Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Japan Page 1 of 52

Milos to Santorini

This morning we said goodbye to the island of Milos. As they say, all good things come to an end. I truly enjoyed the time we spent on Milos and Kimolos. Both islands are so beautiful and quaint. They are an absolute treasure.

We had one final breakfast at the hotel. I made a wiser choice this morning and opted for a hot ham and cheese sandwich. It was exactly as advertised. Plus, fresh fruit. I will miss my breakfast friend, neco.

Here is a screen shot of our journey to Santorini. We are going to Santorini via ferry with a stop at Ios.

The Greek ferry system is impressive. They have the embarking and debarking of passengers down to a science. I can honestly compare it to the Japanese and their train efficiency. The ferry will leave on time and you need to be ready to move as required. This ferry was a SeaJet. It was larger than the one from Athens to Milos and we had assigned seats. Luggage was stored in the lower area. It was organized chaos as passengers placed their luggage and then went upstairs to find their seats.

The view of the islands along the way was so beautiful and entertaining. Our ferry left at 12:20. Mom and I enjoyed lunch onboard. She asked the staff for vegetarian options. They encouraged her to buy both the ring with cheese, peppers and olives and the spinach and cheese – spanakopita. Both were delicious. We shared them plus a beer each.

Our first stop was Ios. I now have a place I need to return and visit. It looked beautiful and quaint. The ferries have forward and aft thrusters which allow them to turn “on a dime”. Never have I seen a ship pull into port and create such beautiful churn. I know I’ve said this before. The water is so blue and beautiful. More proof here in the pictures.

After Ios, we had another 30ish minutes on the ferry to Santorini. We made our way to our luggage once we were able. Being upfront to watch the doors drop and the passengers disembark was a sight! The ferry was still moving forward when the doors were dropping.

Finally the ferry turned and we had our first glimpse of the Athinios Port. I’m not sure what I was expecting… but, it wasn’t a giant rock face. Plus all the people coming and going in every direction. Wow! Our tour has arranged our logistics. Our driver was there waiting for us on time and with a smile.

The drive from Port Athinios to our hotel in Fira should take about 20 minutes it’s about 5 miles. It took us over an hour! The traffic was so terrible getting out of the port and then we had to drive up the cliff on a very windy and narrow road. Fortunately, we had an expert driver.

Our hotel is in Fira and it is amazing. It is built into the side of the mountain. We still haven’t figured out the room layout. But, we know how to find ours!

We got settled and had a glass of wine by the pool as we discussed our evening plans. We decided to talk a walk, meander around town and find dinner. We did all of that AND enjoyed a dinner sunset.

I also met my first Santorini neco. He was so cute.

We picked a perfect spot for dinner. Vanilla was the name of the restaurant. We were in the shade of the setting sun and had a view of the sunset. My mom was debating between the fish and chips and the grilled sun beam fresh catch of the day. She opted for the fresh catch. I ordered the bang bang shrimp and fries. And we split a Greek salad. As we were waiting for our food to arrive, somehow the conversation led to them serving her a whole fish. I asked her if it said filet or fish. She said fish. Hmmmm… I said, I think they are going to bring you a whole fish. Sure enough!

Our waiter asked if he could open it for her. Yes, please!

Here is a video of him prepping the fish. Clearly, he’s an expert.

Video of our waiter opening the fish

We enjoyed dinner as we watched the sunset. We truly had another amazing day enjoying all that Greece has to offer. Tomorrow we set off for another hike.

As always, thank you for reading!

Hiking Kimolos Island

We started our day with a 6:30 taxi ride to the Pollina Marina to catch the 7:15 ferry to the island of Kimolos. Once we arrived we were hiking by 8:00am.

The first part of the 9.5 mile hike was around the fishing village of Goupa. Goupa is an old traditional fishing village. The old sea caves / cliffs have been converted into garages. In many places the waves were right up against the doors. The views were stunning in the morning sun. It truly feels like you’re walking through a time capsule. There are no vendors, stores, cafes or anything catering to tourists.

The trail did get a little tricky to follow. Fortunately, someone got tired of people coming into their yard and painted the way!

We continued along the water until it was time to start the climb! Whew! Was it ever a dusty climb!

A couple facts about the island of Kimolos. In the 2021 census, there were 810 residents. Only about 600 stay during non tourist season. Also, there are 80 churches and chapels on the island. We didn’t have time to see them all… but here are a few.

A few fun pictures and cats from the hike.

