Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Train (Page 1 of 6)

Sapporo or Bust!

This is a first for Team Dwyer. A winter vacation! Normally, we want to escape the cold. We typically plan a trip where packing involves bikinis and board shorts. This is the first time we have ever packed snow pants and parkas. When I mentioned this to Dave he said this will probably be the last time as well!

We are flying out of Haneda Airport. We took the train from the station by our house. I planned our trip so we didn’t have to switch trains. A very nice convenience when pulling luggage. Here was our train route.

The flight to Sapporo takes about 1.5 hours from Haneda. Sapporo is located on the northern island of Hokkaido. It is due north of our location on the main island. Here are a couple pictures to help you identify where we are and where we are going. We are the blue dot near Tokyo.

Once we arrive in Sapporo, we will have about an hour train ride to our hotel from the airport.

Our hotel is about a 5-minute walk to the Sapporo Snow Festival.

According to my research, the first Sapporo Snow Festival was in 1950. In the town center, teenagers created six large snow sculptures. Over the next few years, more entertainment and food vendors began to organize and create a festival atmosphere. The size and complexity of the snow structures also improved. The Sapporo Snow Festival soon became a world renowned event. To date, the festival attracts more than 2 million visitors every year coming from all over the world and Japan.

We put the Sapporo Snow Festival on our Japan bucket list shortly after we arrived our first summer. We’ve been planning this trip since April! Needless to say, we are excited! I’ll be back soon with more pictures of the festival.

Pacific Drive-In

Katie and I decided to enjoy the beautiful and windy day exploring a couple spots we pass when we take the train to Enoshima Island. We decided to stop for lunch at the Pacific Drive-In restaurant.

It is literally right on the edge of Inamuragasaki Beach. Check out the waves today! It was so windy!! Enoshima Island is on the left and Mt. Fuji is on the right.

The view from our table inside was lovely.

We both ordered the ahi tuna poke bowl. It was ok. I was a little surprised it didn’t have more poke flavor. We both ended up adding a little soy sauce and that seemed to help. The ginger ale I ordered was fantastic! We decided next time to order the shrimp plate.

After lunch, we walked above Inamuragasaki Beach so I could show Katie the cute park near by. Check out the daffodils already blooming! You can still see Mt. Fuji even with the cloud halo.

The next spot we wanted to explore was the Ryuguchi Temple. From the Enoshima train line, we can see a pagoda and we’ve always been curious. Today, we had time to explore. We took a wrong turn and found this temple with a very cool tunnel.

Fortunately, Google Maps got us back on track. Literally. We were walking down the street where the Enoshima train runs down the street! I felt like a local when I I snapped pictures of the cute Enoshima electric train line.

A few minutes later, we found the Ryuguchi Temple.

We walked around and up and down. Along the way we passed a Torii. One of my favorite things about Temples and Shrines is the acceptance of both religions (Buddhism and Shinto) at a single location. If only all the other religions in the world could be more accepting and tolerable, we would be a lot closer to peace on Earth.

At the top of the stairs we came to a beautiful Temple with a gold Buddha.

We walked around to the back and we caught a great view of Mt. Fuji and Enoshima Beach.

Finally, we came down to the five-story wood pagoda. It was nestled in the trees creating a serene environment.

Despite the chilly temperatures and wind, it was a beautiful day. We had fun lunching, exploring and shopping. We might both actually be finished Christmas shopping!

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!

Hiking Mt. Takao

After visiting Mt. Takao last March for the Fire-walking festival, I really wanted to return to hike the mountain this fall. Rain spoiled my plans to go a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule the hike today and I invited my friend, Amanda, to join me. In the end, it worked out perfectly. We caught the 7:21 train from Jimmuji and made it to the base of the mountain by 9:30.

After leaving the train station, we found this extra large map showing the mountain and various hiking trails to the top.

One quick picture before we started our hike!

We decided to take the darker orange trail. The Inariyama Trail.

The English description provided says, “while some sections are a little rough, this ridge top trail offers refreshing wonderful views.” It left out the ridiculous number of stairs we would climb over the next 90 minutes!! These pictures only show a portion of the stairs. According to my Apple Watch, we climbed 139 flights of stairs! My thighs were on fire by the time we reached the top.

