a small taste of a Julia Tour.

We met at 9:00am and were at the Temple in Kita Kamakura by 9:45. It was already so crowded. My main photo objective was to photograph the steps leading up to the gate. I anticipated a crowd. But, nothing like this!

We were able to walk slowly and the crowd thinned a little bit.

This is the picture I wanted because it matches the wall hanging I recently purchased.

I used the Retouch App to cut out the people. What do you think?

If you have amazing skills with using photoshop or another photo editing app and want to try editing them out, let me know. I’ll send you the original. I ordered an 8×10 photo of my edited version this afternoon. We will see how it looks when it arrives.

Here are a few other pictures from out and around the Temple. The blue hydrangeas are so beautiful.

I remembered from last year how cute the Buddhas were decorated.

The zen rock garden was so serene.

It was fun to visit the Temple together. There has been a big turnover of people in our neighborhood in the past 6 months. These ladies all live at the top of the hill close to us. Here’s our hydrangea selfie!

And then just me. (My tattoo was exposed again this year. No one seemed to care! ?)

I think there is a good chance I will go back this week in the early morning to try and get the stair picture without people. I talked with my Japanese sensei at English class this afternoon and she recommended I arrive at 7:30am. Good thing I’m an early bird! I feel like I need to seize every flower chasing opportunity because I have a sneaky suspicion we will transfer before this time next year. More on that when things solidify a bit more. In the meantime, I’ll obsessively chase flowers!

Connecting the Dots

I have hiked the trails in Kamakura so much and visited the many Shrines frequently. Despite my wandering, I’ve never taken the time to determine how they are all connected. Today, Katie and I hiked the Daibutsu Trail with the intention of finding the trails to the Benzaiten Shrine (Money Washing Shrine) and the Sasukeinari Shrine (White Fox Shrine).

We met at 8:30 at Zushi station and took the train to Kita Kamakura. We were on our way hiking by 8:45. We needed to set out early because I had my first Japanese language class today. (More on that in a few.)

The Daibutsu Trail greeted us with hydrangeas from the start!

It was also good to start early because it is humid and warm. Rainy season has started and as a result, the foliage is green and lush.

We made it to the first small Shrine at the top of the small mountain in good time. We were again rewarded with hydrangea beginning to bloom.

Plus, the early bird gets the… turtle photo! Oh my gosh! So, cute!

And more hydrangea. I loved the contrast of the fresh blooms with the old tree.

We continued our way through the park and used Google Maps to help guide us to the Money Washing Shrine.

Before too long, we were walking along a trail that passed above the Shrine. We stopped and looked around the Shrine before continuing on our way.

Finding the White Fox Shrine from here was a little tricky. We used Google Maps to point us in the right direction. However, we couldn’t find the path. Instead we cut through the neighborhood and found our way along the streets.

Less than five minutes later, we found The White Fox Shrine.

Here’s our selfie at the Torii. I love exploring with this girl. Kindred VB spirits. She’s adventurous and chill even when we have no idea where we are going exactly. My only complaint is she makes me hike in front and then proceeds to talk about snakes. And yes, we saw one today. Katie’s spirit name is “snake whisperer.”

The White Fox Shrine is still so cute.

We made our way towards the back of the Shrine. On my previous visit, I remembered I saw a trail leading up and away from the Shrine. This time, we followed it.

The trail was a little treacherous and would be awful hiking after it rained. It was already slick and a bit slippery. We made it to the top without issue. And back to the main Daibutsu Trail. It was here, we realized how the trails and Shrines connected. We normally follow the trail to the Big Buddha. The trail going to the left will take you to the White Fox Shrine.

If only we could read Japanese, this might not be such a mystery. As we finished up our hike, hydrangeas waved us goodbye.

We took the train from Hase Station to Kamakura Station. We walked around Kamakura and bought a refreshing beverage before heading home. My Japanese classes are now going to be held on Tuesdays at another student’s house here in Ikego. Our teacher is my Friday English sensei. I wish I would have asked her a long time ago… like 18 Months. But, better late than never! I’ll let you know how my Japanese improves.

Roses Are Red?

Yesterday morning, I was talking with my Mom and some how our conversation turned to the “guy with the rose garden.” She mentioned she would like to she his garden when she visits. She is planning her visit for November and understands the roses will not be in bloom at that time. She just said she wanted to see it anyways. Sure, that’s easy. It’s on our way to Zushi Beach. I thought it was cute she remembered my Running Past Roses post from last year. I also realized I haven’t shared any pictures of his roses this year. When I returned from my Florida Road Trip, the rose garden had an abundance of blooms. They are so beautiful. I took a few pictures and sent them to Dina. I think of her each time Dave and I ran past the rose garden.

This one might be my favorite. The beautiful rose blooming and the construction in the background. Ahhh, wabi-sabi. Beautifully imperfect.

When I ran past this morning, I took a few more photos. Mixed in with the roses are beautiful clematis. He takes such good care of his rose garden. He sweeps and trims every day. It truly is a beautiful garden.

