Spring In Japan, Part 2

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Paige, Olivia and Natalie on the Shinkansen bound for Himi, on Toyama Bay, just outside of Takaoka.
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Yummy sweet potato ice cream that is only available on Shinkansen
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Mind blown seeing these trees growing out on a small island in the ocean!

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I waste no time getting comfortable and heading to the onsen for rest and relaxation!
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One of the gardens at the hotel…

The next morning we packed up and made our way to a beautiful, modern ryokan in Komatsu City called Sarai. It was here where we would stay for two nights.
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In Japan, you can wear your yukata (cotton robe) anywhere!

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We had many parties that included some very good sake!
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Another dinner party- here is our teacher, Yoshida Shihan
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A wonderful local artist came to celebrate with us and made everyone a personal artwork to take home!

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Hidekazu Mori-san making his art

Our aikido training and Honkoji practice was intense for the remaining days. Here, we had visitors from all over the world join our practice. One training session was in this Buddhist Temple.

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It was a crowded space. We took turns with our practice…
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Aikido friends
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For the afternoon training, we moved to another Budokan…
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These training spaces can be found all over Japan. They are massive! We had a great time exploring and training and seeing our big aikido family.

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Next stop was an early morning train ride out of Komatsu City at 5:15 am (the first train of the day out of Komatsu) to head back to Tokyo to go to Tokyo Disney for the day!

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Our first trip to Tokyo Disney!

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Fun!

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Olivia
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The enchanted castle- we arrived to see the Easter decorations!

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Only in Japan will you find curry popcorn!

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Until next time Japan! Sayonara πŸ™‚

Spring In Japan, Part 1

We arrived in Japan for cherry blossom season. Japan loves flowers and takes great pride in showing them off! After our long flight over, we made our way to Takadanobaba station in Shinjuku where we rented a lovely three story house for the eight of us for two nights. From the station it was a good 10 minute walk. We passed streets full of restaurants and shops along the way. After getting situated at the house, we decided on a restaurant for dinner that had many choices and ice cold beer. After a long travel day we went to sleep and prepared for the coming days of adventure and tired feet. IMG_0027

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The next morning we were up early to get to our first aikido training day of the trip. Training at the Aikido Headquarters, Hombu dojo is not to be missed. We did the first class that starts at 6:30 am with Doshu. For more on the history of Aikido, visit here.
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Our first full day of sight seeing included Kitonomaru Park and Chidorigafuchi Park. This area has so much to do! We took many pictures under the blooming cherry blossom trees and found peaceful moments I will remember my whole life. We stopped for ice cream and decided on bento lunches from 7-11. Japanese 7-11 are amazing convenience stores. We bought plum wine and enjoyed our lunches in a quiet park like setting.

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Asakusa Temple was a quick train ride. There were many tourists, but nevertheless, I can see why… it was an amazing place! Anywhere in Japan during cherry blossom season is expected to be crowded. We discovered, much to my surprise, a shop called Mokuhankan. David Bull is a woodblock artist. I have been following his work for quite some time. When we walked in, David was in the middle of a class to aspiring students in the art of woodblock. His YouTube channel can be found here.

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We headed out to Shibuya, where we found a British pub for dinner, had some beers, and stopped off at the Disney store to buy our tickets for Tokyo Disney. After getting everything packed up, we caught up with the rest of the group to catch the train to Himi, on the coast. Stay tuned for Part 2…
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Summer Road Trip Part 2: Truckee, CA

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Donner Lake Summit
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We rented a house on Donner lake. So relaxing!
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Donner Monument
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Nature needs our protecting
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Philip and I made this on one of our hikes around Donner lake
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Beautiful morning on the lake

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Fun place! Jax has a lot of history
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Truckee river
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kayaker braving the strong river
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We did a 10 mile bike ride down the Truckee. It is the heart of this beautiful land
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Glenshire community
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A sweet little pup we met
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Legacy Trail
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Just a dude and his dog paddle boarding Donner lake

 

After our Yosemite visit we made the journey to beautiful Truckee. I found this great house on Donner Lake where we would spend the next few days enjoying all the Truckee has to offer.

Arriving in the early afternoon, we were excited to unpack the car and get back out into nature. Donner Lake is a gem. It was our first time staying in Truckee so exploring someplace new was exciting. We found a little market where we stocked up on groceries for the trip. We really just wanted to hunker down and not go out to eat a lot. We BBQ’d most evenings, packed sandwiches for our day trips and always had plenty of snacks.