The goal of this part of the hike was to see Skiadi. Skiadi is a natural rock monument that resembles a giant mushroom. It is location high in the hills means there’s often strong winds, and the softer rock at the base erodes quicker than the harder rock above. Due to its size and shape, it’s catalogued in the Atlas of Geological Monuments of the Aegean. Without further delay I share with you Skiadi.


We were a slightly underwhelmed. But made up for it by taking silly pictures. We sat in shade and ate our snacks before heading back down. The little lizard wanted to be friends.

The views of the sea were breathtaking.

If you decide to take this hike. Do the first part and have someone drive you up to the trail for Skiadi. You can skip the climb and it would be about 1.5 hour round trip. You won’t miss much….

Nonetheless, we had fun. We walked through the heart of town and enjoyed ice cream. And then finally the finish line beer! Well earned!

We boarded the 4:30 ferry back to Milos. We enjoyed dinner at a spot recommended by our driver Yiannis. It was delicious. Snapper and Grouper.

A few last shots of the marina. Check out the ink draining from the octopus!!

Yiannis picked us up and asked if we had time to stop at Sarakiniko Beach. Sure! Wow! Talk about a lunar landscape. According to Wikipedia, this is the most photographed beach in the Aegean Sea. Definitely not hard to see why!

Thanks for reading. We had a full day! Tomorrow we take a break from hiking and go sailing!

Yin & Yang

According to Ancient Chinese Philosophy, Yin and Yang is a concept of dualism. It describes how two very different things can be complementary to one another. I realized today that my Yin & Yang are Palm trees and Aspen trees. Neither can be found in the same place and both are in places I want to be! Also, when I’m around one, I’m super happy and can get really excited to talk about seeing the other. We had one last hike in Park City today. I knew I just wanted to Forest Bathe or as I learned in Japan, “Shinrin-Yoku”, in an Aspen Grove. That meant we went back up the Ontario Trail (longer side) of the Bald Mountain. As we shinrin-yoku, I was in hiking nirvana.

At the top, we snagged a selfie #favoritehikingpartner and stayed a minute in the best chairs in Deer Valley. Just enjoyed a chance to look out at the future together.

While we were hiking, I also sorted out why open chair lifts stress me out. I grew up loving the thrill of the first drop of a roller coaster. And chair lifts seem to trigger that same reaction…. Oh, crap! I’m gonna drop and I don’t have a harness! But they don’t drop fast. Nonetheless, I grab tight to the closest person… sorry, Dave! Thanks for hanging on to me!

View from the first drop

One more Aspen picture to close this out…

Peace, love and trees!

Hiking, Science & Love

We started out our day with a hike up Bald Mountain along the Ontario Trail. I researched this trail before leaving home and knew it would be a good one. If you enjoy hiking or trail running, check out the app AllTrails. It lets you search for trails near year or in a specific area. It also has a GPS feature so you can “see” your location on the trail in real-time. The app also gives you information about the trail you want to hike – distance, elevation and difficulty level. Anyways, we hike the trail up the mountain and it was a beautiful alpine hike. It was about 3 miles up the mountain and through several Aspen Groves.

At the start of the trail
A third of the way up – notice the orange lichen

Did you know Aspen Groves are one organism? Yep, they grow by cloning. All the trees shared the same root system and send up shoots to grow new trees. The Pando – The Trembling Giant is a grove of quaking Aspen in south central Utah and considered to be the largest single organism. #sciencefacts

A little over halfway up
The last one before the top

Another fun science thing to see on this hike was the lichens. Lichens on the rocks are a sign of good air quality. When hiking, we liken to see lichen! #sciencejokes

Green Lichens

The other highlight of the hike was the numerous wildflowers! They were everywhere! I took a lot of pictures and was able to use my plant id app “PictureThis” to identify them all. Another great app. You simply snap a picture and look it up later, or if you have the time you can identify the plan immediately. The app then saves the plant to your virtual garden collection. Check out all the flowers we saw! #wildflowergeek

Wild Geranium
Richardson’s Cranesbill Geranium
Silky Lupine
Sticky Geranium with a bee
Pacific Ninebark
Giant Red Indian Paintbrush
Wasatch Beardtongue
Purple Coneflower
Colorado Blue Columbine
Common Pacific Pea
NettleLeaf Giant Hyssop
Sticky Cinquefoil
Twolobe Larkspur
Beach Pea
Woods’ Rose

As we got closer to the top, the weather started to change. Clouds were rolling in and raindrops started falling.

My Love in the Alpine wildflower field

The views from the top were worth every step!

Lots of mountains and lichen on the rocks!
Hiking ❤️
WabiSabiSole at the top of Bald Mountain
Geological marker at the top of Bald Mountain
What a view!

