Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Sakura (Page 1 of 2)

Buddha’s Pooper

Bill’s visit was work related and only provided for a small amount of time for me to give him a Julia Tour. Between the jet lag and his work schedule, it was tough to find too much spare time. We did squeeze in a few traditional Japanese experiences. Starting with ramen.

Tuesday night, I met Dave and Bill in Yokosuka after work. After a brief pit stop at the O’Club for an informal Navy happy hour, we went to the “Red Door” ramen shop in Yokosuka. This is actually the first place Dave and I had dinner when we arrived in July. It was just as delicious! Dave ordered the spicy ramen and Bill and I both ordered the salt ramen – mine with extra nori (seaweed sheets) – remember, seaweed is the pickle bite of the burger. I think Bill would have this chopstick thing down if he was here another couple days!

Bill’s flight left Wednesday evening giving us a few hours to explore Kamakura. The first stop was the Great Buddha. My favorite.

There wasn’t a line to go inside Buddha, so, we ventured in for ¥20 (16 cents). The best part, was Bill referring to this opportunity as “going into the Buddha’s pooper.” Haha! I snapped this quick picture of Bill looking in the same direction as the Japanese ladies were pointing. No, he has no idea what they are saying.

As we returned back to Hase Station, I snapped one more picture of the last remaining Sakura and the wisteria starting to bloom. Considering the wisteria photo foreshadowing for next week!

We returned to Kamakura and walked to the Hachiman-gū Shrine.

We walked up behind the main shrine and found this quiet sanctuary and shrine.

It was a beautiful morning and I was happy to share a couple of my favorite spots in Japan with Bill before he headed back to America.

After I dropped Bill off in Yokosuka to catch his shuttle to Narita, I stopped by the post office to pick up a package. The Chick-Fil-A fairy delivered again! This time from Germantown, TN and with a few other essentials to kick off grilling and smoking season! Thank you, Layla, Nick, Nina, and Noah for going to several Chick-Fil-A stores to gather yummy sauce for us. I truly appreciate your friendship, love, and support to help us taste TN in Japan. Watch out for a few Neko Atsume surprises coming your way!

I Thought You Would Get a Kick Out of This

I was asked to be the substitute teacher at an English class in Zushi. It is about a 15-minute drive from my house. It is a little bit more of a hectic drive than normal because I have to drive behind Zushi train station. In this area, there are a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists on their way to the station to catch their train. So many people combined with the narrow road sometimes makes me feel like I’m driving on a sidewalk! Also, on this route, I have to cross three different sets of train tracks. Often the traffic is blocked at these crossings making the drive take a little longer.

The class is two hours long. The structure of the class includes each person discussing an incident from the past week for ten minutes. After each person has talked, I read a story selected by the teacher. The story is loaded with a variety of idioms. I explain the idioms and then ask questions to check for their understanding of the story and idioms. One of the idioms from the story today was “to get a kick out of something.” One of my questions to each student was to tell me a time they got a kick out of something. Each shared with me an antidotal story, which were very entertaining.

The road leading up to her neighborhood was lined with beautiful Sakura. 

I thought you might get a kick out of a short video I took driving up the street. You can really hear the Hooptie engine revving as I climbed the hill! I know the video takes a little longer to load. I hope you are able to view it nonetheless. I think you will get a kick out of the Sakura tree blossom tunnel as well as me driving on the left side of the road! Please enjoy.

One More Sakura Adventure 

Tuesday it rained and rained. It was pretty ridiculous. If this isn’t the “rainy season” I’m not sure I’m gonna make it without owning a canoe! Haha

The clouds finally parted and Wednesday started off beautifully. Dina and I had plans to hike to Mt. Miurafuji and to visit the cemetery pagoda in hopes of catching a few remaining Sakura.

We set out on the hike I did last month to Mt. MiuraFuji and made the steep climb. Unfortunately, today was not a clear enough day to see Mt. Fuji. The blue skies want to promise you otherwise. None the less, the views along the hike were stunning. If we were going to see Mt. Fuji, it would be in the first picture.

At the top, we made the decision to head towards the Nobi train station. There was a trail and a sign pointing the way and I thought this might connect us to the pagoda faster. Simultaneously, we knew we wouldn’t see Mt. Fuji anywhere else on the hike. So, the pagoda became our next goal.

Off we set, back down the mountain.

