Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 2)

Wabi-Sabi Sole Goes to Seoul

Dave had a work trip this coming week. While he was going to be away, I decided to book a flight to Seoul, South Korea. We have (Army) friends from Naval Station Great Lakes stationed there. This was very last minute planning. So last minute that my Seoul Travel Guide didn’t arrive in time! I’m depending on my friend, Laurie, for a complete tour. I’m excited to see them and explore another city/country.

I booked my ticket on JEJUair, a budget airline. I couldn’t help but laugh as I looked down at my duct taped suitcase and converse. In my favorite flying attire, I’ve definitely dressed the “budget” part. I have to give an explanation about the suitcase. In November, when we went to Sasebo, the handle of my suitcase broke off. Fortunately, we were able to buy a new set of luggage at the Black Friday sale on base. It was a set of three. I put the small bag inside the large suitcase and packed the medium size separate. On the flight home, my brand new medium suitcase was broken. There was a HUGE crack! I was so annoyed. Two flights and two suitcases. (Insert eye roll) I decided instead of buying another suitcase, I would just duct tape this one and use it until it completely falls apart. So far, it’s gone back and forth to Thailand, Hokkaido, United States, and now to South Korea. Fingers crossed it makes it home. Duct tape for the win!!

Anyways, back to my trip to Seoul. I’ll be gone for a few days. I’ll do my best to share my adventures as I go. Thanks for understanding if I fall a little bit behind because I’ll be tethered to a wifi connection. As always, thanks for reading!

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!

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!

Piacere Pizza & Wine

Miki and I met for lunch in Yokosuka on Tuesday. She took me to a delicious restaurant off the beaten path and down a back alley. Literally.

Piacere Pizza & Wine offers a delicious lunch set for ¥1,000 ($10.00). The set includes a small salad, your choice of pizza or pasta, dessert, and coffee or tea. The salad and bread were perfect for making a small sandwich!

I selected the wood fired margarita pizza and Miki ordered the spaghetti with vegetables. We shared them both and they were delicious. This might take the number one spot in my list of “favorite pizza in Yokosuka.”

For dessert we enjoyed coffee jello. I wasn’t sure if I would like it at first, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was delicious.

I enjoyed our lunch today. I was appreciative of Miki taking me to a place I haven’t been and one with delicious pizza! I truly appreciate our friendship.

After lunch, I had several errands to do on main base. The first, picking up the Hooptie after an oil change. I’m happy to report she is still doing well and keeping us safely transiting around our local area. I dropped Hooptie off with Dave and was lucky enough to catch him in his office doing what he does best, fixing ships!

The second, was to book two trips for upcoming family and friends we have visiting. As I have said before, Julia Tours are completely customizable and aim to provide a memorable experience. I set up trips to Kyoto and Hiroshima for our upcoming guests. Please let me know soon when and where you would like to go during your visit! I’m ready to plan it for you!!

Out of the Office

Dave and I are flying to Phuket, Thailand today to enjoy a little R&R on the beach. I will be out of the office during our vacation.

Thank you for all of your love and support in 2017. I appreciate you following our adventures and look forward to sharing more with you in 2018. Please enjoy a happy holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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!

Waiting for Our Flight

Dave and I are flying to Nagasaki airport. We will spend the week of Thanksgiving in Sasebo. Dave has to work a few days at the beginning of the week. While he is working, I’ll be exploring. He is taking a few days leave at the end of the week so we can explore the area together. I’m excited to visit another part of Japan. Sasebo is located towards the southern end of the country. We are the blue dot and will be flying to the red flag.

It is a short flight, only 1 hour and 45 minutes. One small cup of coffee will make it fly by.

I’m looking forward to sharing the week of adventures with you! I’m thankful for all you for reading and following wabisabisole. Your support means everything. Happy Thanksgiving week!

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! 

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The number of Torii present was impressive. 


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

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


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


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


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


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

America 

Happy Fourth of July! 

Speaking of America, I’m flying to San Francisco this evening for my 3-week summer camp. It all started with my brother asking me to join him and his family on a Northern California/Oregon road trip. From there, I orchestrated an amazing vacation optimizing my time, costly plane ticket, and excruciatingly long flight (11 hours). I have been planning this adventure since January and will spend time with friends and family who are all traveling to meet me. I’m truly appreciative of their efforts to see me. It’s an understatement to say I’m excited. 

Simultaneously, a huge shoutout to Dave for supporting me to enjoy this wonderful opportunity. 

Here is a quick list of places we will visit. 

Yosemite National Park

Napa/Sonoma 

Lassen National Park

Volcano National Park

Redwood National Park

Paso Robles

Big Sur 

There will be many other side stops during our journey. I will do my best to share adventures via wabisabisole along the way. I must also communicate the expectation that I want to maximize my time in the company of my friends and family and don’t want to spend too much time with my nose in my phone. Im looking forward to unplugging for a little bit. Plus, I will be limited on my data because most of the places won’t have wifi. 

In the meantime, enjoy your Independence Day celebration and happy summer! 

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