Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Onigiri

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.”

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens – Fall Edition

I went to visit the Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens in June. This garden made the list of five gardens to experience wabi-sabi in Japan. I recently read an article published on savvytokyo.com, identifying eight places to visit in and around Tokyo to see beautiful Autumn foliage. To my surprise and joy, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens was listed in the article! I took that as a sign to go and visit the garden again! It was beautiful. I arrived around lunchtime and enjoyed a tuna onigiri with green tea while sitting on a bench in the shade enjoying this view. 


After my lunch, I took a stroll around the garden. So much fall color! 


Up close, the vermilion bridge stood out in the still very green tree undergrowth. 


From further away, the bridge was almost swallowed in the upper layer of slowly changing leaves. 


The view across the pond might have been my favorite. Just to be clear, those are Japanese maple leaves. 🍁🍁🍁


From the other side of the pond, the view was lovely as well. The pond was so still.  


Part of the reason I love this Garden is the serenity it provides in the middle of Tokyo. The other reason is the beautiful plants, ponds, and paths. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch followed by an afternoon stroll. What do you think about my new exploring shoes? Kawaii! 


Perhaps, this will become the Garden I stalk and visit at some point each season! My attempt to capture its year round beauty. 

Something New 

Dave and I have gotten in the habit of grabbing the tuna and mayonnaise onigiri (rice ball) when we need a fast snack. It is easy to pick out at any convenience store. We look for the blue label with the smiley face. Do you see the smiley face on the top of the second column? 


The other one I know I like is the salmon onigiri. It typically has a little bit of cream cheese and/or wasabi under the salmon. 


I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone. It is time to start trying the many different and unknown options. My first choice was the green one. Not a winner. It was kelp and a sweet eel sauce. Not one to get again. 

Next up, the pink label. It seemed to have a little spice. Lesson learned, the pink label is a good indication for a little spice. 


Google translate told me it was “Tuna made from Misaki.” It tasted like spicy tuna. An option to buy again. 


Google Translate described this one as “broiled sashimi.” It was ok. The fish was cooked and had green onions mixed in. I felt like I had fishy onion breath after I ate it. Not sure I’m going get a gold one again. 

I hope you can appreciate the courage it took to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Three flavors tested and I liked one – the pink. I will continue my research and taste others. Stay tuned! 

Ps. On a more somber note, please keep the sailors and families of the USS John McCann in your thoughts during this difficult time. ❤️🇺🇸⚓️💙

Fish Heads

I went out for a little bit of urban exploring today. Dave and I have been running the same route for our long runs for a while now. To add miles, we will add an extra loop here or there. There is one area where the road goes through a tunnel and is closed to pedestrians. At this location, we simply turn around. We have wondered where the side trail might lead. I decided to take the train into Zushi and then walk over to the area to investigate.

First I made a stop at Zushi Beach. It was a beautiful day.


The first path I checked out led me to a beautiful area. Surfers and paddle boarders use this passage as an access to the area around the point of Zushi Beach.


As always, stairs!


The other path led me to the fancy neighborhood near Ōsaki Park. It was a steep uphill climb. There were a few special treats at the top. The first, Mt. Fuji.


The second, blooming shamrocks.


The third, cherry blossoms starting to bloom!


There were only a few trees in this grove. None the less, I felt the first signs of spring fever! Honestly, this has been a delightful winter. Mostly sunny skies and very mild temperatures. However, I’m very excited to experience the beauty of the spring blooms. I had to make myself stop taking pictures of the blossoms. They were so beautiful and the light was perfect.


One last picture of Mt. Fuji before I tell you about the fish heads.


So, fish heads. After my urban hike, I was ready for a snack. I needed to head to main base via the train to pick up the car after having the oil changed. I stopped at Family Mart. Family Mart is my favorite convenient store chain here in Japan. I grabbed a bottle of water, an onigiri and a bag of Japanese crackers. While walking from the train station to the service station on base, I was snacking on crackers.


Well, I thought they were all crackers. Turns out, they included dried fish.


After I pulled it out of the bag, I had an instant “WTF” moment. Then I remembered, I’m in Japan. They eat fish in everything. Even crackers.

I saved the rest to eat until I got home and could dump out the bag. As you can see, the fish were advertised. I guess I should look closer next time I try a new Japanese snack. In the small dish are all the fish and fish heads included in my snack!


I did try one. They weren’t too bad. They were very crunchy with a salty, sweet fishy taste. The aftertaste kept me from eating another!

Onigiri 

Onigiri- pronounced “oh – ni- gir- i” is a Japanese rice ball. The Onigiri often has a surprise inside like tuna or salmon and is wrapped in seaweed. They are available for purchase at grocery stores and convenience stores. I discussed how they are packaged in my Japanese Supermarkets post last month.

Now that I have my own rice maker, I have been eager to try to make my own Onigiri. At a store in Yokosuka, I was able to find a triangle Onigiri shaper and packaging options.

Triangle onigiri mold

Onigiri “ball” wrapper

Onigiri triangle wrapper

Directions for wrapper

Using my new tools, rice maker and wrappers, I attempted to make homemade Onigiri. In the middle of each triangle, I used can tuna because I wasn’t sure how they would turn out and didn’t want to waste money on fresh tuna if this was a flop. The triangle wrappers worked the best.  The other wrappers are for use when making a Onigiri ball vice triangle.

Onigiri form with rice

The top of the Onigiri form is used to make the indentation on the rice. This creates a narrow pocket where the filling is placed.


The two sides are put together to make a whole triangle. The Onigiri is then placed inside the bag. I didn’t wrap the rice in seaweed because it would get soggy. I am still on the hunt for Onigiri bags that have a divide for keeping the rice and the seaweed separate.


The final picture shows all the Onigiri wrapped and the seaweed package. Notice the two cute critters have opening directions. The third container is a silicon triangle. It might be my favorite. Although The bags are really cute, they are not reusable like the silicon.

Dave taste tested one last night and approved. I was worried by today the rice would be dry and crumbly. Nope. They were delicious! The best compliment was from the Japanese secretaries at Dave’s office. He sent me a text at lunch and said  “they were impressed with my rice making skills.” Pretty good for amateur hour! I think I am ready to try some with sushi grade tuna and salmon! This will indeed make them better, but to truly be perfect, I need to master the seaweed wrap.

PS. For all my emoji loving friends, you now know the name of this emoji 🍙!

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