Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Seven Lucky Gods

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!

Zushi Seven Lucky Gods 2018

Katie and I arranged to complete the Zushi Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage with another spouse. Julee, our tour guide for the day, offers to guide groups of spouses on the tour each year. She was even so kind as to drive us to each of the Temples. The Zushi Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage is special because it is only offered from January 1st – 10th. Off we go!

Since it’s been a while since I’ve posted about the Seven Lucky Gods, let me give you a quick recap of their significance. The Shichifuku-jin are the Seven Gods of good luck. Each God represents good fortune in a specific area of life. Together the six Gods and one Goddess bring good luck, long life, and prosperity. The Zushi pilgrimage is only available for the first 10 days of the year. Other pilgrimages are available year round.

Our pilgrimage started the Toshoji Temple. Here we collected our branch to hold all of our Gods and the first God, Fukurokuju. Fukurokuju is the God of longevity.

The little figures are so adorable. They are very similar to the ones I collected last year. Since 2018 is the year of the dog, I added a small gold puppy charm to the end of the branch.

The second stop was at the Enmeiji Temple. This temple is dedicated to Benzaiten. Benzaiten is the only Goddess of the Seven. She is the God of art, music, and cleverness. We were able to enter the Temple. It was absolutely beautiful.

The third stop on our tour was at the Sotaiji Temple. Here we collected the God of wealth, Daikokuten. Please notice the bag of coins and mallet he carries. Both are signs of good fortune.

At the Temple we were given four keys to a long life. Our guide, Julee, translated it for us. 1. Don’t tell lies. 2. Stay calm. 3. Be kind. 4. Don’t get angry. Seems like sound advice to me!

While we were stopped, I had Katie take a picture of me in front of the temple. It seemed like a lucky spot. Plus, I wanted to share a picture of one of my cute skirts we had made in Thailand. Dave actually picked out the fabric for this one.

The fourth Temple was Chounji. Here we collected my favorite God, Hotei. Hotei is the God of Happiness.

The fifth Temple was Gyokuzoin. At the Gyokuzoin Temple, Ebisu is honored. Ebisu is the protective God of the Sea, farming, and development. The long rope is actually tied to the God’s hand inside the Temple. On busy days of the pilgrimage, it isn’t possible to go inside the Temple. By holding the rope, you are able to touch the God.

Here I am, holding hands with Ebisu.

However, it wasn’t too busy today. So, we went inside. All of the rope in the ceiling eventually winds around to a bell. From the bell a small string is looped around the God.

We also enjoyed a cup of tea at the Temple and collected Ebisu for our branch. Check out my adorable gloves! Thanks, Audry, for making the year of the puppy even better!

The sixth Stop was at the Senkoin Temple. Here we collected Bishamonten, the God of success. I took a peek inside the Temple. It was beautiful, also.

Our final stop was at the Koshoji Temple. Koshoji Temple is dedicated to Jurojin, the God of Health.

We were able to finish before the rain sprinkles started. I really enjoy the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimages. Although, we won’t be able to complete this one when you visit, we can pick one of the others to complete if you are interested. They are a great way to see more of the “off the beaten path” of Japan. Plus, a little extra luck is always good.

All Day Scavenger Hunt

I took the Cummings on a tour around the west area of Tokyo on Monday. Dave called on Sunday and was able to reserve two rooms for us at the New Sanno Hotel. This would enable us to spend the entire day exploring and not having to take the train all the way home. 

The first stop on our scavenger hunt was at The International House of Japan. Or as we quickly named it “The International House of Ja-pancake.” 

Here, Sara was able to deliver a book her father published of his notes and recordings from a conference he attended during the 1960s. Fortunately, one of the receptionist spoke very good English. Sara left the book with the receptionist and she in return gave Sara an email for her father to use to contact the library. Mission complete. 

Our next order of business was to drop off our bags at the hotel. As we walked through Roppongi, we could see Tokyo Tower. 