By this point we were chilly and wet from the drizzle. We made a smart decision to take the ski lift down the mountain. Save our knees and enjoy the view!

Going down…
Relaxing and enjoying the view

After our hike we had lunch and relaxed before going into park city for dinner. We started with happy hour at Wasatch Brewery. I enjoyed the Juicy IPA and Dave had the Chasing Tail Pale Ale. Both delicious. I have to admit, we’ve been disappointed with the Brewery swag. Story on the street is that orders aren’t being filled because COVID. Maybe next time…

We enjoyed a sushi dinner at Yuki Yama. It was good. The sashimi appetizer and the Japanese wagyu beef bruschetta were excellent. The rolls were alright.

Japanese Wagyu Beef Bruschetta
The presentation was better than the taste…

We returned back to the room after turn down service. Water, chocolates, tomorrow’s weather forecast and slippers. So, cute.

GooooooD NiiiiiiiiGHTTTTTTTT!

Sunset for our balcony….

I totally get the love of Park City. Until tomorrow-


To say the last week has been a whirlwind is an understatement. We found out Saturday morning (10/27) Dave would need to report to his next command much sooner than expected. We were expecting to leave at the end of January. However, due to unforeseen circumstances we will be leaving Japan at the end of this month. Since finding out the news, we have cancelled events (including my Mom’s visit – I’m really bummed!), arranged the move and begun to say the many goodbyes.

The first goodbye and actually see you soon, was to our friends Lisa and Dave who were visiting. Our last full day together, before they went on their solo trip, was to Yokohama on Wednesday 10/24. On our way we made a brief stop to visit the Great Buddha of Kamakura and visit the beach.

Our tour around Yokohama included a stop at the Marina and a trip to the top floor of Landmark Tower.

After a day of sightseeing, we were able to meet up with Dave for drinks and then dinner at Sushi-Ro. The four of us made a serious stack of plates and beer glasses!

I took this picture Thursday morning at the train station before they left for Hiroshima and Kyoto.

They returned on Halloween. We spent the evening passing out over 300 pieces of candy. Believe it or not, we actually ran out of candy within the first hour of trick or treat time! Lisa and Dave repacked their bags and I took them to the airport Thursday 11/1.

It was a blast to have them visit and share Japan. It makes my heart happy to know we will only be an hour away very soon!

So, I guess the good news is – we will be back in Chicago, America at the end of the month. I anticipate the next two weeks will continue to be a whirlwind as we pack up our two shipments. Dave and I rescheduled our December trip to Thailand. We are giving ourselves a week of R&R after our household goods are shipped.

I appreciate you reading and following along with our journey and adventures around Japan. I’ve loved sharing Japan with you. I think my exploring Japan days are coming to a screeching halt as we prepare to move. Wabi-Sabi Sole has been a pleasurable and therapeutic part of my time in Japan. I’m grateful for so many friends and family who have shared an interest in our experiences. Again, thank you for reading.

Two Days in Tokyo

Lisa, Dave, and I packed an overnight night bag and headed to Tokyo on Monday. I made us reservations at the New Sanno so we could enjoy two full days in Tokyo. Our first stop was in Ebisu at Pizzeria da Michele.

This restaurant is definitely one of my favorites in Tokyo and I’m happy to share it with friends who are visiting and friends who live in Japan. My patronage to the restaurant has not gone unnoticed. In fact, our waitress recognized me! I’m sure they appreciate the stream of customers I bring in from all around the world!

After lunch we worked our way along the Yamanote Line. Our first stop was at the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. Unfortunately, I was a little too confident in my tour guide ability. Turns out, the Tokyo Metropolitan Building is closed on the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month. I gave my sincerest apologies and we continued on to Harajuku.

Followed by several crossings of the Shibuya scramble.

While in Shibuya, we stopped at KIRIN City for a beverage and appetizers. I have passed this KIRIN location so many times. I was happy to finally have the opportunity to stop.

After shopping through the seven-story Tokyu Hands, we worked our way over to Roppongi. Here we were able to visit the Tokyo City View. I was relieved the building was open. We were able to enjoy a beautiful night view of the city.

By this point, we were all feeling a little tired and ready to head back to the New Sanno. Dinner was delicious American cuisine from the bar at the New Sanno. Sometimes it’s good to get a little taste of home. As we were eating, we tried to count how many trains we caught throughout the day. It was an impossible task! Needless to say, we train hopped around the west side of the city! It was a packed day!

