Fitted For Freedom

 

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“An education is truly “fitted for freedom” only if it is such as to
produce free citizens, citizens who are free not because of wealth or
birth, but because they can call their minds their own. Male and female,
slave-born and freeborn, rich and poor, they have looked into
themselves and developed the ability to separate mere habit and
convention from what they can defend by argument. They have ownership of their own thought and speech, and this imparts to them a dignity that is far beyond the outer dignity of class and rank.”
~Martha Nussbaum

 

Life Advice For Artists: The Wisdom Of Neil Gaiman

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Image via Nerdist

Neil Gaiman gets talked about a lot in our household. Our kids love Neil for his story Coraline, a story about a brave girl who discovers an alternate world. Her curiosity leads her on many adventures, with many twists and turns. I believe it’s a story crafted by Neil to say to people, get out of your comfort zone, see things, do things, explore. Here are some of Neil’s ideas worthy of some serious thought…

-Approach your creative labor with joy, or else it becomes work.

-Say “no” to projects that take you further from rather than closer to your own creative goals, however flattering or lucrative.

Embrace your fear of failure. Make peace with the impostor syndrome that comes with success. Don’t be afraid of being wrong.

-Make your art, tell your story, find your voice—even if you begin by copying others.

-You can get work because of the story you tell about yourself, even if it means embellishing, but you keep working because you’re good.

-Enjoy your work and your small victories; don’t get swept up into the next thing before being fully present with the joys of this one.

-This is an era in which the creative landscape is in constant flux. The rules are being broken down, the gatekeepers are being replaced and displaced. Now is the time to make up your own rules.

-When things get tough, make good art

Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong- and in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship, and in health, and in all the other ways in which life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Someone on the internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid, or evil, or it’s all been done before? Make good art.

Lastly….

Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.

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 🙂

 

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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We 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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As 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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Wild 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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Asking Better Questions

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Image found via Pinterest

We have home-educated our children for the last eight years. Early on, I felt an overwhelming need to measure, test and push to make sure the kids were on the right path. I was teaching them everything I thought they could possibly need to know to “make it” in their life. Was slogging through years of Latin really going to make a big impact on their life? Probably not.

I have attempted to answer the same questions, over and over, year after year for my own children. Whose path is it? What do they want? What is their idea of a life well lived? Every revisit of these questions has brought me a little closer to having a better understanding of what is truly important; for me and for my kids.

Our oldest, just turned sixteen. She has explored her own definition of living a life of purpose and happiness. She continuously asks hard questions of herself, she’s spoken of and written down her wants, her wishes and her dreams- and these continually change, but she understands that her future is up to her. Her own influence and decisions are bringing her closer to the kind of life she imagines for herself.

For so many her age, they feel helpless about their future. We must allow kids to imagine and have experiences that help them to define their own meaning of purpose and happiness and engage in conversations around this idea. One of my favorite quotes, and one that I have up on a board at home is a quote by Hunter S. Thompson.

Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living within that way of life.”

In our house we do thought experiments based around questions. We talk about these questions in an open way-Sometimes they chose to share their response, other times, its simply for them to explore. Better understanding of oneself leads to and influences motivations and beliefs and shows us that we are the creators of our life. Making it in the ever changing world means that we have to ask intelligent and more thoughtful questions. Now, my worries about the direction my kids take is nil. I don’t think there is such a thing as the “right path”, it’s the path that you make that is worthy.

If you’re curious to know, here are some of the questions we ask:

What does one think is living well?

How do we want to be in the world?

What do we want our world to look like?

Am I worthy of this or is it worthy of me?

What is the difference between living and existing?

Do you find yourself influencing your world, or it influencing you?

What is worse- failing or never trying?

Should one worry what others think of them?

If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

What does happiness mean to you?

What would you do differently if you knew no one would judge you?

What are the top five things you cherish in your life?

How should one handle anxiety?

What is the purpose of money?

What would you say is the one thing you’d like to change in the world?

What makes you smile?

 

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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

DIY: Kokedama String Garden

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Image via Pinterest
kokedama via string gardens
Image via String Gardens
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Design by Fedor Van Der Valk
kokedama.jpg via pinterest 2
Image via Pinterest
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Image via Pinterest
kokedama via pinterest
Image via Pinterest
kokedama image via slowpoke
Image via Slowpoke

The Japanese string gardens, called kokedama are a unique and beautiful way to display and enjoy your plants in a natural setting.

The kokedama literally means “moss ball” and is a ball of soil, covered with moss, on which an ornamental plant grows. The idea has its origins in Japan, where it is a combination of both Nearai and Kusamono Bonsai styles. Today, Kokedama is very popular in Japanese gardens.

Kokedama is also called poor man’s bonsai. It’s made of wet soil and peat moss and formed into a ball. The plant is set into the ball and the moss is wrapped around. Aluminium wire or nylon wire fixes the whole bundle, and is sometimes used to suspend the kokedama in the air.

Care of: Kokedama must be watered regularly. When the ball feels light, it can be submerged in water. The best plants for kokedama making are ones that require medium to full shade, since direct sunlight will likely burn and ultimately turning your kokedama a shade of brown.

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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. 

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

Self-Directed Learning and Mastery

 

Our family watched this great lecture given by Robert Greene at Oxford University. Robert Greene is a historian of sorts- he’s written several books, a couple which I have are Mastery and the 48 Laws of Power. He gives us a look at three individuals who, through their own self direction went on to accomplish many great things in their lifetime. They were Leonardo DaVinci (developed sophisticated flying machines, detailed navigation equipment, etc), Charles Darwin (discovered the Theory of Evolution) and John Coltrane (one of the finest self taught jazz saxophonists).

The dictionary’s definition of mastery is a “comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment.” I find this particularly interesting because through self-directed learning, one has substantial time and autonomy to pursue one’s interests in a deep and meaningful way. One is allowed, without permission, to follow their own desires and curiosities.

Philip and I have conversations about self-directed learning- it helps us gain clarity and validates our position that it allows a child to develop their talents, allows them the time to discover things about themselves, gives them the confidence that it is their path, not a pre-packaged path.

Self-directed learning looks very different from traditional schooling- we don’t cover several subjects everyday, we don’t have a set schedule, we don’t test them and we don’t assign a grade. What we do is sit down and talk to them. We ask questions to stimulate conversation. We find out what makes them excited- we tailor their activities to support their interests. Then we engage them in these areas. We support their curiosity. Much of our learning happens simply by talking in conversation. What often ends up happening is the initial conversation will lead to another conversation. It all happens rather organically.

Our youngest daughter Natalie asked us if she could play the violin. She was eight years old. She did a six week beginner class with her teacher and has continued to excel.  She has great musical mentors who inspire and push when there is a challenging piece of music, but for the most part, Natalie pushes herself, she thrives on challenge.

From my own experience, when children are allowed to follow their own path of discovery they are on their way to mastery. I see it happening in my own kids. They will continue on their path, and this path may continually change, but it’s their path. I simply have to show them love and enable them a safe place to explore and grow. Ultimately, they will grow into young adults with the confidence that they have made their own choices and decisions about their life.

Mastery in an area is a journey of discovering oneself and self-directed learning is no different. Allowing this natural process only deepens understanding and therefore allows us to follow our own path. I often say, the world takes all kinds of people, and to grow as people we need to be who we are.

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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