Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Shopping Page 1 of 2

Lisa and Dave

Our friends, Lisa and Dave, arrived late Friday night from Chicago. We decided to start with a low key day to help them walk off their jet lag. We spent Saturday in Kamakura – shopping and visiting the Hachiman-gu Shrine. First things first, we stopped at Barchie’s for lunch.

It was a beautiful afternoon. The weather is finally starting to feel like Autumn. It was a lovely day for a “white wedding.” We saw this wedding party as we walked toward Hachiman-gu Shrine.

I gave Lisa and Dave a quick tutorial on the appropriate way to cleanse before visiting a Shrine or Temple.

Can you spot the Americans?

View from the top of the Shrine.

After visiting the Shrine, I bought a bag of Ginko nuts for us to share. They have a very peculiar taste and texture. They are served warmed and salted. Then the shell of the nuts is cracked. The inside nut is actually chewy. They require a little getting used to, but I think delicious in the end.

We stopped for a few photos at the entrance of the Shrine.

We had fun catching up and sharing one of our favorite places in Japan. The sunny afternoon, walk, and good night sleep was hopefully enough to reset their circadian rhythm. We have big plans for the rest of their visit! Adventures await!

Treasures, Temples and Shopping

My last full day in Seoul was Wednesday. Laurie planned for us to do a little more sightseeing and shopping. Most shops don’t open until 10am. However, we were able to visit two Korean Treasures located in a public park. The first was the Monument of Wongaska Temple. The monument is Treasure No. 3. The monument is a large granite turtle with lotus leaves carved in the center of the shell. The lotus leaves provide an area for the marble monument to be inserted. The stone monument was a tribute to the lantern festival held in 1465 at the Wongaska Temple.

The second treasure was a ten-story marble pagoda. Due to the amount of weathering the pagoda has endured, it is now encased in glass to prevent further deterioration. The ten-story pagoda was also located at the Wongaska Temple.

The temple was destroyed and the land has been turned into a beautiful public park.

Besides the two Korean Treasures, the other highlight was having a conversation with an older Korean gentleman. He approached us as we were leaving the park. His English was excellent. We enjoyed a brief conversation. He shared with us that he liked Americans and had visited Hollywood. At one point, he held up his hand and I thought he was going to give me a hug. No, instead he exclaimed to Laurie how tall I was! Haha! He was very nice and it was a pleasure talking with him.

After our visit in the park, we went to our first shopping area. It was a cute area of Seoul where there were lots of shops with local crafts and pottery.

I bought a few small bowls with little koi in the bottom. I think they will be a nice addition to our sushi dinners. Perfect for soy sauce!

After shopping, we went to visit a nearby temple. The temple was still decorated from Buddha’s birthday on Tuesday. There were so many lotus lanterns hanging and there was a prayer being led inside the temple. It was absolutely beautiful. Considering all the temples I have visited in Japan, this experience was like none other. It was so peaceful, beautiful, and serene. I told Laurie she out did herself with this celebration during my visit!

Laurie picked us another great spot for lunch. It was tucked down a side alley. We arrived at 11:15 and it opened at 11:30. By the time it opened, there was already a line!

While we waited, I posed with a couple giant kimchi pots!! Can you imagine how much kimchi would fill these pots!

Promptly at 11:30 the restaurant opened and we were seated. The restaurant is known for their Korean dumplings. We each ordered a lunch set. Laurie ordered the pork and dumplings, I ordered the dumplings and traditional pancake.

The highlight occurred when the polite older lady came over and literally showed Laurie how to eat her lunch. She used her chopsticks to pick up lettuce, pork, and kimchi to make a small lettuce wrap. It was hilarious. Complete how to each your lunch tutorial!

After lunch, we continued our shopping adventure around the city. We walked to my very favorite- the Daiso! I knew we had to go when Laurie told me it was eight stories! Along the way, we passed three sections of the Berlin Wall. Germany gave the sections to Korea because it remains a divided country.

During our walk, we also passed a LOVE statue just similar to the one in Philadelphia. I was saddened to read that morning that Robert Indiana had passed away at age 89.

There seemed something poetic about seeing both statues within a few blocks from one another. The world needs less walls and more love.

