Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Tokyo (Page 1 of 4)

Make it Happy

Saturday afternoon Dave and I walked around the area of Tokyo near the New Sanno Hotel. The New Sanno Hotel is on the southwest side of Tokyo. It is located near Ebisu and Roppongi Hills. Both areas have Christmas Markets I wanted to visit.

We went to Ebisu first and ate lunch at the Sapporo Beer Station.

Both the beer and my sandwich were delicious.

After lunch, we walked around the Christmas Market in the plaza. It was pretty small, but cute!

I loved the “Make it Happy” theme!

The tree and chandelier in the plaza were impressive!!

The chandelier is the feature of the Baccarat Eternal Light illumination. I can only imagine how beautiful it would look at night. The chandelier has 8,472 pieces of crystal!

After visiting Ebisu Garden Place, we hopped on the train and went two stops to Roppongi Hills. On the upper level was the German themed Christmas Market. It was a little bigger than the Ebisu Market and much more crowded! There were lines just to enter the stores!

On the lower level was a British Invasion Festival. Talk about a cultural afternoon! Germany and Britain while walking around Japan!

My favorite was the IPA craft beer option. Even if it was a Japanese sized pour!

We walked around the garden to enjoy the last of the fall foliage.

Potato chip trees!

The highlight of our day was seeing different pet owners posing their puppies and rabbits for photos. Kawaii!! They brought us happy thoughts of Hannah B.

It was such a nice afternoon, we decided to walk back to the New Sanno and get ready for the holiday party.

Tiger Gyoza

Dave and I are spending the weekend in Tokyo at the New Sanno Hotel. The SRF Holiday Party is on Saturday night. I was hoping to spend Friday night enjoying illuminations in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the rain spoiled our plans. Instead, we decided to grab dinner near the hotel. We went to Tiger Gyoza.

I have heard many great reviews of the restaurant. Factoring in the rain and the proximity of the restaurant to the hotel, it made perfect sense.

We ordered the coriander (cilantro) Gyoza and fried chicken.

The Gyoza was covered with delicious fresh cilantro and a cilantro pesto. Although it was delicious, it could have been better if it was pan seared after boiling. The Gyoza was only boiled and that made it a little too mushy. I’m not sure if that was normal or it might have just been the type we ordered.

As we walked back to the New Sanno, we walked past a lot of Ginkgo Trees.

On the drive up, Dave commented that the fallen Gingko leaves looked like potato chips. He’s so right!! I couldn’t stop laughing! (And yes, we actually drove the Hooptie to Tokyo!) The scariest part was fitting into the tiny parking spot in the basement of the hotel.

I was also thought about the last time I stayed at the hotel. It was when the Cummings were visiting and we also had a rainy day. Delaney was not happy! What is it with the New Sanno and rain? I’m hoping it clears tomorrow so I can drag Dave to a couple Christmas Markets!

Rikugien Garden

Thursday was another beautiful Autumn day that warranted getting out for a little leaf peeping. I caught a morning train to the Bunkyo area on the north side of Tokyo. Once again, I arrived with an onigiri and was able to eat lunch at the garden. Simultaneously, thanks to modern technology, I could chat on my phone untethered to wifi and for free with my friend Sara in the U.S. all while sitting on a bench in a Tokyo garden. It was great catching up with you, my friend!! 

Now, back to the beautiful garden. The Rikugien Garden is a traditional Japanese garden. The garden highlighted the natural landscape of the area and incorporated water elements. This small section of water was actually part of a very large pond. 

Bridges over the water are also important elements of a Japanese garden. 

Here is the pond from another angle. From this picture, you can see the large size of the pond. 

Another part of a traditional Japanese garden pond, is the presence of koi. Check out the giant orange koi and group of dark ones on the left side of this picture!

I spent about an hour and a half wandering through the many paths within the garden. One path took me up a small hill. The view from the top was beautiful. I was a little early to see the peak Autumn foliage. Instead I only had a peek. 

Another path took me along the back of the pond. It was so quiet and serene.  

