The Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki

Something about fields of blue that make even rainy days seem bright!

Nemophila flowers in Hitachi Seaside Park (or Hitachi Kaihin Koen in Japanese) are becoming incredibly famous and this park is a popular place to be during Golden Week. These are pictures from last year, actually, but I thought now would be the perfect time to share as any!

I went by car with some friends on a rainy day. It wasn’t suppose to rain but you know how spring likes to trick you that way. But when you’re with your friends, it really doesn’t matter. We bought ourselves an ice cream cone and took a walk around the park.

We were walking up a hill when a little girl passed us in a rush, pumping her arms in an effort to reach the top of the hills as fast as her little legs could carry her. My friends and I were chatting about how lazy we were, watching her leave us in the dust.

When we finally did reach the top of the hill, the scene before us was pretty incredible. I later learned that the hill is called Miharashi-no-Oka (translated: Hill with View) and is 58 meters above sea level. You could see past the blue fields that surrounded us to the green woods beyond, including a big ole ferris wheel. You could even see the ocean, which surprised me.

Just as I was wishing we had better weather for the view, I noticed the little girl that had rushed past us before, wandering around with a half sob on her face. I recognized this look, the brave face of a little one frantically looking for the familiar face of a parent while their heart beats a thousand miles a minute. I’m sure we’ve all had that exact same expression on our faces in the earlier years of our lives.

After a quick look around to see if someone was looking for her, I went over to crouch down and asked her if she was lost. With quivering lips, she nodded her head. So then I asked her what her name was. She mumbled something but I couldn’t quite manage to catch her name, so I asked her again, leaning in closer to hear. She must have though I was deaf because she stuck her mouth literally to my ear and shouted “MANA-CHAN!”

She had my ears ringing but bless her, I did get her name 😉

My friends and I called out for her parents and they were soon there, huffing and puffing up the hill. Apparently Mana-chan had really left them in the dust and they had just reached the top. The sudden relief on her face was apparent as she was scooped up into her dad’s arms and all was well in the universe again. Awww.

Satisfied that we had done our civic duty, we headed back down the hill. It was a good day!

Here are some photos:

HITACHI SEASIDE PARK (国営ひたち海浜公園)
605-4 Onuma Mawatari, Hitachinaka-shi, Ibaraki JAPAN
茨城県ひたちなか市馬渡字大沼605-4
TEL: 029 265 9001

The Night Hanami in Tokyo Midtown

I was passing through Roppongi for work and was pulled towards the lights.
The sakura trees along the Midtown Garden are lit up every year. Yozakura itself is lovely but when they are lit up like this, it really draws a crowd. But surprisingly, at this time of night it wasn’t too crowded and I was able to take a leisurely stroll along the park.
Here are some photos: 

TOKYO MIDTOWN GARDEN (東京ミッドタウンガーデン)
9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo JAPAN
東京都港区赤坂9-7-1
TEL: 03 3475 3100
HOURS: 5:00pm-11:00pm
SEASON: Mid-March to mid-April (depends on the year)

The Morning Hanami in Shinjuku

 

I know hanami season is over but I just couldn’t go on without sharing just a little.

It may just be my imagination but are there more sakura trees in Tokyo than never before? With a slightly hectic spring schedule, I had accepted that there wouldn’t be a proper hanami season for me this year. It may just be that the hanami gods felt bad for me but it seemed like every corner I turned, there was a burst of sakura waiting for me!

Like this massive tree that was trimmed to a T it almost looked like a pink square marshmallow from the front.

They say it’s bad luck to have a sakura tree in your yard, something to do with it feeding off human decay or attracting the dead. But others, like this house, say to hell with that and have gorgeous cherry blossoms above their roofs. Do you think it’s true? As much as I love sakura, and even though I’m not really all that superstitious…just in case, I would love to be the next door neighbor 😉

The Sakura, Dog and Cat at Kuramae Shrine

Look at how pink the cherry blossoms are!

My friend and I were walking around Kuramae and stumbled upon this shrine. Kuramae Shrine (藏前神社) is surrounded by high rise buildings and isn’t a large shrine at all. But the grounds are beautifully kept and in the spring these blooms take it up a notch. So lucky to have passed by when they were in full bloom!

Locals in this neighborhood call the soft pink cherry blossoms “Kuramae-zakura (蔵前桜).” I’m pretty sure it’s just a certain type of yamazakura but I like to think that it is so beloved in the community that people just gave it a name. I mean, why else would they do that, right?

We were actually not the only ones blown away by the gorgeous burst of pink. There was a dog standing just under the bright pink cherry blossoms, pretty much the very best hanami spot ever. He just happens to be a bronze statue so he won’t be sharing that spot anytime soon. Ha.

