Sisters in Japan, Day 13: Atsugi and Sayonara

IMG_0210
Fuji-san (way in the distance) and I!

After almost two weeks, it was time to go.  I was definitely sad.  I really liked living in Japan and this trip reinforced what a cool country this is.  I was also going to miss my sister!  But I am always happy that I get these chances to see family and cool places so I didn’t stay down for long!

IMG_0356
Beautiful day in Atsugi!
IMG_5656
Bun Bun!

Plus, we had carbs for breakfast at Bun Bun, the bakery I had heard about my entire trip. I love the name so much!  We bought several pastries and headed out for a quick trip to Sankeien Garden in Yokohama.

IMG_5689

cc2c360a-f263-4236-a3e5-ee6e11b5f97c
Wisteria! And ducks!

IMG_5675IMG_5670

Sankeien garden is located on the former grounds of a wealthy silk merchant’s house.  It’s been a public park (with an entrance fee) since 1906.  SMS and I had been there before for a sakura photo shoot.  I was hoping that there would be some wisteria out, since I think it is such a beautiful flower.  Unfortunately, it was azalea season.  Who likes azaleas?!  Not me.  Brady, good soul that she is, tried to defend azaleas.  Blergh, nice try sister.

Screen Shot 2019-10-05 at 6.30.49 AM
Screenshot from markschlocker.com  Amazing photography!  Highly recommend!

IMG_9695

IMG_5703

We had a Bun Bun picnic, pushed LR around (such a different meaning for a baby in a stroller vs a person in general, haha), and saw a wedding couple photoshoot.  It was a beautiful day and made leaving even harder.

But alas, I have a life to get back to so after a great morning walk in the park, Brady dropped me off at Yokohama station.  I took the Narita Express to the airport since I had my JR pass although the YCAT buses are also a great option.  I bought my last train bento, which was a tasty assortment!

I hung out in the United Lounge until boarding time.  I cut it close (of course) to mail postcards (dumb) but what could be better than starting off a long-haul flight slightly clammy with sweat from running to the gate?  A lot of things.  A lot of things are better than that.

Sisters in Japan, Day 12: Jogasaki Coast and Atsugi

IMG_1403

Sister, sister!  We woke up to another overcast day.  We wanted to walk along the Jogasaki Coast because the shoreline is spectacular.

IMG_5289
Early morning balcony view

IMG_5590

IMG_8266
Looking down the street from K’s House (to the right if you’re facing the hostel)
Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 6.02.01 AM
We parked in the starred parking lot and walked along the coastline within the circle, more or less.

We didn’t have a lot of time so we decided to hit the paved trail by the suspension bridge and lighthouse. First, we headed left and I walked on the shoreline rocks for a bit.  Then we went back to the path, crossed the bridge, and went to the top of the lighthouse.  We were there for about an hour.  We were rained on once, but that’s when we escaped to the lighthouse.  The clouds were very dramatic, so it was just as pretty as when I went before on a sunnier day.

IMG_5594

IMG_5612

IMG_5602IMG_5604

After our walk, we got in the car.  I wanted to stop at the MOA Museum of Art in Atami.  I had seen several posters advertising the exhibit Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji, a famous collection of woodblock prints by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).  Once again, we took a completely ridiculous route that consisted of steep uphills with two-way traffic on roads that were, at best, 1.5 lanes wide.

IMG_9629
Heeelllllpppp!!!!

The museum was a gem!  Its size is quite manageable.  It seems that there is usually a stellar special exhibit with a few rooms of exquisite permanently displayed crafts, mostly statues and ceramics.  There is a full-size Noh theatre where performances are held, as well as a famous golden tea room (replica) used by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1586 to really wow the emperor (paraphrase).  The museum would also have spectacular views on a sunny day.  Our visit was during a time of cloud and fog, so we missed out on that.

IMG_5627
The most famous image.  Although this photo confuses me- did I take a picture of a print in the gift shop or is this the one?  Since the explanatory placard was my next photo, I think it’s real?
IMG_2450
I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

IMG_5635
Traditional Noh theatre in the Museum
IMG_4600
The Golden Teahouse

We were kind of rushed because Brady wanted to get back for the base open house, which we kind of missed partially due to timing and partially due to the lower-than-usual turnout due to the weather.   But someone special was home waiting for us…

IMG_3842
I missed you!!