And clearly, more Daiso! Check out the size of this building!!

I enjoyed shopping and looking at all the options. I kept things under control because I knew I would have to get it home. One thing did give me a good chuckle. Check out this toilet seat! If I find one in Japan I might have to buy it. “Find joy in the ordinary ?.”

We made one more stop on the way home. We visited a very crowded shopping street that was adjacent to National Treasure No. 1.

National Treasure No. 1 is Sungnyemun. It is a large gate located in the middle of the city.

Sungnyemun is one of the four Great Gates of the Seoul fortress or the Seoul wall. We saw this same gate the previous day when we were walking along the Seoullo 7017. As our afternoon wrapped up and our arms were tired from carrying our packages, we headed home. I can’t express enough how envious I am of the location of their house. They are right in the middle of Seoul. When you want to go home, it’s a short train ride. Compared to our 1 hour and 15 minute train ride to Tokyo. Maybe more depending where you want to go. I’m so glad I took the chance to visit Laurie and her family. It was such an easy flight and the city was fun to explore. I hope she has the chance to travel to Japan so I can reciprocate the hospitality. Military families have an uncanny ability to find each other and pick up right where they left off. It’s a pretty special bond. Cheers to you, my friend! Thank you, again. My VIP experience was first class! Arigatōgozaimas!

Kyoto Kickoff

Monday morning we caught the Shinkansen out of Shinagawa Station. Our destination was Kyoto. The trip took about 2.5 hours.

Yet again, I was giddy with excitement as we waited to board.

Most of the marquees in the trains stations and on the trains flip between Japanese and English. This is especially helpful when you don’t speak (or read) the language and you need to make sure you are about to get on the right train. No one is checking your ticket as you board the train. Therefore, the important task of getting on the right train is the responsibility of the passenger. It’s also important because the tickets issued are for a specific train. This is different than taking the local trains. Those you can ride whenever and if you get on the wrong one it’s easy to switch at the next stop in 2-3 minutes. The Shinkansen less forgiving. If you get on the wrong one you may not stop for 25-30 minutes. That’s a long way in the wrong direction with the wrong ticket. Our train was at 10:40. The 509. Anyways, we made it no problem and with much excitement. Plus, we had a view of Mt. Fuji sling the way!

Upon arriving in Kyoto, we took our luggage to our hotel. It was still too early to check in, but we had temples to chase. First on our list was the Kinkaku – The Golden Pavilion. The clear skies and afternoon sun created perfect lighting for our visit. Gold foil covers the upper two levels of the Pavilion. On top of the structure is a shining gold phoenix.

The Gardens were beautiful. We were able to catch a few views of the temple from different angles. The benefit of it not being spring and having full foliage.

Lots of prayer cards!

After leaving the Golden Temple, we hailed a cab to the Ginkaku-ji Temple or the Silver Temple.

When Dave and I planned our trip in August, Manami suggested we visit the Silver Temple. We didn’t make it because it is more remote and off the beaten path. When I mentioned to Manami, Cindy and I were visiting Kyoto, she said, “Julia, please be sure to visit the Silver temple this trip.” Ok! I am so glad I listened. The Silver Temple and the gardens are incredibly serene. It definitely moved into my top five favorite Temples. I would love to live close to the temple and visit frequently. The moss covered ground and curving pathways are perfect for a walking meditation. So much zen.

Near the main structure was a sand garden and large sand structure. The large sand structure symbolizes Mt. Fuji. Just to be clear, the large structure that looks like a stone, is actually sand!

The sand garden was really cool.

By the time we were leaving the Silver Temple, we didn’t have enough time to make it to another one that afternoon. So, we had a cream puff and shopped.

We made our way back to the hotel and checked in. I’m happy to share, our room is directly across from the Kyoto Station. We can watch and hear the trains. My favorite of course are seeing the numerous Shinkansen trains! That entire building is Kyoto Station.

We set out for dinner. We went to Kyoto Station to explore the dining options. Kyoto Station is ginormous. Lots of food and shopping. After dinner, we visited the Kyoto Tower. The night view was lovely.

