Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Ramen Page 1 of 2

The Thompson’s Arrival

Saturday afternoon I had the delightful pleasure to meet the Thompson Family at Haneda Airport. All smiles even after the long flights.

Their flight arrived early afternoon and we made our way back home. We had the red carpet staged for their arrival.

We needed to keep everyone awake for a few more hours. We took the train to Zushi and then walked down to Zushi beach.

Keeping things simple and traditional, we enjoyed ramen and fried rice for dinner.

Plus, a cookie surprise for dessert.

We managed to keep everyone awake until about 7:30. By then, eyelids were drooping and exhaustion was taking over. A good night sleep was what everyone needed to prep for Sunday’s Tokyo adventures!

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!


Thanksgiving afternoon Dave and I went to visit Kujukushima. Kujukushima is a small resort area about 10 minutes from Sasebo Naval Base. We caught a taxi from the base and ¥1500 later, we arrived in the resort area.

Kujukushima means 99 islands. The best way to view the islands is via a short sightseeing boat tour. Our timing was amazing. We walked up to the boat launch at 11:56 and were able to purchase two tickets for the 12:00 tour. Off we went on the Pearl Queen!

The boat tour of the islands was beautiful albeit chilly. Very chilly. The islands and surrounding water was so lovely.

We stayed topside as long as possible. The wind was whipping. Check out our attempts at a selfie!! Don’t you love my flock of seagulls hair! Haha

Finally we found a wind break and we could snap one really quickly!

Along the tour, we saw many oyster fields. We also learned the buoys are for growing pearls in the oysters. We found it interesting how neatly organized all the buoys were arranged. And we were lucky enough to see an oyster boat heading back to shore.

A little over half way through our 50 minute cruise, I was too chilly to stay topside any longer. We went below deck. I found the Captain’s coat and tried it on for size. I was hoping it would help me warmup faster. Please to meet you, Captain Julia-San.

After our boat tour, we were ready for lunch. A warm lunch. Ramen sounded perfect. We found a ramen restaurant overlooking the harbor.

The ramen had a fish broth. Oishi des. We both ranked this in our top five ramen and I gave it the best broth award.

In the surrounding park was an oyster festival. Considering the breeze and chilly weather, there were so many people!

Groups gathered around small grill pits and enjoyed their oysters. Unfortunately, we were so full from our ramen we had no room for oysters. Plus, did I mention we were chilly?

It was a nice afternoon in the park and on the water. We took a taxi back to Sasebo Base. We realized how close we were to the base. We could have walked! Oh, well. Next time!

Thank you for sharing. Ok, subject change.

I just want to pause for a second and say Happy Thanksgiving. I’m very grateful for all of my readers both near and far. I enjoy sharing our adventures out and about in Japan with you. I appreciate all your love and support for us and my blogging over the past 12+ months. Please know we spent the day talking and thinking about our friends and family. We miss you and love you. We are truly grateful for your love and support. Please enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Matane Monday

Monday was our final day together in Japan. Nina, Noah, and I went for a jog on the treadmills because it was still raining! The kids really wanted to run with me and the treadmill was the best option. They did a great job and we worked up an appetite for ramen! We decided to visit Fukuman, the ramen restaurant near our house. The table available was Japanese style. It was another fun cultural experience. We took off our shoes and sat on the tatami mat. 

After much hesitation and coaxing, Noah finally agreed to try ramen. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone that he liked it!! 

Nina and I were both happy with our ramen choices! 

After lunch, we loaded up the Hooptie and headed towards Yokohama on the train. One final train ride to Yokohama- together. I’m going to miss this fun loving crew! 

While we waited at the station for the Narita Express to arrive, we finally found a food vendi! Layla had been searching all week! 

One last selfie! Coffee time! 

Layla and the kids loaded up on the Narita Express. I talked them through where to go and what might present a problem. They made it just fine! I knew they could do it! 

They were checked in and ready to head home! Safe travels! 

I had a wonderful time while Layla, Nina, and Noah were visiting. It was fun to share Japan with them. I enjoyed taking them to several of my favorite places and discovering new favorites. Although I did play the role of official tour guide for Julia’s Tour, their “I’m a tourist attitude” was refreshing for me. They greeted each day with a positive attitude and excited about the adventure awaiting them. They truly embraced their journey. I’m going to take their attitudes as a reminder to find joy in my journey. Thank you, friends. Thank you for visiting, for the hugs, and for the week of happy memories we created. 

Ja Matane – I’ll see you! 

Fuku Sei Ramen

I must confess to something a little embarrassing. We have been in Japan for almost 15 months now and last night was the first time we ate at the closest ramen restaurant to our house. I know! We pass the restaurant each time we go for a run or drive out the gate. We always talk about eating there. Finally, we did! 