Soon we came to a fork in the path and a sign. Google Maps helped to point us in the correct direction. We veered right at the fork.

Down we went.

It doesn’t look very steep from the top. How about from the bottom!

We continued hiking down and found a beautiful little over look. The dark spots in the photo are Sakura petals falling. It was so serene.

We were eventually dumped out into urbanization. We followed Google Maps to the cemetery. On our journey, we passed through a quaint little park and beautiful cemetery. Both with Sakura trees in bloom.

My beautiful friend! How is she not a sweaty mess?

Me… Sweat-a-Saurus Rex! Honestly, who cares about me! Look at those Sakura Blossoms!

Ok, enough with the suspense already, we made it to the cemetery. First stop, Buddha.

This view!

A few more steps and the pagoda was in sight!

The Sakura trees in bloom with the pagoda were well worth the hike. Dina and I picked up onigiri for lunch and had our own Hanami under the Sakura trees. It was perfect. Except we forgot the Sake!!

I think the first picture is my favorite. Or maybe the second…

By the time we stopped for Hanami, I was pretty hungry. I snapped these pictures after we both finished our onigiri. Oops! It was a beautiful setting!

As we returned home on the train, clouds started to roll in and so did a few sprinkles. By the time I was walking up the hill towards home, it was full on raining. I had no umbrella, just more beautiful Sakura and a chu-hi!


Sakura Chasing

On Monday, there was a break in the rain. I set out on a mission to spend the day enjoying Sakura. I set out with four locations in mind to view with a Sakura setting. The first was the Great Buddha, Daibutsu. The first picture was the one I made the trip to capture. The others were taken in the surrounding gardens and a delightful surprise. 

My second stop was at the Ōfuna Kannon Temple or also known as the White Lady of Ofuna. Visiting this temple always calms me and helps me find peace. Seeing the White Lady today with the Sakura was enchanting and serene. 

My next point of interest was at the Gumyoji Station. I have never been there before and was recommended to visit during Sakura Season by a neighbor. Google Maps help me find my way from Ōfuna Station to Gumyoji Station like a champ. 

After a short walk from the Gumyoji Station, I was along the canal where the Sakura were in full bloom. It was breath taking. 

I must take a minute and explain the Japanese custom of Hanami. Hanami is tradition of enjoying a picnic under the Sakura. As I walked along the Gumyoji canal, there were many groups enjoying an afternoon Hanami. I couldn’t help but smile and truly appreciate the way the Japanese take time to enjoy fellowship and the beautiful Sakura blossoms. Without looking creepy, I attempted to capture a few groups practicing Hanami. 

The canal stretched on for a pretty good distance. I walked from one train station to another taking as many pictures as possible! 

My final stop of my Sakura chasing experience for the day was at the Shomyoji Temple. The temple was about a 15 minute walk from the Kanazawa-Bunco train station. The temple was easy to find because the street was lined with Sakura and lanterns. 

Around the temple there were several groups enjoying the Hanami experience. 

A highlight in the temple garden was the bridge crossing over the small pod. 

A few more Sakura shots from around the gardens. 

I feel like I made the most of the non-rainy day getting out and about to see the beautiful Sakura. When you plan your visit, I hope you consider Sakura Season. I will warn you though, like most things in nature, it can be difficult to predict. 

April Showers 

It has been raining off and on since Friday. Along with this rain came humidity. We went from having dry cool air on Tuesday to having muggy wetness on Friday. Friday morning I plugged in our dehumidifiers in an attempt to keep ahead of the mold and moisture.

As the temperatures are starting to warm up, the Sakura trees are at peak bloom. Unfortunately, the rain damped the effect of the beautiful trees. I took a few pictures of the Sakura throughout Zushi on our rainy run this morning.

Dave and I were planning to have Sakura pictures taken in the peony garden of the Hachiman Gu Shrine in Kamakura on Saturday. The rain cancelled those plans. On Sunday, we decided to venture to Kamakura to see the blossoms in the peony garden despite the rain. First, a few pictures from our walk up to the shrine.

In the garden, the trees were stunning and the peonies were a delightful surprise. They were ginormous and they were protected by parasols to keep them intact during the heavy rains.

And now the Sakura trees. Can you imagine how beautiful this would look on a sunny day?

Dave and I decided to have our own photo shoot. Just us being us.