At the hotel, we registered for our rooms and left our bags with the bellhop. Back to the train station we went! This time our destination was lunch! The Vernal Equinox is a holiday in Japan making it difficult to find a place not too crowded at lunch. Outside of Shinjuku station, we found a cute little back alley filled with different ramen shops. 

It was the perfect spot to fuel our Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage. Lucky us, there were five seats available! 

With our lunch mission complete, we set out on the Shinjuku Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage. Seven temples to find! 

At our first temple, Taiso-ji, we collected Hotei and purchased the boat the Gods would rest upon. Hotei: God of happiness, family, peace and protection from illness and disaster.

The second stop was at the Hozen-ji Temple. Here we collected Jurojin. Jurojin: God of long life and protection from illness.

I knew our next stop was a tricky one to find and I took us down a couple dead end streets before finding the path to the temple. Without too much delay, we arrived at the Itsukushima Temple. Here we collected Benzai-ten. Benzai-ten: Goddess of music, arts, and speech.

Our fourth stop was around the corner. We walked over to the Eifuku-ji Temple. The Eifuku-ji Temple is dedicated to Fukurokuju. Fukurokuji: God of health, happiness, and long life. 

The fifth temple was a bit of a walk and required a little refueling. A short stop at the Family Mart for ice cream and we were on our way! About 15 minutes later we arrived at the Kyo-o-ji Temple. Here we collected Daikoku-ten. Daikoku-ten: God of grain harvest and wealth. Everyone also had a chance to shake the lucky mallet for wealth! 

To reach the sixth temple we took a quick train ride to the Zentoku-ji Temple. This temple is dedicated to Bishamon-ten. Bisamon-ten: God of protection from disaster and evil.

As we were leaving the temple, we realized we needed to pick up the pace in order to ensure we made it to the last temple on time. Everyone stepped it out! I was so proud of everyone! We made it to Ushi Kitano a Shinto Shrine. 

But, guess what – it was the wrong one! Yep, I messed that one up! Gah! It was 1600. Hopefully, the temple we wanted to visit stayed open until 1700. Back to the train we went!! Our final God awaited at the Inari Kio-jinja Shrine. Here we collected Ebisu-jin. Ebisu-jin: God of prosperous business. 

I consider us extra lucky after this pilgrimage- we found all seven plus one additional temple!! 

After completing our pilgrimage, we went to Harajuku for the reward I promised – cotton candy. And not just any cotton candy… a mountain of cotton candy! But first, we needed a family picture at Takeshita Dori! 

This part of the scavenger hunt was pretty easy. The cotton candy was everywhere! 

We enjoyed walking around Harajuku and seeing so much “kawaii!” Next up- finding  Shibuya Crossing and a snapping a picture with Hachiko statue. 

Done and done! Time to eat dinner. Oh, boy… always a bit of a scavenger hunt and with two kids it can be tricky. If James had his pick, we would eat ramen again. While walking around Shibuya we turned the corner and saw Outback Steakhouse. Seriously. Our search was over. The American mothership called us home. 

We all agreed, this was much better than the sea urchin pretzels Delaney picked up earlier in the day! 

This massive burger with blooming onions on top made my scavenger hunt complete. 

The day was quite an adventure. I lost track of how many trains we rode. Apple steps told me we walked over 10 miles. Even after a full day of walking and occasional wrong turns, I’m the lucky one. I was able to spend the day with friends doing what I love – exploring! 

PS. Sara snapped this picture in one of the many train stations. Me, wiping my ever runny nose. Yep, that’s about my normal look! Haha

Asakusa Seven Lucky Gods

After visiting the Tokyo Skytree, we went to the Sensō-ji Temple where we began the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage around Asakusa (pronounced A-sox-sa). The Sensō-ji Temple is one of the largest and most well temples in Tokyo. There were so many tourists!

A selfie at the start of our pilgrimage, the front gate of the temple. It was such a bright and sunny day!