Yes, LR was home and so excited to see his Mom.  He also thinks his favorite aunt is pretty cool.  We headed out for sushi where we had a delicious feast, as evidenced by our stack of plates!  It was sisters and LR time because Ricardo had gone into Tokyo to hang out with some visiting pilot friends.

IMG_8754
Srsly, this kid falls asleep everywhere…what is he, a baby?!

After sushi, we walked home where our wild and crazy night continued…

IMG_0154
I’m awake!  Let’s party!

Sisters in Japan, Day 11: Ito and the Jogasaki Coast

IMG_5571

IMG_5566
K’s House with another ryokan (now museum?) next door

After a leisurely morning, Brady and I headed off for the Jogasaki Coast.  While the trip was originally supposed to be a family affair, Ricardo stayed back with LR so it was sister! time!

IMG_6108
Our room

We eventually made it after driving high up in the mountains (and fog!), which is not a route that I’d particularly recommend.  We stayed at K’s House Ito Onsen.  It’s a budget hostel in a former ryokan/onsen and it is super cool.  The reviews for the place are great and well-deserved.  There is a small onset facility on site, but we also went to a larger onsen in the Hotel Dankoen where we had a discounted pass.  This was very cool because there was an outside onsen that provides a nice contrast between the cool night air and hot water of the baths.

IMG_2446
Drink machine in the Hotel Dankoen!  Liquid courage for getting naked!

On the way to the Hotel Dankoen, I stopped by a walk-up sake window because why not? It provided an experience that helped make up for the one I missed out on when the drive-thru daiquiri placed was closed in Louisiana during SMS and my Deep South road trip.

After the onsen, we went out to dinner at a restaurant that was delicious.  It was also a little more expensive than we were looking for but the town was pretty dead and not much was open.  The food was quite good.

IMG_7025
Balcony view from our room

Although the day wasn’t as jam-packed as the prior, it was awesome!  Brady and I got to have a ton of quality time in the most beautiful setting.  I love the Jogasaki Coast and highly recommend it.  Given how affordable and amazing K’s House was, I’d probably spend 2-3 nights there as a home base for exploring more of the peninsula.

IMG_5570
Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 7.09.07 PM
Screenshot of the Hotel Dankoen Guide Map- go to the hotel site for a .pdf!

 

Sisters in Japan, Day 10: Kanazawa and Yokohama

IMG_5393

I started my day with coffee at Curio Espresso and from there, I was on the move!  The day would feature the cool city of Kanazawa during a West Coast morning and the evening would feature my old East Coast stomping grounds of Yokohama with a Baystars baseball game followed by beers at the Thrash Zone.

The coffee shop was cute and very English-friendly.  I spoke with an Australian woman who was also leaving that day.  She was quite nice and it’s always nice to have a companionable cup of coffee rather than silently sip, waiting for the caffeine to hit.

IMG_5395
Quiet times at Omicho Market
IMG_5396
Crab and salmon roe bowl

After coffee, I decided to get a seafood bowl (don) at Omicho Market, a large covered market with over 200 stalls, mostly groceries/food.  Kanazawa is known as a foodie city and, since it’s on the coast, as a place with great seafood.  After walking for a bit, I picked a restaurant that wasn’t super busy but looked like it had a few regulars.  The breakfast was delicious and was similar to the delicious bowls I had in Hokkaido a few years back.

After my breakfast, I went to two shops.  The first was Mari-ya with its incredible assortment of threaded goods.  The most eye-catching are the kaga temari, embroidered handballs that are exquisite.

IMG_5387

After Mari-ya, I went a few doors down to 大樋焼本家窯元・九代目大樋勘兵衛.  I know.  I’m sorry.  What does that even say?!?  Well, thanks to Google translate, I can tell you that it’s a shop of Otsuki Yakimoto and the ninth generation family potter Oiso Kanbei.  I also remember this from the little handout I got but to summarize, this shop features a distinctive Kanazawa form where the vessels are hand-formed rather than on the wheel. I made some hand-formed pottery in second grade and, despite how well-loved my 10-lb Christmas ornament and super-ugly coffee mug are by my parents, these Japanese artisans are on a whole other level.

