Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Road trip

Izu Peninsula Roadtrip

Dave and I planned a road trip to the Izu Peninsula for Labor Day weekend. We left Friday afternoon and drove to Shimoda.

Friday night we stayed at the Shimoda Prince Hotel. The hotel came highly recommended by a couple friends. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed with the overpriced dinner option and the dated accommodations. The room was plenty big for the two of us. The separate twin beds are pretty typical in Japanese hotel rooms. Fortunately, it was only for one night.

Saturday morning, we were hoping to catch the sunrise over the water. Unfortunately, rain and clouds prevented much of a view.

Originally, I planned for us to visit a near by nature reserve with 7 waterfalls. The rain made us rethink those plans. Instead, we decided to make our way to the other side of the peninsula where we would be spending Saturday and Sunday night. We kept our fingers crossed for sunnier skies on the other side.

We stopped at a marina along the way. The rain had let up a little and the view was lovely.

At the marina gift shop there were a lot of wasabi products. This area is known for growing wasabi. We purchase some wasabi, wasabi salt, and wasabi ginger dressing. In case you didn’t know what a wasabi plant looks like, I snapped a picture of the sample they had on display. The edible part is the root. The leaves resemble the leaves of elephant ears.

We finished our drive over to Dogashima and parked at our Ryokan. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese Onsen (hot spring) Hotel. Ryokans are very popular in this area because of the thermal vents near Mt. Fuji. The view from the parking lot was spectacular! Plus, we managed to get away from the rain!

We arrived before our permitted check in time. This gave us time to grab lunch and do a little exploring. We opted for a sushi lunch. The squid was the best I have tasted!

At lunch, we noticed a poster we saw during our walk. We inquired about the Nishiizu Beach Candle Night. It was scheduled for Saturday evening. The restaurant owners said the event was about a 10 minute walk. However, it was weather dependent. We kept our fingers crossed for good weather!

After lunch, we walked around the town a little more and explored some of the cliffs. This area is considered one of the top three beautiful viewpoints in Japan. It was stunning and on a clear day, I’m sure it would be even more lovely.

After our walk, we made our way back to our Ryokan. We checked into our room. Dinner and breakfast were included for each night. We were asked to schedule a time for both. We selected 7 pm and 8 am. We were also allowed to schedule time at the larger private hotel onsen. We picked 8 pm for Saturday night and 4 pm for Sunday afternoon. After arranging our itinerary, we were then escorted to our room. It was clearly marked. The room was very spacious. The floors are covered with Tatami mats. No, I didn’t forget to take a picture of our bed. It wasn’t set up yet!

The room also had a small balcony with a private onsen. Our view was incredible.

At one point as I was taking pictures, my phone slipped from my hand and fell into the onsen!! I immediately grabbed it. And to my delight it still worked. Dave suggested I use the hair dryer to make sure the charger and headphone sockets were completely dry. I can’t believe my amazing luck!! Here was the last picture I took before I dropped it and the first picture I took after I turned it back on. Whew!

The weather seemed to be holding as sunset drew closer. Dave and I decided to walk down to se if the Beach Candle event was still going as scheduled. We were excited to see everything being set up!

Soon, numerous volunteers were lighting the many candles. As the sun faded, the glowing candles became even more beautiful.

We made our way back to the Ryokan for our dinner reservation at 7 pm. We walked into the dining room and found our table already set! I had never seen anything like the it! The spread was incredible. There had to be 15 different courses!

Several types of sushi (including lobster), a grill for steak and vegetables, salad, pickles, small appetizers, soups, rice and so much more!

The most shocking experience of the evening was the live abalone (sea snail) being cooked on the small grill in front of us. I honestly wasn’t prepared for this. I was grossed out and mesmerized watching it cook.

I did try it after it was completely cooked. It wasn’t my favorite. It was very chewy. Fortunately, they gave us a knife and fork so we could cut it into bite sized pieces and didn’t have to use chopsticks! Dave ate the remainder of what I couldn’t eat. This meal (and the three others) included many Japanese delicacies. We didn’t have an option of ordering food. The table was set and the food was prepared before we arrived. It was a culinary experience like nothing we’ve ever experienced. We were treated with wonderful hospitality. It was a wonderful opportunity and experience even if it pushed us outside our culinary comfort zone.

After dinner, we returned to our room. While we were at dinner, housekeeping setup our futons for us.