We visited the Donner Memorial Monument and museum, watched a short movie about the Donner Party and the many challenges they had along the way. What a life they were seeking. Sadly, many of the group died trying to reach their destination.

We did a few hikes, rented bikes one day and biked 10 miles along the Truckee river. We had really wanted to do the rafting trip we did years ago but with all the snow and ice melt, the current was too strong and was not an option for us at the time so we’ll just have to go back and do it another time.
Our time in Truckee was wonderful! I love our family vacations πŸ™‚

 

Summer Road Trip Part 1: Yosemite

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We packed up the car with everything we would need for our adventures to come in Yosemite. This was our first time here- Philip had gone as a child with his family. We were all so excited to get there. When you enter the park you feel like you’re being transported to a different planet. We were just blown away with the sheer size of Yosemite. We pulled over to take some pictures of the valley view, waterfalls, sheer granite cliffs. It was so beautiful! With over 1100 square miles of pristine, undeveloped land for our adventures, we were anxious to get settled in and get exploring.

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We rented a cabin at Half Dome Village. Half Dome Village had everything we could possibly need- a market, restaurants, coffee place and more. We explored the area around Half Dome Village, found a group of deer grazing in a meadow, got pizza and beers and settled in to the cabin, played a game of Scrabble, and went to bed. It had been a long travel day and we were pretty tired. The tent cabin was set up with a double size bed and three twin size beds. We brought our sleeping bags and pillows, they supplied towels and extra wool blankets. The night we camped it snowed! We knew it was going to be a cold night.

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β€œWe must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong.”

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The next morning we were up at sunrise to start the day. After a terrible nights sleep I just wanted to get moving. The girls and I were the first up so we let Philip sleep while we got some caffeine and something to eat and had a chance to charge our phones. The cabins don’t have electricity and there is a lights out at 10 policy. I have to say, it was nice not having to be connected, in fact, they encourage you to just unplug and enjoy the quiet.

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After breakfast we boarded our first shuttle around the park. Yosemite has shuttles all over the park and encourages you to use them as you can imagine there aren’t many parking lots. Our first stop was to the Yosemite Fall trails. We hiked around, took pictures and had a great time. We had plans to do Bridalveil falls and Glacier point hikes too, but we were so tired! We decided to head back to the village to collect our things and get on the road to go to Truckee, near Lake Tahoe.

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β€œAs long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” John Muir

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β€œWild beasts and birds are by right not the property merely of the people who are alive today, but the property of unknown generations, whose belongings we have no right to squander.” Theodore Roosevelt

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We ended up getting lost on our way out due to construction that was happening and many roads were closed. We ended up in Tuolumne Meadows. Because it snowed the night before, there was fresh snow in the trees. We felt so transported to a winter wonderland. We were playing John Denver, just really enjoying the beauty when we see two deer playing in the snow in the meadow. It was picture perfect!

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Day Trip: Temecula, California

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Temecula, California is an exciting and wonderful place to visit. It has a little something for everyone. I am biased in my reviews of Temecula because it’s the place I call home. I have lived in Temecula since 2000 and have seen it grow to the bustling tourist destination full of amazing wineries, a lively old town with lots of things to do and a great place to raise a family. If you visit Temecula’s Old Town, some of my favorite places are The Old Town Temecula Community Theater, Temecula Olive Oil Company, Public House Restaurant, Pennypickes Workshop and Children’s Museum, and Old Town Records. Though this is a short list, Old Town Temecula has many restaurants, shops of all kinds, a farmers market on Saturdays and a fun atmosphere, streets lined with old cars and live music. It makes for a great day trip! Visit the city of Temecula’s website here

Day Trip: Diamond Valley Lake

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We spent the morning out at Diamond Valley Lake to celebrate my husband, Philip’s birthday. It was a beautiful, temperate day and the wildflowers were in FULL BLOOM- a spectacular show of many varieties- California poppy, arroyo lupine, goldfields and canterbury bells, to name a few. After all the much needed Winter rain storms we’ve had, the lake was full of water! Living in Southern California, we’ve seen nearly all of our lakes water deplete year after year of drought, to alarmingly low levels. It’s a great place to visit and hike, fish or just enjoy the beauty. We had a great time and can’t wait to go back.Β 

For more information, visit http://www.dvlake.com/

Japan Adventures: Tama

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Hello Kitty in Tama Train Station
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Onward!
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Behold the Gudetama egg!
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!!!
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These games were impossible to win
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Olivia trying for a shiba inu
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Lights in Tama
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Tunnel of lights

After leaving Kyoto, we headed back to Tokyo as we had one last day in Japan and didn’t want a super heavy travel day on our last day traveling back home. We enjoyed the train ride, getting a glimpse of Mt. Fuji as we passed through Shizuoka! Hiking Mt. Fuji is something I would love to do someday.

We stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel and enjoyed our stay very much! Near the hotel was a shopping mall, restaurants, a fun arcade and Sanrio Puroland. Decorations and lights were everywhere to celebrate Christmas. The Japanese love Christmas! One of the things they do for the Christmas holiday is eat Japanese cheesecake and Kentucky Fried Chicken! Puroland was closed the day we were visiting, but it looked like it would be super fun to visit. Next time!

Japan is a place of deep inspiration for me. I love it for the raw beauty, fascinating culture and hospitable people. There is an ease about the Japanese people, their humble character, often confused with shyness. They are a people of order, they all know their place and where they fit it. They are extremely hardworking in everything they do. Maybe that for me is what I love most. The artists of Japan spend an entire lifetime refining and continually growing in their craft or trade. I have watched countless videos on anything from wood block printing to sumo to sushi chefs- they all take great pride in their work and that for me is something I continually strive for. I want to be the best version of myself and the Japanese inspire me to do that.

Dewa, mata ne,

See you next time Japan!

Japan Adventures: Kyoto Part 2

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Arashiyama Bamboo forest
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Amazing sound with the wind whipping through them
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Temple entrance

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Forest keepers
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Beautiful Fall day
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Hozugawa River
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Peace!
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600 kimono art
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Last night in Kyoto- we found this great yakisoba restaurant
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Olivia enjoying dinner

Our last day trip was to Arashiyama as it was a short train ride on the Randen Katabiranotsuji train line to Arashiyama. The Tenryu-ji Temple, Kimono forest (art installation of kimono designs), Togetsukyo bridge, Sagano train ride, Hozugawa river boat ride, and lots of shopping! Carre, Olivia and I spent the afternoon in Arashiyama. It was extremely crowded, and for good reason, its a wonderful place to visit. I had my heart set on the Hozugawa River boat cruise but we arrived so late in the afternoon so for sure we will do it next time!
Kyoto is so charming. It was my favorite place we visited this time and I CANNOT wait to go back. The Japanese culture has enriched my life in so many ways and it really is a culture to admire and respect. I think Japan is one of the loveliest places I’ve visited. Our next adventure is back to the Tokyo area of Tama (aka the land of HELLO KITTY!)…

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Japan Adventures: Kyoto Part 1

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Our Airbnb in Kyoto
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Shopping in Kyoto
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Ryoan-ji Temple and gardens
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Those colors!
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Karesansui (rock) garden at Ryoan-ji
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Beautiful!
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Taizo-in Temple
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Details
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I love all of it!
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Stunning!
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Traveling monk
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The colors are so pretty!
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Mike and Philip in Kyoto
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Ryoan-ji steps
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Persimmons
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I love Kyoto!

Kyoto was the place I had been dreaming about visiting for as long as I can remember. Pictures don’t do it justice- Kyoto needs to be felt. I arrived and completely fell in love with it. When a place you visit for the first time just completely blows your mind. Kyoto is that place for me.

We rented a wonderful house in Kyoto through Airbnb and the seven of us enjoyed our Kyoto neighborhood so much: a comfortable home, warmth from the kotatsu table (look it up!), the Family Mart a short 5 minute walk away, the takoyaki and yakisoba noodle place right next door, temples within any walking direction, friendly neighborhood, vending machines on every corner and the slow pace we were looking forward to after our last week in Japan.

Carre and I were so excited to go explore the temples. Visiting the Ryoan-ji Temple was a highlight for me on this trip. We visited here twice, it was a 5 minute walk from the house. Philosopher’s walk and Taizo-in Temple were another 5 minute walk. Like I mentioned, Kyoto is one of those places that must be felt. It has a certain feel to it, a sense of wonder, mystery. Then the beauty of the place just takes your breath away. Carre and I would say, just when you’d thought you’d seen the most beautiful thing, something new would be equally, if not more lovely. This happened so many times! It is one of my favorite places and I cannot wait to go back and see more, feel more and explore more.

