Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Shrine (Page 2 of 4)

Torinoichi Festival

My friend, Miki, invited me to go with her to the Torinoichi Festival on November 30th. Torinoichi means Festival of the Rooster (2017). The purpose of the festival is to sell good luck charms and the promise of a profitable future. One of the main items to purchase is a Kumade (a wide bamboo rake). Each of these creations are displayed on a bamboo rake. It’s like a diorama of lucky Japanese items. But, instead of a shoebox, a rake is used. There were many vendors selling Kumade.

The Kumade symbolizes bringing in a huge profit like a rake brings in leaves. There were so many options for what specific lucky charm you wanted on your Kumade. I took a couple close up pictures to help you see the details. Lots of animals, sake barrels, rice clusters, coins, Seven Lucky Gods, dogs (2018 is the year of the dog), welcoming cats, and daruma dolls.

As we walked around the festival when someone purchased a Kumade, it was blessed. Look closely at the Kumade, you can see it is indeed a rake.


Another lucky purchase.


The festival is held three times in November and the vendors sell their Kumade late into the evening. We went early before it was too crowded!

The prices of the Kumade are not listed. You must ask the seller for the price. Miki did a little Google research for me. Here is the information she supplied about the prices.

From Miki:

Private person ¥1,000-¥3,000 (smallest).

Private industry ¥5,000-¥15,000.

Small-Medium company ¥10,000

Big company ¥30,000-¥200,000

Corporations ¥1,000,000 (Biggest)

The big ones are HUGE!

Here is the interesting part. Each year, new Kumade are purchased and the old ones are returned. The same amount of money is paid for a new Kumade. It is considered bad luck to keep the old Kumade. The old Kumade are returned to the Shrine and placed in huge dumpsters. Out with the old, in with the new!

The Shrine is illuminated with lanterns. The lanterns announce the name of donors. The higher the lantern is placed, the larger the donation. The line going through the lanterns is for making your wish.

As with any festival, there were a lot of food vendors. Such an amazing variety. It was great to have Miki with me to translate and explain items.

Like the fried and salted spaghetti.

Or the smoked and salted fish on a stick.

Some needed no explanation.

So many bananas.

I enjoyed the evening learning more about Japanese culture from Miki. She is such a wonderful person and great friend. I’m lucky to have met her!

The Rest of the Story

I know the suspense is killing you! Thank you for returning to read about the rest our our day in Hakone. I left off the story of our Hakone Fall Foliage adventures yesterday with us riding the Ropeway. The Ropeway ended at Togendai-ko, where we boarded the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise. The cruise ship is modeled after a pirate ship! It held a lot of people!!

The boat ride took about 40 minutes. We started out standing on the “poop” deck. The crisp autumn air on the water made us chilly and so we headed down below decks. We still had a nice view of the coast line as we sailed through Lake Ashi. Please notice all the clouds, they parted later at the perfect moment!

We exited the ship at the second landing, Motohakone-ko Pier. We wanted to visit the Hakone-jinja Shrine and the floating Torii. As we walked to the Shrine, we enjoyed more fall foliage.

We crossed a cute bridge along the route and stopped for a few pictures. The vermilion bridge with the leaves was truly brilliant!

The floating Torii was impressive. If only the lighting was more cooperative.

By this point it was past 2pm and we were getting hungry for lunch. Unfortunately, we realized most of the restaurants had closed for their lunch service and those that were open had very long lines. We decided to grab a quick lunch from the 7-11 and eat on the steps by the pier. The leaves continued to impress us as we made our way to our picnic spot.

As we sat on the steps enjoying our lunch and Mt. Fuji Pale Ale, the sky started to clear.

It was as though we were beckoning Mt. Fuji to appear magically before us. I guess Sake isn’t the only thing to appease the Gods.

I made one more offering. (Side note edit about the picture below. Katie just sent me a message with the realization that the picture on the label of our Hakone Pale Ale was our viewpoint during lunch! Please notice Mt. Fuji and the floating Torii on the label. No wonder the Gods smiled and cleared the clouds off of Mt. Fuji!)

And I was rewarded with clearing skies.

The last picture was my favorite of the day. Like I have said so many times before, I am so happy for each opportunity to see Mt. Fuji. My three favorite things in Japan are: (in no particular order unless I’m hungry)

Mt. Fuji


Maguro (tuna sashimi)

After lunch, we worked our way to the bus terminal to catch the bus back to Hakone Yumoto Station. This was the most confusing part of the day. After lining up in three different bus lanes, we were finally directed to an express bus which dropped us off in about 30 minutes. The whole day proved to be pretty easy to navigate and the Freepass was key to smoothly go from one means of transportation to another. We could bypass the ticket counter each time, saving time and confusion. I arrived home shortly before 6pm. It was about 11 hours of exploring and fun!!