After crossing through the front gate, there is a street with many stores selling every imaginable souvenir. Some of the stores weren’t open yet and so I was able to get a couple pictures of the art painted on the store doors.

The temple is very large and beautiful. 

With this Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage, we were able to collect Temple stamps and small prayer cards that hang from a branch. At Sensō-ji Temple, I purchased the branch with a rooster card (2017 is the year of the rooster) and the card for Daikokuten, the God of commerce and prosperity.

Very close to Sensō-ji Temple was our next stop at the Asakusa Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to Ebisu, the God of wealth and prosperity.

Ebisu is the patron of fisherman and is shown holding a fish on the prayer card.

Our next stop was at the Honryuin Temple where Bisyamonten is honored. Bisyamonten is the God of War. He is pictured with an angry face to defeat evil!

The temple was unique because it had daikon that could be purchased as an offering. According to the temple brochure, “the daikon represents our minds trapped in deep ignorance, emanating poison of anger, but by offering a daikon to Kangi-Ten, that poison will be purged from our body and soul.”

Also, while we were waiting for my temple book to be stamped, one of the monks encouraged us to take dust from a beautiful gold urn and rub it on our palms and all over our bodies to cure any ailments. We rubbed it into our hands and down our legs hoping for a pain free marathon next weekend.

Cleansing water.

The fourth stop was the Imado Shrine or the Lucky Cat Shrine. This one has been on my list of must visit every since we went to the Lucky Cat Temple. The legend of the Imado Shrine was about an old woman who lived in Imado (Asakusa). She was forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. In her sadness, she dreamt of the cat telling her to make its image in clay. She created the clay cats and sold them. They were so popular she soon became very prosperous.

Here we collected the first of two prayer cards for Fukurokuji. Fukurokuji is the God of wisdom, luck, longevity, wealth, and happiness. The Imado Shrine features cats coupled together and visiting this temple is said to bring good fortune to your marriage. Also, if searching for a spouse, this is a good temple to visit and pray.

I purchased one of these cute of course a lucky cat prayer cards! Kawaii!

Look at these watering cans!

The next stop on our pilgrimage was the Ishihama Shrine. Here we collected the card for Jurojin, the God of longevity.

I loved the mixture of the stone and red wooden Tori gates.

After this stop is when my navigation went astray. I marked all of the Temples/Shrines on Google Maps the night before. Unfortunately, I tagged two of the wrong temples. Temples often have the same name. Like saying “First Baptist” or “United Methodist” – there can be more than one in an area. I should have looked at the map I was given at Sensō-ji Temple a little closer. I would have saved us about 1.5 hours of back-tracking.

The good part, we found a delicious conveyor sushi spot to eat lunch. All was not lost!

When we finally arrived back at the Fudodin Temple where we collected the prayer card for Hoteison, the God of good fortune.

If you notice Hotei on the map, you will see this temple was very close to where we just were when we went to the Ishihama Shrine. I added a 1.5-hour detour. Fortunately, we did ride the train and eat lunch for some part of that 1.5 hours.

The Fudodin Temple was small and colorful.

Now we were back on track with two stops remaining. As we were walking towards the Yasaki Inari Shrine, we came upon a vending machine selling beer. Yes! Another new experience! Would we be able to buy a beer? Yes, yes we were! And thanks to my fabulous brother, I had a koozie to keep it cool and my hand warm! Kanpie!

I’m still confused about how this is possibly legal. Regardless, we happily drank our beer and walked to next stop, the Otori Shrine also dedicated to Jurojin. Our second Jurojin – Jurojin is the God of longevity and pictured here with a deer, a symbol of longevity. 

I am not clear why there are two Jurojin on this pilgrimage. There are also two Fukurokuju – we skipped the last one. Here is the Otori Shrine. Small and bright. 