IMG_2142
Otsuki Yakimoto family pottery, ninth generation Oiso Kanbei
IMG_5728
Even shopping bags have a raincoat!  Tea seating area in background.

The woman inside was super-welcoming and had a handheld translator which didn’t work all that well but was a really thoughtful things to have.  Once she saw that I was going to buy a few things, she offered to make me tea.  They have a small open tea room in the back so it made for a unique shopping experience.  After I bought my two cups and one bowl, she packaged it up beautifully, including a plastic cover over the paper bag since it was raining outside.  Although the amount of packaging waste that results is eye-popping, it is also amazing how detail and contingency-oriented the process is.

 

 

IMG_5404
Dutch elements in the main gate to Oyama shrine.

Next, I went to the Oyama shrine.  It has a really pretty garden, which was especially vivid due to the rain/sprinkles.  There were a few school children groups so I got a few enthusiastic “Hellos!” from the daring.

IMG_0207 (1)
Kenroku-en
IMG_5427
Kenroku-en

Kenroku-en is considered one of the top three gardens in Japan and even though I had been there before, it seemed worth walking through it again.

IMG_9898
Higashiyama Chaya Street
IMG_5460
Two women in Higashiyama.  They were posing for photos for anyone who asked.

Time was starting to run out so what’s the solution?  A few more stops!  I took the bus over to the Higashiyama Chaya district, which was absolutely beautiful.  I only had time for a 15 minute walk, which was just enough to make me really go back for a more leisurely stay!  If I hadn’t had to make the Baystars game, I definitely would have pushed off my return.  But it was better than nothing and also a cool reminder that there’s always more to see.

I also stopped into the Fukumitsuya sake shop.  The brewery is just outside of town and, if you plan things a little more ahead of time than I, you can make a reservation for a tour.  Another thing for next time!

So, I was starting to cut it close.  I decided to take a taxi so I could stop in Omicho one more time to buy a mochi panda t-shirt for SMS.  I know, completely ridiculous.  It was a lot busier around lunchtime, so it was fun to see it more bustling.

I actually got to the train station early and almost made a slightly faster train but, unfortunately, the train was only reserved seating and thanks to the guy in front of me who bumbled with his wallet for several minutes (seconds), I didn’t make a reservation in time.  As a side note, it is a total pet peeve of mine when someone gets to the front of a really long line and then acts surprised when it’s time to pay, show a passport, etc.  Get ready people!  It makes everything go more smoothly!

IMG_5477

IMG_9712

Never fear! I caught the train I had originally planned on so I got to Yokohama on time.  On the train, I enjoyed a delicious train bento that had a plastic insert explaining what all the little dishes were.  Bonus!

IMG_8892
Go Baystars!
IMG_0472
Baseball cheerleaders and mascot!
IMG_2534
Foul ball safety officer
IMG_3617
New friend!
IMG_5510
My littlest tomodachi.  I love the ear pro!

After arriving in Shin-Yokohama, I hopped on the subway to the Baystars stadium.  The were playing the Hanshin Tigers.  Brady, Ricardo, LR, and I had the best time.  We bought noisemakers bats, had some beers, and made friends with our neighbors.  It was the best!

IMG_8195
No posers!
IMG_5557
Thrash Zone IPA, baby-style

Afterwards, I brought Ricardo and Brady to The Thrash Zone, a small bar that specializes in IPAs and playing heavy metal vinyl.  We had another beer, spoke to a few Americans (whaaaat?  What are they doing there?), and then caught the train home back to Atsugi.

IMG_5811
Tiger Super Fan!

October Goal!

It is 1 October and I am way behind on my blog posts.  I’m still trying to catch up on my April trip to Japan.  Yikes!  I really like having my blog as an outlet and, in an effort to be more consistent, I’m going to write a post every day in October.  Hopefully, I’ll be caught up by the end of the month with all the trips between then and now.  There will also be a few posts like this when I run out of time and need a short filler piece to keep the streak going.  Tomorrow, Day 10 of Sisters in Japan!