If you haven’t started planning the dates for your trip next year, I encourage you to consider November. The weather is cooler and the foliage is stunning. A day trip to Hakone can easily be added to any itinerary. The beauty is breathtaking. Also, if you visit in late spring, there could be an opportunity to view the Hakone hydrangeas. I look forward to my next trip to Hakone and the one we make together!

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. 

Nikko Samurai Festival

On Tuesday, Katie and I took the ITT trip to Nikko. Nikko has been on my list of places to visit – especially, in the fall. Plus, with this trip, we would be able to attend the samurai festival! Here was our route from Yokosuka. It took us about 3.5 hours to get there because the bus has to stop every two hours to switch drivers. Safety is paramount. 

The festival is held at the Toshogu Shrine. The Shrine was huge and beautiful. The rain finally stopped around 9:00 am on Tuesday. We were beyond excited to see and feel the sunshine! As you approach the Shrine grounds, you are greeted by a five- story pagoda and large Torii. 

I know these trees are not Giants, but after not seeing any big trees for a while, I was pretty excited! Yay! Big Japan Trees! 

There were many levels to the Shrine grounds and approximately 207 to reach the top! The walk along the way was beautiful. 

At the top, we started to see the sun coming out. The mist on the trees was breathtaking. 

At the top was also a large Torii. I posed for a tourist picture! 

The rain made everything seem extra lush. We enjoyed seeing hints of fall as the leaves were beginning to change. 

Once we returned to the main grounds of the Shrine, we saw the costume parade members lining up. 

Without kids to throw into the picture, I had to be brave and ask for my picture. I asked three different Samurai. You can tell how they felt by their expressions. Priceless! 

This one really makes me giggle! 

Katie and I worked our way out of the Shrine in order to secure our spot for the parade. I think the word “parade” should be used lightly. I would call this more of a processional. It was very serious and narrated (in English and Japanese). The slower pace made picture taking easier! The attire is very traditional as well as the order. 

There 100 Samurai Warriors in the parade. 

Children hoping to be Samurai followed the Samurai. 

The Mikoshi the men are carrying is a Shrine holding the spirit of the last Samurai. 

The final member of the parade was the head Samurai. 

The parade was unique cultural experience. We continued our experience of the cultural with a giant bowl of warm soba for lunch! 

I’ll save the afternoon adventures for my next post… 


Warning: for my readers who experience Trypophobia (fear of clusters of holes or bumps) you might want to stop reading. See you tomorrow! 

At the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine in Kamakura, there are large lotus plants growing in the ponds. 

It wasn’t until I lived in Japan that I understood the complete lifecycle of the lotus plant. Before I lived in Japan, I would have referred to these plants as lily pads. Clearly, they aren’t. Because a lily pad leaf sits on the water and the lotus plant leaves rise above the water. 

The ponds were lovely. 

I enjoyed walked around the ponds and as I did, I noticed most of the flowers had already bloomed. Only a couple remained. 

More prominent are the lotus seed pods. Once you notice them, you can’t stop seeing them. 

A couple up close pictures. They are everywhere! 

In the U.S., we are used to seeing lotus seed pods dried. Often they are placed in a fall flower arrangement. 

Rarely do we see the actual lotus root available for purchase in the produce section of the grocery store. 

Or added to your Sushi bento box. 

Here is a visual of the lotus plant lifecycle. 

I hope you feel complete now that you are more familiar with the lifecycle of the lotus plant. If the lotus seed pod pictures bother you, you might have trypophobia. 

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine 

TripAdvisor listed the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine as “the #1 most popular Japanese site for foreign tourist” for three years in a row! We went to visit early Saturday morning and can understand why the site is so popular. In fact, it’s my new favorite Shrine. 

We arrived before 0800 because I read the Shrine will get very busy. Plus, in this part of Japan, it’s extra warm and steamy during the summer months. It was an easy two stop train ride from our hotel. 

We were so early, we caught a glimpse of the priests going to work! 

The Shrine is famous for the 1000 Torii. Torii are the famous red gates of the Shinto religion. 

The main buildings of the Shrine were beautiful and well maintained. 

The Shrine is dedicated to Inari. First and foremost, Inari is the god of rice. Second, the god of fertility and industry. Torii gates mark the entrance to sacred ground. Typically, they are made of wood or stone and painted. My research told me the color the Torii is painted is known as vermillion. Vermillion is a bright red made from the mineral, cinnabar. It is considered the color of life and eternity. The Torii at the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine have been donated by those who have been successful in business in honor and gratitude of Inari. The writing on the Torii identifies the donor. 