Honestly, I’m not sure we could have enjoyed better weather. It was such a glorious day. The foliage was spectacular! Here are just a few pictures from our ascent.

Once we reached the top, the view didn’t disappoint. We were able to see Mt. Fuji. Look at her snow cap!! Beautiful. Absolutely, beautiful.

At the top, we enjoyed a cold brew and warm bowl of Udon.

The biggest surprise of the day was the number of people! Despite the hard climb to the top, I’m glad we decided to hike the Inariyama Trail. We passed so many people coming up the paved (easier) trail as we were walking back down.

We walked about part way down before taking the tram down the mountain. The leaves were so beautiful.

I’m so glad it worked out for us to hike Mt. Takao on such a beautiful day. Fall in Japan might take a little longer to arrive, but it’s worth the wait!

Huis Ten Bosch

During my visit to the IACE travel office in Sasebo, I saw a brochure for Huis Ten Bosch. Huis Ten Bosch is theme park with a Netherlands inspired theme. What caught my eye in the brochure were the holiday light displays. I immediately added this to my list.

We arrived before the sunset on Saturday in order to see some of the park in the day light. We took a 20 minute train ride from Sasebo to the Huis Ten Bosch Station. We were amazed by the view from the start!

That huge building is the main hotel of the park. Dave and I decided we needed a return trip to experience all the park had to offer, including a stay at one of the hotels!

At the entrance of the park, visitors walk through a field with three large windmills. This time of year the fields have pansies and lights. In the spring, the fields are full of tulips. Just like Holland. Before dark.

After dark…

We enjoyed a walk around the park taking in the sights. One hotel is completely run by robots. Check out this guy!

There were tons of cute photo opportunities.

Even roses blooming!

Lots of decorations.

I also had a giggle seeing another pirate ship. My third one in the past 10 days! Notice the cute Amsterdam Row Houses in the background.

As the sun set, lights started to come on. I was giddy! We worked our way to the magical waterfall.

I hope I captured the beauty in the video. It’s truly amazing to watch.

We walked through the blue garden lights. Enjoying the lights and singing “Blue Christmas” and wishing those wine glasses had wine!

Our next highlight was a ride on the Ferris Wheel.

The ride around was 11 minutes. I’m happy to report the cars were Dave proof. They were completely enclosed so he couldn’t drop water on anyone! The views were spectacular!

After the ride, we walked to the huge tree so we could enjoy the tree lighting ceremony.

It was mesmerizing!

I took a close up of the fountain. Notice the wine fountain sign, Santa, and all the muses. Amusing!

The last highlight of our visit was the boat ride. We rode through the canal and were able to enjoy the lights and animations.

The best part was the canal light show. I recorded part of it for you.

One last funny. The parade was going on while we were on the boat. After we got off the boat, we saw part of as we were walking around. There were lots of Santas dancing and floats and Christmas music and a dinosaur. Yes, a dinosaur. Apparently, nothing says Merry Christmas like a dinosaur float!

All the lights and holiday music truly helped us get in the Christmas spirit. The theme park and illuminations were over the top. I hope we have the opportunity to return in the spring. I would love to see the flowers!

Afternoon in Nagasaki

After our visit to the Nagasaki Peace Park, we were ready for a snack. We decided on a lunch set. Dave enjoyed the sushi lunch set and I enjoyed the tempura lunch set. Oishi des!

After we were refueled, we were ready for more exploring. Next on my list of things to see was the Mt. Inasa Ropeway. I’m a sucker for a Japanese Ropeway. I’m not sure why, but I get such a kick out of them! We had a little time before the next car arrived. This allowed us time to walk around a nearby Shrine. The fall foliage made me so happy!

Finally, it was time for our 14:00 gondola ride to the top of Mt. Inasa. As we were boarding, we paused for a quick photo with the gondola driver. There were two professional photographers taking pictures of the gondola, but not riding. I asked one of them to take our picture. While he was snapping away, his partner was snapping away, too! On their camera. Dave and I laughed at the possibility of our picture ending up in some Japanese advertisement.

