Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Train (Page 1 of 7)

Miyajima Day Trip

Our second day in Hiroshima was spent on Miyajima Island. When Dave and I visited last May, we didn’t have much time to explore the island. We only had time to visit the Itsukushima Shrine and enjoy lunch.

As I planned the Thompson’s visit, I wanted to include time to explore the entire island and see the giant Torii at both high and low tide. We took a couple trains to Miyajimaguchi Station to catch the ferry to the island. Inevitably, with every Julia tour, sooner or later we will hop on the wrong train. It happened yesterday. We got on the street car instead of the subway.

Fortunately, I noticed after the first stop and we exited at the second. While on the crowded streetcar, Chase snapped a selfie. I guess being on the wrong train wasn’t a complete waste.

The rest of the trip to the island was smooth sailing. We found the right trains and boarded the ferry.

We arrived on the island at high tide. As we walked to the Itsukushima Shrine, we stopped for a few tourist photos.

The Torii at high tide is beautiful. The Shrine and Torii both appear to be floating.

After our visit to the Shrine, we began our walk up to Mt. Misen. The walk was enjoyable and we felt lucky to see even more Sakura.

Along the way, we stopped at a nice restaurant for lunch. It was delicious Japanese cuisine.

We continued our walk and came to an area with a few Sakura trees. As the wind blew, the Sakura petals scattered. It was definitely a highlight.

Our favorite part of this little park was the opportunity for refreshments. Including Bears. Yes, please. I would love a Bear!

Up and up we went. No Julia Tour is complete without a hill to climb.

We made it to the Ropeway and took two trams to the overlook.

The view from the lookout was amazing!!

From the lookout point, we started our way down the mountain. It would take about an hour and we wanted to be down in time for low tide around the Torii. We thought walking down would be easy… But, everyone’s legs were shaking by the end.

We made a quick stop at the five-story pagoda as we walked past.

Our timing was perfect for catching the Torii at low tide. It was even more beautiful than I expected.

We made one last stop for ice cream before leaving the island.

We crossed back on the ferry and took a train back to our hotel. We were all pretty tired from a fun day exploring and hiking.

Hiroshima

Monday morning we caught the Keikyu line train to Shinagawa. I know I already mentioned the Keikyu Line and Rilakkuma campaign. I must mention it again because we have enjoyed spotting cute trains and bears. Check out the giant Rilakkuma in Shinagawa Station. So, cute.

From Shinagawa we caught the 10:07 Shinkansen to Hiroshima. Again, I was so excited.

I took a video as we waited for our train.

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The train ride was about four hours. We bought lunch for the trip – bento boxes and Japanese sandwiches.

Plus, kawaii company with the adorable Rilakkuma characters dressed as Keikyu Train Conductors.

Our train arrived four hours later. We caught a taxi to our hotel, dropped our bags and headed to the Hiroshima Peace Park. Our first stop was to see the Atomic Bomb Dome.

We were pleasantly surprised to still see Sakura in bloom. The girls stopped and rang the Peace Bell. As all the tourist ring the bell, the sound brings a calling for peace. It’s beautiful.

Our next stop was at the Cenotaph. The Eternal Flame ignited us with hope for peace.

After visiting the museum, we walked to the fountain. Danny snapped this picture of the girls. To me it symbolizes the power of peace. He has also taken many other pictures I’ve used in sharing their story. I appreciate having an extra shutterbug and an iPhone 8 Plus.

We made our way out of the park and enjoyed more Sakura and tulips.

Yozakura

Wednesday evening, I met Katie and her daughter, Virginia, at the Kanazawa Hakkei train station. We took the train from here to Gumyoji. We wanted to see the Sakura at night with the lanterns. The Japanese term for nighttime Sakura viewing is Yozakura. We arrived around 1730. The lanterns were illuminated at 1800. We took a few dusk pictures while we waited.

Tonight was my turn to tell the flowers how much we appreciated them blooming for us. Katie gave her appreciation on Monday. I’m still giggling.

When the lights came on, we clapped. I felt like there should have been a count down. The lanterns were so beautiful. Oh, Japan. You continue to steal my heart when I’m not expecting it.

The evening was extraordinary and so enjoyable. We sat at a table and Virginia enjoyed her churros and we enjoyed our beers. After our snacks, we walked along the river a little more.

The rest of the pictures were taken by Katie. Her iPhone 7 out performed my iPhone 6 with respect to night pictures. Thank you, Katie, for sharing your pictures. I’ll look forward to upgrading my phone when we return to the U.S.

Even after four straight days of Sakura chasing, I’m still impressed and amazed with their beauty. I hope you’re not growing tired of them either!

