Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Train (Page 2 of 7)

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!

Tokyo Take One

After a much need night of sleep after making the long trip to Japan, Cindy and I were out the door early. We caught the 9:03am train to Tokyo Wednesday morning. Our first mission was to walk the Meguro Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage. Before we left, I starred the 6 temples and shrines in Google Maps.

The entire walk took us about 2.5 hours. We had a couple of detours at the Daiso and Family Mart. Here are pictures of the first three temples. Cindy collected two Gods at the third temple. We also started her off with a temple book to document each temple / shrine visit.

The fourth temple is one of my favorite in Tokyo. There are so many statues.

Soon we were crossing the Meguro River and on our way to the last two temples. We found all seven Gods! Extra luck for us this year.

As we were walking, we had a few ume (plum) blossom sightings.

After our Lucky Gods adventure, we were ready for lunch. Nothing sounded more perfect on an overcast damp winter day than ramen. It hit the spot!

After lunch we worked our way to Shibuya Crossing. We saw the Hachiko Memorial and the Shibuya scramble. We decided to check it out from the second floor of Starbucks!

Dave made us reservations at the New Sanno for the night. After exploring and shopping through Shibuya, we decided to go check into the hotel and drop our stuff. After a short reprieve, we hit the streets for more adventures! We hopped the train and headed to Harajuku. The first place I needed to take my sister in law from Chicago was Garrett’s! We picked up a few samples of yummy goodness before heading to Hedgehog Harry’s, the hedgehog cafe in Harajuku.

Once I was able to get past my aversion to rodents, we enjoyed our time. We paid for 30 minutes and a snack to feed the hedgehogs. The hedgehogs were cute and sleepy.

When they finished their snacks and feel soundly asleep, we decided to make our exit. It was a fun and unique experience. We can now say we have been to the first hedgehog cafe in the world. Ha!

After visiting the hedgehogs, we stopped for a burger at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant. The best part was sharing the experience of Japanese burger wrapper with Cindy!

After wandering around Harajuku a little more, we decided to work our way to Roppongi for one final experience. We went to Tokyo City View. It is located in the 52nd floor of the Mori Art Museum building. The night time view of the city was spectacular. Tokyo Tower is the bright building on the right. Tokyo Skytree is the faint very tall building in the background on the left.

I have never seen so many lights! This will definitely be on Julia’s nighttime Tokyo tour.

We were returning back to the room after 9 pm. We had a long day packed full of fun. Tomorrow we have even more planned to see in the city! But now, I must sleep!

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.

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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!

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