After our huge dinner and soak in the onsen, we were ready for a slumber. We did modify the futons a little bit. We brought our own pillows and placed a couple extra futons underneath us. Surprisingly, we slept pretty soundly.

I’ll share our Sunday adventures next time. More to follow tomorrow!

Suspension Bridges

During my Friday English class last week, one of my students told me about her visit to a clematis and sculpture garden near Mt. Fuji. From her description of her visit, I was interested in making a trip to the garden. As I looked around the Mishima area on my Google Maps app, I realized there was another place I had flagged to visit. I suggested to Katie we take our Tuesday adventures to the expressway and visit them both! Without difficulty, we were able to rent a car and leave before 8:00am Tuesday morning.

Side note: went traveling a far distance in a vehicle, I find it easier to rent a car for two reasons. 1. I only trust our Hooptie so much. 2. Driving on the expressway is expensive because of the high road tolls (¥8000 – $80 round trip to areas around Mt. Fuji). Toll vouchers are included with a rental car ($58 for a 1-day rental). This makes it actually cheaper to rent a car than to drive your own!

Now, back to our story. We arrived at our first stop, Mishima Skywalk around 9:30am. Before heading to the Skywalk, we stopped to use the restroom facilities. Just when I thought Japanese toilets couldn’t get any more amazing, we were greeted by a large banner advertising “luxury toilet.” The restroom was immaculate and complete with not just functional “thrones,” but also lounging ones – inside and outside the restroom! Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up!!

After our pit stop, we were ready to see Mt. Fuji and walk the Mishima Skywalk. The Mishima Skywalk is Japan’s largest suspension bridge. The bridge is 400m in length and connects Izu and Hakone. The bridge reaches a height of 70.6m as it stretches across the valley below. The width of the bridge footpath is 1.6m (wide enough to allow two wheelchairs to pass one another). Needless to say, the view was spectacular!

We were glad we arrived early. Mt. Fuji was starting to cloud over when we arrived. By the time we were leaving, it was mostly covered.

The walk across the bridge is not for the faint of heart. If you have a fear of heights, it might be best to skip this attraction.

Once we made it to the far side, we were greeted by the safety sign. I hope the Skywalk receives this award every year!!

On the north side of the bridge, is a natural area with a few trails and the flower drop. For ¥200, you’re invited to purchase a flower seed attached to a piece of wood. When you cross back over the bridge, you can toss the wood chip and make a wish. When your flower blooms, your wish will come true.

Also at the flower drop area were cute little forest eggs. Some were set along the trail and others where hiding behind a door on the trees. So, kawaii!

They were so cute!

From the construction and signs, Katie and I came to the conclusion the area would soon have a zip line attraction! Now that would be amazing!

During our walk back across, the wind really started to pick up. The bridge was really swaying! It was kindof fun to not hold on! Look, Mom! No hands!

One of the cafes was called the Sky Garden. Here we enjoyed a snack while sitting under the phenomenal hanging plants.

After our snack, we were ready to head to our next destination. We drove about 30 minutes before reaching the Clematis no Oka Garden. We parked in one of the parking lots furthest from the garden. This afforded us the opportunity to walk through the woods and transit across two more suspension bridges. They weren’t as long or as high, but still very enjoyable.

Once we arrived at the garden, we were treated to beautiful clematis and strange sculptures.

Here are just a few of the interesting sculptures. We were a little surprised with the sculptures because there were a lot of naked men. It seemed out of context with the garden. But, I guess art is art.

Anyways, let’s get back to the clematis. There were so many different varieties and colors. Here is about half of the clematis pictures I took!

The lower part of the garden was filled with roses. They were also in full bloom and stunning.

The roses were a special treat because I wasn’t expecting them. After enjoying time in the sunshine and the beautiful garden, we hopped back in the car and headed home. The drive home was easy. Each time I make a trip to Mt. Fuji, I become a little more familiar and at ease driving. I consider this a win after living here for almost two years! I’m so glad we took the opportunity to road trip. It was a wonderful day exploring an area around Mt. Fuji we hadn’t had a chance to visit yet.

Florida Road Trip Part 2

Let me pick up where I left off on the previous post, Florida Road Trip Part 1. Saturday morning, Juliana and I picked up George at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Once we had him safely aboard the bus, we made haste for Key Largo. Clearly, our speed was not fast enough for others.

One more video as we drive off the continental United States.

