April 16, 2017

Fun In Japan, Part 1

The two weeks we were in Japan were full of little moments each day.

Some days were spent just hanging around Alex and Kana's apartment.

such a gorgeous view!

have I told you I love the ocean ??!!
Their apartment overlooks the sea.  The clashing waves were music to my ears.  I would often sit outside listening to the sounds of waves, children at the park and birds chirping while reading my kindle, writing in my journal or perusing Facebook on my cell phone :-)

Other times we would walk down to the sea wall.  If the tide was low enough we would look in the tide pools for creatures.  


brain coral, this one is fairly small

don't step on a sea anemone, it's spines contain poison




When the tide was high, we would see plenty of surfers enjoying the water.

the sea wall is great for walking or riding a bike




When we went around the area sight seeing, Kana was the primary driver.  Ron got a cute photo of her in the rear view mirror.  FYI-The steering wheel is on the right hand side.  We decided not to get an international driving license so we were passengers :-) 







The streets are full of interesting shops and restaurants.  One thing I found absolutely amusing were these soda/water/coffee machines on most corners.  This one is located in the garage area of an apartment building next to the seawall.  Alex said, "You never know when you might get thirsty".  The water typically sells for 130 yen.  The yen coins come in handy when you want a water.  Yes, we put many coins in various machines during our time on the islands...  Alex was right :-))



We did get to meet Kana's parents while we were there.  The language barrier was difficult but with Kana as a translator, we had a nice evening out to dinner.  Speaking of which, Ron and I had not used chopsticks before our trip.  We are experienced enough now and we even bought a pair for ourselves.  We plan to practice our chopstick skills!  Alex and Kana will be here in the summer so we'll have to show them how good we've gotten at using them :-)



The flowers on the islands are quite beautiful.  Here are a few shots of some of the local varieties to finish up this post.  As always, you can click on any of the photos to view them larger.




 

We arrived back home late Thursday.  Ron got sick during our trip and we were worried about our flights and his stuffed up sinuses, but all went well.  I managed to get a bit of the sickies too, but thankfully it's just a mild case of a stuffy nose. 

April 13, 2017

Amazing Works Of Architecture

Japanese architecture is simply amazing!  From houses to castles to temples, they are all works of art.

Alex took us to The Nakamura House one afternoon.  Unfortunately Kana couldn't join us on this outing either.  She is a nurse at one of the local hospitals and her work schedule is quite full.  But we did go see her for a quick visit.  She was working in the nursery.  The babies sure were cute :-)

The Nakamura House is a typical style of a rich farmer's residence of the time.  It was built around 1720.  The main house has eight rooms including a kitchen, a room for separating crops for sale or family use, an alter room, a living room, a dining room and bedrooms.  The entrance has two shisa dogs as protection from evil spirits.  The wooden floor is covered in bamboo mats and we have to take off our shoes before we enter.

notice the shisa atop the roof and on the porch
large open rooms

dining room with the kitchen behind me

Both the building style and the materials used were something I hadn't seen before.  The pillars are assembled in such a way that we all wonder how it was done.  The doors are covered in a thin type of paper-like material.  They are protected from the weather by outer wooden doors, a large stone wall and sturdy trees called Fukugi.  The surrounding gardens are lush with trees and various types of vegetation.  The barn, storage shed and pig sty are located nearby for easy access.

beautiful gardens surround the house

pigs were raised for family consumption or for selling at market

storage shed on the left with the barn behind it, house entrance on the right

I prefer my tennis shoes to these sandals

We got a late start to our day so we make it a quick visit.  The traffic is getting busy as it's nearing the end of the wok day.  We all decide to go home for the day.

The following week Kana takes a few days of vacation.  We've had it scheduled to fly to Osaka (on mainland Japan) for more sight seeing.  Hopefully the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom.

not quite in full bloom, but just as beautiful!!
Our fist stop is Osaka Castle.  It's quite impressive from the outside!

a high wall and moat surround the castle

WOW!
We pay our entrance fee of 600 yen and proceed up the steps.  There are eight floors total.  There is no photography allowed on some of the floors.  We're simply too amazed at the displays that we didn't even take photos at all.  Until we get to the top that is.  The top story is an observation deck.  We can see for miles and the view is incredible!  We're lucky to have visited the castle on such a clear day.

the moat as seen from the surrounding stone wall

what a view!
After we leave the castle we stroll around the grounds for awhile.  The small water area is picturesque.




