Finding Beauty with Imperfection

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Hiroshima Day 3

The tickets for our return trip on the Shinkansen didn’t depart Hiroshima until 1700. That gave us time to do a bit more exploring and shopping in Hiroshima. We gave the girls a chance to sleep in and have a little down time. Meanwhile, Danny, Jenn, and I went for a morning walk. There was a long green way trail stretching along the river. The best part was the Sakura lining the path.

After breakfast, we headed out to explore more of Hiroshima. The next area on our visit list was a stop at the Gokoku Shrine.

The double fish statue at the Shrine represents family happiness. Happy family indeed!

Especially, when our next stop is for ice cream! Ice cream makes everything better and everyone happy.

Finally, after all that we got down to business. We made our way to the Hiroshima Castle.

I’ll just cut to the “Chase” and summarize our visit to the castle. The highlight was obviously dressing up these two as a Samurai and a Lord.

I’m still giggling when I look at those pictures. We managed to climb to the fifth floor of the castle and enjoy a spectacular view.

By the time we finished exploring the castle, we were ready for an American lunch. A beer, cheeseburger, and fries filled the need. The crane and driftwood were an added bonus.

The remainder of the afternoon we shopped and prepped for our Shinkansen trip home. We had plenty of food to keep us happy. Cheers!

We had such an amazing trip to Hiroshima. We made it home safely and with so many memories.


Monday morning we caught the Keikyu line train to Shinagawa. I know I already mentioned the Keikyu Line and Rilakkuma campaign. I must mention it again because we have enjoyed spotting cute trains and bears. Check out the giant Rilakkuma in Shinagawa Station. So, cute.

From Shinagawa we caught the 10:07 Shinkansen to Hiroshima. Again, I was so excited.

I took a video as we waited for our train.

The train ride was about four hours. We bought lunch for the trip – bento boxes and Japanese sandwiches.

Plus, kawaii company with the adorable Rilakkuma characters dressed as Keikyu Train Conductors.

Our train arrived four hours later. We caught a taxi to our hotel, dropped our bags and headed to the Hiroshima Peace Park. Our first stop was to see the Atomic Bomb Dome.

We were pleasantly surprised to still see Sakura in bloom. The girls stopped and rang the Peace Bell. As all the tourist ring the bell, the sound brings a calling for peace. It’s beautiful.

Our next stop was at the Cenotaph. The Eternal Flame ignited us with hope for peace.

After visiting the museum, we walked to the fountain. Danny snapped this picture of the girls. To me it symbolizes the power of peace. He has also taken many other pictures I’ve used in sharing their story. I appreciate having an extra shutterbug and an iPhone 8 Plus.

We made our way out of the park and enjoyed more Sakura and tulips.

Time Out Tokyo

Jet lag worked in our favor for our Sunday plans. We planned to get out of the house early Sunday morning and begin our day at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. I wanted to share the beautiful Sakura in the National Garden with both Dave and the Thompsons. I also knew the garden would become very busy. We arrived about a half hour after it opened and there were already many people prepped for Hanami.

We enjoyed walking through the garden. Yet again, we were lucky with more beautiful weather.

As we walked, we enjoyed the opportunity to view so many Sakura still in bloom.

After leaving the gardens, we stopped for lunch and then caught the train to Harajuku. As many times as we have been to Harajuku, I have never it seen it so crowded. This was the train ride to Harajuku.

The girls made a brief stop to purchase cat ears. Because, Japan.

At one point, about half way down Takeshita Street, the crowd came to a complete standstill. We ended up having to push our way out and slip down a side street.

The crowd left us weary and in need of a break from the crowd. We decided to walk to Shibuya instead of riding another crowded train. It was actually an enjoyable and somewhat entertaining walk.

After the crowd at Harajuku, Shibuya didn’t seem too crazy!

From Shibuya Crossing, we took the train to Gumyoji. I wanted Jennifer (and everyone else) to experience Yozakura. It was yet again, a beautiful evening.

These two! Candy covered strawberries dipped in sugar.

We caught one last train home. It was a long day for the first day of a Julia tour. For the record, I think the kids won this round.

Sakura School Trip

On Friday, group of students and teachers from my English school attended a day trip to Tokyo to view Sakura. Our first stop was at Komatsugawa Senbonzakura, a park on the east side of Tokyo. I have never been to this area of Tokyo. I took a screenshot of Google Maps and the dropped pin. The park is saved with the pink heart on the right side of the photo.

To return to this spot would take about two hours from our house and at least three trains. I was glad it was part of the tour because, I definitely wouldn’t have gone on my own. As we walked around the park, one of my students told me the park was only about 15 years old. So, the trees were not very big.

Size certainly didn’t matter in this case. The trees were beautiful. The weeping Sakura was my favorite in this park. In the picture with me are two of my English students who attended the school trip.

It was fun to see so many people out enjoying Hanami.