The extra large Torii such as the one in this picture cost the equivalent of $50,000. 

The number of Torii present was impressive. 

Besides the Torii, the Shrine had many different smaller shrines. 

This Shrine was dedicated to this tree. I couldn’t find information about the tree. But, I can appreciate showing the tree respect. 

Fox are considered messengers from God and act as guardians of the Inari Shrines. They are set in pairs at the main entrances of the Shrine. 

We only saw a small portion of this Shrine. It is possible to climb to the top of Mount Inari. It’s takes about two hours. 

We decided today was not that day! Look how sweaty I was after walking around for only 30 minutes!! 

I hope when you visit, we have time to go to Kyoto and visit Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. Please, do us both a favor an don’t plan that trip during the summer!! It’s so HOT and muggy! 


We took a quick trip on Friday from Kyoto to Nara. We expedited the trip by traveling on a Limited Express Train. The typical hour trip only took 35 minutes! 

Not only is the route orange in Google Maps, so was the actual train!

Once in Nara, we made our way towards Nara Park. Within Nara Park are several famous Shrines, Temples, and deer!! The deer are a sacred part of Nara Park and considered “messengers of the gods”.

For ¥150, you could buy deer crackers from street vendors. The deer started early begging for crackers from this vendor. Look at the first picture- the deer in front is sticking his tongue out at me! 

We didn’t buy any crackers. Instead, we enjoyed watching other visitors feed them. 

The deer weren’t shy. They walked right up looking for a snack. 

Our first Temple we visited was Kofuku-ji Temple. Pictured here are the Temple’s Golden Hall and five-story pagoda are a National Treasure and date to 1425. The Eastern Golden Hall was built by Emperor Shōmu and the pagoda by his wife, Empress Kōmyō. The pair of buildings represent the ideal of marital harmony. 

Other beautiful buildings were also on the Temple’s grounds. 

As we continued through Nara Park, we saw even more deer. My favorite was watching people take selfies or pose with the deer and the deer would poop or pee and the tourists didn’t notice! Ha! 

The first Shrine we visited was Kasuga Taisha Shrine. The walkway to the Shrine has over 3,000 stone lanterns. No worries, I didn’t take a picture of them all. Although I tried! They were really impressive and unique. 

In keeping with my tree theme of the summer, look at the tree growing inside the remains of an old tree! 

After visiting the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, we were ready for lunch. It was approaching 11am and starting to really heat up. We doubled back to the area around the train station where there was a conveyor sushi restaurant. It was well air conditioned, served cold beer and delicious sushi. For those reasons, I could have stayed all afternoon. 

But, we had the Todai-ji Temple to visit. The Todai-ji Temple is also a World Heritage Site. The current structure was completed in 1709. The Great Buddha Hall is the largest wooden building in the world and houses the largest bronze image of Buddha dating back to 752 (the head however has been replaced and only dates to 1692).  

Now that’s a Big Buddha! 

My favorite spot in the Great Buddha Hall was behind the Great Buddha. There was a lattice door allowing a delightful breeze to come through. Plus, as Bill would say, we got a chance to see Buddha’s pooper. Can you tell how hot it is!?! The breeze felt amazing! 

Buddha’s Gold Pooper. 

We continued around enjoying the great hall. 

The fierce warriors are guardians to protect Buddha from evil. 

And how about this guy? If you rub the corresponding body part on him as the part that ails you, you will be healed. I rubbed his knees and gave him a high-five! 

We started to make our way back to the station to head back to Kyoto. We chased the shade the entire 20 minute walk. We purchased our train tickets for the 1400 train to Nara. While waiting to depart, I checked the weather. No wonder we were so hot! Heat index of 119!!!! Wow! 

Returning back to our hotel, we enjoyed a siesta that we earned from enduring the days heat and humidity! Plus, as Dave continues to remind me, we are on vacation and naps are always ok! 

Hakusan Shrine

The Hakusan Shrine is on the north side of Tokyo and known for beautiful hydrangeas of many different colors. 

I saved the location of this Shrine a few weeks ago. I wanted to wait to visit until the hydrangeas were in full bloon. I ventured up today hoping to see amazing hydrangeas. It was about an hour and fifteen minute trip on the train. 

I wasn’t disappointed. The hydrangeas were stunning. There was every color imaginable. Purple, pink, blue, and white. With many shades of each. 

This blue one was spectacular! 