The island is also an important part of the traditional Japanese garden. Typically, entry to the island is not permitted. The large island in Rikugien is made of weathered rocks with a single pine tree. This island represents Mount Horai, the legendary home of the Eight Immortals.

I took a close up picture of the bridge to access the island. The Obana (Japanese pompas grass) is one of my favorite signs of Autumn in Japan. 

Stone lanterns are also significant in a traditional Japanese garden. Originally, they were used to line the path to a shrine. Within the garden, they are decorations used to remind visitors of the passing of time. 

I truly enjoyed my afternoon. Please don’t get mad at me for saying this, I’m starting to get into the Christmas spirit! I know, it’s not Thanksgiving yet. However, the Japanese don’t observe Thanksgiving. Instead, it’s straight to Christmas and Christmas decorations. Christmas decorations are starting to appear everywhere and I just can’t help but get excited when I see this Christmas tree! 

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens – Fall Edition

I went to visit the Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens in June. This garden made the list of five gardens to experience wabi-sabi in Japan. I recently read an article published on savvytokyo.com, identifying eight places to visit in and around Tokyo to see beautiful Autumn foliage. To my surprise and joy, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens was listed in the article! I took that as a sign to go and visit the garden again! It was beautiful. I arrived around lunchtime and enjoyed a tuna onigiri with green tea while sitting on a bench in the shade enjoying this view. 

After my lunch, I took a stroll around the garden. So much fall color! 

Up close, the vermilion bridge stood out in the still very green tree undergrowth. 

From further away, the bridge was almost swallowed in the upper layer of slowly changing leaves. 

The view across the pond might have been my favorite. Just to be clear, those are Japanese maple leaves. 🍁🍁🍁

From the other side of the pond, the view was lovely as well. The pond was so still.  

Part of the reason I love this Garden is the serenity it provides in the middle of Tokyo. The other reason is the beautiful plants, ponds, and paths. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch followed by an afternoon stroll. What do you think about my new exploring shoes? Kawaii! 

Perhaps, this will become the Garden I stalk and visit at some point each season! My attempt to capture its year round beauty. 

Gingko Goodness

Happy Halloween! 

I went leaf chasing today. I am so ready for fall weather and changing leaves. I think I might have a head start, but I just couldn’t help myself. I set out for a cute tucked away street in the middle of Tokyo. It is famous for the many Gingko Trees lining the street. 

The Gingko Trees are slowly starting to change to the beautiful yellow. Each side of the street has a large sidewalk with benches. 

I enjoyed my onigiri lunch on this bench. It was peaceful and serene. 

Walking through the trees had its own meditative powers. I think I walked up and down each side twice! It was so relaxing and peaceful. 

One last thought about the experience of living in Japan on “American” holidays like Halloween. There are some decorations at shops and restaurants. And many decorated homes on base. Trick or Treating only occurs on base, not out in town. Japan doesn’t give off quite the same “Halloween” vibe I’m accustomed to experiencing in the U.S. As I was getting dressed this morning, I gave a second thought about wearing my favorite Halloween scarf. I thought I might stand out too much. Then I remembered, I live in Japan! Standing out is what I do best. So, I wore my cute scarf. It makes me happy and so did the nice lady who offered to take my picture with the Gingko Trees. 

As I was leaving the Gingko Tree Street, I passed this guy. I realized my scarf was nothing compared his ensemble!! Haha! I guess a little Halloween spirit lives in us all. 

Happy Halloween!

Day Two – Tokyo Tourists

After an amazing day at Tokyo Disneysea and a good night sleep at a Disney Resort Hotel, I planned for us to take the long way home via Tokyo. Layla placed Pizza de Michele at the top of her “must go to” list during her visit. So, we went for lunch. 

The staff was so friendly and allowed us to take pictures while we waited for our pizza. They even let Layla help cook! 

It was delicious! Check out that pizza! 

One final shot of the kawaii jack-o-lantern pizza. 

Here’s more great news. I had train books ready for Nina and Noah when they arrived. We were able to start their stamp collecting as we explored Tokyo!! I was even able to get a few new ones! 