Tuesday morning we agreed to meet at 7:30 in the lobby of the hotel. We wanted to visit Senso-ji Shrine and Kappabashi (kitchen Town). It would take about an hour to get there from the New Sanno. In hindsight, we probably should have waited until 8:00 or 8:30. We ended up being right in the middle of rush hour. The trains were packed beyond imagination or comfort. At several stations, train pushers were helping people get on the trains. Dave took a selfie of us all jammed together.

As we got further out from city center, the trains were significantly less crowded. To our surprise, when we came out of the station near the Shrine, it had started raining! Dave bought us all umbrellas and off we went!

Many of the stores had not opened yet. It was fun to see the different murals painted on the doors as we walked through the shopping area.

We walked around Kappabashi until we were just too chilly and decided ramen would make the perfect lunch. Lisa picked Ippudo ramen. It was warm and tasty.

We began our journey home with a stop at Tokyo Station. I wanted to share with them the beautiful building and this gave us a chance to transfer their JR rail vouchers into train passes.

The JR rail pass allows visitors with a 90 visa to ride the Shinkansen for free! It is a good investment if you’re planning to make more than one trip on the Shinkansen. Lisa and Dave are spending a week traveling around Japan. With the JR rail pass, their train travel is paid for already! I’m incredibly jealous. Dave and I have a SOFA visa stamped in our passport allowing us to stay in Japan longer than 90 days and making us ineligible for the rail pass. I’ll look forward to hearing all about their trip when they return! But, first I’ll tell you about our Wednesday in Yokohama- tomorrow. ?

Hakone Highlights

Before arriving in Japan, Lisa asked if a trip Hakone was worth it and possible. Taking the trip was definitely possible. Katie and I visited Hakone last November for fall foliage. As to if the day long trip was worth it, well, it definitely would be on a clear day because we could have a great view of Mt. Fuji. Viewing the weather forecast, we decided Sunday would be a great day to visit and it would give Dave a chance to join us. (He hasn’t visited Hakone either and it was on his list.) We left the house at 6:45 to begin our trip to Odawara. We arrived at 8:15 and we were first in line at the ticket office when they opened at 8:30.on the train from Zushi to Odawara, I gave Dave a lesson in how to properly open an onigiri.

We hopped on the first train of the day from Odawara to Hakone. This was already our fourth train of the day!

We followed the same counter-clockwise route around the Hakone area Katie and I did a year ago. The second train of the trip around Hakone was the incline railway.

The third section of the trip was the Ropeway. We couldn’t have asked for a better day! The sky was perfectly clear.

As we crested the top, we were able to see Mt. Fuji. The entire car exclaimed with joy!

We stopped for a lengthy break after the first Ropeway ride. We enjoyed views of Mt. Fuji, the sulfur mines, and lunch snacks (fried potatoes and bacon).

We continued along the Ropeway enjoying more beautiful views.

The final leg of the journey was a boat ride across Lake Ashi. It was breathtaking.

After docking in Hakone, we walked over to the Hakone Shrine.

Before boarding the bus back to the train, we stopped for a couple final pictures with Mt. Fuji. We couldn’t get over how clear it was and perfect temperature.

We worked our way back home on the trains. Along the way, we stopped in Ofuna for sushi conveyor dinner. This restaurant had the cute Shinkansen delivery method. We had a couple impressive stacks of plates by the end of dinner!

It was a fantastic day. We were so lucky to have beautiful weather. More importantly, we are so happy to have wonderful friends visiting. We love sharing Japan adventures.

Lisa and Dave

Our friends, Lisa and Dave, arrived late Friday night from Chicago. We decided to start with a low key day to help them walk off their jet lag. We spent Saturday in Kamakura – shopping and visiting the Hachiman-gu Shrine. First things first, we stopped at Barchie’s for lunch.

It was a beautiful afternoon. The weather is finally starting to feel like Autumn. It was a lovely day for a “white wedding.” We saw this wedding party as we walked toward Hachiman-gu Shrine.

I gave Lisa and Dave a quick tutorial on the appropriate way to cleanse before visiting a Shrine or Temple.

Can you spot the Americans?

View from the top of the Shrine.

After visiting the Shrine, I bought a bag of Ginko nuts for us to share. They have a very peculiar taste and texture. They are served warmed and salted. Then the shell of the nuts is cracked. The inside nut is actually chewy. They require a little getting used to, but I think delicious in the end.

We stopped for a few photos at the entrance of the Shrine.

We had fun catching up and sharing one of our favorite places in Japan. The sunny afternoon, walk, and good night sleep was hopefully enough to reset their circadian rhythm. We have big plans for the rest of their visit! Adventures await!

