Traveling around

Treasures, Treats & Teatime in Taiwan

We had a lot of adventure and some misadventure in Taiwan.  The misadventure involved nearly running out of cash (because we barely brought any, Duh!) and eventually not being able to access any more.  Not only did we waste 2+ hours trying to get cash at the American Express international office on Fuxing North Road, but it got down to us counting dim sum dumplings at Din Tai Fung to see how many we could order.  This kind of limits the Din Tai Fung experience when you are trying to figure out if you can afford 5 or 10 dumplings, but we decided to just spend our dwindling wad.  We left enough cash in our wallet for mango snowflake ice…

Going to Taipei with Hello Kitty

Halyard left on a week long service trip to the Philippines with his classmates.  Kaiyo went biking with his classmates on a popular route called Shimanami Kaido, across 6 islands and 6 bridges in southern Japan.  He’ll be gone for a few days.  So we decided to skip out with Avalon.  Halyard says he doesn’t like the fact that Avalon gets a stamp in her passport that he won’t have.  But none of us are getting stamps from the Philippines so it doesn’t seem too unfair. We’re flying on the special Hello Kitty jet to Taipei, Taiwan.  EVA Airlines, Taiwan’s airline, flies specially decorated SANRIO planes from select destinations between Taiwan and spots around the world.  Lucky for us, Osaka…

Ume Hana Matsuri & Tea

I learned a new Japanese word recently.  Baika.  The two kanji characters for Ume (plum) and Hana (flower) together read as baika (bye-kah).  It means plum blossom, just like sakura means cherry blossom.  I asked my friend about this and she said Japanese people still say “ume” for plum blossoms, but when you see the two characters together it is read as “baika.”  You always hear the word sakura tossed around.  Sakura flavored food, sakura themed souvenirs, pink sakura leaves on Starbucks cups, sakura season is very famous.  I’ve rarely heard anyone talk about baika.  But plum blossoms are beautiful too. Plum blossoms are the first sign of winter’s end and the beginning of spring time weather.  They appear about…

Japan’s Winter Illuminations

Japan loves to light up their landscape in winter!  What better way to spend a freezing night than to walk around outside in your heavy coat, hat, scarf, gloves and boots.  It’s just like being inside the house so you might as well get outside and enjoy it! Nabana no Sato is a large and spacious flower garden at Nagashima Resort in Kuwana City, near Nagoya.  It is about a 10 minute drive from the Nagashima amusement park where we went for Halyard’s birthday on Saturday, November 4.  However, when we drove to Nabana no Sato, we managed to make it a 25 minute drive with hairpin turns and narrow roads with steep drop offs.  No thanks to Google.  Needless…

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,…