Now that’s a playground! Complete with a net to climb and a roller slide!

The second stop was at Rikugien Garden. I visited Rikugien Garden this past November. We were a little too late to view the main Sakura attraction. The large Sakura tree had already dropped its petals.

There was still plenty to see in the garden. It was so quiet and peaceful. It’s always hard for me to believe I’m in the middle of a huge city when I visit gardens in Tokyo. There is very little city noise.

Our third stop of the afternoon was at the State Guest House of The Asakusa Imperial Property. The State Guest House is where national dignitaries are hosted when they visit Japan. We toured the inside of the property, but were prohibited from taking photos. The building was beautiful. Again, I was glad it was part of the tour because I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I was able to take a few pictures of the garden. The fountain reminded me of the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago.

Our final stop was at Chidori-ga-Fuchi. Chidori-ga-Fuchi is a large moat surrounding the Imperial Palace. Visitors are permitted to rent row boats and paddle around the moat. The row boats and Sakura made for beautiful pictures in the afternoon sun.

The trip was planned in early March. There was no guarantee the Sakura would be blooming or the weather would cooperate. I think we were very fortunate to have beautiful weather and blooming Sakura.

Zushi & Shomyoji

A short post to share two of my favorite local Sakura spots. The first is Zushi Highlands. I drove through here on Thursday morning on my way to Costco. As you watch the video, please remember – I’m not a bad driver. We drive on the left in Japan. Please enjoy the trip driving through the Sakura tunnel.

Thursday afternoon I went to Shomyoji Temple. The restored garden and temple is a beautiful setting for Sakura viewing.

The garden is about a 15 minute walk from the closest train station. On such a beautiful day, it was effortless.

One of my favorite views is of the Sakura trees and the bridge. So lovely.

After my visit, I headed back to the station. I was lucky to ride home on a kawaii train. Rilakkuma is a fictional Japanese character. His name means “relax bear” and he is celebrating his 15th birthday this year. The Keikyu Line is celebrating a 120th Anniversary this year. They are celebrating together and many of the trains have been decorated with large stickers. Just when I thought train riding in Japan couldn’t get any more fun – it becomes even cuter!


Wednesday evening, I met Katie and her daughter, Virginia, at the Kanazawa Hakkei train station. We took the train from here to Gumyoji. We wanted to see the Sakura at night with the lanterns. The Japanese term for nighttime Sakura viewing is Yozakura. We arrived around 1730. The lanterns were illuminated at 1800. We took a few dusk pictures while we waited.

Tonight was my turn to tell the flowers how much we appreciated them blooming for us. Katie gave her appreciation on Monday. I’m still giggling.

When the lights came on, we clapped. I felt like there should have been a count down. The lanterns were so beautiful. Oh, Japan. You continue to steal my heart when I’m not expecting it.

The evening was extraordinary and so enjoyable. We sat at a table and Virginia enjoyed her churros and we enjoyed our beers. After our snacks, we walked along the river a little more.

The rest of the pictures were taken by Katie. Her iPhone 7 out performed my iPhone 6 with respect to night pictures. Thank you, Katie, for sharing your pictures. I’ll look forward to upgrading my phone when we return to the U.S.

Even after four straight days of Sakura chasing, I’m still impressed and amazed with their beauty. I hope you’re not growing tired of them either!

Zushi Sakura

This morning I decided to take a different route on my run. The route I took was one Dave and I ran a lot last year when we were training for Tokyo Marathon. It made for a little longer and little hillier run than our normal run to Zushi Beach. I knew the Sakura lined streets would be worth the extra efforts. I didn’t have to go too far to start seeing Sakura trees. They are literally everywhere.

This temple and bridge are on our normal route. I wish you could smell the incense from the temple. Add the sunrise and I found my Zen.

Shortly after I took these pictures, I turned left away from the beach and ran uphill towards Hayama. I went about another mile before turning up an even bigger hill. The view from the top was obstructed by Sakura. Not a bad reason for no view!

I decided to walk down the hill. The sidewalks were brick and very uneven from the Sakura roots. I didn’t want to trip. Plus, I wanted to savor this view.

I took a quick stop at the park to take a few close up pictures of the Sakura and a sunrise Sakura selfie.

I continued down the hill and was completely amazed with the beautiful trees. This street is less than 1.5 miles from the main gate where we live and there was no one around other than cars passing on their way to work. It was such a contrast to my day yesterday. I was happy I decided change my route so I could appreciate their beauty in the early morning.

I continued past the park near our house and took a few close up pictures.

Finally, I made it back home. I crossed the set of railroad tracks near our house and chuckled. Right by our housing complex is a river with Sakura planted along it. It’s like Meguro River, only much smaller and not crowded!

After four days of Sakura chasing, I can completely understand the obsession. I feel like I have a little Sakura crush of my own.