Continuing to the last stop, the Yoshiwara Shrine, we came across a small shrine around the corner from the main Shrine. Both the main and smaller Yoshiwara Shrine are dedicated to Benzaiten, the Goddess of water and music. Check out the artwork!

We continued on to the main Yoshiwara shrine. It was just as embellished!

The main altar. Gotta love the Sake barrels!

The prayer card of Benzaiten.

I took another up close picture of the hanging offering outside the entrance.

And one last selfie at the completion of our journey.

Our branch is now complete with our cute prayer cards for each lucky God.

This is my fourth Seven Lucky Gods. I enjoy them because they take you through parts of an area you wouldn’t normally visit. Plus, I love seeing the different temples/shrines. They are all so unique. Simultaneously, I love the scavenger hunt aspect. Yesterday was the perfect setting for wandering around Asakusa gather luck!

This Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage was a bit longer than the others I have completed. According to Dave’s Fitbit, we walked 13.30 miles on Saturday. (This also included our trip to the Tokyo SkyTree.) None the less, it was a lot of walking and my side excursion only made it longer. By the time we finished, we were ready for a cold beer to celebrate our pilgrimage. Kanpie! 

Shinjuku Seven Lucky Gods

The “Shichifukujin” or Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimages are quickly becoming one of my favorite adventures. The pilgrimage reminds me of a modern day urban scavenger hunt. You must find the Seven Temples/Shrines, stamp your temple book and retrieve your cute figurine. All of this while using Google Maps, a map found on the Internet and if you’re lucky, a little bit of broken English from a monk. Or as in case today, a monk who spoke no English but was great with giving directions in Japanese while pointing at a map. I’ll come back to that story in a little bit.

This is my third Seven Lucky Gods adventure. First in Meguro and then in Zushi. Each time, I receive information about the God’s meaning. I will share what information I was given today, which may vary a little bit from what I have told you previously.

Dina and I set out this morning to Shinjuku. Shinjuku is located on the northwest side of Tokyo. It was a little over an hour away. Here was our route.

Yesterday, I marked all of the temple/shrine locations with a star so it would be easier to navigate between them. We started at the bottom and walked toward the center cluster. Then walked to the temple on the far left. Then we took the train to the two temples on the far right.

At our first temple, Taiso-ji, we collected Hotei and purchased the boat the Gods would rest upon. Hotei: God of family, peace and protection from illness and disaster.

From here we walked towards the Hozen-ji Temple. However, we were sidetracked along the way by an amazing bakery.

I enjoyed a delicious chocolate croissant. I felt super lucky it was chocolate and not red bean paste!

Around the corner was the temple.

Here we collected Jurojin. Jurojin: God of long life and protection from illness.

Our third stop was at the Itsukushima-Jinja Shrine. It was literally in the corner of an intersection. There was a Koi Pond, Tori Gate and Shrine. Yet, no person was present.

We decided to continue our journey to the fourth temple, Eifuku-ji Temple. We thought perhaps we could ask at the fourth temple where to go for the third stop.

As I learned in my previous pilgrimage, one must be bold and knock on a door or ring a bell or even just walk inside the temple. Feeling brave, Dina and I went into the temple. There was a small doorbell next to a cushion. In English, it said “bell.” So, we pushed it. Simultaneously, there was a motion detector that kept going off when we moved. Behind the closed doors, we could hear someone moving around. In fact, it sounded like he was doing gymnastics. So, we waited. And rang the bell again. And waited. And rang the bell again. Finally, a monk came out not because he was responding to our ringing. He was doing his monkly business and we startled him so badly we thought we might have helped him finish his path to enlightenment. He almost fell over. We tried not to laugh. He recovered immediately and promptly came over, greeted us, set out cushions for us to sit upon and then went to stamp our books. It was incredibly hard not to giggle. When he returned, before we could even ask how to get to temple number three, he took out a map and started explaining how to get there, in Japanese. Very fast Japanese.

To summarize, we were at the purple dot and needed to got to the small blue dot. We had been at the large blue dot in the middle of the intersection. Again, all in Japanese with finger pointing and charades.

