Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: New Sanno

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!

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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!

Tokyo Take One

After a much need night of sleep after making the long trip to Japan, Cindy and I were out the door early. We caught the 9:03am train to Tokyo Wednesday morning. Our first mission was to walk the Meguro Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage. Before we left, I starred the 6 temples and shrines in Google Maps.

The entire walk took us about 2.5 hours. We had a couple of detours at the Daiso and Family Mart. Here are pictures of the first three temples. Cindy collected two Gods at the third temple. We also started her off with a temple book to document each temple / shrine visit.

The fourth temple is one of my favorite in Tokyo. There are so many statues.

Soon we were crossing the Meguro River and on our way to the last two temples. We found all seven Gods! Extra luck for us this year.

As we were walking, we had a few ume (plum) blossom sightings.

After our Lucky Gods adventure, we were ready for lunch. Nothing sounded more perfect on an overcast damp winter day than ramen. It hit the spot!

After lunch we worked our way to Shibuya Crossing. We saw the Hachiko Memorial and the Shibuya scramble. We decided to check it out from the second floor of Starbucks!

Dave made us reservations at the New Sanno for the night. After exploring and shopping through Shibuya, we decided to go check into the hotel and drop our stuff. After a short reprieve, we hit the streets for more adventures! We hopped the train and headed to Harajuku. The first place I needed to take my sister in law from Chicago was Garrett’s! We picked up a few samples of yummy goodness before heading to Hedgehog Harry’s, the hedgehog cafe in Harajuku.

Once I was able to get past my aversion to rodents, we enjoyed our time. We paid for 30 minutes and a snack to feed the hedgehogs. The hedgehogs were cute and sleepy.

When they finished their snacks and feel soundly asleep, we decided to make our exit. It was a fun and unique experience. We can now say we have been to the first hedgehog cafe in the world. Ha!

After visiting the hedgehogs, we stopped for a burger at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant. The best part was sharing the experience of Japanese burger wrapper with Cindy!

After wandering around Harajuku a little more, we decided to work our way to Roppongi for one final experience. We went to Tokyo City View. It is located in the 52nd floor of the Mori Art Museum building. The night time view of the city was spectacular. Tokyo Tower is the bright building on the right. Tokyo Skytree is the faint very tall building in the background on the left.

I have never seen so many lights! This will definitely be on Julia’s nighttime Tokyo tour.

We were returning back to the room after 9 pm. We had a long day packed full of fun. Tomorrow we have even more planned to see in the city! But now, I must sleep!

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!

Make it Happy

Saturday afternoon Dave and I walked around the area of Tokyo near the New Sanno Hotel. The New Sanno Hotel is on the southwest side of Tokyo. It is located near Ebisu and Roppongi Hills. Both areas have Christmas Markets I wanted to visit.

We went to Ebisu first and ate lunch at the Sapporo Beer Station.

Both the beer and my sandwich were delicious.

After lunch, we walked around the Christmas Market in the plaza. It was pretty small, but cute!

I loved the “Make it Happy” theme!

The tree and chandelier in the plaza were impressive!!

The chandelier is the feature of the Baccarat Eternal Light illumination. I can only imagine how beautiful it would look at night. The chandelier has 8,472 pieces of crystal!

After visiting Ebisu Garden Place, we hopped on the train and went two stops to Roppongi Hills. On the upper level was the German themed Christmas Market. It was a little bigger than the Ebisu Market and much more crowded! There were lines just to enter the stores!

On the lower level was a British Invasion Festival. Talk about a cultural afternoon! Germany and Britain while walking around Japan!

My favorite was the IPA craft beer option. Even if it was a Japanese sized pour!

We walked around the garden to enjoy the last of the fall foliage.

Potato chip trees!

The highlight of our day was seeing different pet owners posing their puppies and rabbits for photos. Kawaii!! They brought us happy thoughts of Hannah B.

It was such a nice afternoon, we decided to walk back to the New Sanno and get ready for the holiday party.