We took about a 15 minute walk from our house to the restaurant. The restaurant did not disappoint. We enjoyed an American sized Japanese beer to quench our thirst after the warm walk. 

The added bonus was an English speaking staff and English menu.

The ramen and gyoza were delicious. There were a plethora of choices for ramen. Even a vegetarian option which can be very difficult to find in Japan. Plus adding extra noodles was an option. For only ¥210! I ordered a salt based ramen with chicken. It also came with bean sprouts, seaweed, and corn. Because our waiter spoke excellent English, I could ask him for no corn. Ahhh, yes! The result was a beautiful and delicious bowl of ramen. 

I’m always hesitant with gyoza. Sometimes they give me a bit of indigestion. Sorry for the TMI, but these only required two Tums compared with others requiring four… 

It was the perfect outing for a casual Sunday night. We will definitely return. Sooner than later. 

As my Japanese students have taught me to say when you want to change the subject, “thank you for sharing, ok, subject change.” I’m writing this as I sit on the Narita Express. I’m heading to the airport to meet my friend, Layla, and her two adorable kids. They are coming from Memphis and staying for the week! I can’t wait to share and explore Japan with them! I have so much planned for their visit. We are starting off strong and heading to Tokyo DisneySea tomorrow. It’s like the “Epcot” of Tokyo Disney with a “sea” theme. Stay tuned for kawaii Disney Halloween ? ? ! 

Brent’s Ramen

Brent has been staying with us off and on over the past couple weeks. Tomorrow he will finally be reunited with Dina and the kids in sunny Southern California. Tonight, Dave and I took Brent for his final dinner in Japan. Fittingly, he choose his favorite ramen joint. 

Dave and I have passed it many times and tonight we had the chance to sample it ourselves. It was delicious! 

My bowl of ramen had extra noodles and seaweed paper. So, good. 

Saying “je matane” to Brent tomorrow will bittersweet. We will miss having our friend nearby and simultaneously, very happy he will be reunited with his family. Safe travels, Brent, see you soon! 

Mt. Fuji – Take 2

Ironically enough, Dave and I climbed Mt. Fuji the exact same weekend last summer. I was a little hesitant to climb again after our experience climbing down in the torrential rainstorm. As Sonia and I discussed expectations, I said I wanted amazing weather at the summit. I wanted pictures of being above the clouds with blue skies and a Torii gate. Realistically, I wanted it to not rain as much as it did last year. 

We took the MWR tour and left Yokosuka at 2:00 am Saturday morning. We made a brief stop in route for provisions and arrived at the 5th station of Mt. Fuji a little before 5:00 am. I decided to carry the same hiking stick from last year and fill it with stamps. This was Sonia’s first climb so she purchased a new stick to have stamped along the route. Here is the location of the 5th station. It is the furthest accessible point by vehicle. 

Of course, one of the best parts of the hike is seeing an amazing sunrise. 

From 5th station we begin our hike to the 6th station. This part of the hike is repeated when we come down the mountain. We took a quick picture at the 6th station before going up! If you look closely at the picture, you can see the results of the high winds. Most of the way up the mountain today, we were challenged with very strong and gusting winds. 

The hike from the 6th station to the 7th station consists of wide igneous rock covered trails with a lot of switchbacks. In my opinion, it is the most boring part of the hike. 

It was a lot of this! 

And fortunately, this! 

The 7th station is fun because here you can receive the first stamp on your hiking stick. Also, the terrain of the trail changes dramatically. There are a lot more large igneous rocks. I remembered how challenging they were last time to climb over because their texture is so rough. Today, they were exceptionally difficult because of the strong winds. At times I felt like a human sail and decided to keep my head down and hold onto the rocks with both hands! Sonia was smart and brought sunglasses to keep not only the sun out of her eyes but also dust. She was a great help to me by yelling “put your head down” when she felt a strong gust. We were covered in dust by the time we came down the mountain. 

The other important thing to note is how beautiful the skies were during this portion of our hike. It truly set the stage that I just might have my amazing views. 

From the 7th station we continued on to the 8th station. 

At 3100m, the views were still spectacular. 

We reached the 8th station just before 8:00am. Time wise, the 8th station is approximately halfway up the mountain. We had about three hours of hiking remaining before reaching the summit. We enjoyed my new favorite find at Family Mart. Cheeseburgers! 

As we were finishing up our mid morning snack, the clouds were building and rain started. Quickly we gathered our gear and started hiking again. The rain didn’t last too long! Whew! The next stop was the 8.5th station (that’s what the sign calls it!) or the original 8th station. It takes an average of 80 minutes to go from the 8th station to the 8.5th station.  The elevation change is a little over 300m. Along the way, we noticed new trail maintenance and a sign. It was fun to see “new things” on this journey! 