Family Day

On Monday, 10/15, I had the wonderful opportunity to greet my Uncle and Aunts and their friend during the Yokohama port visit of their cruise. Their ship docked at Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama. I took an early train up to meet them. Even on a cloudy day, it wasn’t hard to spot the ship!

After joining up, we set out for a one-day Julia Tour of Tokyo. Here is a picture of me with my Aunt Merrily, Aunt Eileen, and Uncle Jay. Throughout the day, we attempted to recall the last time we saw each other. It’s been at least 20 years since I saw my Aunt Merrily and probably closer to 30 since I saw my Uncle Jay and Aunt Eileen. Regardless of the time, it didn’t take long to quickly fall into step and reminisce of days past.

The cute blue elephants at the Yokohama pier were too cute to pass up a picture opportunity. Pictured here are my Aunts and Uncle and their friend, Nan, who was cruising with them.

Our first stop in Tokyo was the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. It provides a great birds eye view of Tokyo. The best part, it’s free! I joked that by taking them to the top of the building, I could show them ALL of Tokyo!

On one of our numerous train rides, Aunt Merrily asked me to take a picture of the Tokyo Subway map. It looks like a big bowl of colorful ramen.

After our trip to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, we took a break for lunch. A delicious bowl of ramen filled our bellies and fueled us for the rest of the afternoon. I know I’ve mentioned how much I love Japanese eggs. The ones in ramen are smoked. Oishi desu!

After lunch, we headed to Harajuku. We walked and shopped our way down Takeshita Street. It’s one of my favorites in Tokyo. As long as it’s not too crowded!!

During our shopping, we stopped for a break. We thought we were just getting flavored tea. To our surprise, it had little balls of tapioca at the bottom. Needless to say, the first sip was quite a surprise. We all had different strategies for enjoying the drink. It provided a humorous highlight to our tour. Sometimes you just don’t know. Now that I do, I might not stop there again.

After a little more shopping, we took the train one stop to Shibuya. First stop in Shibuya is always at the Hachiko Statue. Hachiko is remembered for his loyalty. He walked everyday with his person to Shibuya Station. One day his person never came back. He had died of a heart attack. Hachiko lived the rest of his life at Shibuya Station waiting for his person to return.

No trip to Tokyo is complete without walking through Shibuya Crossing several times.

We stopped for an afternoon coffee at Starbucks for a chance to watch the scramble. We were lucky to see an almost poo brown bus pass through.

By this point, it was time to return my family to the cruise ship. One last train ride!

It wasn’t without a little bit of humor at the end. Nan’s train card didn’t have sufficient funds to exit. Unfortunately, I had already exited. She had to request the assistance of the station master. We were laughing so hard when he popped out of the wall!!

It was a a great day filled with laughs and adventure. It was great to share one of my favorite cities with my family. Simultaneously, it was really fun to reconnect and reminisce. Hearing stories of their travels and retelling stories about my grandparents warmed my heart. It was such a grand and special day. I couldn’t have asked for more – well, maybe a little bit more time together!

Zushi Beach

We had a wonderful opportunity on Saturday to share Zushi with our friend Ashley. Ashley was our favorite bartender in Great Lakes. We frequented the base bar enough to develop a nice friendship. She is in Japan for her yearly trip to visit her family. Zushi Beach had their Zushi Candle Festival on Saturday. Ashley joined us to view the candles and for dinner.

We had a good laugh at the candle arrangements. It took us a minute to figure out which way to view the display. Once Dave convinced us we were looking at it upside down… We flipped around and laughed – at ourselves and the Japanese. The Japanese had jokes. They wrote, “We’ve moved Fuji” with the candles. It made us laugh. For a couple reasons. One, they made a candle outline of Mt. Fuji. Two, it was cloudy so we couldn’t see Mt. Fuji from the beach. It was like a Japanese magic trick/joke. Haha.

The candles and the blue lights on the water were so pretty.

We had fun playing with the settings on Ashley’s iPhone 8. Can you see our shadows on the water? Yet again, I’m reminded how much I’m ready/excited to upgrade my phone when we move back.

Before getting on the train, we stopped at our favorite chu-hai stand in Zushi. The tree next to the stand had been wrapped with sweaters? Not really sure the purpose. Maybe the locals thought it was chilly. Regardless, it was definitely kawaii!

It was so fun to see Ashley. Having the opportunity to see friends when we are so far away helps fill our happiness buckets.

Ashley and I have plans for a day in Tokyo on Tuesday. I can’t wait to enjoy my favorite city with a “local.” We also discussed where to find our favorite Japanese foods in Chicago. So many things to look forward to… in the meantime, I’ll work on eating as much maguro (tuna) as possible.

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