Kyoto Tower was built in 1964. The tower is 430 feet tall. It is built on top of a building. The 800 tons of weight doesn’t affect the building that serves as its foundation because of the ingenious design. It has the design and appearance of a lighthouse. Kyoto Tower was built in the city center as a beacon for industry, culture, and tourism.

As we walked back to our hotel, we could see the reflection of Kyoto Tower in the glass of Kyoto Station.

We had a great start to our first afternoon in Kyoto. Tuesday we will work our way south to visit another famous Shrine and the city of Nara. Cindy’s Japan adventures continue!

Long Way Home

Two things were notable during my English class this afternoon. First, my students loved the cakes I brought back from Nagasaki for us to enjoy during tea time. Second, one of my students gave me a huge hug when she saw me. “Sensei, good to see you!” It feels good to be missed!

After my English class, I decided to take the long way back to the train station and walk through Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Shrine. I haven’t been to visit in a few weeks and thought I might have a chance to see a little fall foliage. And who knows what else, I mean it’s Friday!

Check out these crowds! While I was there I observed three weddings and a plethora of school groups.

I walked up the stairs to the top of the Shrine to make my Christmas wish. (Layla, these stairs!) ??

After sending off my Christmas wish, I was ready to find Fall foliage. It was my lucky day! Fall foliage and vermilion bridges.

Plus, a Torii gate.

I found a very secluded spot. The serenity was amazing.

I had to wait patiently to capture some of these pictures without too many people. Like I said, it was crowded.

As I walked back to the train station, I did a little Christmas shopping along Komachi Dori. It was a delightful afternoon doing things I enjoy: teaching, snapping pictures, and shopping! Happy Friday!

Enoshima Sea Candles

Last week, I went out to Enoshima Island and during my visit, I saw an advertisement for a candle illumination display. Wednesday evening was the perfect opportunity for me to revisit the Enoshima Garden, Sea Candle, and candle illumination. I arrived a little before sunset and was very happy I did! I was able to capture a few pictures of the sunset and Mt. Fuji. 

I purchased my ticket and quickly went up into the Sea Candle before the sunset was complete. I wanted a few more pictures! 

I returned to ground level and I tilted my phone to capture Mt. Fuji and the Sea Candle. A very gorgeous evening! 

After watching sunset, I returned to the candle illumination. The path leading to the Sea Candle was illuminated with white votives. 

The candles were placed with great care throughout the garden. 

The Shrine seemed majestic with the red votives lining the path. 

The candles were beautiful and it was so quiet. It wasn’t very crowded, but still a good number of people snapping pictures from every angle. As couples spoke, they whispered. The silence truly set a peaceful tone for the evening. 

This is my fourth visit to Enoshima Island. It is moving up on my list of favorite places near where we live. Even though it takes a little while to get there, the train ride is nice along the coast. Also, there are a lot of shops leading up to the Shrine that can be fun to explore. The Shrine is beautiful and there are a lot of stairs! On a clear day, the island provides a fantastic view of Mt. Fuji. It is worth a visit during cool (remember- lots of stairs!) and clear weather.  One last picture of Mt. Fuji as I walked back to the train station. 

One more funny story about the Enoshima Sea Candle. In America, we would refer to this structure as a lighthouse. I call it the  Enoshima Sea Candle because those are the English words written on the signs on the island. Even Google Maps refers to it as the Enoshima Sea Candle. 

The funny thing is, I have told both of my English classes about my visits to Enoshima Island and the Enoshima Sea Candle and they respond with confusion. They will say to me, “you call it Sea Candle?” Clearly, confused by the silly American who isn’t familiar with lighthouses. I try to explain I call it that because that’s what the sign says- in English. Normally, I would call it a lighthouse. “Oh, yes, lighthouse. Yes, very beautiful.” Yes, very beautiful. For now on, I will always giggle when I see a lighthouse aka Sea Candle. 

Beautiful Day

Today was beautiful. It warranted a get out and go attitude. I decided to venture over to Enoshima Island. I’ve been a couple times, both with Dave and Dina. It provides a spectacular vantage point for viewing Mt. Fuji (on a clear day). I knew today would be a great day for a trip to Enoshima because I snapped this picture earlier in the morning from Zushi Beach while enjoying a U.S. phone conversation with my girl, Jules. Enoshima Island is the island slightly off center and in front of Mt. Fuji. 