I took several close up pictures so you can see the size of the blossoms and the variety. I tried to pick a favorite. They are just too beautiful to not love them all! 

How about this one- what do you see? 

When I first took the picture, I saw a heart. Now, I see a butterfly. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder! 

The hydrangeas also beautifully decorated the Shrine.

One selfie for good measure. 

And maybe a few more hydrangeas.

I know, I’m making it really difficult for you to decide when to visit next spring. It is hard to pick a favorite flower. Maybe you can rest easy knowing if you plan a spring visit, you will see beautiful flowers and gardens regardless of the flower blooming. 

Other Hiroshima Highlights

The city of Hiroshima has several other notable attractions. One is the Hiroshima Castle. It was a short walk from our hotel and the perfect way to stretch our legs after our ride on the Shinkansen. The original castle was destroyed in the bombing and reconstructed. 

The views of the city from the top level of the castle were lovely and so was the breeze! 

A lovely tucked away gem was the Shukkei-en Garden. We arrived Tuesday morning when it opened. We essentially had the place to ourselves. It was quiet and serene. Several azaleas were blooming and the hydrangeas were just beginning to bloom. 

The focal point of the garden was a large pond with several bridges to cross as you strolled through the garden. 

The pond also provided the perfect distraction for Dave. For ¥100 ($1.00), I purchased him a bag of food to feed the numerous turtles and carp. As we walked around, I snapped pictures and he feed the animals. At one spot he had 9 turtles – 3 were to the left of this group.  

There was a lot of thought put into the development of this garden. The sign explains. 

After the park, I had two Shrines I wanted to visit before we had lunch. One was near the castle. (I left my stamp book in the hotel the first day!) The Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine was very large and lovely. We enjoyed making wishes by the carp statues and mustang. 

We continued our walk to the Hiroshima Toshogu Shrine. This ended up being the fourth Shrine of the day. Dave counted the steps – 53 to the top! 

Along our walk to the Hiroshima Shrine, I told Dave we might find a bonus Shrine. We found two! The first was the Nigitsu Shrine. 

And the second was the Tsuruhane Shrine. 

All of the Shrines were destroyed by the atomic bomb. They were rebuilt and along with 12 others are part of the historical walking tour of Hiroshima. At the Tsuruhane Shrine, I was given this map! 

Perhaps, if we had more time and we weren’t already sweaty spaghetti, we would have walked the entire route. Maybe next time when you visit! We could almost fill your whole temple book! 

Itsukushima Shrine

The first part of our tour on Monday morning was a visit to Miyajima Island and the Itsukushima Shrine. The Torii gate of this shrine is one of the most iconic scenes of Japan. Hiroshima Bay has significant tidal changes. We were able to visit the shrine during high tide. This gives the visitor the impression the Torii is floating. During low tide, visitors are able to walk out to the Torii. The views of the Torii as we approached the shrine were majestic. 

One selfie to prove we were here! Pardon my fly away ferry hair! 

Our tour guide shared interesting details about the Shrine. Here is a summary from my notes. 

The Shrine is dedicated to the Shinto Gods of the seas and storms. The island was considered sacred and commoners were not allowed to visit the island. The Shrine was built over the water to allow visitors to make their pilgrimage without actually stepping on the island. 

The red entrance Torii gate, was built over the water for the same reason. Commoners were expected to steer their boats through the torii before approaching the shrine.

Interestingly, in an effort to retain the purity of the Shrine, neither deaths nor births are permitted near the shrine. In fact, terminally ill residents and pregnant residents of the island are expected to return to the mainland to pass away or deliver their child. Simultaneously, burials are prohibited on the island. 

The Itsukushima Shrine was beautiful and presented the opportunity for many incredible pictures. 

After our visit to the Itsukushima Shrine, we walked around the main shopping street. We enjoyed a famous lunch of okonomiyaki. Hmmmm. There was so much going on with this special dish. It was a flour tortilla loaded with everything imaginable. The first picture illustrates the construction of the ingredients. It goes in my list of “I can say I ate it and I don’t need to eat it again.” Honestly, it was the sauce. Too much. It was like a thick and too sweet teriyaki. 

Here is a picture of the history behind the dish. 

The final highlight of Miyajima Island was the number of deer. Yes, deer. Everywhere. And they were looking for food! 

Camped out in front of a restaurant! 

This picture was my favorite! The wild deer was stoically posed by the sign! Ha! 

Miyajima Island was a highlight of the weekend. If we have time when you visit to make the trip, we should spend the night on the island and perhaps do some hiking. I know we will both enjoy our time on the island! 

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