Our first campsite was at Pennecamp State Park. With the campsite set up, George had the chance to enjoy his first vacation beer.

As I look back through my pictures, I realize I never took a picture of the seafood dinners George and Juliana prepared. Each day, we would stop at a local fish market and buy seafood for dinner. We had a wonderful assortment throughout the week. Snapper, tile fish, pompano, and stone crab legs. All local fish and all were delicious.

Sunday morning I unintentionally woke up early. The bug bites I had received over the past two days made my feet feel on fire. I know my gnarly runner’s feet are not pretty, but please humor me and notice the welts on my feet. They itched so badly, when I looked at the picture, I felt the urge to scratch my feet! I had these welts on my hands, the back of my legs, my shoulders, my arms and a few on my face as well.

Since I was up so early, I decided to catch the sunrise.

Later that morning, George and Juliana both rented sea kayaks and I rented a paddle board. We spent about two hours exploring the inlet around Pennecamp State Park. Knowing my luck with phones, I left mine on dry land while we were out. So, no pictures.

After eating lunch and cleaning up, we got back on the road and headed towards Big Pine Key. Our next campsite was at Bahia Honda State Park. Along the way, we stopped at KMart and I bought bug protection: a second pair of beach pants, a UPF shirt, thick socks, and a pair of light gloves. The “no see ’ems” were not deterred by my 100% deet. The only way to keep them from biting me was to cover my skin. We also bought two fans to put around the campsite and inside the bus to help the bug situation. After arriving and setting up camp, we went snorkeling off the coast. It was fantastic! Perhaps, the best place I’ve ever snorkeled. We were the only people in the water and the water was so shallow we could see so many fish! After our snorkeling session, we walked out and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

We spent Monday morning at Bahia Honda at the beach. The breeze was strong and the sky was sunny. It was so relaxing.

We walked up the old Railroad/Road Bridge. From here it was easy to see the hurricane damage. The vegetation was shredded and the beach looked trashed.

Sunday night proved to be another rough night with respect to bugs. At this point, we decided to go off script. Instead of staying two more nights in Bahia Honda State Park, we decided to drive to Key West and stay at the Navy Vacation Rentals. So, after our beach time Monday morning, Monday afternoon we headed to Key West. It was a great decision. Who doesn’t love Key West? We arrived in Key West, checked into our hotel and set out to enjoy the town.

After a refreshing bug free night of sleep in American air conditioning, we were ready to tackle a full day Key West style. First up, a sunrise run, of course. With a stop at the Southern most point and Mile 0. Oh and a chicken crossing the road.

We went home to get George and the bus to take a few pictures of the bus at both of these spots.

The rest of the day was spent enjoying Key West without an agenda. As if we were on vacation!

Wednesday morning, we were back on the road again. We decided to again make haste and get further up the coast so we could enjoy a full beach day at Sebastian Inlet State Park. We stopped in Vero Beach Wednesday night. It was a beautiful night for another beach walk.

After a short drive Thursday morning, we were ready to enjoy a relaxing beach day at Sebastian Inlet State Park. We had another excellent campsite. Perfect for watching the sunset.

Friday morning, we didn’t rush to get on the road to our final campsite. We enjoyed Sebastian Inlet a little longer before making the short trip to Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine.

We arrived in time for a beach walk at sunset.

I wanted one last east coast sunrise before heading home. Saturday morning we woke up early and took our coffee to the beach to greet the sun as it cleared the horizon.

After breakfast, we packed up the bus and made haste one last time for Atlanta.

We stayed close to the airport Saturday night because my flight left early Sunday morning. We stopped for a brew and pizza before settling in for the night.

As we left the restaurant after dinner, a storm had passed and the clouds appeared to make a Mt. Fuji. I couldn’t help but see the symbolism. Just pretend the sign says “Japanese” and not “Chinese”. Our spontaneous road trip was everything I needed. It was wonderful having time together with family. We enjoyed many long conversations and a lot of American beer. We shared more laughs than I had bug bites. Despite the distance, the bugs, and time away from Dave, I would do it all over again without hesitation.

