The April Link Love

Happy first day of April!

I just remembered that today is April fool’s day, which I have never been into. Do you like jokes and tricks? I am just one of those people that can’t handle purposely embarrassing people. I know, so uptight and boring. But I get even more embarrassed for them and it’s just too much. Ha.

Anyways, March was an interesting month. My cellphone passed away and since I haven’t made the time to get it fixed or exchanged, I am now living like a pilgrim. Or when I was in 5th grade, give or take a few hundred year. No computer, no cellphone.

It’s not too bad to tell you the truth. Which brings me to question myself…do we really need to be connected to every single person we’ve ever met? But then on the other hand, I’d like to get my cellphone fixed so I can actually call home and talk to my parents.

In other news, the sakura season is finally upon us! Yay!

Happy hanami season, everyone 😉

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Jane Austen is probably mad at us.

– I had no idea!

Not in the mood to party? (Heehee!)

– Haunting photographs.

Community.

– Perfect for hanami!

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 March Link Love

Helloooooo March!

I was up in the mountains the last weekend of February and it was fantastic! Well, maybe not when I nearly cracked my kneecaps from my lack of snowboarding skills…but other than that? It was all good. And you know what, I hadn’t seen this much snow since my last snowboarding trip so I didn’t even mind wiping out in the snow!

Other than that it was pretty much work work work. But it’s that time of year and I don’t mind. The big presentation I mentioned last month went really well. Really really well. I am so relieved it’s over. But at the same time I hope this kind of challenge comes more often so that I can get used to it and it’s not such a big hurdle every time.

Are you excited for March?

It’s going to bring on the spring allergies in full force but that never gets me down. Because the world is finally alive and warm again! Everything is starting to bloom and I am loving it! Get your picnic blankets and drinks ready for hanami season!

Wishing you all a lovely start to spring! xx

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– How awesome is this?

– I want these words on my wall.

These earplugs are too cute.

Adventurousness.

Hmmm, is this not a thing already?

– Good advice.

Made me laugh.

– Ways to move past embarrassment.

– Which side of your brain is more dominant? (I use my brain equally: left 47% / right 53%!)

The Ramen Shop in Omiya: Negijiro

There is never a bad time to eat ramen. But everyone knows that it’s especially good on a chilly winter day, which is exactly what we did!

We were in Omiya, a city in Saitama that I rarely go to, for my sister’s wedding dress fitting. It was so much fun seeing her in all kinds of dresses! I took tons of pictures from every angle so she could review the fitting, but I am unable to disclose them due to part superstition, part too many to go through. So I thought I’d share where we went after the fitting!

Negijiro Ramen is located on the west side of Omiya Station, which is a bit more quiet than the other side. I’m not really familiar with this area, the last time I was here was in high school, but apparently it is considered a competitive ramen district by those who are “in” on the ramen scene. Obviously I am not one of them, but I happened to have a friend who recommended Negijiro Ramen if ever in Omiya.

It was our first time there, a tiny shop with maybe 10 or 12 seats around the counter. We all ordered Shoyu Ramen (soy-sauce based ramen), which is one of  two most popular dishes, the other being their Tsuke-men (ramen noodles with a separate bowl of soup). Every order came with a small plate of boiled vegetables, which is not only filling, but very healthy, too.

The shoyu ramen was so delicious, the perfect combination of thick-ish noodles and light soy-sause soup, with a hint of pepper. And I didn’t even have to add an egg to it, I love when it’s part of the original menu!

What do you think? Will you try this ramen?

NEGIJIRO (葱次郎)
2-331 Sakuragi-cho Omiya-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama JAPAN
埼玉県さいたま市大宮区桜木町2-331
TEL: 048 645 3711
OPEN: 11:00am to midnight
SHOYU RAMEN: 630 yen

The Blossom Season Has Begun

They came a little early this year. 
Ume blossoms against the blue sky is one of my favorite things in the world.
And also very hard to find sometimes in this mass jungle of buildings in Tokyo. Many houses have plum trees in their yard but the buildings or telephone poles/lines always get in the way. Which is why I was giddy to find ume blossoms by a river with nothing blocking the blue sky!
So pretty, don’t you think? x

Has spring sprung in your neighborhood?

The Quick Visit to Oyamazumi Shrine

Isn’t this tree magnificent? It stands front and center on the grounds of the Oyamazumi Shrine.

Located on the island of Omishima, Oyamazumi Shrine is said to have been built in 594. It is the head shrine to over ten thousand Yamazumi and Mishima shrines throughout Japan and many come to pray to Oyamazumi-no-kami, the God of mountains, sea and war.

The shrine itself is surrounded by many camphor trees, but there is one you can’t miss. Said to be over 2,600 years old, it stretches its branches across the sky from where it stands in the center of the shrine grounds. It even has a name, “Ochi-no-mikoto-oteue-no-kusunoki (乎知命御手植の楠),” so you know it’s pretty special.

It may have been due to the surrounding trees but the grounds of the shrine felt very quiet, even though there were many people about. We unfortunately didn’t have time to visit the Treasure museum, which looked really interesting. I’m hoping I can visit some day. Apparently in the ancient days, whenever someone won a war after praying for victory at this shrine, they would gift their armor as a tribute to the Oyamazumi God. So they have quite the collection here, many which are designated as a National Treasure. I’ve heard rumors of a body armor that may or may not have belonged to a female.