Through this portion of the journey, we kept good tabs on our pace and level of exertion. Knowing we had about three hours of hiking to reach the summit, we remain cautious and steady. None the less, our hearts were pounding pretty hard at times! As we passed the 3240m – 3400m elevation, we stopped for a few fun photos. 

I was able to get a good picture with a Torii above the clouds. I took time to embrace the wabi-sabi. It’s may not be at the summit but, it’s a great picture! Beauty in the imperfections. As a result, I have a cute Torii picture on Mt. Fuji. 

As we arrived to the 8.5th station, the clouds started to roll in, again. 

That’s a patch of snow! 

From the 8.5th station to the summit is about 90 minutes. The elevation change is a little over 300m. It was during this stretch last year when the wheels started to fall off because of the weather and our inexperience with climbing Mt. Fuji. This year, I at least knew that the 600m sign meant we still had 25 minutes of strenuous climbing! 

As we arrived at the 9th station, we were greeted by another Torii. Perfect opportunity to catch our breath and take a few photos. 

The final stretch to the summit remained. The clouds were thick. 

Off we went. One boulder scramble, stair step at a time! 

Until finally…. we made it!! Check us out! 

At the summit, we stopped for lunch. It was just before 11:00am. About 6 hours of hiking with necessary breaks. Not too shabby! Actually, 6 hours is the average. Lunch was a delicious warm bowl of ramen! By the time we reached the summit the only spot left on my hiking stick was for my second summit stamp! 

We ate, had our hiking sticks and temple books stamped, and used the restroom. By the time we were heading down the mountain it was noon and it was beginning to rain. Oh, no. I honestly didn’t know if I had the strength to endure the descent in the rain again this year. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out. The rain stopped pretty soon after we left the summit. 

The descent without rain was so much easier. We each slipped a couple times on the loose igneous rock. But, we were ok. We were dry and warm. 

Somewhere along the descent, the clouds were beneath us and above us. 

We could stand on the ledge and I could get my cool cloud picture. 

I experienced wabi-sabi yet again. The summit isn’t the only place magical pictures can be captured. 

The remainder of the hike had a few sprinkles and maybe a slip or two. Without all the rain, coming off the mountain was a breeze. We were back at the 5th station by 3:00pm. 

We had two hours before the buses left to clean up, eat, and shop. Which we did. I enjoyed Mt. Fuji Melon Bread and a Mt. Fuji Craft beer. Delicious reward for a great hike. 

After our hike today, I’ve decided I love Mt. Fuji even more. She has a way of showing you your strengths and weaknesses when you make the climb. Mt. Fuji doesn’t give you what you want, but gives you what you need. Sonia needed to check Mt. Fuji off her Japan bucket list. She was ready for the challenges climbing Mt. Fuji would give her and she came out victorious. 

Today, I needed perspective and a dose of wabi-sabi. Finding beauty in the imperfection. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have any unfinished business with Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji is a good sensei (teacher). I came and I climbed – twice. For that I am wiser, not a fool! 

Silver Lining

Dave had a full day of work off. So, I planned an afternoon in Yokohama sampling different craft brews. 

All was right in the world until… I received a message from my GF Audry asking if I could forward her one of my September blogs about Japanese eggs. When she tried to access the post, the pictures wouldn’t load. Hmmmmmm. 

When I tried to access the same post I had the same problem. What in the world? My stomach started to knot when I realized what has happened. Stay with me as I explain… 

I write wabisabisole via the WordPress app on my phone. In March, I was having issues with the lack of storage on my iPhone. One of the biggest storage problems was the WordPress app and all the pictures. So, I started to delete pictures. I was delighted in how much storage I reclaimed by deleting so many pictures. It wasn’t until today when I realized the repercussions of my actions. All of the blogs from mid April back  to August 2016 – have no images. As I scrolled through, it was like looking at a skeleton. My heart broke. So much work. Such a rookie mistake. 

Simultaneously, Dave and I had plans to have a nice day together. It’s just a blog. Get a grip! Ugh. 

As we ride the train to Yokohama, Dave asks me if I’ve backed up the pictures elsewhere. Yes, on the iCloud, Google photo, and Shutterfly. I have most of them somewhere. It’s just a matter of downloading them and uploading them in the right spot. Where is the right spot!? This is when Dave says, “I saved wabisabisole in my emails, will that help?” Say, what!?! Omg- yes! I can match the email (which doesn’t change regardless of my edits) to the missing pictures. Simply, amazing. Unbeknownst to me, Dave made a folder for wabisabisole emails and has saved them for the past year plus. Dwyer for the win, yet again. He seriously is the sweetest and the best. #silverlining 

Dave saved the day. And so did beer! 