Florida Road Trip Part 1

I’m home safe and sound from my Florida road trip with my brother, George, and his wife, Juliana. It took me two good nights of sleep to get over the jet lag. Now that I have my wits about me, I’m ready to share our adventures. Our two week Florida road trip was a jammed packed with good times and sunshine. Let’s start from the beginning. I met Juliana in Atlanta. My flight arrived late on Tuesday night, so we spent the first night at a hotel near the airport. Wednesday morning, we were up and ready to be on our way to St. Augustine. However, we had a slight 1.5 hour delay getting on the road because we couldn’t get the bus started. After receiving help from two nice hotel employees, phone help from George and their mechanic, we realized the problem was rather simple. The bus needed gas. One of our new friends brought us a gallon of gas and the bus turned over right away. We were off to the closest gas station with strict instructions from George not to go more than 200 miles before refueling and never have less than 1/4 of a tank. Lesson learned. I’m happy to report, that was our only vehicle incident. The rest of the trip, the bus ran like a champion! Our trip through Georgia and across Florida went by quickly. Each time we stopped we were greeted with at least one “what year is your bus”? Usually, the person who approached us shared a story. Juliana and I decided more people approached us during the days before we picked up George. His presence, although appreciated by us, seemed to make us less approachable. Eventually, we arrived in St. Augustine. We checked into our campsite at Anastasia State Park in time for a picnic dinner at sunset. By the time we parked the bus for the night, it was lights out!

Thursday morning we went for a jog and as we were returning to the campsite, we came across this beetle working really hard pushing a dog turd. I couldn’t help taking a video. Even now when I watch it, I can’t help but laugh.

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We spent Thursday morning exploring St. Augustine. We walked around the touristy downtown area. This was by far my favorite photo spot! Argh!

We also explored sights off the beaten path. We enjoyed a tour of the Oldest House in St. Augustine.

During the tour, we learned about coquina. (The science teacher in me was so excited.) Coquina is a sedimentary rock composed of sea shells. It was used throughout St. Augustine for construction of buildings and the fort!

After lunch and our enjoyable morning in St. Augustine, we loaded up in the bus and set out for Sebastian Inlet State Park. We had an amazing campsite at Sebastian Inlet. Perfect for watching the sunset.

Friday morning we decided to enjoy a little beach time before getting on the road. The Inlet had a small lagoon – perfect for taking a swim.

While we were swimming, we were fortunate to see dolphins!

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After our morning at the beach, we showered and were on the road by 1:30. We didn’t have far to go for our next campsite. We were staying at Dickinson State Park just north of Fort Lauderdale airport. We had a rendezvous with George Saturday morning. He was flying in and would join us for the second half of our trip. Since we weren’t in a rush Friday afternoon, we chose to drive down A1A and enjoy the scenery. Talk about cruising in the bus.

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We arrived at Dickinson State Park shortly before a huge thunderstorm rolled through. At one point, the lightening was so close we hunkered down inside the bus. As the storm passed, we moved outside and enjoyed dinner. Tomato soup, believe it or not! It was the perfect warm meal during the nasty storm.

By the time the sun was setting, the storm had rolled out.

It it’s wake, it woke up a lot of bugs. We were prepared for the mosquitoes. We had been warned about the no see ’ems. The warning wasn’t nearly strong enough. I went to sleep in shorts and a tank top and work up with bites on every inch of exposed skin. Talk about itchy… The bugs would become an incredible nuisance as we arrived in the Keys. But, I’m going to save those stories and the second half of our adventure for tomorrow. Stay tuned for the rest of the story!

Monterey & Carmel-By-The-Sea

Sunday, 7/22, Sara headed back to San Diego and the rest of us took a short road trip from Paso Robles to the coast. Our first stop was in Monterey. We enjoyed a walk through the quaint little town. It was fun to see Cannery Row. Since high school, I have been a huge John Steinbeck fan. 


The Pacific coast enticed me yet again. 

After our visit in Monterey, we continued towards Carmel-By-The-Sea and drove along the beautiful 17 mile drive. Slowly, the clouds started to lift. 

17-Mile Drive is a scenic road that runs along the coast and connects Monterey to Carmel-By-The-Sea. There are several golf courses. The most famous being Pebble Beach. I honestly, just loved seeing the rocky shoreline of the Pacific. 

It didn’t take long for the clouds to settle again. Bird Rock is pictured on the background. Again, you can’t hear all of the California sea lions lounging on Bird Rock. Using Mark’s binoculars, they were easy to spot. Using a picture from my iPhone, not so easy to spot. 

One of the most iconic spots along the drive is the Lone Cypress. The clouds had definitely settled by this point. Nonetheless, we enjoyed taking tourist pictures! 