Before leaving, we collected Fukurokuju. Fukurokuji: God of health, happiness, and long life.

The other strange part of the conversation was that the monk was so happy to give us directions he almost forgot to give us Fukurokuji. We finally asked and held up our fingers showing little God. More charades…  Ahhhh, hai!

Perhaps, the funniest part, we actually made it to the Itsukushima Temple. Here we collected Benzai-ten. Banzai-ten: Goddess of music, arts, and speech.

Plus, a few early cherry blossom pictures!

Our fifth stop was at the Inari Kio-jinja Shrine. This shrine was so tucked away!!

We collected Ebisu-jin. Ebisu-jin: God of prosperous business.

My favorite picture at this shrine was of the banana at the alter. It seems to be glowing!

To get to the final two temples, we took the train to save a little time and warm up!

Our sixth temple was at the Kyo-o-ji Temple. Here we collected Daikoku-ten. Daikoku-ten: God of grain harvest and wealth.

At this temple, there were many cute statues.

Inside the shrine, we were greeted by a monk who encouraged us to open the window and shake the mallet three times for our wish to come true. So, of course, we shook and wished!!

Our final temple was Zentoku-ji Temple. This temple is dedicated to Bishamon-ten. Bisamon-ten: God of protection from disaster and evil.

The completed Seven Lucky Gods of Shinjuku.
We never received an explanation of the boat during our adventure and so, I looked it up when we returned home. One explanation is the Seven Lucky Gods travel together on a treasure ship (Takarabune) and visit Japanese ports on New Year’s Eve to dispense happiness. Also, the symbol on the flag of the ship is the Chinese character for BAKU. BAKU is a fictional creature said to devour or prevent nightmares. Children are told to place a picture of the ship with the Gods under their pillow on the evening of January first. If the child has a good dream that night, they will be lucky all year.

It was a fun and successful day exploring another part of Tokyo. Honestly, I was pretty impressed with our navigation skills and ability to find all seven Temples/Shrines.

7 Lucky Gods of Zushi

Another spouse who is very familiar with Japan after living here for six years, offered to take a group of us on the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage in Zushi. Unlike the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage Dave and I did in November, the Zushi Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage is special because it is more traditional with respect it is only available during the first 10 days of the year. The pilgrimage consisted of only 6 temples with a double stamp and God at the 5th temple.

We started our pilgrimage at a temple near Jimmuji station. I put a star ⭐️ on each temple. We went in a counter clockwise direction, visiting the 6 temples.

At the first stop, we purchased a bamboo branch with a small prayer card, two ribbons, a small reflective card and a bell. At each temple, we purchased a small figurine ornament representing each different God to hang from the branch.

The bamboo branch with all 7 Gods

I have them arranged in the order I received them. From left to right –

Fukurokuju, Bentaiten, Daikoku, Ebisu, Bishamonten, Hotei, Jurojin

A close up picture of the God ornaments. So, cute!

2017 – Year of the Rooster. I purchased a cock ornament at the first temple.

I also purchased a board to have stamped at each temple. The finished board with all seven stamps is pictured below.

Our first stop was the Toshoji Temple in Zushi.

This temple is dedicated to Fukurokuju the God of fortune (fuku), happiness (roku) and longevity (ju). The rope in the picture is very significant to the Buddhist. The statue of the God, Fukurokuju, is inside the temple where visitors are not permitted. As an alternative to touching the statue when praying, a person can hold onto the rope. The rope is connected to the statue. Think of the rope as a telephone line to the God. With no international changes or dialing assistance needed.

At the temple I also had my new temple book stamped.

Our second stop was at the Enmei-ji Temple. You will notice the temples are adorned with the same decorations. The flags are prominently displayed to celebrate the new year. This temple is dedicated to the Benzaiten. Benzaiten is the God of music and fine arts.

Another temple stamp.

