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/

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. I would love to visit in the wintertime. Because we practice the art of aikido, we are fortunate to have the ability to travel to Japan every couple of years. I feel so lucky to have aikido in my life. 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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Me!

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Dotonbori

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Silly statues in Osaka

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Olivia at the cat cafe

 

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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: Toyama

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Traveling to Toyama

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Bento box lunch I chose for train ride. It had 50 different things to try!

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Our room at the Kadokyu ryokan

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Giant persimmon tree outside the window of our room

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Innkeeper dressing Natalie in kimono

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Natalie and Olivia in kimono

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Dressed in kimono outside Buddha of Takaoka

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25 foot bronze Buddha of Takaoka

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Flowers on alter inside Buddha of Takaoka

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Wonderful lunch with good friends

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Aikido group when Doshu visited Budokan and taught. I’m sitting to the left of the man in the suit in front

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Greenwood Aikido students who traveled with us to Japan

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Beautiful chrysanthemums at Kureha Heights hotel

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Traditional dance and music performance

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Gorgeous dinner

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Carre and I at celebration dinner

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Chikako, Roger and Yoshida Sensei making toasts

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Everyone having a fun time!

 

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!

 

 

 

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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