After lunch, we went to Shibuya Crossing. Here we saw the Hachiko Statue and crossed through the crossing three times! Yay, tourists! 

After collecting another station stamp and a couple Hello Kitty stamps, we headed to Harajuku. We stopped for the mandatory Takeshita tourist photo. Do you see the spelling mistake on the marquee? Wabi-sabi in real life! 

Our first stop in Harajuku was at Cafe Mocha, a fancy cat cafe. Nina and Noah put cat cafe high on their “must do” list. I’ve been wanting to visit this cat cafe because it looks pretty cool from the street. We planned to stay 20 minutes. It easily turned into a 30 minute visit. We just needed a little more time to give all 16 cats enough love. 

This cute kitty reminded Layla, Nina, and Noah of their cat Simba. Kawaii! 

Perhaps the furriest cat in Japan! 

Cat in a bowl. 

The cafe had two rooms connected by a hallway. It was decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme. 

Cat ears were available if you felt felined… I mean inclined. We did. 

Treats were available for purchase so you could feed the cats. The cats went crazy for the lollipop! We asked when we were leaving what it was made of. They were frozen chicken broth lollipops! Who knew? 

My favorite kitty was Pumpkin. He was a real life Grumpy Cat. Although he did seem a little happy to lick the lollipop! 

We had to tear the kids out of the cat cafe. We reminded them there was still cotton candy to eat and a toy store to shop! 

After a quick stop for a pair of cat ears, we made our way to the cotton candy place – Totti Candy Factory. 

Let me make a promise to you. When you visit me with your kids, I will spoil them with a HUGE mountain of cotton candy. 

All I ask for in return is a cotton candy face plant photo! This was a highlight to my day!! Pure sugar happiness. 

We finished walking down Takeshita street (so much kawaii) and worked our way to Kiddy Land. 

Kiddy Land is a four story toy store in Harajuku. It has every imaginable Japanese and U.S. toy. From Star Wars to Hello Kitty. 

We shopped until we dropped. On Pusheen! 

By the time we made it home the train count was up to seven. Seven different trains in one day! Some were pretty crowded. Especially, during rush hour. Nonetheless, we were all smiles! 

I had a great time sharing the Tokyo experience with this crew. They were flexible, inquisitive, and excited! Once again, I want to give photo credit to Layla for helping me document our day. And props to Dave for having dinner ready for us when we finally got home at 8:00pm! 

Tokyo Disneysea 

Layla, Nina, and Noah arrived on Monday evening. I meet them at the Narita airport. In true “welcome to Japan” form, we exchanged hugs and then quickly made our way to buy tickets for the Narita Express Train. We had 12 minutes. We can do this! And we did! With three minutes to spare! Welcome to Japan!! 

They were super travelers all the way home. The red carpet was rolled out for their arrival!

We enjoyed a bowl of Dave’s chili and then called it a night. We had big plans for their first day. Tokyo Disneysea!! Disneysea is part of the Tokyo Disney Resort. The park has an international sea theme. It’s kindof like the Epcot of Japan with a Sea theme. It was going to be a new experience for all of us! 

This was my first time traveling to the Disney Resorts on the trains and buses. I worked out the route over the weekend and knew exactly where to go to make our connections. It was pretty simple once I knew where to find the bus.

 I didn’t anticipate it would be as crowded as it was and we had to wait about 20 minutes in line to catch the bus. 

We made it to the park by 9:00am. Actually, 8:56. We all placed a guess what time we would arrive. Noah had the winning guessed with 8:57! 

We already had our tickets, so we sailed through the entrance. Time to enjoy Disney Magic! 

We were very efficient in managing our time with rides and utilized the FastPass option. We all loved the Indiana Jones ride the best! Here we could use the FastPass line as a single rider. We enjoyed it so much we went twice! 

A quick shot of all of us at the Arabian Coast. 

After seeing so many guests at the park in their matching attire, we decided we needed matching shirts. We checked every gift shop in the park and finally decided on the Disney 2017 Halloween tshirts. Kawaii! 