The ride to the top was very quick. Only five minutes. I snapped a few pictures during our ride up. Don’t you just love the pink house? And did you notice all the stairs the people have to climb if they live at the top?

As we rode in the gondola to the top, we were informed that Nagasaki was ranked as one of the three cities with the best night views in the world in 2012. The other two cities were Hong Kong and Monaco. Obviously, we came to the city only for the day and didn’t have the opportunity to see the spectacular night view. We saved something for the next time we visit. During the day, the view was pretty spectacular, too!

The ride down provided us with beautiful views as we were lowered back down to the city. I included a short video of our trip down. I wanted you to experience the beauty and hear our gondola driver speaking to us!

The third place I picked for us to visit was Meganebashi or Spectacles Bridge. It is the oldest arched stone bridge in Japan. It also has the claim of being the most photographed bridge in Japan. It was built in 1634 by a Japanese Monk. It was badly damaged during a flood in 1982. It was repaired and restored using most of the original stones that were retrieved from the river.

Two pictures with people on the bridge. The first one – us. The second one – Japanese school children.

And one selfie for good measure. Doing our part to help it remain the most photographed bridge.

We had a great time exploring Nagasaki. I left a lot open on my to do / see list. Enough to potentially make a second trip. In hindsight, I probably should have booked a room so we could have spent the night. This would have not only given us more time to explore, but also broken up the two long train rides. Live and learn and always keep exploring!

Japanese Onsen

WordPress is being difficult today. I’ve corrected stupid typos over and over. I’ve closed the app, restarted my phone, and retyped the post three times. Uncle. This one won’t be perfect. It will have its own wabi-sabi.

The pictures won’t load with the narrative correctly. So, I’ll front load the narrative and back load the pictures. You’re all smart. You will figure it out. In the mean time, I’m hoping to figure the glitch with my WordPress app! Stat!

Now begins the blog:

Even before I arrived in Japan, I was told about Japanese Onsen. Japanese Onsen is a hot spring bathing facility. The volcanic activity under the island creates naturally occurring hot springs. Many hotels have private onsen and are situated around an area with very active hot springs. Also, there are public onsen. I’ve been curious about Japanese Onsen, but because of my tattoo, I am not permitted to visit. Tattoos are not permitted at Japanese onsen because tattoos are associated with the Yukuza (Japanese gang members). It was by pure luck I learned about the private / hourly onsen in Takeo. The onsen I went to visit was Takeoonsen. It was about an hour train ride from Sasebo Station.

I caught the 10:14 local train from Sasebo Station. It took two trains to get to Takeoonsen Station. I must reiterate how I feel like a city girl visiting here after living in Yokosuka. These rickety old trains go clickety-clack!! Not to mention, they are only two car trains. The smallest one we see near us is six cars!

As I left the train station at Takeoonsen, there were no ticket machines to input my ticket. Instead, I handed my ticket to the ticket master. Now it makes sense why I can’t use my PASMO train card. They don’t have card readers. Again, feeling like a city girl!

Immediately leaving the train station I was greeted by signs for the Takeoonsen.

There were signs like these marking my way there. Speaking of onsen, have you ever noticed this emoji ♨️? It means onsen. Notice the top sign on the left.

Next two pictures – the front of the onsen and the history.

Narrative- when you enter the onsen, you are provided a menu to choose your onsen. I selected a private onsen and was told in Japanese and a quick game of charades to go around the corner.

The receptionist was so kind and helpful. We did our best to communicate despite the language barrier. I paid ¥3400 for an hour in a private onsen overlooking the forest.

The room included my own changing area, private toilet, and toilet shoes. Because Japan.

The onsen tub was immaculate. So clean. And the view! The doors open to not only enjoy the view, but to help cool down. I did love how my skin felt during and after my soak. The Sulfur from the hot spring really softens the skin. It’s amazing.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the onsen. I thought an hour wouldn’t be enough. But, after 40 minutes, I was opening the doors and ready to chill before I got dressed. I’m not sure this experience is for everyone. I’m not sure Dave would even like it. One person I know would love soaking in a HOT bath, my sister in law, Juliana. She would be all over this!

I’m sorry this blog was so disjointed. I don’t know why WordPress is being so challenging. I’m hoping for easier blogging tomorrow!

