My Adventure Abroad

Japanese Winter

Subtitle:  This is no way to live. The average temperature over the past week has been around 4 degrees Celsius.  That’s 39 degrees F.  It was negative degrees C the other day.  I feel like I’m living inside an ice cube.  Finally it snowed today, Saturday, January 27.  If it’s going to be ice cold outside I prefer that it snows so at least it’s a beautiful sight and there’s the possibility of a snowball fight or snowman to be made.  Old timers at my kids’ school are telling me that this is the coldest winter in Osaka they’ve ever experienced.  Japan can be beautiful in winter but let’s be honest, my California self can’t take this cold.Japanese houses are…

Okinawa stories and photos

My prior post detailing my trip to Okinawa started to get a bit long and wordy so I had to cut it off.  Here are more sights and stories from Japan’s famous island to the south. I landed at Naha Airport in the early evening.  By the time I traveled from the airport to my Airbnb apartment and got settled in, it was dark.  On the main street, Kokusai-dori, brightly lit stores were crowded with high school students, marathon runners and foreign tourists.  It was raining lightly so everyone was trying to duck out of the drizzle.  Locals were everywhere, luring visitors to their stores, hawking t-shirts, keychains, Okinawa treats, restaurants menus, drinks and even two Owl Cafes along the…

Naha Marathon, Okinawa

On Friday, December 1 I am traveling SOLO to Naha, Okinawa.  I am going there for a long weekend getaway to watch my friends run in the Naha Marathon.  John was kind enough to let me go away by myself (he’ll spend the weekend planning his own trip I’m sure) while he holds down the fort at home. For the past year I have been working at a company called Semco teaching English once a week.  I teach for about 4 hours every Tuesday.  Semco is a family run business that deals with research and product development for pest control management.  Our friend Jay is the president of this company, his father founded it, and his mother ran it for…

Kumano Sanzan

The purpose of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage is to visit each of the three Grand Shrines which make up the Kumano Sanzan.  There are several routes to accomplish this.  Back in ancient times the Japanese imperial family traveled from west to east on the popular Nakahechi Route.  Some pilgrims came from north to south, down the coastal Iseji Route, after worshipping at the famous Ise Grand Shrine.  Others took the mountainous inland road from the Buddhist temple called Koyasan along the Kohechi route which is also north to south.  I was thrilled that we made it to all three of the Kumano Grand Taisha, but we didn’t hike all of it. I realized our limitations, six kids between ages 10…

Hiking Kumano Kodo

Day one, Thursday, November 23 (Thanksgiving in America!) of our Kumano Kodo adventure. On our first full day we slept in.  The caretaker of the house, Jun, couldn’t believe we weren’t ready to open the wooden doors and let the light in by 9 am.  We said maybe 10 am would be good.  We made breakfast with fresh, organic eggs that they sell at the house, along with bread and fruit.  By 11 am we were finally ready to get going.  We hopped in the car and drove to the coastal town of Shingu, where the Kumano Hayatama Taisha is located.  I was eager to start hiking on the Kumano Kodo trail, but the town of Shingu is very developed….

Omoya – Kumano Kodo

For at least 20 years now, one of the top items on my bucket list is to travel on El Camino de Santiago, to Santiago de Compostela, in the very northwest corner of Spain.  This is a pilgrimage with a thousand year history and such a pilgrimage still exists today.  I have books about it and I’ve studied it.  In the early 90s I met two people who were from Santiago de Compostela and it’s probably where this dream was born. Some history from www.americanpilgrims.org/history: “El Camino de Santiago, in English “The Way of Saint James,” is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where legend has it that the remains of Jesus’s apostle Saint…

Eikando Temple, Koyo Season

My friend Mari, my Kokedera partner, sent me a text message telling me she was at Eikando temple and that the autumn leaves there are incredible now.  The autumn transformation of leaves into brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow is called “koyo” in Japanese.  Since we are here for a bonus second year we’re really trying to see all the best koyo that this season has to offer.  We live about 45 minutes away from Kyoto, thus we have easy access to some of the best koyo sights in Japan. The day after Mari texted me, Monday, November 20, John and I set out for Kyoto, to find Eikando and the trees with fire, gold and green.  Eikando Temple,…

Kokedera, the Moss Temple

Our scheduled time is Saturday, November 11 at 1pm.  My confirmation postcard says, “Please never fail to bring this card on Nov. 11th at 1:00 pm when you are going to visit this temple.”  My Japanese friend and I had a good a laugh over this wording. I found out about Kokedera while surfing the internet.  The real name of this temple is Saiho-ji but it is also known as Kokedera which translates koke = moss and dera = temple, so it’s the moss temple.  It is located in Western Kyoto, not far from the popular town Arashiyama.  This temple is a bit off the beaten path, not because it is not known, but because it takes some effort to…

Nagashima Spa Land

Saturday and Sunday, November 4 & 5 is birthday weekend.  It’s Halyard’s 16th birthday (and Avalon’s 11th and my 40-something).  To celebrate Halyard’s 16th we decided to go on a little weekend getaway.  Nagashima Spa Land is an amusement park that he had asked to go many months ago.  It’s actually just one part of the larger Nagashima Resort which encompasses the amusement park and a water park, a hot springs onsen, an outlet shopping mall and a large flower garden called Nabana no Sato.  Nagashima Spa Land reminded me of a mini Six Flags from the US. It’s about 2 hours away near the city of Nagoya so we rented a car the night before.  We rented a large…

Typhoon Lan Arrives

We arrived in Japan from sunny, coastal Southern California, where the weather is almost always perfect and the sun shines without humidity and the sky is blue and the air smells like the ocean.  We looked forward to experiencing four seasons in Japan.  My kids had never lived anywhere with real changing seasons and my husband who is from Chicago missed them. In the past year we’ve seen sights that we’ve never seen at our house in California.  Fire red autumn leaves on the trees, snow falling outside our front door, cherry blossoms bursting on branches like popcorn, and a whole lot of torrential rain and gusty wind.  I’ve never needed an umbrella so often in my life.  And that…