We stopped in Carmel-By-The-Sea for lunch. 


After lunch, we continued driving south to Big Sur. For the next two nights, Sue arranged for us to stay in an amazing airb&b at the top of of Palo Colorado Road off of US1. Before heading up the mountain to our airb&b we made a quick stop at the grocery store. Would you believe our luck – they had a wine tasting! Thank you, don’t mind if we do! 


The house were we stayed was spectacular! The views were incredible. We literally were above the clouds. The Pacific Ocean is under the clouds. 


We enjoyed a lively game of dominoes as we watched the sunset. 


Watching the fog roll in after the sunset was captivating and eerie. 


Despite the low clouds, Allison and I enjoyed a clear night sky to stargaze. We saw two satellites and three shooting stars! 

Redwoods and PC Highway

We finished up our stay in the Redwoods National and State Parks with one last hike along the Cathedral Trees Trail. 


Along this hike, we not only saw more big trees…


 We also saw the biggest tree of them all. 


We circled back to the RV on the Trillium Falls Trail. 


With more trees… 


And a waterfall. 


A cute sign that made us giggle and look for bears. 


And family! 


We drove down the Pacific Coast Highway before camping for the evening.


The sunset was amazing. 


The next morning, we continued along the PC Highway and stopped occasionally to enjoy the view. Seeing these views, I quickly joined Team Pacific and was ready to move here! 


One last picture of my family. 


And one last picture of The Rig at our last campsite surrounded by big trees. 


It is hard to believe how quickly two weeks passed. I enjoyed having time to spend together without feeling rushed or distracted. This vacation provided quality time to laugh, talk, and enjoy each other’s company. I will cherish so many memories. One of my favorite memories which, I have no picture to document, was stargazing. We would stretch out on a log or picnic table and watch the millions of stars in the night sky. Being away from city lights made the stars bright and mesmerizing. It was always a bonus to see a shooting star or satellite. 

I’m truly appreciative of my brother for organizing and plan this adventure. Also, I’m thankful everyone was willing to come together and share the experience. 

On Friday, 7/21, my mom and I were dropped off at the San Francisco Airport. After returning The Rig, George, Juliana, and Fiona had planned to spend a few days in San Francisco. My mom was flying home and I would be meeting up with my VB friends for the remaining portion of the vacation. Can you believe I saw even more of Northern California and more friends! I am a lucky girl. 

Crater Lake – Day 1

Crater Lake National Park is located in south-central Oregon. The main feature of Crater Lake National Park is Crater Lake. Crater Lake is famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. Approximately 7,700 years ago, when Mount Mazama Volcano erupted, it exploded and then collapsed to form a caldera over 2,000 feet deep. It took about 250 years after the eruption for rain and snow to slowly fill the caldera and ultimately created Crater Lake. The island in the lake is Wizard Island. Wizard Island formed when a Cinder Cone Volcano erupted after the crater began to fill up. 


Crater Lake has no rivers flowing into or out of the lake. The evaporation rate equals the rain/ snowfall replenishment rates. The lake has a depth of 1,949 feet, making it the deepest in the U.S. and the ninth in the world. I took this picture looking down the steep sides of the caldera. The blue is the lake – not the sky! 


We spent three days/two nights in Crater Lake National Park. The first full day, 7/14, we were fortunate enough to secure tickets for the boat ride tour of the lake the next day, Saturday, 7/15. I will come back to that story in the next post, for now, I’ll just say, Fiona and I worked magic. 


After securing our boat tickets, we took a hike up to Garfield Peak. The trail was closed shortly before the peak but, we enjoyed amazing views along the way. 


One of the highlights was viewing the Phantom Ship rock. 


From here, we could see Garfield Peak. 


The views made taking a break even more fun. 


Here you can understand why the trail was still closed. There was a huge slab of ice snow still on the trail! 


After our hike, we made another short hike around a short loop. 


We had to cross through more snowy trails. I was impressed by my sandal hiking family! 


One last picture of our super sweet campsite! What you can’t see in this picture are the thousands of mosquitoes swarming around us! If you go to Crater Lake – take bug spray! 

PS. Thanks for being patient with me as I blog a little late about my travels. At the time I’m posting this, I’m in SFO about to fly home to Tokyo. I enjoyed the past three weeks immensely. I needed an American vacation with my family and friends. And I can honestly say, by disconnecting I was able to reconnect. It did my heart good. 

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