Buddha & Brews

The weather on Tuesday was beautiful. I decided to mix up my day trips and use the lovely day to explore Fukuoka. The Midori-Huis Ten Bosch Limited Express train makes the trip to Fukuoka from Sasebo in about two hours.

I arrived at the Sasebo train station with plenty of time to spare before catching the 8:06 train. I’m glad I did. I’ve learned in Japan that trains with special names require a special ticket at a special price. Such was the case with the Limited Express. I needed two tickets. One ticket for the train and one for Express Train! Yikes! And that is only one way! I needed to make the most of my day!

Once arriving at Hakata Station, I switched to the JR lines and took a local train to Nanzō-in Temple. I first learned about this Temple from my friend, Paula. She and her husband were stationed in Sasebo and went to visit the Temple. Her pictures were so cool, I knew I had to add this to my list. The Nanzō-in Temple is known for its large bronze Reclining Buddha statue said to be the largest bronze statue in the world.

The statue is about 134 feet long, 36 feet tall, and weighs 300 tons. It was spectacular. Better in fact than I anticipated. I thought I would stop by really quickly, snap some pictures and leave. Instead, I lingered and enjoyed the serenity and harmony I felt during my visit. The long cord from his hand is connected to the prayer area so visitors can “touch” Buddha as they pray. His feet are decorated with symbols to represent healing powers.

The statue is reclining because it represents Buddha at the moment of death or as he enters nirvana.

Besides my feeling of serenity, I also wasn’t expecting fall foliage to decorate the beautiful temple.

These two might be my favorite.

But, then there’s the one with the waterfall and bridge.

Like I said, I spent way more time here enjoying a sort of fall foliage meditation. I’m so glad I decided to visit today while the skies were clear.

I returned to the train station and caught he 12:02 train back to Hakata Station. I wanted to take the 15:32 Limited Express back to Sasebo so I could meet Dave for dinner. The 15:32 put me back at 17:24. So, I had about 3 hours to kill before my train. On my way to Fukuoka, I researched different options. Parks, foliage, “Fukuoka” ramen, and/or shopping were all viable options. As I was on the train after my visit to the Temple, I was ready for a beer. One divine search for zen leads to another. I searched “breweries” in Google Maps and the Asahi Brewery popped up. It was only one stop from Hakata – 4 minutes. Perfect. I arrived at the Brewery around 12:40.

The receptionist was so welcoming and asked if I had a reservation. No. Ok, then how about 1:00 tour? Hai! Arigatōgozaimas! She gave me a set of headphones so I could enjoy the tour in English.

The tour took an hour. It was really fun despite the language barrier. Oh, and did I mention – FREE! The hops were not edible but the barley in the canister was available for sampling.

A couple more pictures of the packaging process. Did you know the only place in North America that brews and packages Asahi is the Molson Coors Plant in Canada!

A couple pictures to help you understand the volume of beer brewed and packaged at this plant. This is where cans are filled with Asahi. It fills 1500 cans per minute.

This is a picture of the bottle filler. It only fills 600 bottles per minute.

After our tour, we were given the opportunity to sample Asahi beer. Asahi encourages consuming alcoholic beverages in moderation. Therefore, you only have three FREE samples to consume in 20 minutes with your bag of beer snacks. Moderation is the Wabi-Sabi of life. I think so.

Just in case you were wondering what it was like to be a blonde American traveling alone today, I felt like a rockstar. I railway staff helping me buys tickets, use my PASMO, and find my correct track. At the Brewery, the tour guide checked on me throughout the tour and sat me at my own table. It went above and beyond excellent customer service. My third sample and my fellow tour members.

I purchased some of the beer snacks for Dave as a little present. I would bring him beer, but there is an alcohol restriction on American service members stationed in Japan after a Marine killed a Japanese man in a drinking and driving accident Sunday morning in Okinawa. The incident is very sad, preventable, and unfortunate.

As the sun sets on my day trip and I reflect on how I spent my time, it was pretty perfect – for me. I didn’t see the amazing shopping mall or sample Fukuoka ramen. But, I was able to enjoy Buddha, fall foliage, and a beer (or three). My take away from this outing was – you can’t do everything, you can’t please everyone. So, do what you love and make sure you have fun doing it!

