Photo Friday: Fun! / Sanno Matsuri Children

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Sanno Matsuri Children

Photo Friday Challenge: Fun!

What expresses Fun better than children? These kids are pulling the mikoshi 神輿 (also 御輿), a portable shrine in which a deity is enshrined, at the 2016 Sanno Festival or Sannou Matsuri 山王祭 in Tokyo, Japan.

The Sanno Matsuri is a summer festival, held in mid June on even numbered years in Tokyo. The Kanda Matsuri is held on odd numbered years. This photo was taken during the grand procession, which begins at Hie Shrine 日枝神社, winds its way through Tokyo for nine hours, and then finally returns to Hie Shrine. There are several places to view the procession, and we caught it on June 10th in Ginza.

Watching the children, who had already been traveling around Tokyo in the hot sun for hours, give it their best as they escorted the mikoshi, and still having fun as they walked beside cars and waited at stoplights in the heat, I was quite impressed at their endurance. As people lined either side of the Ginza streets, we cheered them on in their efforts. Even the adults accompanying them seemed to be having fun!

What do you think of when you hear the theme of fun? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Friday: Morning / Lake Kawaguchiko

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Mt Fuji Sunrise over Lake Kawaguchiko

Photo Friday Challenge: Morning

On a cold December morning in 2014, my then-fiance and I crawled out of a cozy ryokan 旅館 bed and drove a block down to the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko 河口湖 to watch the sunrise. We were visiting Yamanashi Prefecture 山梨県, my Japanese hometown, and in the quiet hours of the morning we were the only ones stirring out of doors.

I took this panorama shot with my iPhone, and whenever I look at this (and the other hundred-odd photos I took that morning), the memories of the beauty of the sun rising over Mt. Fuji, the quiet of the morning giving way to the new day, and the return to a delicious Japanese-style breakfast waiting at the traditional Japanese inn or ryokan, come flooding back to me. This might well be my favorite Morning ever…

What is your favorite morning? Share your favorite morning in the comments!

一期一会 Ichigo Ichie

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The Japanese idiom 一期一会 ichigo ichie literally translates to “one opportunity, one encounter.” The meaning of this idiom is to treasure every encounter, for it will never recur.

The idiom is derived from Zen Buddhism, and is particularly associated with the Japanese tea ceremony or sadou 茶道. In the context of sadou, ichigo ichie reminds participants that each tea ceremony is unique that will never recur in one’s lifetime, and thus each moment should be treated with the utmost sincerity.

In the context of daily life, think of each encounter as a once-in-a-lifetime chance. So, why not seize the day?

Photo Friday: Narrow / Maui Ocean Center

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Maui Ocean Center

Photo Friday Challenge: Narrow

This week’s Photo Friday Challenge is “Narrow” – which can have quite a few meanings. I chose a meaning along the lines of the contributor’s original photo, which is a narrow space. This photo is from the underwater tunnel at the Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku, HI on the island of Maui.

When I visited Sea World in San Diego, CA as a child, the Shark Encounter exhibit, which has a similar tunnel, always freaked me out, and years later this tunnel in Maui had the same effect. You feel the pressure of the water that surrounds you, as sharks and manta rays swarm around and above you. For a kid it was creepy, but even as an adult I felt like I entered a portal into another world, a quiet, dark world full of strange and deadly creatures. I feel like this photo captures the atmosphere really well!

What is your favorite Narrow space? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Friday: Cherry on Top / Soft Cream

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Sweet bread at St. Marc Cafe in IkebukuroPhoto Friday Challenge: Cherry on Top

The theme for this week’s Photo Friday Challenge is called Cherry on Top, which can also mean “finishing touch” – but when I looked at the splash page for the challenge (I’ve linked it above), all I could think of was dessert. So, I selected this photo from my 2014 trip to Japan of sweet bread, topped with matcha powder and sweet adzuki red beans. The “Cherry on Top” for this gourmet treat? Vanilla soft-serve ice cream.

Soft-serve ice cream (also known as soft cream ソフトクリーム) is a popular dessert in Japan, and when I visit I end up eating a lot of it. There are different flavors depending on the season, the local specialty, and the creativity of the company. This bread, matcha, adzuki, and soft cream is from St. Marc Cafe in Ikebukuro, in Tokyo.

What is your favorite dessert or treat? Let me know in the comments!

The Facebook Page

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お知らせ:(For your information)

I finally did it, and made a Facebook page for my blog*!

The inspiration came months ago, from Alice at Kiwi in Korea, but in my typical procrastinatorial style, I’ve only just gotten around to actually making it. I will of course link my posts, but also look for additional photos, random text posts, and whatever else a blogger is supposed to do on a Facebook page.

So please drop by and say hi on my new Facebook page! Let’s make our friendship Facebook official (。•̀ᴗ-)✧

*If you want to know how to make your own Facebook page for your blog, check out Mary Qin’s excellent walk-through.

And if you are really bored, you can always check out my Twitter account as well (but I will warn you that I am terrible at using Twitter).

Is Japan Safe?

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It was creeping into the wee hours of Saturday morning, and the party that had begun Friday night was starting to wind down. I looked around at my friends crowded into the tiny Japanese apartment, then at Yuki, who lived in my direction, and asked her そろそろ行く? (“Shall we leave soon?”). She checked the time on her phone and shook her head. まだだよ。(“Not yet.”). I was puzzled because she looked as sleepy as I felt, but when I pressed her, she just said that it wasn’t a safe time to walk home.

I looked around the room and realized that no one else was leaving, either. Among the mix of Japanese and American exchange students, at least two were softly snoring with their backs leaning against the wall. Everyone else was just talking quietly amongst the remains of a few chuuhai cans and an empty potato chip bag. In this quiet rural town in Yamanashi prefecture, dotted by rice paddies and grape and peach farms, I couldn’t imagine it ever being anything other than safe. But once the dark began to melt into early dawn and the sky began to lighten, Yuki’s eyes met mine, we said our goodbyes to the others and headed home.

When you visit Japan, it’s hard to believe that it’s anything but safe. But while living in Japan as a student, I heard a few more times that the wee hours (between 3 am and dawn usually) were not a safe time to walk home, even in Yamanashi.

–So, you might ask, as many have asked me before, is Japan safe? Continue reading