Also, if you’re in Japan, you may have heard of Hitori-zumo (一人角力), an important match where a sumo wrestler goes against the Spirit of Rice (稲の精霊). The outcome is said to have an affect on the year’s harvest. Good thing so far the Spirit of Rice has won every time 😉

Here are some photos:

 
 
 

OYAMAZUMI SHRINE (大山祇神社)
3227 Miyaura, Omishima-cho, Imabari JAPAN
愛媛県今治市大三島町宮浦3327番地
TEL: 0897 82 0032

OYAMAZUMI SHRINE TREASURE MUSEUM (大山祇神社 国宝館)
TEL: 0897 82 0032
HOURS: 8:30am-5:00pm
FEE: Adults 1,000 yen, Students 800 yen, Children 400 yen

The Valentine’s Day Hearts

Nothing calms the soul like baking.
Every year I bake something sweet and make homemade cards for a certain few who feel that store-bought Valentine’s Day chocolates are not meaningful enough for them. I have the quirkiest coworkers.
This year, I decided on bite size sugar cookies and had tons of fun with the frosting. What is it about gradations? I just love it.
If you’ve ever made frosted cookies, you’ll know that frosting cookies can be time consuming. Even more so if you don’t have professional frosting gear and have to use a butter knife. At the same time though, the quiet time just frosting one cookie after another can be quite therapeutic. 
Especially with Mairi Campbell singing in the background 🙂 
Happy Valentine’s Day!

What is your favorite cookie recipe? I’d love recommendations!

The February Link Love

Hellooooooo February! 
That first month of the year really zooms on by, doesn’t it? I am ready to take it slower this month, despite Valentine’s Day baking and wedding dress fittings for my sister are already on the calendar. Hopefully the one extra day of February we have this year will make a difference!

Did I mention I still have not had the time to find a new computer. Although I was leaning toward a MacBook, I’ve just discovered this Dell computer and like that it has an SD card reader. Any thoughts?

This month will finally be the end of the in-house seminar I’ve been partaking in since September, which involves working in teams. I’ve been saying this to everyone but team work is just as difficult as an adult than it was in grade school. Maybe even more so because there are no teachers around to play referee. I am definitely learning the skills of keeping a team together and moving forward. (Whoever said Japanese are ubiquitously known for their teamwork needs to do their research over again!) Well…whatever happens, the big power point presentation to HR is coming up next week. Wish me luck!

What are you up to this month?

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– This katakana font is awesome.

– Learn how to seek & accept help.

– Offensive books need to be read.

– Love the Japanese version of this game!

– This is hypnotizingly beautiful.

– BFFs from kindergarten the best!

– “We don’t all look alike, until we do.”

This makes me want to go to an onsen immediately!

The Many Airports and Flights

When I think back on the holidays, the memories of Christmas morning, New Years sunrise, and good jolly time with family is what comes to mind.

But when I look at my photo library on my cellphone, I realized that there were just as many photos of my time at various airports and on flights. In the span of two weeks, I went through five different airports and (mostly slept through) six flights.

Despite my over ambitious flight schedule, I only missed one flight, which I think is pretty good for holiday travel. Then again, I am one of those people who likes airport security and only needs is a good book to keep me company. And maybe a bag of chex mix wouldn’t hurt.

I suspect my love of flights probably stems from the fact that I get motion sickness on most moving vehicles. All except airplanes. Thus flights are my safe haven. Kind of ironic, seeing as they are the only ones that provide you with a barf bag. But I get great views, time to read and sleep like a baby, all without turning green, so I’m happy!

What keeps you happy at airports and on flights?

My Detroit Airport layover…
This tunnel between the terminals was amaze-balls.
Intense colors changing to the beat of a holiday melody.
Catching up on reading at my gate.
You know what, I’ve heard horror stories but Delta wasn’t bad at all.
Someday I really want to explore Detroit.
Metro stations in DC remind me of batman and his cave.
One of my favorite airports, festive for the holidays.
Watching the guy throwing our luggage in the back while our plane gets ready.
Aisle seats aren’t too bad either.
God bless America, they feed you on every flight no matter how close your destination.
My layover at Detroit was short but it began to snow while we were boarding.
A slight delay to de-ice the aircraft…
Looking out the window and doodling during the delay.
Finally in the air, somewhere over Canada.
I can never get enough of this view. The world IS round!
Cotton candy pink clouds.
I did a lot of looking out the window, if you couldn’t tell.
Somewhere over Russia…looks pretty cold down there.
Well, equally cold up here, too.
Hello Chiba! Back in the motherland…a little too late to make my connecting flight.
Next day at Haneda, heading home to Ehime via Okayama airport.
Last flight of 2015.
Okayama station, where I get on the express train to Imabari.
The said express train, heading back to Okayama. Caught the 4:35am train…can you tell?
Okayama has the cutest packaging for its omiyage.
Waiting to board the airplane while watching Hakone Ekiden news…first flight of 2016.
The airplane landed in Haneda…and I headed straight to work to start the year!