Apparently there is a popular Rakugo story called Moto-inu (translated “former dog”) about a dog that wished to become a human so fervently that one day, he did! If you’ve seen The Little Mermaid, you’ll know it’s not that easy to suddenly become a human. I read the Japanese transcript and can tell you the story had me chuckling. You can learn all about the dog and Kuramae Shrine here on Ru’s blog. She is my go-to gal for all things temples and shrines!

Anyways, the dog is only a statue but when you step onto the Kuramae shrine grounds, a very friendly cat is there to welcome you. Well, more like welcome you to scratch his tummy…but still a welcome. I’ve never seen such a straigh-forward friendly cat like this one before. He came at us like he was thinking, “well it’s about time!” He acted more like a dog than a cat.

Makes you wonder if the Moto-inu decided to pray to become a cat, too? 😉

KURAMAE SHRINE (藏前神社)
3-14-11 Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo JAPAN
東京都台東区蔵前3-14-11
TEL: 03 3851 0617
BLOOMS: Early March

The Merry Camellias in Tokyo

Aren’t these camellias gorgeous? They are blooming all around Tokyo and it feels like nature is celebrating the holiday season, too! 
Will you be doing something for Christmas this year? I have not officially celebrated Christmas in a while now because in Japan the 25th is a regular work day and it’s just easier for the whole family to get together on new years, which is an official holiday.
But this year, by the time you read this, I will be in the air heading to DC to see my non-Japanese family to celebrate Christmas together! I’m so excited!
It was a last minute decision but I’m so glad I’m going. Because as much as I’ve grown to love the Japanese New Year and its traditions, sometimes I like to have a bit of non-commercial Christmas as well. I’ve missed the family Christmas trees, giving gifts and singing hymns at church. 
So to those who celebrate, I wish you a very merry Christmas! x 

The camellia bushes around Tokyo look to be celebrating the holidays, too!

The Ayame Festival in Ibaraki

Japan enjoys flower festivals.
So much so that it’s almost impossible to get through a season without stumbling upon one flower festival or another. This was back in June (can we just pause the calendar for a minute? time flies!), when my sisters and I got together in Ibaraki, and because this Ayame Festival is apparently pretty famous in these parts, we decided to stop by.
The festival features Ayame, a type of Japanese Iris. A sign said that there were over 500 types of iris growing here. I had no idea there were so many types! We saw a variety of purple and yellow iris, all very delicate and beautiful. I liked how the park had many walkways so you could really see the iris up close.
There is a river the flows along the flower park and you could take a ride up the river in a boat, where someone rows for you old-school style. The park also has a very unique bridge that gives you a great view from above and is picturesque from bellow.
Here are some photos: 

Did you go to any flower festivals this year? Which are your favorites?

SUIGO ITAKO AYAME FESTIVAL (水郷潮来あやめまつり)
Suigo Itako Ayame Park, 1-5 Itako-shi Ibaraki JAPAN
茨城県潮来市あやめ1-5 水郷潮来あやめ園
TEL: 0299-63-1187
Annual Festival: Mid-May to late-June

The Blog Post on Writing


I seem to always be in a race to catch up on all my blog posts.


I’m taking this to mean that I’m just very busy enjoying my “real” life at the moment…which is a good thing, right? But I want to get these posts sitting in draft finished before I forget everything. And if you know me, you know that all the pictures are in order and ready to go…it’s just the writing that’s waiting for me. There are so many words out there and yet for some reason, at times I have a difficult time putting them together to form sentences. But I am going to plow through this.

So in a twist of irony, I thought I’d start off by diving into this post about writing!

Miwawho always writes beautiful posts for Cranes and Clovers, kindly invited me to this blog hop about writing. (You can read hers here. She always takes the most amazing photos and I love the way she writes!) I was worried at first because I seriously do not write all that much here, it’s mostly photos. But because I was so excited Miwa chose me, I thought I would give this a try! 😉



What am I writing on or working on?

Well, at the moment I am finishing up my monthly letter to my grandma because she is one of those rare people who doesn’t own a computer, much less an email account. (It takes a while to finish because I end up having to look up every other kanji on my cell phone before I write it down!)

Regarding this blog though, as I mentioned above, I’m trying to find the words to fill in my blog posts that are currently sitting in draft. They are mostly posts on my weekend trip to Nasu and other events in the past month or two, including two weddings, a beer garden, and a birthday.



How does my work differ from others of its genre?


I like to think that each blog is special in its own way.


Am I just saying this because I don’t really know how mine differs from other blogs? Um…yes. I have to be honest here and say that I’m not even sure what genre this blog is. I’d say it’s a journal of my life in photos. Although if I had to think of something, I’d say that a blog written in English by a regular (whatever that means) Japanese female is not as common in the blogging world. Or maybe I just don’t know where to look? What do you think?


Why do I write what I do?

