Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Illuminations

Illumination Festival

Miki invited Sonia and me to go with her to the Wano Akari x Hyakudome Kaidan Illumination Festival 2018. The Aesthetics of Japanese Illumination is currently being held at the Legendary Hotel Gajoen in the Meguro area of Tokyo. We met on the train Wednesday morning and rode together to Tokyo. I have visited the Hotel Gajoen each year for the Hina Doll Festival. This festival included illuminations from all over Japan. These beautiful lanterns greeted visitors at the entry.

The Illumination Festival was held on the historic 100 stairs portion of the hotel. As you climb the stairs, there are individual rooms where the illumination exhibits are set up. This picture of me on the stairs makes me smile. There is so much “Japan” about it. First, I’m in sock feet and carrying my shoes in the reusable plastic bag I was given at the entry. Second, there are small kokeshi dolls in little beds on the stairs, kawaii!! Third, the stairs are all numbered! I guess it makes inventory easier? Three words that describe Japan: Clean, cute, and organized.

Before we get to the illuminations, let me take a detour and share a few pictures of the kawaii kokeshi dolls. Well, mostly kawaii. A couple were scary.

Now on to the illuminations. The first room held a beautiful painting with many textures and colors. The painting reminded me of sand in a bottle – that changes when you flip it.

Also part of the exhibit where small igloos with kokeshi dolls inside. Their faces were very interesting.

The second room held three magnificent illuminations that filled the entire room. The floor of the exhibit was a shiny black glass. It reflected the light of the illuminations. The structures were made of wood and then covered with paper. It really created a beautiful work of art.

We continued up the stairs to the next exhibit. This exhibit was full of different illuminated sculptures. Some were made of glass and others were made from washi paper.

The next room along the stairs contained my favorite picture. I made up my own story. She is a beer princess being shot out of a cannon. She is sent to save everyone from the impeding tsunami wave. She is encouraging everyone as they run to grab their beers!

Also in the exhibit was a beautiful picture of Mt. Fuji.

Up and up we climbed. The exhibit in the next room incorporated items found in nature and light. I only took a few pictures. There were easily twenty different types of shells and flowers. The lotus flowers hanging from the ceiling were made of paper.

We made it to the very top and were rewarded with an incredible Ikebana exhibit. The arrangement was the size of the entire room. Plus, hanging from the ceiling were Japanese wind chimes. They have a dainty sound and ring summer joy into the air.

A few pictures of us, enjoying our visit!

After our visit, we headed back to Yokohama for sushi lunch. We stopped at a higher end conveyor sushi. I enjoyed tuna of course. But, I could help take a photo of the “slice” of watermelon for ¥350 ($3.50)! Can’t you buy a huge watermelon for that price in the U.S.?

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!

Sea Candle Illumination

Holiday illuminations are shining brightly all around Japan. One spot I missed last year was the Enoshima Sea Candle. I decided to add it to calendar earlier and during a week day. Katie and her daughter, Virginia, met me in Zushi so we could ride the train together the rest of the way to Enoshima. We were hoping for a clear night. We wanted to see Mt. Fuji, sunset, and the super moon. Unfortunately, clouds rolled in during the early afternoon.

We took our time climbing up to the top and soaked in the view as we went.

I also had the chance to use my Apple Watch to take a picture of the three of us. It’s a great feature and made even easier because in various places around Japan we have seen little smart phone stands. Brilliant!

At 17:00 the lights were illuminated. They made an announcement about five minutes prior and people started rushing into the garden. Right before 17:00 there was a 10- second count down and then the lights were turned on. Everyone cheered. It was really cute. The gardens of the Sea Candle were so beautiful. It was fun to walk through and absorb the serenity of the garden. Plus, there was music playing to help set the holiday spirit.

The highlight was the long light tunnel. It was so beautiful. There were large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and crystals hanging from the sides.

It was cool to see the Sea Candle through the tunnel.

We walked through the tunnel a couple times. It was just so beautiful with all the lights.

The Sea Candle was also illuminated.

The view from the top of the Sea Candle was a delight as well.

Our evening out was just the break I needed. I spent most of the day working on rerouting our Christmas holiday plans. We were planning a trip to Bali. Unfortunately, the ash cloud from Mt. Agung continues to threaten flights. We decided to play it on the safe side and reroute our trip to Phuket. It was a bit of a hassle to change, but worth it in the end for piece of mind. I did a little more research and found a different part for us to visit this year and enjoy a relaxing holiday together. We can save Bali for next year.

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!

Enoshima Island

Thinking of something to do on a crisp winter mostly sunny day, Dina suggested we go to Enoshima Island. It is a small island just off the coast. We took 3 trains to get to the island. It took a little over an hour. Here was our route.