Arashiyama in Kyoto is the next blog post. Stay tuned!

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Japan Adventures: Osaka

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Philip and Simeon
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Artists painting Osaka Castle off in the distance
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Golden Ginkyo leaves
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Osaka
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Osaka Castle moat and stone walls
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Natalie at Osaka Castle
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Beautiful!
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View from the top of Osaka Castle
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Philip
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Dotonbori
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Silly statues in Osaka
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So cute!

Our first stop was in Osaka- the second largest city in Japan.

After the 30 minute train ride from Kyoto Station we arrived in Osaka. The train drops you off nearly at the entrance to Osaka Castle, so it was just a short walk to the castle park grounds, nearly 80 acres to explore. I was so impressed with the moat and stone walls, made for protecting the castle. I can’t believe what a fortress this once was and the history behind it, the battles fought literally where we stood. Japan has so much history and you can see that the Japanese are equally impressed with the history.

After a few hours at Osaka castle, our daughter begged us to find the Neko no Jikan cat cafe. How fun! We paid the fee, received a coffee and petted sweet kitties for an hour. Most cats used to the attention so mostly they’re just sleeping or wandering among their play area. It was a nice place to slow down for a bit and rest. This was day seven of our trip and we were definitely feeling tired with all the traveling up to that point.

Later we met up with some friends and had some beers and ramen, did some yukata shopping and headed back to the house until the next adventure…

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Japan Adventures: Tokyo and Kanazawa

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Olivia very excited to be back in Japan!
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Carre’s first time in Japan!
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Our aikido students: Mike, Simeon and Mike
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Chibi Harry Potter merchandise
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Manhole cover in Ueno Park
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Family picture in Ueno Park
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In Kanazawa we arranged to have a class in wagashi confection
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Top left is beginner, bottom left is intermediate and yellow on left most difficult. It was very challenging!
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Lovely lunch in Kanazawa with our friends
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We toured Kanazawa Castle built in 1590’s
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Kanazawa Castle grounds
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Inside its all wood!
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They had an ikebana exhibit inside the castle
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Part of our group that visited Kanazawa! What a great day!
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Kenroku-en Gardens: These ropes are used when snow is falling as to protect the trees from the weight upon their limbs
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Golden Japanese maple leaf
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The colors were so spectacular! The last time we visited was in the Summer so seeing all the Fall colors was a treat!

We arrived in Tokyo late afternoon and were ready to get started on our 12 day trip through Japan. We were in Tokyo for one night so we didn’t have much planned other than getting to our hotel and getting some food and do some local sight seeing. The flight over takes 12 hours so we were pretty tired from the traveling by plane and then by bus to get to our hotel in Shinjuku at the APA Hotel. We found a yakiniko restaurant (each table has a built in BBQ) where you can grill up your meat and vegetables just how you like them. We were happy to eat and have some beers.

The next morning we woke around 5 to get up and packed for the first morning aikido training session at Hombu dojo that started at 6:30am. We invited our aikido students to come to Japan and happily three came with! It was all of their first time in Japan. After training we headed back to the hotel, had a hearty breakfast and then took the train to Kanazawa for the day. First we had an hour long class on the traditional confection called wagashi. Wagashi is usually served with tea (most common confection in traditional Japanese tea ceremony). We made three different wagashi, each different scales of complexity and difficulty. Our teacher had been making wagashi his entire life! Next we headed to Kanazawa Castle. We toured the grounds, took lots of pictures and had a great day. The castle was beautiful inside! So much history and so much beauty. After touring the castle we made our way to lunch where we had a nice time with several different small meals. After this we headed to the Kenroku-en gardens. Some of our group had some seasonal corn soup and tea. We decided on coffee to warm up as the day was cold and gloomy. This area was pretty touristy. This time of year people travel all over to see the seasonal changes in landscape. It was a beautiful garden and I hope to visit there again someday.

This was our last stop before heading back to hotel to pack up and travel to Takaoka where we stay in a traditional ryokan for three days.

Keep posted for the next part of our trip to beautiful Takaoka and then Kyoto!