Our wardrobe changing and photo shoot left us hungry and ready for lunch. In case you’re wondering why Tokyo Disneysea is better than Tokyo Disneyland. Beer. Yes, Disneysea serves alcohol unlike Disneyland. Kanpie! 

During lunch, we discussed how many groups were not only dressed alike, but wearing actual Disney costumes. Layla had a fantastic idea. She was going to take as many pictures of her kids with adults in Disney costumes! Boy, did we ever take some fantastic pictures!! I want to thank Layla for the idea and many of the pictures and also for letting us use her kids for fantastic pictures!! The fun part was the smiles the characters would give us. They were truly flattered to have their pictures taken. Can you name all the characters? 

It wasn’t until after the sunset that we realized our shirts had a hidden message! “Welcome to the Villains’ World” was written in glow-in-the-dark lettering. Cool! 

We stayed at the park until about 7:15pm. We were staying the night at a hotel on the resort. We took the Disney Monorail to the resort and ate dinner. 

We spent 10 hours at the park. Not too bad for a group that only landed in the country the night before! After a good night of sleep, jet lag should be cured! 

Imperial Palace

Sonia was able to register us for a guided tour of the Imperial Palace Grounds. The East Garden is free and open to the public. (I made a note to come back and visit this part next month when the leaves are changing.) The part of the grounds we toured are only open to registered guests on a daily basis and the general public on the Emperor’s Birthday and the second of January. 

The guide spoke only in Japanese. Fortunately, there was an App we could download that provided both audio and written descriptions of the significant parts of the tour. It was not as entertaining as the English guide at the Kirin Factory, but just as informative. 

Before I begin with the details of the tour, let me take a minute to share details of the Imperial Palace. Tokyo became the official Imperial capital in 1868 at the end of the Edo Period. The former Imperial capital was Kyoto. The original Imperial Palace in Tokyo was destroyed during Workd War II bombing raids. Only a few of the traditional buildings remain. The Imperial Palace grounds include about 1,150,000 square meters or approximately 284 acres in the middle of Tokyo. It is surrounded by a moat and rampart (stone wall) with eight gates. 

To access the start of the tour, we were required to use a special entrance – the Kikyo-mon. We arrived about 30 minutes early and were united with a large bus group. The tour consisted of about 200 people. 

As we began the tour, we passed a large rock wall, known as the Kikyo-mon Stone Wall. The wall provided security and protection. Also, carvings are present signifying the family crest of the worker who helped build the wall. These carvings exist on all the stone walls surrounding the palace grounds. 

The Fujimi-yagura watch tower was reconstructed in 1659 and one of the oldest remnants of the Edo Castle. The rampart is approximately 15 meters high and the watch tower is 16 meters high. 

Notice the beautifully manicured trees. The style is “niwaki” meaning “garden tree” because they resemble clouds. 

The Fujimi-yagura tower was given this name because before the skyscrapers were built, Mt. Fuji was visible on a clear day! 

The next building was the Imperial Household Agency Building. It was constructed in 1935. After World War II, the third floor was used at the Imperial Palace until the new palace could be built. 

The Palace East Courtyard or Kyuden Totei, consist of a large courtyard in front of the Chowdan Hall of the Imperial Palace. From the balcony, the Emperor and Empress will greet the public twice a year. 

The plaza was HUGE! When open to the public, crowds of 20,000 gather to view the Emperor and Empress! As a group, we pretended to wave to the official party. 

The stones in the plaza are “softer” than normal. In case someone should fall, their injuries should be reduced. 

The Seimon-tetsubashi Bridge is a highly praised and loved bridge. The views of Tokyo were magnificent! 

The Fushimi-yagura tower is one of the most iconic of the Imperial Palace. It is believed to have been moved to Tokyo from Kyoto during the 17th century. 

This large entry and stairway is where the Emperor will greet official guests to the palace.

The remaining part of the tour took us down several beautiful tree and mosquito lined streets. We came away with lovely pictures and not so lovely bites on our ankles! 

The moat is behind the large tree and in front of the stone wall and full of lotus plants! 