One part of the island I haven’t had the opportunity to explore are the rocks and sea cave. It is some what of a trek out to the island. It requires three trains and a good bit of walking. Here was my route. 

As I walked across the bridge to the island, I was giddy seeing Mt. Fuji with a snow cap. Signs of cooler weather! 

I decided to walk the stairs on the island vice taking the pay escalators. I figured the steps would do my rainy day lazy legs a favor! I was huffing and puffing by the time I reached the top. But, that view! 

Before descending down the other side to the sea cave, I decided to stop for a quick visit at the Sea Candle. I love the gardens and the Sea Candle and I knew the view would be amazing. I purchased my ¥500 ticket from the machine like a boss and entered the garden. I was greeted by thousands of unlit luminaries. 

I saw the flier with relevant information and have already made plans to return next week in the evening to see them illuminated! I think it will be so enchanting. 

As I approached the Sea Candle entrance, an advertisement for the caves caught my attention. I looked it over and then proceeded to the ticket taker at the entrance. He nicely informed me the sea caves were closed. Oh? Hai! Because typhoon caused damage. Oh! Arigatōgozaimas! I was so thankful he told me before I walked down the other side of the mountain! He also told me he wasn’t sure when it would reopen. 

The views of Mt. Fuji from the Sea Candle were as beautiful as I hoped! 

I walked around and enjoyed the 360 degree view of Shonan Beach. The bridge pictured is the one I walked over to access the island. 

As I was returning to the elevator to go back down, I observed a man taking the stairs. I decided to follow and ignore the sign written in Japanese. Again with the great views! 

The spiral staircase took me down to the Terrace level. As I came to the end of the staircase, I realized my error. Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t think I was supposed to use the stairs. 

Oops – a – daisy! Let’s just keep this between us, shall we? But, just so we are clear, I paid for an entry ticket to the garden and Sea Candle! 

One last view from the Terrace. 

And from the bridge as I walked back to the train station. 

On my way back home, I stopped and did a little shopping. Both in the Shonan Beach area and then in Kamakura. It was just such a beautiful day! 

Tokyo Shopping

Dave and I went up to Tokyo on Sunday for two reasons.

1. Pizzeria da Michele for lunch.

2. I needed to go shopping!

Since we weren’t running a marathon the next day, like the last time we enjoyed a pizza lunch at Pizzeria da Michele, we shared a small caprese salad and a pizza. The pizza was incredible.

After our lunch, we went to Harajuku for my “American” shopping. I wanted to go to GAP for a few staples for an upcoming trip. I was able to find just what I needed!

As we were walking around, I mentioned to Dave that I have bought more GAP clothing in the past year living in Japan than I have in the past five years living in the U.S. The style is classic and more importantly, they have American sized clothes.

I did make one super fun purchase. I’ve seen summer hats with cat ears on a couple of people. Dave found me one on Takeshita street! I love it!

Dave was quite the sport as we walked around. Harajuku is always crowded and more so on a Sunday. I snapped this picture as we started walking down Takeshita street.

When you visit, we will definitely walk around the Harajuku area. Let’s just try to avoid the Sunday crowd!!

Sogo Yokohama

I went on a shopping trip today to the department store, Sogo, in Yokohama. My mission was to visit the Sanrio store for a Hello Kitty t-shirt to wear during the Tokyo Marathon. 

I didn’t find one. Turns out the Sanrio stores only stock kids stuff. However, I did find a whole new feature of Google Maps. 

Google Maps will show you the stores on each floor of a mall. Check out the first picture. It shows the B2 level or the second floor of the basement. It is at this level where you come out of the train station. The highlighted level on the side corresponds with the map layout. 

Next B1. 

As you scroll up the floor on the left side, the layout changes to match. Pretty amazing. Skipping ahead, level 2 & 3. 

When I first saw level 7, I got a little excited. It says LOFT. This was not the LOFT from the US. It was a cute store with a lot of Japan souvenirs. Just not cute clothes. 

Finally, on up to level 8 where the Sanrio was located. Lots of cute Hello Kitty toys and clothes for little kids. No t-shirt for me. I think I’m going to have to order from Amazon. 

With 10 levels plus a rooftop, this feature of Google Maps is essential! 