As we leave Ron decides a selfie is in order :-)



After we tour Osaka Castle it's back on a bus and we head up to Kyoto.  We'll be here for two nights.

Lucky for us the hotel is located across the street from the subway station.  The subway is so much more than just it's name.  There are many shops and restaurants selling anything from bottled water to high end clothing.  We even did some of our souvenir shopping there.

Also, lucky for us to have a personal tour guide-Kana :-)  She took us to Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto.  Nearly hidden among the high rises is the main Inari shrine.  Hundreds of worshipers visit the shrine daily.  It certainly was crowded on the day we visited.  There are trails throughout the hillside which take you to different smaller shrines.




          

the hillside is covered with family mosques (graves)


The trails are lined with thousands of torii donated by local businesses.  It is very cool to walk through the 'tunnel' created by them.

Kana behind her lens, notice the names on the back of each torii
video

We make it about half way up the mountainside and decide it's time to cut our visit short.  We're all getting hungry and there's more in town we want to see.

We did find a cute cafe near a waterway and decide to stop for some coffee and sandwiches.

deciding on our next stop

what fun we're all having!
Back on the bus again and on to our next stop in Kyoto, an area of town known for cherry blossoms and a grove of very large bamboo trees.
  

April 8, 2017

Finding Peace

Amid the busyness and chaos of daily island life many Okinawan locals visit a hidden gem known as the Southeast Botanical Gardens.  Our daughter in law, Kana, had to work so Alex took us to see the gardens.  The day we went it was quiet, peaceful and relaxing.  In the background soothing music was playing.



Our first stop was at the fish pond.  For 100 yen (roughly $1) we received a plastic container full of food to feed the fish.  The food looks like small dog kibble.  It's fun to see if you can bounce it off the duck's back and land it so the fish eat it before the duck does :-)  I'm not sure what type of fish these are, likely catfish or something similar.

The gardens are full of beautiful plants.  But among the many plants are animals, some common and some not so common.

Goats are pretty common but we wanted to give them a treat.  Ron was the brave one here.  Another dollar and another container of food.  The goats enjoyed a snack of healthy green cabbage.  They like it so much they try to jump on you to get to the container.

"I can smell the goodness from here"

if you throw it fast enough they don't jump as much...
 



In another area we saw a new born goat.  The keeper let it out of the pen.  It jumped and frolicked on the nearby grass.  Then the keeper put it in Alex's arms.  It tasted his scruffy chin and decided Mama has better food :-) 







Down the path we saw the pen with three Squirrel Monkeys and two Capybara.  At designated times you're allowed to feed them.  The monkeys are, of course, the main attraction.  They're so cute!  Their snack is croutons.  The Capybara's snack is green cabbage.  This time we each wanted a food container.  We aren't allowed to reach out and touch the monkeys but they are definitely not shy if you have food for them.  Lots of laughs and smiles from us!

he's ready for some yummy snacks




The gardens are full of beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs of various shapes and sizes.  I'm not sure how large the entire gardens are but we spent nearly 3 hours walking around.  We took nearly 200 photos during the time we were there.

In the herb section they have one of my favorite spices, a cinnamon tree.  It doesn't look like much (so no photo), but it sure smelled good :-)

Here are some of my favorite photos:






one of my favorite photos from the gardens!

the vines were covered in blooming flowers shown below


this grove of Alexander Palms is my favorite place in the gardens
Yes, children are encouraged to climb this!  Children in America would only get this experience in their own backyard-if they're lucky enough to have a tree this strong and a ladder this tall.  It was anchored to the tree for safety, just so you know :-)


selfie time :-)
More adventures await us in Japan.  This was a great start to them!