The third stop as at a temple with only a kanji name. This temple is dedicated to Daikoku is the God of wealth and prosperity.

So much sake!

Our fourth stop was at the Gyokuzoin Temple in Hayama. Again, at this temple the statue of the God Ebisu isn’t available to visitors. The hanging ropes provide direct access for prayers. Ebisu is the god of fishing.

This cherry tree not only has blooms set, a couple of them were already to blooming! A true sign of spring. However, it is only the 5th of January.

Peeking inside the temple

Also while visiting this temple, we were treated to tea. A little snack of green tea and rice crackers for the remainder of our journey.

Our fifth stop at the Senkoin Temple in Hayama included two stamps and two Gods. Here we received Bishamonten and Hotei. Bishamonten is the god of war, treasure and wealth. Hotei is the god of happiness.

And the second.

Our final Temple stop was at Koshoji Temple in Zushi. The final of our seven gods we needed to collect was Jurōjin. Jurōjin is the god of longevity. Perfectly fitting to say a prayer to longevity for the year.

One final picture of our group at the end of our pilgrimage.

Wising for much luck in the new year with a gentle nod to each god for:

Honesty, Fortune, Dignity, Amiability, Longevity, Happiness and Wisdom.

Kanpie, to 2017!

Enoshima Island

Thinking of something to do on a crisp winter mostly sunny day, Dina suggested we go to Enoshima Island. It is a small island just off the coast. We took 3 trains to get to the island. It took a little over an hour. Here was our route.

One of the trains is the Enoshima Electric train. The train actually hangs from the tracks. The train was very smooth and quiet. It was a little weird to see other trains hanging from the tracks!

Train Station

Train coming in opposite direction

Once we arrived in Shonan, we had a short walk through the town and across a small bridge that connects the island to the mainland.

On the island, there are several shrines, a temple, an observation tower (lighthouse / sea candle), lots of cafes, a garden and sea caves. Once you are on the island your mode of transportation are your feet! Keep in mind there are a lot of stairs!  Oh, and on a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji.

A Torii gate greets you once you are over the bridge and you begin climbing to the top of the island.

Our first stop was at the Enoshima Shrine. The Enoshima Shrine is a Shinto Shrine dedicated to the worship of the Goddess Benten. Benten is one of the Seven Lucky Gods. Within the Shrine are three shrines: Hatsuno-miya, Nakatsuno-miya, Okutsuno-miya.

But first, we must climb stairs.

The lanterns are part of the illuminations. I was excited to see the illuminations will last until 2/19/17. There will be plenty of time for Dave and I to return to see the lights.

Three pictures that scream “Japan.” A shrine, a fortune wall and a red bridge (over a road – yes, with cars).

Up we continue to the Shrine.

The man in the center is throwing money on to the alter and making his wish to the Gods

We had our temple books stamped and continued up the island and up more stairs!

We enjoyed a nice view along the way!

And another Shrine.

Our next point of interest was the Sea Candle. I didn’t make Dina go up into the Candle today because it was cloudy around Mt. Fuji. Another reason to return.

Our next point of interest was the Enoshima-Daishi Temple.

Temple Roof

Temple Altar

Stained Glass Window

Here, Dina returned a fortune she collected earlier this year. Fortunes must be returned to the Temple where they are collected before the end of the year. Another reason Dina suggested Enoshima for our adventure today!

Within the temple gardens were two statues of Goma, the God of Fire.

We had our temple books stamped and continued on our way. Past another shrine with a built in selfie spot. Too bad I don’t have an Apple Watch to click my picture!

On we went. This time down the stairs. It was while we were descending, Dina mentioned we had to walk back up all these stairs!! Wait, what!?!

Fortunately, there was a nice view even without Mt. Fuji.

We could have continued walking along the cliffs and down to the sea caves and tidal pools. We didn’t have enough time today for too much exploring. Another reason for Dave and I to return.