While in Yokohama we visited Yokohama Bay Brewing for a pint. 

For lunch, we enjoyed a delicious bowl of ramen. So, good. 

Half way through, I saw the ingenious way to add sesame seeds. Check it out! You might think it’s mustard. Nope, sesame seeds! 

Despite the wabisabisole set back, the day ending on a positive note. Time together exploring and enjoying. Tomorrow, Monday, will begin the great wabisabisole edit of 2017. I’ve been procrastinating on this task since I reached the one-year point. I’ll take this as a sign. As always, thanks for reading and sharing the adventure with me! A special thanks to all of you who talk about/share my adventures with others. As always, beauty is in the imperfection. 

Train Crush

Today, Dave and I took the Shinkansen from Shinagawa to Kyoto. It was a little over a two hour trip. 

I took a few pictures in the station because I LOVE the Shinkansen. It’s such an easy, comfortable, and convenient way to travel around Japan. 

We arrived in Kyoto around 1300. We dropped our bags with the concierge at our hotel and went out to eat lunch. We found a ramen joint. We both were happy because we haven’t enjoyed good ramen in a couple months. 

We returned to the hotel to check in and crank down the AC. My English student, Manami, helped me plan out our schedule. We needed to hit the ground running to see the “best of Kyoto Temples” during our visit. We caught a taxi from the Ryōan-ji Temple. The Ryōan-ji Temple is famous for it beautiful 15 stone rock garden. There are indeed 15 rocks. Dave and I both counted. The significance of 15 rocks is unknown. More significant is the lack of trees and presence of only the 15 rocks and white gravel. The garden dates back to the 1500s. 

Just as impressive were the moss gardens and pond. 

The second Temple we went to visit was the world famous Rokuon-ji Temple. More widely known as The Golden Pavilion. It was breathtaking. If only the pond water was still! The Golden Pavilion is justly named. It is covered in actual gold leaf! 

Our visit in the afternoon summer sun was perfect for pictures. The gold was stunning. 

The gardens were beautiful as well. 

We returned to our hotel after visiting the Temples and decided to eat at the Beer Garden on the roof of our hotel. It was an amazing view. We were surrounded by mountains. More importantly, we watched the Shinkansen roll through every 2-3 minutes! All of this while watching the sunset. I told Dave I have developed a train crush on the Shinkansen. It’s truly my favorite way to travel! 

Jogashima Park

Jogashima Park is located at the Southern tip of the Miura Peninsula. I am the blue dot in Zushi and Jogashima Park is the red marker at the bottom. 

It has been on my list of places to visit for a couple months. We had another glorious spring day that demanded an outdoor exploration. I was able to convince Sonia to go with me and she convinced me we should take the train and bus vice driving. This would be my first Japanese bus experience! 

We met in Yokosuka and headed south on the train and then further south on the bus. Here was a shot from the bus ride. To ride the bus, you can use the same pass that is used to ride the train. You just have to remember to swipe it when you board. We missed that the first time and the driver adjusted our fairs when we exited the bus. 

I forgot to screen shot the trip down, here is the shot from the trip home. 

The grey stops are the bus stops. The bus wasn’t very intimidating after all. Pretty simple. Google Maps once again helped me navigate there and back without issues! 

Jogashima Park was beautiful! The views of the water and horizon were impressive. 

The trails were a combination of pavement, stairs, and dirt. Overall, it was very easy to navigate the park with the many cute signs directing the way. 

Besides the Japanese Seahawks, we also saw the country’s largest earthworm! 

In several places along our hike, the water was so clear! 

Simultaneously, the rock formations made me turn into a little bit of a Science geek on Sonia. She laughed and was a good sport about my teachings. These guys paid me little attention… 

Maybe my favorite picture of the day. 

We continued on our hike to the lighthouse and enjoyed more amazing views and lunch along the way. 

For lunch, we ate ramen and black vanilla ice cream. Whitebait (whitefish) was also a flavor. Gross. Almost as gross as corn ice cream. The black vanilla ice cream was very good. It tasted like vanilla! 

After lunch, we walked around a little more and found more beautiful rocks and a shrine. Also, on a clear day, we would have been able to see Mt. Fuji across the water. 

Finally, one last set of stairs took us up to the lighthouse. 

We shopped at a couple cute local stores as we headed to the bus stop. We wondered if it would be difficult to find the bus…. nope. Not too difficult in the least! 

I am super proud of myself. I can now add “capable of taking the bus” to my Japanese transportation resume thanks to Sonia’s encouragement! 

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