Plan Your Work

We arrived at the Naval Base in Sasebo Sunday afternoon. We were able to check into our room at NGIS. This might be the fanciest Navy room I have ever stayed in. Not only is it HUGE, there is a doormat, leather furniture, full size fridge, dining room, beautiful backyard, and a massage chair! Seriously!?!

The view out the back door.

The massage chair.

After checking in, we headed out to see the area outside the base. Dave has been to Sasebo for work several times. He took me to one of his favorite restaurants. They actually use a net to catch the fish in the tank for you and serve it on the sushi platter.

I’m not sure there is a fresher way to enjoy sushi.

I was a bit of chicken and ordered my favorite and safe sushi choice. Maguro (tuna) and rice bowl.

After dinner, we stopped at a few local watering holes and then headed back to the room. I used Monday morning to work out our plan for sightseeing during the week. I stopped by IACE travel and was able to obtain a plethora of information for things to do around the area. The travel agent was very knowledgeable about the area and helped me put together a week full of adventures.

One noticeable difference between Sasebo and Yokosuka is the train schedule. I realize now we are very spoiled living in Yokosuka. We have trains running every 8-10 minutes from our closest station. Here, trains run hourly most of the time. This makes it a little bit more challenging when planning an excursion. I was a little frustrated this afternoon because I missed the 12:43 train. The next one wasn’t going to arrive for an hour. This wouldn’t give me enough time to get there and back before my rendezvous with Dave for dinner. Grrr. So, plan B. I decided to use my time this afternoon to plan my work for the next couple days so I could work my plan and not end up in the same predicament. I picked up some lunch and returned back to base, timing how long it would take to go from NGIS to the train station (at a leisurely pace). I ate my lunch on our patio with this amazing view.

Then, I had a massage in the chair. Once my appetite was satiated and I was completely relaxed from my massage, I set to work on my plan. I wrote down a few notes and train schedules for my intended adventures over the next couple of days. Now that I’m squared away I’ll be ready to hit the ground running tomorrow! Adventures await!

Friday Morning Folly 

Dave and I discovered a couple months ago that our PASMO Card (train card) could be used to pay for purchases at certain stores. The most important places it can be used is at the numerous convenience stores. Like Family Mart. This is a picture of the Family Mart I probably frequent the most. It is in Zushi and about a block from the train station. This is where our Friday Morning Folly occurred.  

Let me back up a second and set the stage. Today is an American Federal Holiday observing Veteran’s Day. Dave needed to go into work because his Japanese employees were working a normal day. However, he didn’t have to be in so early. Instead of a 3:50am reveille, we could snooze until 5:15am with the goal to be running by 6:00am. Easy day. 

We grabbed our ID cards and PASMO Card (one required and the other just in case) and headed out for our run at 6:02am. We ran down to Zushi Beach hoping to catch a view of Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, the morning was not clear enough. 

We doubled back and decided to stop at the Family Mart to grab food for lunch. Then we would just take the train home. Here’s where it’s important to remember the PASMO Card can be used at convenience stores. We grabbed our goodies and I whipped out my Passmo to pay. I was a total champion at this point. 

Side note: the cheeseburger is for me! It’s one of my lunchtime favorites. If you want, they will even heat it for you. 

I tapped my PASMO Card for the ¥1252 purchase. 

And then I saw my balance ¥88. Oh, shizzle. It cost ¥130 to train home. Dang it! Well, looks like I’m running home. Dave asked if I had any coins on me. Nope. Take the bag. I’ll see you at the gate. 

It was exactly a mile from station to main gate running the most direct route possible. I was hoping to beat the train. I didn’t. Dave was waiting for me at the main gate. The Japanese security guard asked why my husband was already here. Ha! Because I didn’t have enough money on my train card. He laughed, too! 

Want to know what’s even funnier? On my run home, as I passed the park, I found ¥100 piece on the road! Nicely beat up from being run over repeatedly. If only I found it a mile earlier! 

I’m usually pretty good about having my train card charged. I apparently forgot about my two trips to Tokyo this week! Nonetheless, a valuable lesson was learned without dire consequences. Happy Friday! Kanpie! 

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