It was a very cool tour and experience. I was very appreciative of Sonia for arranging it and inviting me. I will look forward to returning next month and visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace when fall finally arrives and the leaves start to change. I’ll probably skip the New Years event. The thought of 20,000 people in that plaza kindof stresses me out. Not to mention the crowded trains to get there!! 

Aoyama Flower Market Tea House

I added the Aoyama Flower Market Tea House to my list of places to visit in Tokyo a while ago. The description I read about the   Aoyama Flower Market Tea House, described it as being a cozy cafe with a lovely flower market attached. It also described the food as being delicious, the staff very friendly, and the seasonal fruit teas as a delightful surprise for your tastebuds. A rainy Tuesday seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the trip and enjoy flowers and tea! 

Sonia and I took the 1 hour and 15 minute trip to the Tea House without much issue. Some days I’m amazing at navigating the train system around Japan. Other days we take 2 or 3 extra trains before arriving at our destination. Today, was a good train day. 

As we were waiting for the Tokyo metro train, we used Google Translate to translate the signs on the ground. It translated the sign to say “temporary arrangement place.” Haha! What is even funnier, is the doors didn’t open at the spot like we expected. 

We endured a short walk in the rain from the train station to the Aoyama Flower Market Tea House. It might look like we are going to Starbucks. We were not. Please notice the small dark sign on the building! It is for the Tea House. 

As we approached, we could see the flowers that seemed to be spilling out of the market. 

On one side is a flower market/ florist and on the other side is a small cafe. This view welcomes you as you enter the tea house. We sat in the table to the far left in the picture. 

The tables had glass tops with small vases set in them. Underneath was a ledge holding plants. It was such a unique table and gave you the feeling of eating in a garden. 

We ordered one of each of the seasonal teas. Sonia ordered the mixed berry iced tea and I ordered the orange and mint iced tea. 

They came with a small pitcher of simple syrup. Kawaii! 

For lunch I ordered a salad. It was so delicious. Obviously, it contained fresh leafy lettuce. But also, mint and dill. A small side of blueberries, kiwi and edamame. A few slices of orange and breadsticks. Plus, a couple bites of cold potato salad. And fresh, hot bread! 

It was dressed with a yogurt dressing and a small lemon syrup was provided on the side. 

It was about ¥1600 ($15.00) for salad and drink. Our bill! Ha! 

As we were leaving, we walked through the Flower Market. It was small. Yet, every space was filled with fresh flowers! 

It was a cheerful outing on a very dreary day. On the way home, we stopped at Tokyu Hands. I couldn’t resist buying a cute little pitcher for simple syrup and creamer. Kawaii! 

Nijo-jo Castle

Before leaving Kyoto on Sunday, Dave and I went to visit Nijo-jo Castle. 

The castle was completed in 1603 for Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Tokugawa Ieyasu was able to unify Japan and establish period of peace and prosperity for 250 years. Throughout the past 400 years, the castle has continued to witness significant Japanese historical events. In 1994, Nijo-jo Castle was registered on the UNSECO World Hertiage list. This picture is the entrance gate to the outer gardens. 

This is the entrance to the interior gardens and castle. 

Photos of the inside of the Castle are not permitted. The castle consists of six connected buildings. The interior walls are decorated with beautiful wall paintings and intricate carvings in the hallways connecting the rooms. The best part of walking through the castle was the sound of the squeaky floorboards. The sound is similar to the song of a nightingale and caused by the clamps moving against the nails in the wooden boards and support beams. Unfortunately, according to the brochure, it is a misnomer the squeak was intended to announce the presence of intruders. Oh, well. It’s a fun theory. 

The gardens were beautiful. The islands represent a crane and turtle. Symbols of longevity. 

Hopefully, from these pictures you can see the expanse of the castle. 

From the base of the keep tower that burned down after a lightning strike in 1750, a view of the castle and Kyoto were visible. 

We finished our walk around the gardens. 

Check out the fall color popping out on the Japanese Maples. Dare we dream of fall!?!

As we left, we were able to walk through a water mister. Ahhhh… 

We took the 11:58 Shinkansen back to Tokyo. As per a request from one of my readers, I took a picture of the inside. 

And our cute bento boxes for the ride home. 

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