Koishikawa Kōrakuen Gardens – Spring Sakura

I started out my day helping Dave get to the airport for a quick and unexpected trip to Sasebo. Since I was already on the way to Tokyo, I decided to visit a couple spots known for Sakura blossoms. The first place I went was Ueno Park. Of the various articles I read about where to view Sakura, Ueno Park was always listed in the top five. I should have anticipated the crowds based on the volume of train passengers. Honestly, I never imagined there would be so many people! This was the crowd just to leave the train station.

It wasn’t hard to find the Sakura with a large crowd to follow. The good thing was there was a large area to walk. The walk could accommodate the large crowd.

I walked down the main strip and couldn’t get over how many people where there to see the Sakura. I also couldn’t believe how many foreigners were visiting. I realize I am also a foreigner, but I’m not accustomed to seeing too many others. I was overwhelmed with all the English conversations! However, I’m pretty sure those here to Hanami were locals. Check out their spreads.

Within 45 minutes of my arrival, I was ready to find a Sakura spot off the beaten path. The crowd at Ueno Park was just too much for me. My next stop of the day was at one of my favorite Tokyo gardens, Koishikawa Kōrakuen. This garden is on my wabi-sabi list and continues to appear on “best of Tokyo” list. I’ve visited this park in the summer and fall and during both seasons, the park was beautiful. I was looking forward to seeing the Park blossoming in the spring. I wasn’t disappointed. The Sakura was beautiful and the quiet park serene. It was just what I needed to restore my zen after the crowds at Ueno. As I wandered the path, I had fun taking pictures of this Sakura tree from different angles.

There were definitely more people at the garden compared to my last visit. Nonetheless, I was able to capture pictures of nature’s beauty and solitude.

I took a panoramic photo from the top of the hill. What the Sakura perhaps lacked in numbers, they made up for in beauty.

I continued walking through the garden. The light gave me a faint shadow at the moon bridge.

The path winds around the pond. It provides a peaceful and meditative walk.

Eventually, I made my way back to the entrance of the park. Here I could view the Sakura up close.

I think today Team Blush was the winner.

The one Team Pink tree wasn’t quite in full bloom.

I’ll be honest, the beautiful weather this Sakura season makes me feel like I won the lottery. It truly is a gorgeous time of year.

Tokyo Sakura Chasing

On Monday, Katie and I decided to check out a couple spots in Tokyo with beautiful Sakura. The first place we visited was the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. We met at the Kanazawa-Hakkei train station. It was about an hour on the train ride to the closest station and then a quick 10 minute walk to the garden. Several articles we read listed Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden as the number one spot in Tokyo for Sakura viewing. It is easy to see why. The trees were magnificent.

We arrived by 10:30 and were glad we did. The garden was already becoming quite crowded. It was another beautiful day and I think many people had the same idea!

The Sakura trees were everywhere throughout the garden. There were a variety of colors. From white to pale pink to the deep pink. I tried to capture all the colors in this photo.

Here are a couple of my favorite photos of the Sakura trees within the park.

Katie pointed out the beautiful contrast between the serene gardens and the city skyscrapers in the background. Ahhh, wabi-sabi indeed.

We had fun trying to hide in the Sakura and take selfies.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is my favorite Sakura spot so far. It was absolutely magical. After visiting Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, we caught the Tokyo Metro to Meguro to see the Sakura along the Meguro River. The blossoms were spectacular.

The pathways along the river stretched out for such a long way. It was serene.

These blossoms were more of the blush color. Team Blush had a strong presence today.

The lanterns created a fun ambiance and great for snapping a few portraits.

I’m so excited to have such wonderful weather this year during Sakura season. I’ve strategically planned out my week to capture different parks and gardens. I hope you enjoy seeing the pictures as much as I do chasing down the Sakura!

Gumyoji Sakura

After much anticipation, Sakura season has finally arrived in the Tokyo area. Simultaneously, so has beautiful spring weather. Today and the rest of this week, temperatures will reach the mid sixties. The 10-day forecast doesn’t show rain at all! Let the Sakura chasing begin!

To kick off Sakura season, Dave and I went to Gumyoji early Sunday afternoon to enjoy the beautiful Sakura trees along the river. I visited this area last year, but I didn’t remember exactly where to go. This was not an issue, we simply followed the crowd!

The trees are not fully bloomed. I would say they are about 70% at this point. By the end of this week, I think they will be in full bloom. Perfect for your visit, Jennifer!

The walk along the river was so relaxing.

As we walked along, we realized the lanterns had electricity. They must be illuminated at night. I will have to get back one evening this week to have a look. I imagine it would be beautiful.

A couple of the smaller trees were in full bloom. We stopped for photo opportunities.

Most of these Sakura are a very pale shade of pink. From a distance, they almost appear white. Up close, you can see the pale pink.

One tree was a brilliant shade of darker pink.

So, we discussed which was our favorite. Team Pink or Team Blush. Either way, my pink capris blend nicely. I might need to wear them all week!

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