Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: New Year

SRF / JRMC New Year Celebration

The SRF / JRMC New Year celebration was held on Friday, January 12th. The event was held in one of the large “shop” spaces within the SRF / JRMC compound. There was a plethora of food and beverages.

The celebration included a speech given by the Commanding Officer and the presentation of awards.

After the speeches and awards, the traditional ceremony of opening a sake barrel was conducted.

I recorded a short segment of the music.


At the correct moment, the master of the ceremony (his hand is in the left corner of my photo and video) directs the openers to crack the lid.

I did a little research to understand the sake opening ceremony a little better. The ceremony is called “kagami biraki.” Kagami means mirror and biraki means to open. Obviously, no mirrors are used or opened during the ceremony. The lid is broken using a wooden mallet called a kizuchi. Then using a wooden ladle, hishaku, the sake is is poured into masu cups. The masu or sake cup is a square cup made of pine. The pine adds a nice flavor to the sake as you sip.

The reason the ceremony is called “kagami biraki” is because the surface of the sake looks like a mirror when the lid is removed. The ceremony is believed to bring good luck to the organization.

It was a fun afternoon. I mean, what’s not to love? Drinking sake during the work day with my husband in uniform. I wore one of my new Thailand skirts.

And if sake wasn’t your drink of choice, there was plenty of Miller Lite! The pine also added a nice taste to our Miller Lites.

Plus, I had a chance to catch up with a couple of Wubas. Class of ’00 & ’97 represented in Japan!

As always, it was fun to observe another Japanese traditional ceremony. Happy New Year! Wishing you good fortune, friendship, and prosperity. Kanpie!

Hyakunin Isshu

Last week, my English student brought me a bag of rice crackers with the Hyakunin Isshu pictures and poems printed on the labels. She attempted to explain the meaning of the card game to me. However, it had been so long since she played she wasn’t sure how to explain it correctly. In the meantime, she encouraged me to enjoy the crackers with my husband while sipping a beer. I followed her directions, poured us a pint and invited Dina and Brent to join us. The crackers were actually pretty good. Only one of them had a strong fish flavor. The rest were very good.

Today, she brought me a print out with an explanation of the game. According to the information, Hyakunin Isshu is a traditional Japanese playing card game. It is typically played on the Japanese New Year’s holiday. There are 100 cards with 100 different latter parts of poems written on each card. The collection of poems was chosen by a poet named Fujiwara of Teika during the Heian period.

If you look closely, you can see the poem written on the package next to the picture.

To play the game, the cards are arranged neatly on the floor face up. The “referee” reads allow the start of a poem and the players scramble to grab the correct corresponding card with the latter half of the poem. The player who is able to accumulate the most number of cards is the winner. The referee declares the winner after correctly assessing the cards selected by each player.

Maybe once I am fluent in Japanese, I will challenge my Japanese friends to a game. In the meantime, I will enjoy delicious rice crackers with my beer! Kanpie! 

Ikebana New Year Luncheon

Ikebana International celebrated the New Year with a special luncheon in Tokyo. The luncheon was held at the Palace Hotel Tokyo.

The following Ikebana Chapters were represented and brought an arrangement to display:

Tokyo Founding Chapter

Kyoto Chapter

Kobe Chapter

Shinano Chapter

Okinawa Chapter

Sapporo Chapter

Kamakura Chapter (The one I am a member of.)


Nagoya Chapter

Osaka Chapter

Shinano Chapter

Saitama Chapter

Hiroshima Chapter

Besides lunch, the event included three Ikebana demonstrations by renowned Ikebana headmasters. Pictures were not permitted during the demonstrations. You will have to take my word for it, watching them make the arrangements was mesmerizing. Evergreens, bamboo, and plum blossoms were the focus of the three arrangements. In the picture below, the three Ikebana headmasters who made arrangements are in the center. Mr. Akihiro Kasuy is wearing the gray kimono, Mrs. Senko Ikenobo is wearing the yellow kimono, and Mr. Hirooki Ohara is the youngest gentleman in the gray suit.

The arrangement pictured below was completed by Mrs. Senko Ikenobo.

The arrangement pictured below was completed by Mr. Hiroki Ohara who become an Ikebana Headmaster at the age of 6. Yes, 6.

Mr. Akihiro Kasuya completed the arrangement pictured below.

I had to take a couple pictures of the crowds and chaos after the demonstrations were complete. Everyone wanted pictures!

So much going on – gotta take a selfie!

After the Ikebana demonstrations, lunch was served. A four-course lunch with a glass of champagne.

Course 1: quinoa and seafood salad with spinach mousse and spicy cauliflower coulis.

What looks like an egg on top was actually the spinach mousse. It was delicious.

Course 2: Clam soup with thyme. It was served without the broth. The waiters then came around and filled the soup with broth.

Soup with broth.

Course 3: Sous vide beef tenderloin with truffle sauce and seasonal vegetables.

Course 4: Dessert – Cremet d’Anjou with berries and a side of raspberry sherbert.

The appetizer and dessert were my favorite! The seafood salad with spinach mousse was delicious. The raspberry sherbert and fresh berries were a delightful and satisfying treat at the end of the meal.

A group shot of the Americans from the Ikebana International Kamakura Chapter members.

Before leaving, Dina and I were able to get a picture with Mori-san. Mori-san is the president of the Japan side of the Ikebana Kamakura Chapter. She is very kind and is always willing to give us hugs and appreciation for us joining Ikebana.

As I have said several times in my previous discussions about Ikebana International, it is such a fun way to experience Japanese culture. The underlying theme to bring peace and friendship through flowers enhances the experience.

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!

2017 – Year of the Rooster

According to the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, 2017 is the “year of the Rooster.” Depending on the translation, the year of the rooster might be translated as, the “year of the chicken” or – wait for it – the “year of the cock.” Upon reading that at one of the stores, we laughed too loudly and quickly began referring to every rooster we saw as a cock. I know it’s silly middle school humor – grow up already. I can’t. And I won’t. 

The Chinese New Year starts on January 28, 2017. The Chinese Zodiac Calendar is a twelve year cycle and the Rooster is the only bird represented. Other Rooster years include: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017 and 2029. According to Chinese astrology, the year of one’s birth sign is very unlucky. Therefore, in 2017, all roosters will experience not as good fortune in all aspects of their life and should take great lengths to find luck. To all the roosters out there, heed this as a warning – don’t be a cock in 2017! 

I realize we are in Japan and not China, however, I must address the numbers of cocks being sold throughout the area. I was easily able to find a cock for my “lucky charm” tree.

As well as a bobble head cock. He is priceless. I knew the moment I saw him, I needed him in our home. He is prominently displayed in order to bring luck to our home throughout 2017.

Obviously, the jokes about the “year of the cock” and having a cock in the house are endless. Regardless if the rooster is lucky, he at least makes us laugh!

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