Tiger Gyoza

Dave and I are spending the weekend in Tokyo at the New Sanno Hotel. The SRF Holiday Party is on Saturday night. I was hoping to spend Friday night enjoying illuminations in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the rain spoiled our plans. Instead, we decided to grab dinner near the hotel. We went to Tiger Gyoza.

I have heard many great reviews of the restaurant. Factoring in the rain and the proximity of the restaurant to the hotel, it made perfect sense.

We ordered the coriander (cilantro) Gyoza and fried chicken.

The Gyoza was covered with delicious fresh cilantro and a cilantro pesto. Although it was delicious, it could have been better if it was pan seared after boiling. The Gyoza was only boiled and that made it a little too mushy. I’m not sure if that was normal or it might have just been the type we ordered.

As we walked back to the New Sanno, we walked past a lot of Ginkgo Trees.

On the drive up, Dave commented that the fallen Gingko leaves looked like potato chips. He’s so right!! I couldn’t stop laughing! (And yes, we actually drove the Hooptie to Tokyo!) The scariest part was fitting into the tiny parking spot in the basement of the hotel.

I was also thought about the last time I stayed at the hotel. It was when the Cummings were visiting and we also had a rainy day. Delaney was not happy! What is it with the New Sanno and rain? I’m hoping it clears tomorrow so I can drag Dave to a couple Christmas Markets!

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

Japanese Hotel

Thursday evening, Dave spontaneously suggested we take time to sightsee in Tokyo for the long weekend. The New Sanno was booked, of course, so I made us reservations for a room at the APA Hotel in Asakusa. Asakusa is on the east side of Tokyo. We have not really explored this area yet. We are the blue dot in the photo. 


I used several of the local Facebook pages to select the hotel. It came with good recommendations and the suggestion to bring your own pillows. Haha. Seriously, I wish we would have listened! They are flat! We were provided robes set with crane origami. 


The room is tiny and a great deal. About $85 a night! Besides a bed, window and full bath, it has two pairs of slippers for each of us, a fridge, a place to hang stuff, steam pot, humidifier and a TV. 

Check out all 118 square feet. 

Perfect fit!?! 


The only place for our carry on sized suitcase was in front of the door. Putting the suitcase in front of the door is a bit of a hazard. We therefore had a serious conversation about egress. Dave promised to get us both out in the event of an emergency. Safety is paramount. 

A place to hang stuff. 

Bed. Window. TV. 


The bathroom is adorable. The sink and shower faucet are controlled by the same spot! 


The toiletries were fully stocked. 


Ironically, the only oversized item is the soap, conditioner and shampoo! 


Honestly, it’s part of the Japanese experience. And it’s only for two nights. Tomorrow, I plan on taking Dave to at least seven temples (another Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage) and possibly another two to see Ume Blossoms. In the afternoon, perhaps we can make it to the Tokyo Skytree. My tourist list is long as always! 

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!

Japanese Hair Dryer

As a space saving and savvy traveler, I don’t pack my hair dryer. If I’ve stayed at your house, you know I always ask to borrow yours when I visit.

My personal hair dryer is huge and powerful. It has a diffuser attachment to help tame the frizziness of my crazy curly hair. It usually takes about 6 minutes to dry my hair.

When staying at hotels, typically, the in room hair dryer is good enough to get the job accomplished. This was not the case at the New Sanno. The hair dryer was a circa 1970s model and had less force than a summer breeze.

The hose!

It took about 20 minutes to dry my hair each morning. This falls closely in step with my assessment that it takes about 3 times longer to do things in Japan. I can also draw a parallel between the politeness of the Japanese and this hair dryer. It was as if the hair dryer was being polite and didn’t blow too much air on the user.

Considering this is the opposite of my hair dryer, low power and no diffuser, I assume it is meant for people with straight hair. Ahhh. Right. 97% of the Japanese population has straight hair!

A quick Google search of the “Classic 2000” wall mounted hair dryer revealed it is still in production. It can be purchase for $245.00. Seriously!?!


Fortunately, I was planning on straightening my hair for the Christmas party and brought along my new (free) straightener. I’m so glad I didn’t have to try and dry it curly with this dryer. It would have been a frizzy mess!

I took a quick video to show the absurdity.

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