Kombucha 101

One thing I’ve learned from my English students about the secret to a long life is to keep learning – it keeps your mind sharp. That’s why at 60+ years old, a couple are in their 80s, they are learning how to improve their English conversion. They were my inspiration to attend a Kombucha 101 brewing class in Tokyo.

Sonia found the course online through Best Living Japan and invited me to go with her. Sure! Why not? And by the way, what’s Kombucha?

Directly translated in Japanese, kombu means seaweed and cha means tea. However, that is definitely not kombucha. Kombucha is a detoxifier and a probiotic.

The drink has become very popular in the U.S. over the past few years. When prepared correctly, kombucha is a healthy and delicious beverage. It is said to improve your energy and intestinal health.

The drink is made using sweetened tea that has been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The SCOBY looks pretty gross. Here our sensei was cutting pieces of SCOBY into each of our starter teas.

I was a bit intimidated as I watched and listened to our sensei walk us through the process of preparing the kombucha.

The first phase requires you to brew the sweetened tea and add the starter tea and SCOBY. They are put together in a large glass container, covered with a cloth, and left to ferment for 7-10 days.

The second phase is when the fruit juice is added to the fermented tea. The fruit adds flavor and carbonation. The tea from phase one is strained, the SCOBY removed, and about two cups of tea are reserved as starter tea for the next batch. For each jar of tea, 10-20% is fruit juice and 80-90% is fermented tea. The jars are sealed and allowed to sit at room temperature for 2-4 days. After that time, the kombucha can be refrigerated and enjoyed within the next 7 days.

As part of the class, each student was given a jar with starter tea and a piece of SCOBY. This would allow us to make our own initial batch.

On the way home from Tokyo, Sonia and I stopped in Yokohama at the Daiso. We needed larger glass containers for the fermenting process and elastic to keep the towel covering the jar in place. I had plenty of sugar and oolong tea to make my sweetened tea.

After brewing my tea, I let it set until it cooled. I didn’t want to scald my SCOBY. Once the tea was cool, I mixed them into my new glass pitcher. I added my cover and will check back in 7-10 days.

I’m genuinely curious as to how this will work out. I think I’m going to make strawberry flavored kombucha for my first batch. The strawberries will add desirable sweetness and adequate carbonation. Perhaps, I will be more bold if the kombucha does indeed taste delicious. The two glasses we tried in class today were very good. She offered us guava and peach. A couple of my friends in America have told me about their brewing successes. If you have any tips to share, please let me know! I’ll keep you updated on my progress as the kombucha brews. Kanpie! Here’s to intestinal health.

PS. The other two things to a long life include taking a walk everyday and eating sushi.

Tokyo Tourists

Dave received an invitation to the Kanto Plain Seabee Ball. The ball was held on March 10, 2018 at the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo. We decided to enjoy the weekend in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the New Sanno was full for the weekend. Instead, I booked us a room at the New Prince Hotel in Shinagawa. We arrived Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel. The room was on the club level. Being in the club level granted us permission to use the Club Lounge. Besides the amazing view, the Club Lounge provided breakfast, snacks, and alcohol beverages after 5:00 pm. We were happy we decided to make a stop for happy hour on Friday. Because who doesn’t love free snacks and beer with a great city view!

We spent the rest of the evening exploring the area around Shinagawa Station. You just never know what or who you will see in Japan!

The place where we stopped for dinner had a true local flare. Like tiny sardines in my grilled rice ball and the homemade Japanese pickles served with our beer.

When I attempted to order a second beer, some how I managed to order two – of different sizes. Clearly, there was a bit lost in translation. Fortunately, Dave helped me drink the extra beer. Team D for the win!

Saturday before the ball, we took the train to Shibuya to walk around and shop. It’s always fun to be tourists in Shibuya Crossing.

This cute puppy was outside a coffee shop. He was there with his owner for several hours. We passed him on both Saturday and Sunday morning. Kawaii!

The Seabee Ball on Saturday night was a blast. I had the chance to wear my favorite gown and Dave looked extremely dapper in his mess dress. I love fancy date night.

No ball in Japan is complete without a sake barrel to open.

And traditional music performance.

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We took a group picture of all those who represented SRF. Not too bad of a turn out and everyone looked amazing.

The rest of the evening included dinner, speeches, and dancing. Lots of dancing and so much fun! Kanpie!

Mori Art Museum

The rain arrived overnight as promised. This created the perfect day to visit the Mori Art Museum. The Mori Art Museum is located in Roppongi. It is actually in the same building as the Tokyo Sky View. Sonia and I planned a trip to the museum and then lunch. The Museum currently has an exhibition by Leandro Erlich – Seeing is Believing.