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Road Trip Fun: Part 1

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Heading out on our 16-day road trip!
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First stop: Mojitos at the Boathouse at Hendry’s beach
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Teresa and Bethany
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Santa Barbara Museum of art
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Afternoon playing at the Pacific
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Lovely dinner at Finch and Fork YUM!
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Were ready for day 2
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At the Santa Barbara Mission
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“The only thing that makes life worth living is the possibility of experiencing now and then a perfect moment.” -Paul Bowles
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Onto our next destination…
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Wine tasting time in Paso Robles! All this driving makes me thirsty!
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Made it to Pacific Grove- Monterey
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Teresa and Bethany
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Trip to Monterey Bay aquarium
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Liv, Nat and Bethany
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The girls and their crab dinner!
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Bethany
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Day 4: San Fransisco
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We stayed at the Kabuki Hotel in Japantown
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Very pretty!
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Waraku is the #1 Ramen spot in San Fransisco
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She’s a pro at ramen eating
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I went with the spicy one
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We made it to San Fransisco and it’s freezing!
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Good fun in the glass elevator at the Westin St. Francis- were 34 floors up!
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Took a two hour bus trip through San Fransisco
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Groovy time inΒ  Haight-Ashbury
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Made it to the Golden Gate Bridge!
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Steven flew up to join us for the night. On our way to have a cocktail at Sir Francis Drake
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Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Cafe
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Cheers to friends and adventures!
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Love these two! Fun times!
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Japantown Peace Plaza
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That long stretch of nothing until we reach Yreka
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On our way to Scott River to play
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So beautiful!
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This was a mountain paradise
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Nat
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Good times with Christine!
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Liv and Jordan- these two have known each other since they were wee babes
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Sunsets in Yreka
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At the lake- our last night in Yreka before we head up to Seattle…

What a fun road trip! Our first stop brought us to beautiful Santa Barbara. We headed straight to the Boathouse at Hendry’s beach for a late lunch and cocktail. After recharging we headed to State Street for some window shopping and exploring. The beach was our next destination. The fog was heavy at times but the girls had fun splashing in the Pacific. I made reservations at Finch and Fork (a farm to table style) and we had a lovely dinner. After more walking around, we headed back to the Hotel Santa Barbara for some rest before day 2…

Day 2 was going to be about five hours in the car before reaching our destination in Pacific Grove (Monterey). We first visited the Mission in Santa Barbara for a couple of hours. We explored the grounds for a couple of hours then made our way by lunch up to Paso Robles. One of my favorite wines is Tobin James so we made a stop here to purchase some wine to bring back home. After wine tasting we continued our journey and arrived in Pacific Grove. We rented a lovely cottage a block from Monterey Bay. We had stayed at this cottage a year before and had to bring our friends to share the fun space. We spent three days in Pacific Grove exploring, recharging and eating lots of yummy food! After our three days here, we headed up north to San Fransisco. We arrived at Hotel Kabuki, checked in and headed across the street to Waraku to warm up- it was so cold in SF! We next set out and visited Union Square to do a bus tour. Our two hour tour took us all over San Fransisco. We ended back at Union Square where we met up with Teresa’s husband, Steven and did some window shopping. Finally, we took an Uber over to Francis Ford Coppola’s restaurant, Cafe Zoetrope. We had a lovely dinner here with our friends on our last night of the road trip together before we parted and went our separate ways.

Day 6 had us heading up north again to Yreka, California to visit our friends who moved here two years ago. We spent a couple of days hanging out together, catching up like old times, visiting the Scott river for some fun. We still had another 10 days of our road trip in Oregon and Washington. I will do a separate post about that part of our trip. Stay tuned!

 

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Local Spotlight: Kenny’s Strawberry Farm

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Natalie made strawberry scones

Located just a few miles down the 15 freeway in Fallbrook, California is Kenny’s Strawberry Farm. We love any chance to get out of the house, breathe some fresh air and pick yummy fruit. Because we tend to look for the biggest berries, picking goes pretty quick, but it’s a fun experience for kids and helps the younger ones understand exactly where their food comes from. Were so lucky to have businesses like these to give our younger generations opportunities to visit a real farm to see how food makes it from farm to plate. Real food is grown…. not processed in a manufacturing plant. Please visit Kenny’s!
953 Rainbow Valley Blvd, Fallbrook, CA 92028

http://www.temeculavalleystrawberryfarms.com

Day Trip: Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens

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New water feature and drought friendly plants
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California native plants
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John Audoban’s Birds of America
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Interesting story on Jack London’s book “Sea Wolf”
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John Muir’s “The Yosemite”
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It was a beautiful day!
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Me
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Illuminated Puck- interesting this one. See how the light just hits this marble so? Only a short period of day does this piece become illuminated this way. Caught it at the perfect time!