Like many bloggers, it’s a way to remember what I did and how I felt at that moment. It’s a way for me to hold on to the tiny things that fade over time. I think that’s how my writing (especially my diaries when I was younger) has always been.

Without writing things down, I don’t think I would have remembered how anything and everything revolved around getting my ears pierced in grade school (I wrote about it constantly for half a year). Or how confused I was when I came back to Japan as a teenager and first stepped into a Japanese-style bathroom stall (I thought I had accidentally gone into the janitor’s closet).  Or how my world shifted when I started living alone for the first time (I’d never gone a weekend without speaking before).


Or even small things like that moment when I overheard a coworker being asked what he thought 少子化 (sho-shika, meaning declining birthrate) is in English and he answered, “uh…small children?” (In his defense, it kind of makes sense when you look at the kanji.)


So many memories. I guess for me, writing is remembering.



How does my writing process work?

As I said, I am not a writer at all so my process is quite slow. I usually start out by figuring out how I want to end the post. Weirdly having an ending for the post keeps me in line when I write. I tend to go off topic otherwise. I have a mind that wanders, which is probably why it took forever to write my college essays and I’d end up having to cut out half of it. And that is usually what happens with my blog posts, too. I love the “research” bit, aka surfing the internet for information. I learn so much and I end up wanting to share it all.


So most of my writing process is hitting the back-space key. To each his own!



Well…that only took about a month to write! (Sorry so late, Miwa!)


Did any of that make sense? I’m not even sure I answered the questions but I will say that this blog post itself was an interesting process of trying to figure out how and why I write the way that I do. And I am currently patting myself on the back because this is the longest blog post I have ever written in my life. Whew.


As a reward to you for actually reading all that and making it down here…I am happy to let you know that I am tagging the wildly 
witty woman that is Rurousha, who should be writing a book in my opinion, but is currently happily roaming the backstreets of Tokyo under the summer sun and sharing her discoveries with us on her blog.

Happy writing! x

The Plum Blossoms in Okurayama

 

I know, I know. Plum blossom season is over.

But when I went to the bookstore the other day, I saw some of the prettiest plum blossoms at a local ume-matsuri (plum festival) and I had to share! Better late than never, right?

It was a beautiful day out but still very chilly. Very very chilly. But despite that, there were quite a few people enjoying picnics under the plum blossoms. I am guessing a lot of alcohol was consumed to ward away the chills.

There were also many festival stalls selling different kinds of food. In my recent obsession over dorayaki, when I saw the ume-flavored dorayaki in one of the stalls, I had to get it. It ended up being the very last one…lucky me!

Next to come are cherry blossoms! Are you ready? x

The Wedding Party in Ebisu

Last month my friends E and M had their wedding party in Ebisu!
They had gotten married with close family and friends in Hawai’i the month before and wanted to have a party with their friends in Tokyo. I was asked to help co-plan the wedding party with another friend Y, which I was really excited about. I didn’t learn until later that it would include taking on the role of co-master of ceremonies as well.
After 30+ years, I’ve come to know myself pretty well and one of the things is that I do better behind the scenes. Supporting is my thing, not center stage. I have huge stage fright and because I’m rarely in that position, I freeze up even more when I’m there.
Needless to say, I was slightly concerned about having to talk into the mike. And not only that, but you need to be on top of things, reading the crowd, checking the time, and making sure that the bride and groom are having a great time. (Did I mention I am also a worrier?)
But in the end, it all worked out.
The bride and groom were full of smiles, which is exactly what we wanted. Our plan to surprise them with messages from their parents were also a success. Everything went according to plan and it was great seeing them having a good time celebrating their marriage with all their friends in Tokyo!
Wishing E and M all the joy and happiness of this day and always. x
The bride and groom making their entrance.

I have no idea who took these photos on my camera…but whoever did, thank you!
E’s friend gave a poetic toast to the newlyweds.                        My co-MC was amazing.                

Friends surrounding the happy couple.
My flower arrangement for the bride and groom table, which I only had 15 minutes to do (eek!).

It felt good seeing everyone having a good time conversing with the bride and groom.
Who knew those high school ikebana classes would come in handy one day?

A piece of their cake waiting to be eaten, which they did after the party was over.
Like all good parties, it was over before we knew it. x

The Three-Day Weekend Flowers

Who else is loving the three-day weekend?
Japan is on its second three-day weekend in a row. We had Respect for the Aged Day last Monday and this Monday is the Autumn Equinox, which is a public holiday here in Japan.
I am rarely inside my apartment, unless it’s to sleep. So I don’t often buy flowers, especially in the summer because my apartment gets really hot in the afternoon while I’m gone and it pretty much boils the flowers. So sad.
But three-day weekends mean more lazy mornings. So when I saw this small flower bouquet, I couldn’t help myself! Aren’t the pretty?
Well, whether yours is a three-day weekend or not, I hope you’re enjoying it! x