The exhibition was contemporary and unique. Several of the exhibits were interactive, creating an even more impressive experience. Here is a picture of the explanation of the exhibit. To truly understand his intentions of his art, please read the third paragraph. He creates art that challenges our perceptions.

The first exhibit was the floating boats. I didn’t read about it before entering. It took Sonia pointing out that there was no water for my brain to comprehend. Please note, the boats were also rocking adding to the impression that they were in water.

Here is the explanation.

The next group of artwork were of clouds shaped like countries. The exhibit stressed how we as humans try to make order out of the chaos. We seek to find images in clouds or create constellations in the millions of stars. The same can be said about country borders. Although they seem permanent, over time they also shift and change shape. Pretty poignant, huh? The images were created using ceramic ink on multiple layers of glass. Can you identify the countries?

If you said, Japan, France, United Kingdom, and Germany, you are correct!

One of our favorites was the changing room. It was a changing room design with a mixture of mirrored and non-mirrored walls. The non-mirrored walls allowed you to pass through. It was like a dressing room maze.

A couple of other pieces really spoke to me. I loved this one of the house with roots. The intent was to show how intertwined cities truly become with nature. To me, it was more personal. I reflected and thought it illustrated our life. That is our house that we create into our home wherever we move. Then with each move, we rip our home out of the ground. Most of our roots come with us, but we can’t help but leave some behind.

I also loved this piece illustrating the effects of climate change on buildings. It was constructed in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Convention.

The main attraction of the exhibition was the mind bending building. It truly looks dangerous and gravity defying!

What in the world!?! How is this possible? With a huge mirror!

The art exhibit was one of best I have seen in a while. I truly enjoyed the experience. Afterwards, we went back down to the fifth floor and had an amazing lunch and even better conversation. Pretty good adventure for a rainy Thursday.

Nara Day Trip

Tuesday morning we set out for the day to visit Nara. Along the way, we stopped at the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. This is one of my favorite Shrines. Fushimi Inari Taisha has many parallel rows of Torii know as Senbon Torii or thousands of Torii gates.

The grounds are so expansive. There are multiple shrines of all different sizes. This was one of the larger ones. Many people were making their wish.

This large Torii near the center of the main shrine leads the way to the Torii paths.

As we walked up, we saw a cute lucky cat on the Shrine. He was there during our entire visit!

The passageways with all the Torii are really unique to walk through. The Torii were donated by local businesses. The writing on the Torii identifies the donor. The smaller Torii cost about ¥400,000 or ($4,000). The larger ones cost well over ¥1,000,000!

We waited patiently to take a few pictures without people. Well, almost with no people. The sweet lady in the last one waited while our picture was being taken.

The Shrine is dedicated to the God Inari, the Shinto God of rice. I also love the foxes serving messengers and sent to protect the shrine.

We left Fushimi Inari Shrine and caught a local train to Nara.

The first stop in Nara was at the Kofukuda-ji Temple. The most prominent feature of this temple is the five story pagoda.

The main temple hall is adjacent to the pagoda. Cindy was able to obtain another temple stamp. While we were waiting for the nice man to complete the stamp, he asked where we are from. Chicago, we replied. With his limited English he replies, America and Trump. Yes, we laugh. America and Trump. 🇺🇸🙄

We worked our way through Nara Park on the way to the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. Cindy had a chance to see all the deer. Perhaps the best entertainment is watching people feed the deer. Before too long, she was ready to buy them treats.

Quickly they came running!

Oh, how funny. They start out so sweet. Before long they are aggressive and nipping your butt!

The deer were hilarious. Check out this one. He’s sticking his tongue out at Cindy.

Eventually, we found a sweet one.

We continued our walk through the park and worked our way towards the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. This shrine has many lanterns along the path as you approach. They are so cool with the moss covering them. Occasionally, you will spot a deer with the lanterns.

I loved this picture. I was able to capture Cindy in the middle of so much Japan. The deer, the lanterns, the couple in the Kimonos, and the Torii gate.

The deer fountain to cleanse before visiting the shrine.

After our visit, we walked across the park again to the last temple on our Nara tour. The Tōdai-ji Temple is home to a large bronze statue of Buddha Vairocana. The building is 157 feet high and remains one of Japan’s largest wooden buildings.

We enjoyed our walk through the temple and viewing the Buddha. As we made our way back to the train station, we decided there was one more thing on Cindy’s Japan list we needed to complete. We needed a visit to a cat cafe. With ease using Google Maps, I was able to locate a cat cafe in Nara very close to the train station. For ¥600 we spent 30 minutes pestering and playing with the cute and not so cute kitties.

This guy was asleep in the toy box!!