Google Maps proves yet again to be my favorite traveling partner for navigation! 

Mitsui Outlet Park

After our trip to Costco, Dina and I decided to check out the Mitsui Outlet Park at the Yokohama Bayside Marina. A quick selfie before getting our shopping on.

The outlets had several name brand American stores. Eddie Bauer, GAP, Coach, UA, Nike, and New Balance, just to name a few. It also had a gigantic whale tail in the center and windmill at one end, because it’s Japan.

I was pretty excited about seeing an Eddie Bauer. The funny part, the store only had petite sizes.

At Under Armour, I was able to find a solution to my latest problem. I found two new pairs of gloves. One pair for running and one pair for going out on liberty.

Here is an explanation of my problem. When riding the train on date night and during the weekends I typically enjoy a Chu-hai or three. It is a cold drink. In the winter, I have on gloves to keep my hands warm from the cold air and the Chu-hai. I hold the drink in my left hand leaving my right hand available to use my phone to scan my train card, check the train schedule or message as required. Under the influence of a couple or four Chu-hai, even with tech-friendly gloves, I need to remove my glove to accurately and efficiently type on my phone. This resulted in me losing my right glove not once but twice on the trains this past weekend! I needed a solution and I found it at UA. Mitten tops that fold back with a cut out for the thumb! Amazing! Absolutely amazing!

Performance ready! I’m excited for our date night on Friday! Fingers crossed I make it home with two gloves!

Another wonderful discovery of our shopping adventure was a store called Franc Franc. The store carries very cute household items. I purchased an aroma humidifier.

To compliment my aroma humidifier, I purchased the Love Beach aroma water. It smells delightfully like a beach. The label made me happy as well. It has the “wabi-sabi” motto.

“Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to see beyond the imperfections.”

One last funny story for the day. While shopping at Franc Franc, Dina and I both had accumulated a carry style shopping basket full of items to purchase. The baskets were awkward because we had the humidifier balanced precariously in them. One of the store workers came up to us and asked in Japanese and charades if she could take our baskets. Having no idea what she said we said, “hai” or yes. She took the baskets and Dina and I were laughing because as normal, we had no idea what she said. We decided she didn’t want the already tall and space taking up Americans to take up any further room. We were obviously interrupting the store “wa.” She returned with two cards. They were the markers for our baskets which were located behind the counter.

The Japanese can be amazingly efficient at times.


Throughout Japan there are vending machines that will dispense small toys inside plastic capsules. 

They are called gashapon or gachapon or just gacha for short. The word gachapon is a Japanese onomatopoeia. “Gacha” for the sound the dial makes as it turns and “pon” for the sound of the capsule dropping. The gacha machines are everywhere and have toys designed appeal to all ages. 

The gacha have a variety of available toys. Most of the gacha machines I have seen cost either 200¥ or 300¥. The machines only take a 100¥ coin. Typically, the toys are sold in sets of 5 – 7 different toys. However, your purchase only gives you one toy at a time. Trying to collect all of the toys in a set can become frustrating and expensive because you are making blind purchases. Not to mention, the series you are trying to collect may be difficult to find. 

I keep trying to get a dog drinking beer. All I have gotten is a sad cat drinking Sake, twice. 

Each time I go shopping, I check the gatcha machines. The closest one to me here in Zushi is at the Japanese grocery store, Yorkmart. Here are the gatcha I have collected from the grocery store. They are supposed to be little cherub statues. Peeing. What in the…?? 

I have also been looking for my favorite Japanese characters from the Neko Atsume (Cat Collector) app. I finally was able to find them today while in Yokosuka. Yay!

Jeeves and Kathmandu

This series are like the opposite of wine charms. They sit under your wine glass instead of hanging on them. The brunette with a smashed umbrella makes makes me giggle. I think of my friend, Sue, enduring car rider circle in VB during a Nor’easter. Just make it wine time already!! 

A couple more things you should know. During my gacha collecting, I have gotten duplicates. These I plan on sharing with you and I hope they make you laugh. Second, when you come to visit and if you fly into Narita Airport, there is a expansive collection of gacha machines. You will be able to search and find your favorite to look for throughout your visit! There are so many choices!!



Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén