Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Lucky

Tokyo Take Two

Thursday morning we woke up to a wintery mix. We took our time getting organized hoping the weather would break. The weather was still messy by the time we finished breakfast and checked out of our room. Oh, well. That’s one of my rules. “Don’t let the weather stop you.” Instead, we stopped at the closest Family Mart and invested in lightweight umbrellas. Perhaps, the best purchase of the day!

On our agenda today was exploring Asakusa. Asakusa is located on the NE side of Tokyo. We were in the SW corner. It took us about 40 minutes on the train to transit over.

Our first stop was to visit the Sensō-ji Temple. Sensō-ji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo. It is very significant and attracts 30 million visitors every year. Cindy and I accounted for two of those visitors today.

The Temple is huge. I was especially excited because I haven’t been to this temple in over a year. Last time Dave and I visited was during Tokyo marathon weekend. At that time, the pagoda was undergoing renovations. I was able to see the pagoda for the first time today!

The snow, the pagoda, and the temple made for a magical experience. Check out all the people!


I’m so glad we made the trip over to see the Temple. It truly is a magnificent structure and the gardens are amazing even in the rain/ snow.

Cindy was able to have another stamp added to her book at the Senso-ji Temple and also at the Asakusa Shrine.

Since we were in the area, I wanted to take Cindy to see another of my favorite Shrines. The Imoda Shrine or Lucky Cat Shrine. It’s so cute and the coupled cats are said to bring good luck and love to marriages. Who doesn’t need a little extra of either?

My favorite thing to discover at certain Shrines is the “May Peace Prevail On Earth” signs. The sign coupled with the serenity of the Shrine and the beauty of gardens truly makes my heart happy. I can’t help but believe that every one of the wishes tied on the prayer wall are wishes of peace, goodness, and well being.

By this point in the day, we were starting to get chilly and wet from the winter mix. We worked our way back to the shopping area around Asakusa. We shopped for a few items and then worked our way to Shibuya. We had one shopping spot to visit before heading home. My favorite. Tokyu Hands.

The only thing holding us back while shopping was the reminder we still had to get back home with all of our purchases!

Today, without intention, I treated Cindy to a true wabi-sabi experience. The weather was definitely imperfect, but the opportunity to see the Temple and pagoda in a little bit of snow was pretty fun. Of the 30 million visitors, how many had a chance to experience it in snow? She was such a trooper. I teased her at one point and said I was glad she was my sister in law from Chicago – otherwise, we might not have left the hotel! To her, this was a messy winter day at home!

We worked our way home and enjoyed a cold beer and Garrett’s popcorn as an appetizer to the white bean chicken chili Dave made this morning in the crockpot. Ahhhh. After two days in Tokyo, there’s no place like home!

Torinoichi Festival

My friend, Miki, invited me to go with her to the Torinoichi Festival on November 30th. Torinoichi means Festival of the Rooster (2017). The purpose of the festival is to sell good luck charms and the promise of a profitable future. One of the main items to purchase is a Kumade (a wide bamboo rake). Each of these creations are displayed on a bamboo rake. It’s like a diorama of lucky Japanese items. But, instead of a shoebox, a rake is used. There were many vendors selling Kumade.

The Kumade symbolizes bringing in a huge profit like a rake brings in leaves. There were so many options for what specific lucky charm you wanted on your Kumade. I took a couple close up pictures to help you see the details. Lots of animals, sake barrels, rice clusters, coins, Seven Lucky Gods, dogs (2018 is the year of the dog), welcoming cats, and daruma dolls.

As we walked around the festival when someone purchased a Kumade, it was blessed. Look closely at the Kumade, you can see it is indeed a rake.


Another lucky purchase.


The festival is held three times in November and the vendors sell their Kumade late into the evening. We went early before it was too crowded!

The prices of the Kumade are not listed. You must ask the seller for the price. Miki did a little Google research for me. Here is the information she supplied about the prices.

From Miki:

Private person ¥1,000-¥3,000 (smallest).

Private industry ¥5,000-¥15,000.

Small-Medium company ¥10,000

Big company ¥30,000-¥200,000

Corporations ¥1,000,000 (Biggest)

The big ones are HUGE!

Here is the interesting part. Each year, new Kumade are purchased and the old ones are returned. The same amount of money is paid for a new Kumade. It is considered bad luck to keep the old Kumade. The old Kumade are returned to the Shrine and placed in huge dumpsters. Out with the old, in with the new!

The Shrine is illuminated with lanterns. The lanterns announce the name of donors. The higher the lantern is placed, the larger the donation. The line going through the lanterns is for making your wish.

As with any festival, there were a lot of food vendors. Such an amazing variety. It was great to have Miki with me to translate and explain items.

Like the fried and salted spaghetti.

Or the smoked and salted fish on a stick.

Some needed no explanation.

So many bananas.

I enjoyed the evening learning more about Japanese culture from Miki. She is such a wonderful person and great friend. I’m lucky to have met her!

All Day Scavenger Hunt

I took the Cummings on a tour around the west area of Tokyo on Monday. Dave called on Sunday and was able to reserve two rooms for us at the New Sanno Hotel. This would enable us to spend the entire day exploring and not having to take the train all the way home. 

The first stop on our scavenger hunt was at The International House of Japan. Or as we quickly named it “The International House of Ja-pancake.” 

Here, Sara was able to deliver a book her father published of his notes and recordings from a conference he attended during the 1960s. Fortunately, one of the receptionist spoke very good English. Sara left the book with the receptionist and she in return gave Sara an email for her father to use to contact the library. Mission complete. 

Our next order of business was to drop off our bags at the hotel. As we walked through Roppongi, we could see Tokyo Tower. 

At the hotel, we registered for our rooms and left our bags with the bellhop. Back to the train station we went! This time our destination was lunch! The Vernal Equinox is a holiday in Japan making it difficult to find a place not too crowded at lunch. Outside of Shinjuku station, we found a cute little back alley filled with different ramen shops. 

It was the perfect spot to fuel our Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage. Lucky us, there were five seats available! 

With our lunch mission complete, we set out on the Shinjuku Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage. Seven temples to find! 

At our first temple, Taiso-ji, we collected Hotei and purchased the boat the Gods would rest upon. Hotei: God of happiness, family, peace and protection from illness and disaster.

The second stop was at the Hozen-ji Temple. Here we collected Jurojin. Jurojin: God of long life and protection from illness.

I knew our next stop was a tricky one to find and I took us down a couple dead end streets before finding the path to the temple. Without too much delay, we arrived at the Itsukushima Temple. Here we collected Benzai-ten. Benzai-ten: Goddess of music, arts, and speech.

Our fourth stop was around the corner. We walked over to the Eifuku-ji Temple. The Eifuku-ji Temple is dedicated to Fukurokuju. Fukurokuji: God of health, happiness, and long life. 

The fifth temple was a bit of a walk and required a little refueling. A short stop at the Family Mart for ice cream and we were on our way! About 15 minutes later we arrived at the Kyo-o-ji Temple. Here we collected Daikoku-ten. Daikoku-ten: God of grain harvest and wealth. Everyone also had a chance to shake the lucky mallet for wealth! 

To reach the sixth temple we took a quick train ride to the Zentoku-ji Temple. This temple is dedicated to Bishamon-ten. Bisamon-ten: God of protection from disaster and evil.

As we were leaving the temple, we realized we needed to pick up the pace in order to ensure we made it to the last temple on time. Everyone stepped it out! I was so proud of everyone! We made it to Ushi Kitano a Shinto Shrine. 

But, guess what – it was the wrong one! Yep, I messed that one up! Gah! It was 1600. Hopefully, the temple we wanted to visit stayed open until 1700. Back to the train we went!! Our final God awaited at the Inari Kio-jinja Shrine. Here we collected Ebisu-jin. Ebisu-jin: God of prosperous business. 

I consider us extra lucky after this pilgrimage- we found all seven plus one additional temple!! 

After completing our pilgrimage, we went to Harajuku for the reward I promised – cotton candy. And not just any cotton candy… a mountain of cotton candy! But first, we needed a family picture at Takeshita Dori! 

This part of the scavenger hunt was pretty easy. The cotton candy was everywhere! 

We enjoyed walking around Harajuku and seeing so much “kawaii!” Next up- finding  Shibuya Crossing and a snapping a picture with Hachiko statue. 

Done and done! Time to eat dinner. Oh, boy… always a bit of a scavenger hunt and with two kids it can be tricky. If James had his pick, we would eat ramen again. While walking around Shibuya we turned the corner and saw Outback Steakhouse. Seriously. Our search was over. The American mothership called us home. 

We all agreed, this was much better than the sea urchin pretzels Delaney picked up earlier in the day! 

This massive burger with blooming onions on top made my scavenger hunt complete. 

The day was quite an adventure. I lost track of how many trains we rode. Apple steps told me we walked over 10 miles. Even after a full day of walking and occasional wrong turns, I’m the lucky one. I was able to spend the day with friends doing what I love – exploring! 

PS. Sara snapped this picture in one of the many train stations. Me, wiping my ever runny nose. Yep, that’s about my normal look! Haha

Asakusa Seven Lucky Gods

After visiting the Tokyo Skytree, we went to the Sensō-ji Temple where we began the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage around Asakusa (pronounced A-sox-sa). The Sensō-ji Temple is one of the largest and most well temples in Tokyo. There were so many tourists!

A selfie at the start of our pilgrimage, the front gate of the temple. It was such a bright and sunny day!

After crossing through the front gate, there is a street with many stores selling every imaginable souvenir. Some of the stores weren’t open yet and so I was able to get a couple pictures of the art painted on the store doors.

The temple is very large and beautiful. 

With this Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage, we were able to collect Temple stamps and small prayer cards that hang from a branch. At Sensō-ji Temple, I purchased the branch with a rooster card (2017 is the year of the rooster) and the card for Daikokuten, the God of commerce and prosperity.

Very close to Sensō-ji Temple was our next stop at the Asakusa Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to Ebisu, the God of wealth and prosperity.

Ebisu is the patron of fisherman and is shown holding a fish on the prayer card.

Our next stop was at the Honryuin Temple where Bisyamonten is honored. Bisyamonten is the God of War. He is pictured with an angry face to defeat evil!

The temple was unique because it had daikon that could be purchased as an offering. According to the temple brochure, “the daikon represents our minds trapped in deep ignorance, emanating poison of anger, but by offering a daikon to Kangi-Ten, that poison will be purged from our body and soul.”

Also, while we were waiting for my temple book to be stamped, one of the monks encouraged us to take dust from a beautiful gold urn and rub it on our palms and all over our bodies to cure any ailments. We rubbed it into our hands and down our legs hoping for a pain free marathon next weekend.

Cleansing water.

The fourth stop was the Imado Shrine or the Lucky Cat Shrine. This one has been on my list of must visit every since we went to the Lucky Cat Temple. The legend of the Imado Shrine was about an old woman who lived in Imado (Asakusa). She was forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. In her sadness, she dreamt of the cat telling her to make its image in clay. She created the clay cats and sold them. They were so popular she soon became very prosperous.

Here we collected the first of two prayer cards for Fukurokuji. Fukurokuji is the God of wisdom, luck, longevity, wealth, and happiness. The Imado Shrine features cats coupled together and visiting this temple is said to bring good fortune to your marriage. Also, if searching for a spouse, this is a good temple to visit and pray.

I purchased one of these cute of course a lucky cat prayer cards! Kawaii!

Look at these watering cans!

The next stop on our pilgrimage was the Ishihama Shrine. Here we collected the card for Jurojin, the God of longevity.

I loved the mixture of the stone and red wooden Tori gates.

After this stop is when my navigation went astray. I marked all of the Temples/Shrines on Google Maps the night before. Unfortunately, I tagged two of the wrong temples. Temples often have the same name. Like saying “First Baptist” or “United Methodist” – there can be more than one in an area. I should have looked at the map I was given at Sensō-ji Temple a little closer. I would have saved us about 1.5 hours of back-tracking.

The good part, we found a delicious conveyor sushi spot to eat lunch. All was not lost!

When we finally arrived back at the Fudodin Temple where we collected the prayer card for Hoteison, the God of good fortune.

If you notice Hotei on the map, you will see this temple was very close to where we just were when we went to the Ishihama Shrine. I added a 1.5-hour detour. Fortunately, we did ride the train and eat lunch for some part of that 1.5 hours.

The Fudodin Temple was small and colorful.

Now we were back on track with two stops remaining. As we were walking towards the Yasaki Inari Shrine, we came upon a vending machine selling beer. Yes! Another new experience! Would we be able to buy a beer? Yes, yes we were! And thanks to my fabulous brother, I had a koozie to keep it cool and my hand warm! Kanpie!

I’m still confused about how this is possibly legal. Regardless, we happily drank our beer and walked to next stop, the Otori Shrine also dedicated to Jurojin. Our second Jurojin – Jurojin is the God of longevity and pictured here with a deer, a symbol of longevity. 

I am not clear why there are two Jurojin on this pilgrimage. There are also two Fukurokuju – we skipped the last one. Here is the Otori Shrine. Small and bright. 

Continuing to the last stop, the Yoshiwara Shrine, we came across a small shrine around the corner from the main Shrine. Both the main and smaller Yoshiwara Shrine are dedicated to Benzaiten, the Goddess of water and music. Check out the artwork!

We continued on to the main Yoshiwara shrine. It was just as embellished!

The main altar. Gotta love the Sake barrels!

The prayer card of Benzaiten.

I took another up close picture of the hanging offering outside the entrance.

And one last selfie at the completion of our journey.

Our branch is now complete with our cute prayer cards for each lucky God.

This is my fourth Seven Lucky Gods. I enjoy them because they take you through parts of an area you wouldn’t normally visit. Plus, I love seeing the different temples/shrines. They are all so unique. Simultaneously, I love the scavenger hunt aspect. Yesterday was the perfect setting for wandering around Asakusa gather luck!

This Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage was a bit longer than the others I have completed. According to Dave’s Fitbit, we walked 13.30 miles on Saturday. (This also included our trip to the Tokyo SkyTree.) None the less, it was a lot of walking and my side excursion only made it longer. By the time we finished, we were ready for a cold beer to celebrate our pilgrimage. Kanpie! 


Have you ever noticed this emoji 🎍? Have you ever used 🎍? 

What does 🎍mean? 

Well, now you can impress all your friends and explain to them what 🎍is. 

The emoji 🎍 is a kadomatsu. Kadomatsu means “gate pine.” It is pronounced ka-do-mā-zoo. Kadomatsu is a traditional New Year Japanese decoration. They are placed in pairs in front of homes and businesses to welcome Toshigami, the god of the New Year. The kadomatsu is considered temporary housing for the spirits. Usually, they placed after Christmas and remain until January 7 (although some sources said the 15th). Traditionally, after they are removed they are burned to appease the spirits and release them. Several of my sources said modern day kadomatsu are made of plastic and reused each year. 

Three large bamboo shoots are placed in the center of the kadomatsu. In keeping with Ikebana traditions, the three bamboo shoots are set at different heights to represent heaven, humanity, and earth. The tallest shoot represents heaven, the middle shoot represents humanity and the shortest shoot represents earth. A pine wreath binds the bamboo. Because pine remains green, it is considered lucky. Further meaning of using bamboo and pine is for longevity and prosperity. The kadomatsu are placed in pairs on either side of the entrance, representing male and female.

Here are the two kadomatsu in front of Dave’s office building. 

After living here for five months, my knowledge of emojis is growing faster than my ability to speak Japanese! 

7 Lucky Gods of Zushi

Another spouse who is very familiar with Japan after living here for six years, offered to take a group of us on the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage in Zushi. Unlike the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage Dave and I did in November, the Zushi Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage is special because it is more traditional with respect it is only available during the first 10 days of the year. The pilgrimage consisted of only 6 temples with a double stamp and God at the 5th temple.

We started our pilgrimage at a temple near Jimmuji station. I put a star ⭐️ on each temple. We went in a counter clockwise direction, visiting the 6 temples.

At the first stop, we purchased a bamboo branch with a small prayer card, two ribbons, a small reflective card and a bell. At each temple, we purchased a small figurine ornament representing each different God to hang from the branch.

The bamboo branch with all 7 Gods

I have them arranged in the order I received them. From left to right –

Fukurokuju, Bentaiten, Daikoku, Ebisu, Bishamonten, Hotei, Jurojin

A close up picture of the God ornaments. So, cute!

2017 – Year of the Rooster. I purchased a cock ornament at the first temple.

I also purchased a board to have stamped at each temple. The finished board with all seven stamps is pictured below.

Our first stop was the Toshoji Temple in Zushi.

This temple is dedicated to Fukurokuju the God of fortune (fuku), happiness (roku) and longevity (ju). The rope in the picture is very significant to the Buddhist. The statue of the God, Fukurokuju, is inside the temple where visitors are not permitted. As an alternative to touching the statue when praying, a person can hold onto the rope. The rope is connected to the statue. Think of the rope as a telephone line to the God. With no international changes or dialing assistance needed.

At the temple I also had my new temple book stamped.

Our second stop was at the Enmei-ji Temple. You will notice the temples are adorned with the same decorations. The flags are prominently displayed to celebrate the new year. This temple is dedicated to the Benzaiten. Benzaiten is the God of music and fine arts.

Another temple stamp.

The third stop as at a temple with only a kanji name. This temple is dedicated to Daikoku is the God of wealth and prosperity.

So much sake!

Our fourth stop was at the Gyokuzoin Temple in Hayama. Again, at this temple the statue of the God Ebisu isn’t available to visitors. The hanging ropes provide direct access for prayers. Ebisu is the god of fishing.

This cherry tree not only has blooms set, a couple of them were already to blooming! A true sign of spring. However, it is only the 5th of January.

Peeking inside the temple

Also while visiting this temple, we were treated to tea. A little snack of green tea and rice crackers for the remainder of our journey.

Our fifth stop at the Senkoin Temple in Hayama included two stamps and two Gods. Here we received Bishamonten and Hotei. Bishamonten is the god of war, treasure and wealth. Hotei is the god of happiness.

And the second.

Our final Temple stop was at Koshoji Temple in Zushi. The final of our seven gods we needed to collect was Jurōjin. Jurōjin is the god of longevity. Perfectly fitting to say a prayer to longevity for the year.

One final picture of our group at the end of our pilgrimage.

Wising for much luck in the new year with a gentle nod to each god for:

Honesty, Fortune, Dignity, Amiability, Longevity, Happiness and Wisdom.

Kanpie, to 2017!

Happy New Year! 

Dave and I had a wonderful time in Phuket, Thailand. I will share more details of our adventures over the next couple of days. First, I thought it important to share happy new year wishes and another Japanese new year tradition. 

These funny looking men are called Dharma dolls. They are a hollow, papier-mâché doll depicting a bearded man and modeled after Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma lived during the 5th/6th century and was the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. They can be purchased at Zen Buddhist Temples. 

The Dharma doll is rich in symbolism and has become a talisman of good luck in the Japanese culture. The phrase “Nanakorobi Yaoki” often accompanies the doll. It translates to mean “seven times down, eight times up”. The bottom of the doll is weighted ensuring the doll will always sit up, symbolizing relentlessly pursuing your wish. Most significantly, the Dharma doll is sold with one eye colored in and one eye blank. The new owner of the doll makes a wish. Once the wish is fullfilled, the second eye is filled in and the wish can be shared and celebrated. The symbolism here is the missing eye helps the owner keep sight of their wish and when their wish is fullfilled, they return sight to the Dharma reaching closer to enlightenment. 

The object on the left of the Dharma dolls is a 2017 year of the rooster Sake barrel. 

On New Years Eve, Dave and I made our wish for 2017 on our respective Dharma dolls. Stay tuned over the next 365 days as we patiently wait for our wishes to be granted. In the meantime, we have Sake to enjoy! Kanpie! 

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