We began climbing back up!

Finally, at the top we stopped for a snack. “Octopus Cracker” You will have to eat one when you visit. It’s a cracker made out of Octopus. Seriously.

Can you see the eyes and tentacles?

We continued our walk back to the train station. We stopped for one more snack. I picked ice cream with donuts. Yummmm! Much better than the octopus cracker…

A very fun and chilly day exploring another beautiful area of Japan. I am excited to go back and see the areas we didn’t have time for and the illuminations!!

Happy Pancakes & Money Washing

I am not sure I could think of a better start to a Tuesday morning than with a happy pancake. Dina and I set off for breakfast in Kamakura followed by a urban hike to the Zeniarai Benten Shrine. We arrived at Happy Pancake slightly before it opened and there was already a line!

Fortunately, we were early enough to be seated and selected our pancakes. We both opted for the original “happy pancakes” for our first tasting.

We when visit when you are here, I will encourage you to try one of the specialty happy pancake selections. They include options like fresh fruit, chocolate sauce, cream cheese and even a scoop of ice cream. To wash down my happy pancakes, I ordered a caramel vanilla latte.

That is a scoop of honey butter on top!! These pancakes are nothing like American pancakes. They are NOT made with buttermilk. They are not heavy nor do they absorb the syrup. The texture is light and fluffy. More like a crepe that has been inflated. The syrup had a hint of caramel and they were topped with a scoop of honey butter.

They were absolutely delicious! I did not feel nearly as full as I anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t hungry for lunch. I just didn’t feel the lethargic pancake bloat one would expect when looking at these delicious monster-sized happy pancakes.

After we finished our meal, I had to take a picture of the check. Noticed it is placed on our table with a cute and tiny clothespin. Adorable.

We headed out on our urban hike. We had about a 25 minute walk to the Zeniarai Benten Shrine. Despite the December date, signs of fall are still around.

The Zeniarai Benten Shrine is commonly known as the “Money Washing Shrine.” The legend claims, money washed in the Shrine’s spring will double. Information from the temple provided the background for the legend. 1185 was the first year of the snake. (Think back to yesterday’s discussion about Chinese Zodiac. 1185 was the first year of the snake.) During this first year of the snake, on the day of the snake, in the month of the snake, Minamoto Yoritomo (founder of Kamakura government) had a dream in which the go Ugafukuji (one of the 7 lucky gods – God of fortune and happiness) delivered a message. Minamoto Yoritomo was told to go and find a spring in the northwest valley, worship the Shinto gods and peace would come to the people of Kamakura. He went, he discovered the spring and he built the shrine for Ugakukuji. It is believed, if you spend money that has been washed in the spring’s water, it will increase many times and come back to you.

To access the Shrine, you had to walk up a rather long hill and then through a small tunnel. It was lovely.

Inside the grounds of the Shrine, was a prayer wall, fortune wall and huge incense burner.

Walking further in, was the area for washing your money.

Dina snapped a few pictures as I washed my money from the spring.

And of course I took a few action shots of Dina. My favorite is her face when I said, “say, money!”

After we thoroughly soaked our money, we explored the rest of the temple. I observed more paper cranes. Since my visit to The White Lady of Ofuna, I have learned the meaning of the paper crane leis. Thanks to the help of a couple of my close friends and blog followers, Sara and Sue. During a conference call earlier this week they helped me piece together an understanding of their significance. The significance is based upon a story of a young Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki (1943-1955). She was only two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima very near to her home (~2km away from ground zero). She miraculously survived, only to develop swellings on her neck and behind her ears in 1954. The swellings turned out to be acute malignant lymph gland leukemia. She died less than a year later. It was during her time in the hospital she learned of the Japanese legend that a person who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish. Legend holds she was 644 short when she passed away. Her family and friends folded the remaining cranes and buried all 1,000 cranes with her. Sadako became one of the most widely known hibakusha (bomb-affected person).