We caught a limited express train back to Kyoto and enjoyed a delicious pizza for dinner.

This was a great day. We saw 4 Shrines/Temples, deer, and cats. It was a fun day exploring and experiencing Japanese culture!

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.

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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!

Local Tourists

No alarms were set in the Dwyer house Sunday morning. We all agreed that waking up at 2:30am on Saturday morning earned us late sleepers! We eventually made it out of the house mid morning and worked our way to Enoshima Island. To mix it up a little bit, we took the Shonan Monorail train to get to Enoshima. Here was our route from Zushi.

Before tackling the stairs on the island, we stopped for lunch. We were glad to have extra energy. Enoshima Island has a lot of stairs!

Check out the view as we climbed.

Cindy was able to add another stamp to her temple book. While we waited, we had ume blossoms and the fountain to enjoy.

We continued our way to the top of the island. We enjoyed all the selfie spots on the island.

The clouds prevented us from viewing Mt. Fuji. You know what they say… on a clear day…

This might be my favorite picture of the day. Those smiles!

We worked our way down the island and caught the Enoshima Electric train back to Kamakura.

On the way home, I needed to take Cindy to Hachimangū Shrine in Kamakura. This shrine is mandatory on every Julia tour. We skipped it Friday when we were in Kamakura and opted for seeing Sakura. Having a flexible schedule today, we were able to squeeze in a quick visit.

I’ll be honest. My favorite part of the Shrine are the sake barrels.

We were there towards the end of the day. The Shrine wasn’t very crowded, but the light was getting challenging with iPhone.

A few last pictures. The bridge is blocked off because it is only for the Gods to cross. The lighting wasn’t the best, but I love these shots.

As I think about our day, I can’t help but laugh at our reality. We live so incredibly close to so many really cool, beautiful, and iconic parts of Japan. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to live here. It’s so special to be able to share our experiences and neighborhood with Cindy. Tomorrow we have traveling plans on the Shinkansen! Kyoto or bust!

Tokyo Take Two

Thursday morning we woke up to a wintery mix. We took our time getting organized hoping the weather would break. The weather was still messy by the time we finished breakfast and checked out of our room. Oh, well. That’s one of my rules. “Don’t let the weather stop you.” Instead, we stopped at the closest Family Mart and invested in lightweight umbrellas. Perhaps, the best purchase of the day!

On our agenda today was exploring Asakusa. Asakusa is located on the NE side of Tokyo. We were in the SW corner. It took us about 40 minutes on the train to transit over.

Our first stop was to visit the Sensō-ji Temple. Sensō-ji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo. It is very significant and attracts 30 million visitors every year. Cindy and I accounted for two of those visitors today.

The Temple is huge. I was especially excited because I haven’t been to this temple in over a year. Last time Dave and I visited was during Tokyo marathon weekend. At that time, the pagoda was undergoing renovations. I was able to see the pagoda for the first time today!

The snow, the pagoda, and the temple made for a magical experience. Check out all the people!

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I’m so glad we made the trip over to see the Temple. It truly is a magnificent structure and the gardens are amazing even in the rain/ snow.

Cindy was able to have another stamp added to her book at the Senso-ji Temple and also at the Asakusa Shrine.

Since we were in the area, I wanted to take Cindy to see another of my favorite Shrines. The Imoda Shrine or Lucky Cat Shrine. It’s so cute and the coupled cats are said to bring good luck and love to marriages. Who doesn’t need a little extra of either?

My favorite thing to discover at certain Shrines is the “May Peace Prevail On Earth” signs. The sign coupled with the serenity of the Shrine and the beauty of gardens truly makes my heart happy. I can’t help but believe that every one of the wishes tied on the prayer wall are wishes of peace, goodness, and well being.

By this point in the day, we were starting to get chilly and wet from the winter mix. We worked our way back to the shopping area around Asakusa. We shopped for a few items and then worked our way to Shibuya. We had one shopping spot to visit before heading home. My favorite. Tokyu Hands.

The only thing holding us back while shopping was the reminder we still had to get back home with all of our purchases!

Today, without intention, I treated Cindy to a true wabi-sabi experience. The weather was definitely imperfect, but the opportunity to see the Temple and pagoda in a little bit of snow was pretty fun. Of the 30 million visitors, how many had a chance to experience it in snow? She was such a trooper. I teased her at one point and said I was glad she was my sister in law from Chicago – otherwise, we might not have left the hotel! To her, this was a messy winter day at home!

We worked our way home and enjoyed a cold beer and Garrett’s popcorn as an appetizer to the white bean chicken chili Dave made this morning in the crockpot. Ahhhh. After two days in Tokyo, there’s no place like home!

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