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!
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!
The next stop in our Japanese adventure was to Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture. Here we joined our Aikido Sensei, Koji Yoshida to participate in a three-day aikido seminar taught by Nishio style aikidoka from all over the world. People traveled from Ukraine, France, Mexico, Sweden, Czech Republic, Russia, Malaysia and more. It was organized to commemorate Yufukan Dojo’s 40 years in Aikido.
A special class was taught by the current Doshu of Aikikai. Guest instructors, including my husband, Philip each taught a class.
Our first accommodations were at the Kadokyu ryokan (traditional inn) for two nights. We very much enjoyed our stay here! Our family had our own room and it was spacious and had a beautiful view of the gardens. We slept on futons and had buckwheat pillows for the perfect nights sleep.
The ryokan had a great soaking tub and breakfast was delicious too. One of the highlights from our stay at the ryokan was the sweet innkeeper. She made sure that our every need was met. Upon arrival I told her that I noticed outside our window a giant persimmon tree. She excused herself and came back with persimmon slices for us to eat. This small act made my heart swell, but there was something else that she did for Olivia and Natalie on our first night stay. She asked them to come into a room where she asked if they would like to be dressed in kimono. They agreed and she proceeded to dress them both. I had never watched the careful and detailed order of this art. Each of the girls had three under garments and each of those under garments were accessorized with thick belts and topped off with a haori (jacket). So many layers. So much attention to detail. Just being witness to her care and consideration really touched my heart. I thanked her many times and the girls went to dinner with our group feeling like princesses.
Across the street from the ryokan sits the Buddha of Takaoka, or Takaoka Daibutsu. This 25 foot bronze statue is the third largest Buddha in Japan. The Buddha of Takaoka was originally built in 1221, and there have been many reincarnations of it as it was originally made of wood and burned down several times before being re-built in bronze.
Our second accommodations in Toyama were at Kureha Heights. A beautiful hotel with an amazing view and onsen. After our aikido seminar we quickly rushed to get back, bathed and got ready for the beautiful night Yoshida Sensei had prepared with traditional dance, music and a feast to celebrate that was incredible. I have to say that dinner was the most beautiful Japanese dinner I’ve ever had.
We said many toasts, celebrated our good friends Chikako and Roger on their recent wedding. Yoshida Sensei arranged for them both to be dressed in traditional Japanese wedding attire and surprised the 100+ guests. They looked so happy! We had a great night and sake was brought in that our late teacher, Nishio Sensei loved. We had good food, good drink and great company to share it all with. All in all it felt like a celebration of love and happiness. Sounds corny, but everything just felt like it came from love. I am grateful to all who planned and made this an experience to remember!
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!
After leaving Seattle, we made our way to Portland, Oregon where I rented us a fun little place from Air bnb. It was our final destination before heading back home to California.
We visited the beautiful Portland Japanese Garden our second day in Oregon. It was a beautiful day, a little light rain, but we didn’t need to break out our umbrella. It is known to be the nicest Japanese garden outside of Japan. It did not disappoint! I took about a million pictures, everything was so inspiring and lovely. After our visit to the garden we headed to a shopping area where we purchased art supplies at Blick and Natalie was so stoked to buy herself her first pair of Dr. Martens. We ate so much good food- the highlights were donuts at Blue Star Donuts, Salt & Straw ice cream, Ramen at Noraneko, pretzels and root beer at Henry’s and German schnitzel at Swiss Hibiscus.
The next couple of days we headed 45 minutes outside of Portland to visit Multnomah falls. It was so crowded but well worth it. Wow, this is a huge waterfall, just breathtaking! After exploring here we decided to hop back in the car and keep driving. We stopped for two more waterfalls. Oneonta and Horsetail Falls. Both just really cool! It was so fun to see all the falls and make those lasting memories with my girls.
After our three days in Portland, we headed to the Oregon coast, passing through Tillamook and traveling down south to our destination in Yachats, Oregon. What I loved about our drive were the fresh fruit stands and coffee huts. We stopped to buy fresh cherries at a fruit stand and kept ourselves warm with coffee and tea. The Oregon coast was rainy and freezing for most of our trip along the coast!
We finally arrived in Yachats at the Fireside Motel (highly recommend!). I reserved a room right on the ocean for the night. We watched otters play in the surf and enjoyed a lovely meal at Ona before retiring for the night. We were pretty tired! We had been traveling for the last 15 days!
We left the next morning to drive back to Yreka, California for one last night with our friends who live there. I think the girls were pretty anxious to get back home, get back to routine, get back to their daddy. We left Yreka early in the morning and drove 9 hours to get back home. What a trip!
I had the best time with Olivia and Natalie. I am so lucky to be able to go on road trips and see new places with them. We had plenty of Beatles music, snacks and adventure, and really, that’s all one needs, right? I can’t wait until our next adventure in Japan!
Kawai Kanjiro, (1890-1966), was known as a major contributor to the Mingei (traditional folk arts and crafts movement). More than just a potter and wood craftsman, he was the noblest of all kinds of person.
Kanjiro was an artist who wanted to remain a maker empowered by his craft, rather than as artist qualified by his fame or notoriety. He never signed a single piece of pottery. He said “my work itself is my signature.”
During his lifetime, Kanjiro turned down all official honors and rewards, including Japan’s Living National Treasure. He was a man unmotivated by material possessions and simply wanted to create for the sake of creating.
He continued to explore who he was through the things he touched and brought to life. This seemed to be a life long passion that became part of who he was. He said “to see my new self, I work.” This was a very important part of his craft. Constant improvement- “kaizen”. He believed “lifestyle is work, work is lifestyle.” They were one and the same.
Humble, unpretentious, real- He never lost touch with common folk and greatly respected the farmers in the countryside. “They are the kind of people we can never do without,” he wrote.