Traveling around

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…

Toilets in Japan

I’m finally writing my toilet post.  We’ve been here a year now so I’ve been thinking about it that long. Gomen nasai (sorry), but I’ve got a year’s worth of thoughts to write about.  There’s just too much to say about toilets/sinks/bathrooms in Japan.  There are two kinds of toilets in the ladies room here:  Japanese toilets and Western toilets.  Maybe Asian toilets are not a surprise to some people.  But they were a surprise to me when we vacationed in Japan in 2013. A lot of people told me beforehand that I should always carry a pack of tissues with me just in case I needed them in the public bathrooms.  That advice was drilled into me as a…

Return to Shirahama

We rented a car on Saturday, September 9 and made the 2.5 hour drive south to Shirahama Beach to meet up with our friends.  We were able to make our reservation in advance by phone in English.  But we’ve never rented a car before so we had to ask the rental agent a lot of questions.  He set up the GPS for us.  When we went to pick up the car, check out what was stuck on the back trunk by the license plate!  Hilarious.  It’s a big magnet so it peels right off.  This is the same beach that we went to last year, the one with the beautiful soft white sand that was brought over from Australia.  This…

Going home

Our tickets back to Orange County, California are booked for August 13, 2017.  This will be a year to the day that we flew out on our big move across the Pacific Ocean.  It’s unbelievable how fast the year flew by.  We decided to stay another year in Japan (an agonizing decision that I might post about later) so before we fly out we have to pack up our belongings, move to another house, clean our old house thoroughly before the owners come home, and host more guests from the US.  We have about 12 days to do all of this. It is not as stressful as when we moved from California to Japan, but it feels overwhelming at times. …