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…

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…

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. …

Summer Guests Part 1

We’re in the full swing of summer guests now.  It’s Tuesday, June 27 and our Newport Beach friends are on their way home today.  Good-bye Luke, Tom and Sheridan.  We will see you again soon.  Thanks for letting us go temple hopping with you in Kyoto, coming to dinner at our house and going to USJ and the arcade with us!Our Long Beach friends arrive tonight.  Later on in July, two more sets of friends from Costa Mesa will arrive in Osaka at the same time.  I’m getting off work early today so I’m planning to go straight to Itami Airport to hook up with John and Avalon.  I want to be on time to see our friends when they…

Snorkel Among Stars

Thursday, July 20, we are leaving Cambodia today.  It was a quick stop in this country but the short time we spent here was educational and interesting.  Now we are going back to Thailand to come full circle and close out our trip.  We are finishing up in Phuket (Poo-khet) and Phi Phi (Pee Pee) Island, locally known as Ko Phi Phi.  I scheduled our flight so that we could spend a little extra time in Siem Reap and now we won’t arrive in Phuket until after 8pm.  By the time we get off the plane, find a driver and check in to our hotel it’s probably going to be well past 10.  Update:  Our plane was super delayed and…

Phare, the Cambodian Circus

It’s still Wednesday, July 19.  The second half of our one full day in Cambodia began after lunch.  We said good-bye to our friendly and funny guide.  He told us so much about Cambodian history and his country’s struggles.  He told us how his parents had been killed by Vietnamese and his aunts and uncles killed by the Khmer Rouge.  We got the feeling they might have been scholars who were the first to be executed in the same type of sweep that Mao led to kill off the cultured and educated in China during the Cultural Revolution. When he left us I felt so sad that the Cambodian people have suffered so much at the hands of corrupt governments,…