It was interesting to see all the tori gates in natural wood – not painted red.

We retrieved our temple books with the new stamp and headed back to Kamakura.

The hike back was beautiful as well. To get back, we had to go up before we went down!!

It was another delightful day exploring Kamakura. This last picture was one of my favorites from the day.  I took it as we were leaving the Shrine. I love the fall colors, the fortunes hanging and the trees framing the picture. It really spoke to me as “wabi-sabi” when I noticed the bright orange construction cone. Beauty in the imperfection.

Seven Lucky Gods of Japan

In our travels around this beautiful country, Dave and I have seen several different portrayals of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. I have been intrigued and curious about them. The first time I saw them was when we went to the Mashiko Kyohan Pottery factory. I thought they were so cute that I was tempted to purchase. But, I didn’t and of course regretted it! The next time I saw them was in the stationary store in Yokosuka. Again, I didn’t purchase because although they were very cute, I thought they were too expensive and didn’t want one more thing to have to put on a table or counter.

¥7,500 ($75) seems like a lot for a knick-knack

The third time I saw them, was on the trip to Kappabashi. This time, the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan were displayed on a plaque that could easily hang on the wall. Perfect!


My Lucky Seven

Here is a little background on these adorable and Lucky Gods. Starting on the left and going down.



Ebisu is the God of Fishing, Shipping and Commerce and is the only one to have his origins in Japan. Ebisu represents prosperity and wealth in business. He is the patron of fisherman and Sailors. He is often presented with a fishing rod in his right hand and a large red fish under his left arm. The virtue he represents is Honesty.



Jurōjin is the God of Wisdom. He is depicted as an old man wearing a hat with a long white beard holding a walking staff with a scroll tied to it. He is often confused with Fukurokuju, as both are presented in a very similar way. Frequently, Jurōjin is accompanied by a black deer as symbol of longevity. Jurōjin is the protector of politicians, teachers, scientists, philosophers and mathematicians. The virtue he represents is Wisdom.



Originally, he was a Hindu warrior and once introduced in Japan he became the God of Wealth and Prosperity. He is the patron of farmers and bankers. He is well known for his happy-looking smile and is often presented with a bag on this shoulder filled with money and a golden mallet. The virtue he represents is Fortune.



He originates from Indian Buddhism and is the God of Warriors (not war). He is also a God of Defense Against Evil. He is typically dressed in armor with a fierce look on his face. In one hand he has a weapon to fight against evil influences and suppress the enemies. On the other hand he holds a treasure pagoda. He is the patron of missionaries, priests, soldiers and doctors. The virtue he represents is Dignity.

On the right and going down.



Hotei originates from Chinese beliefs and is the God of Happiness and Abundance. He is the only one of the seven who is supposedly based on an actual person, a Chinese hermit Budaishi (d. 917). He is depicted as a Buddhist monk with a smiling face and a prominent belly. He holds a sack and wooden staff. Outside Japan, he is known as “Laughing Buddha”. The virtue he represents is Happiness.



Benton is the only female and is originally the Hindu goddess of water. In Japanese representation, she is the Goddess of Arts and Knowledge. Her common form is a beautiful woman dressed in a flowing Chinese-style dress. Her attributes include: talent, beauty and music. The instrument she is playing the Japanese biwa. The virtue she represents is Joy.



Fukurokuju originates from China’s Taoist-Buddhist traditions. Fukurokuju is the God of Wealth, Happiness, and Longevity. He typically is depicted with an elongated forehead and long mustache. He is wearing typical clothes of a Chinese scholar and carries a walking stick with a scroll attached. He is the only one from the seven that has the ability to revive the dead. His attributes also include: luck, wealth and happiness. The virtue he represents is Longevity.

I love the portrayal of the Seven Lucky Gods I found. They make me happy and help me feel a little more settled in Japan. At Dave’s suggestion, I’m doing everything to “embrace the experience” of living in Japan! 

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