One of the trains is the Enoshima Electric train. The train actually hangs from the tracks. The train was very smooth and quiet. It was a little weird to see other trains hanging from the tracks!

Train Station

Train coming in opposite direction


Once we arrived in Shonan, we had a short walk through the town and across a small bridge that connects the island to the mainland.


On the island, there are several shrines, a temple, an observation tower (lighthouse / sea candle), lots of cafes, a garden and sea caves. Once you are on the island your mode of transportation are your feet! Keep in mind there are a lot of stairs!  Oh, and on a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji.

A Torii gate greets you once you are over the bridge and you begin climbing to the top of the island.


Our first stop was at the Enoshima Shrine. The Enoshima Shrine is a Shinto Shrine dedicated to the worship of the Goddess Benten. Benten is one of the Seven Lucky Gods. Within the Shrine are three shrines: Hatsuno-miya, Nakatsuno-miya, Okutsuno-miya.

But first, we must climb stairs.


The lanterns are part of the illuminations. I was excited to see the illuminations will last until 2/19/17. There will be plenty of time for Dave and I to return to see the lights.


Three pictures that scream “Japan.” A shrine, a fortune wall and a red bridge (over a road – yes, with cars).


Up we continue to the Shrine.

The man in the center is throwing money on to the alter and making his wish to the Gods


We had our temple books stamped and continued up the island and up more stairs!


We enjoyed a nice view along the way!


And another Shrine.


Our next point of interest was the Sea Candle. I didn’t make Dina go up into the Candle today because it was cloudy around Mt. Fuji. Another reason to return.


Our next point of interest was the Enoshima-Daishi Temple.

Temple Roof

Temple Altar

Stained Glass Window

Here, Dina returned a fortune she collected earlier this year. Fortunes must be returned to the Temple where they are collected before the end of the year. Another reason Dina suggested Enoshima for our adventure today!


Within the temple gardens were two statues of Goma, the God of Fire.


We had our temple books stamped and continued on our way. Past another shrine with a built in selfie spot. Too bad I don’t have an Apple Watch to click my picture!




On we went. This time down the stairs. It was while we were descending, Dina mentioned we had to walk back up all these stairs!! Wait, what!?!

Fortunately, there was a nice view even without Mt. Fuji.


We could have continued walking along the cliffs and down to the sea caves and tidal pools. We didn’t have enough time today for too much exploring. Another reason for Dave and I to return.

We began climbing back up!


Finally, at the top we stopped for a snack. “Octopus Cracker” You will have to eat one when you visit. It’s a cracker made out of Octopus. Seriously.

Can you see the eyes and tentacles?


We continued our walk back to the train station. We stopped for one more snack. I picked ice cream with donuts. Yummmm! Much better than the octopus cracker…


A very fun and chilly day exploring another beautiful area of Japan. I am excited to go back and see the areas we didn’t have time for and the illuminations!!

Roppongi Hills Illuminations

We packed this past weekend in Tokyo with so many fun things. I need to rewind to Friday night in order to share our experiences in The Roppongi Hills area of Tokyo.


It took about 20 minutes with walking and one train stop from the New Sanno Hotel.


My research informed me there were illuminations on the streets and the park.  After we checked into the New Sanno, we headed out for illumination viewing and dinner.

Coming out of the station, we had a great view of the Tokyo Tower and found this amazing Christmas spider. Haha


Right across from the spider was a very illuminated Christmas tree.



The special thing about the lights on the tree and throughout the garden was they continued to change colors. It was magical.

The gold heart looks like it is glowing from above. When we got closer, we realized it was just reflecting the light. At the heart, we took a picture for a Japanese family and they offered to take ours. While the daughter was taking our picture with my phone, the father stood behind her taking pictures of her taking our picture with his camera. Too, funny.


The street illuminations were lovely! So blue!



And in the other direction, there was another great view of Tokyo Tower. 

There was a Police crossing guard to help manage traffic & tourist.


We walked to the end of the street and then worked our way to finding food. We discovered a little place that had a grill, bar and beer. Winner, winner! The chef used straw on the grill to give the meat a flame fired taste!

Building the base of fire with straw

Straw starts smoking

Start of fire

Now that’s a fire!

Seriously, that’s a fire!!

I ordered tempura blue laver (fried seaweed). It was delicious.


I also ordered a new favorite of mine. It is a bowl of rice with slightly seared tuna and a raw egg on top. The bowl it is served in is very hot. When set before you, stir it quickly to mix in the egg. The heat causes it to “cook”. Trust me, you don’t have a raw egg in the bowl! It’s delicious.


Dave ordered a sesame chicken dish and a straw fired chicken dish.


The meal really good. I would love to take you when you visit. But, I have no idea where it was exactly. We were some what down a back alley in Roppongi. Not to worry, if we don’t find this place exactly, we will find something just as good if not better!

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