Besides the roses blooming, I have more great news. The hydrangea are starting to bloom. I took these pictures this morning at the Daiichi Undo Park. The park is about one mile from our house and part of our daily running route.

Hydrangeas make me happy. They make me think of Anne Geddes pictures with cute babies with hydrangea hats. I think I had this picture back in the ’90s.

And they make me think of our house in Chicago and Hannah B. Oh, man. That face can give the cute babies a run for their money!!

Please prepare for a couple weeks of hydrangea posts as I make my way around Tokyo and Kamakura chasing flowers.

Meigetsu-in Temple 

One last stop on my 2017 hydrangea temple tour was at the Meigetsu-in Temple in Kita-Kamakura. The temple is known for having beautiful blue hydrangeas. 

Despite the humidity and mostly overcast skies, it was enjoyable walking around the temple seeing all the beautiful hydrangeas. 

So much blue! 

The bamboo made a stunning backdrop. 

The temple had unique aspects and they were also highlighted with hydrangeas. 

I couldn’t help but giggle to myself when I saw the random off color hydrangea. Each time I thought about the monk who planted the hydrangea. “You had one job – plant the blue ones!” Perhaps, he was colorblind. 

The other funny encounter of the day occurred shortly after I paid to enter the temple. A worker approached me quickly and said a bunch of Japanese and then said, “shawl” in perfect English. Excuse, me? She motions for me to put on a shawl over my shoulders (I’m wearing a tank top). I don’t have one. Because it’s summer in Japan and it’s humid. The worker left as quickly as she had approached. Seeing the very confused look on my face, a nice person who witnessed the exchange explains that she would like me to put on a shawl if I had one. I don’t, is it ok if I still visit? Hai, he said. Ok, arigatōgozaimas. Hmmmm. As I’m walking around feeling very self-conscious about my bare shoulders, I see several other ladies in tank tops. I use a little deductive reasoning to determine it wasn’t my shoulders that bothered her. It was my tattoo. My very taboo tattoo to the Japanese. The Japanese associate tattoos with the Japanese mafia. I laugh / roll my eyes every time I think of the possibility someone confusing me with Japanese mafia. Regardless, I learned another lesson. To be respectful of my host nation’s preferences, it is best cover tattoos when visiting temples. 

Quality Time

The leader of my Friday English class organized a field trip for us today. We went to visit Hasedera Temple to see the hydrangeas and enjoyed lunch at the Kamakura Park Hotel. 

This view! 

And these hydrangeas! 

The hydrangeas were still blooming and very beautiful. 

Two of my Friday students were able to attend today and we spent the morning walking around the temple and the town of Hase. Here is a picture of Junko-san and Haruko-san, both are star students! 

After visiting the temple, Junko-san drove us to the Kamakura Park Hotel. We enjoyed a four-course lunch! Our appetizers included: snow pea soup, slice of chicken with vegetables, tomato jelly with sashimi, and a half quiche. 

Next course was snapper with fresh Kamakura vegetables. The purple piece is Kamakura diakon. The purple is natural! 

The third course was Sakura chicken with more fresh Kamakura vegetables. The piece of pumpkin was my favorite. 

And finally dessert. Yogurt with cherry topping, pound cake with whipped cream and honey dew sorbet. All of it was delicious! 

Before leaving the hotel, I asked to have my picture with Junko-san and Haruko-san. They are so sweet. I enjoyed being able to spend quality time together visiting the temple and viewing the hydrangeas. The added bonus was them teaching me new Japanese phrases. 

Today’s Japanese phrases:

“Urikire” – sold out 

“Sandaru” – sandal

“Karasu” – crow 

“Oishī” – delicious 

Ever so slowly, my Japanese is improving. I must stress slowly. 

Emperor’s Summer Garden

My English student, Manami, invited me to go with her and her mother, Atsuko, to visit the Emperor’s Summer Garden. The Summer garden is located in Hayama and a short drive from where we live. The gardens were lovely. They exuded a more natural ambiance because they were not overly manicured. 

The koi pond had some of the largest koi I have ever seen! Their colors were so bright and their patterns so bold. 

Within the garden was also a beautiful waterfall. 

The other highlight were the blooming hydrangeas. 

We stopped to take a few pictures before we left. The first is of Manami and me. The second is Manami and Atsuko. 

It was a very special adventure. I truly appreciated their invitation to show me a beautiful part of Hayama. I am very fortunate to have met them both and to have the opportunity to learn more about Japanese culture as a result of their friendship. I saw this quote on a bench in the garden and really felt it speaking to me. “This is you life” – I would only add “embrace it”. 

On a more somber note, thank you to our friends and family who reached out to check on Dave after hearing of the collision. He is safe. Our thoughts remain with our friends and shipmates aboard the USS Fitzgerald. It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart, Dave and I extend our condolences to the family and friends of the sailors who lost their lives. May you find peace and comfort in the memories of your loved one during this difficult time. ❤️

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