The Sakura blossoms won’t last until next weekend for us to have pictures and so we are working on plan B. Reflecting on the day, I realize it epitomizes wabi-sabi sole. We found beauty despite the imperfect weather conditions. We even completed a long run in the rain not because we were training for anything, just because we wanted to run.

Ahhhhhh… wabi-sabi sole…

Meguro River 

Sakura Season is really starting to blossom. Would you believe that Google Map actually identifies areas where Sakura present and their bloom status. One place that has received a lot of attention is the Meguro River.

Besides Sakura, in the Meguro River area is Pizzeria de Michele. The plan of the day came together quickly and I was able to convince Dina and two of her kids to join me.

Lunch at Pizzeria de Michele, followed by a walk along the Meguro River to view the Sakura.

The pizza was just as amazing. Eme said it was her favorite pizza place in Japan. I couldn’t agree more!

After lunch, we took a 20-minute walk up and over a hill to the Meguro River walk. The Sakura were lovely.

We walked along one side, crossed the bridge, and then came down the other side. The other side had fuller blooms and at times gave the feeling of being surrounded by the Sakura. At night, the lanterns light up!

Along the way down the other side, we stopped for Sakura mochi. Because Japan!

As we made our way to the train station, we passed several different varieties of Sakura. The first were white!

The other set were bright pink along an office building.

Sakura Season is so beautiful. It was interesting to see how many people were there walking along the river. On a weekday!

Sake, Soba, Sakura

Three points of interest were included in our ITT trip to the Yamanashi prefecture. The first was at the Shichiken Sake Brewery. We left Yokosuka at 6:30am and arrived at the brewery around 10am. Here was our route. It took us longer than the projected 2.5 hours because the bus has to stop every two hours for a driver change. Safety is paramount. 

The Sake Brewery tour was interesting. We were required to wear a hair net and remove our shoes. 

The hair net! So, cute and small and so Japanese! 

One size fits all slippers were provided. 

I have never seen such a clean and organized Brewery. These pictures show the various stages of the rice being washed. The worker is dumping rice into the washer. 

Something living in Japan has taught me: always rinse your rice! 

After being washed, the rice is placed in these huge tubs with water, yeast, and malts. The ingredients age for 30 days. The alcohol content increases as the rice sits in the tubs. We were cautious not to fall into the huge tubs as the sign advised. The best quote from the tour was about the bubbles formed in the fermentation process. It was translated as “rice moss” by our tour guide. “Rice moss makes sugar.” 

Rice moss. 

We had an opportunity to stir the fermenting rice. 

After the 30 day fermentation, the rice is pressed to remove the Sake. The fancy Sake (very expensive) is not pressed. It is instead allowed to drip patiently into the barrels. 

After our tour, Sonia and I had the opportunity to taste the Sake. We were given one free taste. We purchased two additional tastings for ¥100 ($1.00) each. 

We left the Brewery around 11:30 and went to the Sobadokoro-Izumi. Here we were able to make our own Soba noodles for lunch. It was quite an intense process. It took about an hour! We were paired up with a group of four. The child with them became the expert Soba maker. Fortunately, we also had a sweet Japanese lady directing us and helping us! Step one: sift the flower. 

Step two: add water to flour and mix. 

Step three: kneed the dough

Step four: roll out dough. The long rolling pin was used in a traditional manner in the beginning. Then, the dough was actually wrapped around the pin and rolled. This created even thinner dough. 

Step five: fold the dough. 

Step six: cut the dough. 

Step seven: boil the dough for 1 minute! 

Step eight: EAT!! 

Our last stop of the day was at the Jissoji Temple. Here we were able to see the a Sakura tree over 2,000 years old!! The tree was amazing. Unfortunately, we were about a week too early for the blooms. The tree has numerous posts and wraps to help it stay upright. 

There were several different Sakura. Unfortunately, not yet blooming. 

The daffodils were my favorite! 

Sonia and I both decided we want to take a small Sakura tree home with us. 

It was a little disappointing not to be able to see the trees in bloom. But, the temple was cool and I was able to get a pretty detailed stamp. 

My stamp. 

After our visit at the Jissoji Temple, we made the voyage back home. It was a great day experiencing different aspects of Japanese culture. And a great kickoff to my staycation! 

Sakura Geraniums 

I went to the Homes store today and picked up a few more plants to decorate the back yard and fill my herb pot. They had Sakura Geraniums for sale! Sakura Sakura for everyone! 

They are so pretty and a highlight to the double fence issue in the backyard. 

I put a total of five planters along the back fence. Three with Geraniums and two with this interesting plant. Not really sure what it is other than pretty and pink. 

My last project was the herb pot. Filled with herb happiness. 

I absolutely love coming home to the front porch of our cell block. It’s so homey and inviting. I can’t wait for you to see it in person when you visit. 

I want to tell you one more thing I finally did today and it is on a completely different topic. My Japanese grandmothers have a cute way to communicate a change of subject. They say, “thank you for sharing. Ok. Subject change.”

I finally figured out how to put my name on my PASMO card. I first noticed this was an option when I saw Dina’s card. I tried once before and couldn’t figure it out. Almost 8 months into this adventure and two attempts, my card is named! I must give James credit. We had to put his name on his card because he qualified for a youth fare PASMO and through that experience I had a clue. Today, on my way to meet Dave and his former CMC from SWOSU for dinner, I charged my card and put my name on it in less than a minute. Boom! Small accomplishments make me feel amazing. Now let’s hope I get on the correct trains to get me to Yokosuka on time… 

Running Errands

I think we can all agree that “running errands” is not our favorite thing to do. Simultaneously, they are necessary and can only be put off temporarily. They best way in my opinion to run errands is with someone. This way, you have someone to talk to and distract you from the annoying tasks! 

Dina and I set out on errands today. Our first stop was Costco. We needed our regular items. For me, fizzy water and kale. This is the second visit in a row Costco has not had kale and I had to settle for spinach. Grrr. 

Dina also needed a cake for her oldest daughter’s birthday. The one at Costco was of course Costco size. Too big. So, we headed to Sweet Tooth in Hayama. While Dina picked out the chocolate cake she needed, I picked out a few treats I didn’t need! The first was a Sakura macaroon. 

The second, a Sakura tiramisu. Can you guess which one? Oh, right. It’s in English. 

I mentioned before how Sakura is everywhere. Check out the number of Sakura treats! Besides macaroons, there were muffins, cookies and donuts! 

After dropping everything off at the house, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch. Our reward for “running” our errands. We went to Zushi and tried Kappa Sushi. It is a Sushi-go-round. Very similar to to Sushi-ro, with the exception there was no English option on the menu! 

Google translate and the pictures helped. We did have to call the server once to help us order Sake. Now that is a reward!! Tuna Sushi and Sake!! To quote Delaney, “my favorites!”

Everything was pretty much the same. The experience took a little patience. But, all things considered, we were champions. Tip: don’t take the plates on the special bowls! 

Up close picture of tiny squid and shrimp. No, we didn’t try this one! 

Juice boxes!! This made me laugh. 

Days like today when I can accomplish normal things ( like running errands)  without incident make me feel pretty good. Simultaneously, I suggest we all give ourselves a “reward” when we successfully “run” our errands. Life should be celebrated! 

Sakura is the Japanese Pumpkin 

Dina, Miki, and I went up to Yokohama for lunch. We are at an American style pizza buffet restaurant called Shakey’s. It was ok. After eating at Pizza da Michele on Saturday, I should probably avoid any pizza for a while to avoid disappointment. 

After lunch we walked around Yokohama station and explored the shopping area. Sakura season is quickly approaching. As a result, Japan has turned everything Sakura flavored. From Sakura lattes at Starbucks to Sakura Rosé. The bottle of Sakura wine was so cute, I couldn’t resist purchasing it! It has actual Sakura flowers in the wine! 

A unique Sakura product I found was Sakura tea. The product has the consistency of soft jelly. To prepare the tea, place a teaspoon into a tea cup and add hot water. Stir until the jelly dissolves. We were able to sample the tea at the store. It was delicious and relaxing as advertised! 

Miki also shared with us her favorite desserts from Baum Kuchen. Here the desserts are being baked. As each layer is added, it is dipped and then baked. Creating the ring effect of the layers. 

I purchased a sample of the regular flavor and the Sakura flavor. 

They look flakey and delicious. 

Check out the delicious layers. 

Dave and I agreed our favorite part was the outside edge with the icing. I can’t promise I tasted the Sakura. It was sweet and yummy. Honestly, that is all that matters! 

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