Busy bee? Yep, that's me!
Mahjong's been on a slight hold, but with Monday morning onigiri making and weekly outings to less occupied places, life is ongoing and goals are being worked towards. Life's a gift right? May as well enjoy the present.
Here's what your gal has been up to.
Flea Market Sundays
Tokyo has some of the BEST flea markets-my favorites being Oedo and the semi-annual show at the Ryutsu Center. They're outdoor, spaced well, and every safety precaution is in place. Go when they're first open and you pretty much have your place to yourself. Why? Nothing really opens or begins in Japan before 11 so it's pretty great. What makes it better, though, is sharing it with friends. Recently I did just that and enjoyed an amazing breakfast bagel sando in-between shopping....It was a really good day.
I'm hitting my goals hard this year, but it doesn't feel like it because it's been fun. Okay, the running has been challenging and my muscles have had a few days of screaming. Otherwise...it's been fun!
Visiting Tokyo's Art Aquarium Museum was a treat. It reminded me of a teamLab Exhibit because of the colors and music. It's relatively small, taking about an hour to get through, but it was a soothing, beautiful experience we really enjoyed. One museum down-working on my 12 museums in 12 months goal!
Since Art Aquarium first opened in 2007, it has exhibited all across Japan and overseas, with Nihonbashi (an area of Tokyo) as its central base. It's been held at places that communicate history and culture, including Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall, Nijo-jo Castle in Kyoto, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa in Kanazawa. The exhibit expanded overseas into Milan, Italy in 2015, and into Shanghai, China in 2018. The total number of visitors passed the 10 million mark with the “Art Aquarium Castle: Kumamoto / Revival of Kingyo” exhibit that was held in 2019.
If you haven't gone yet local friends, you need to!
Special Shrine & Temple Visits
Y'all know about my pilgrimages, visiting these beautiful monuments of prayer around the country. It's something I'm glad to share with friends, and when I was invited to visit Kameido-tenjin Shrine and Yushima Tenmangu, I jumped at the chance.
If you scroll through the pictures below you think you'll know why: they're gorgeous temples. While this is certainly true we headed to both temples to purchase an omamori (or lucky charm) that's offered only once a year on Janauary 25th: the liar bird aka the bullfinch, uso.
The liar bird is said to not only bring you good fortune, but to protect you from liars and reveal deceivers. Well! Beware liars and deceivers, I'm carrying one on me at all times so I. Am. Covered from any of that nonsense.
I took a solo trip as well, venturing on a cold, rainy day to Kokokuji Temple. This temple has a columbarium filled with colorful, digitized Buddhas and two of the world’s oldest ginkgo trees. It was amazing.
The outside of the octagonal Ruriden columbarium mimics a traditional Buddhist burial building with heavy wooden doors and curving eaves, which belies its digital innards. It’s home to 2046 small altars, each with a drawer holding the ashes of the deceased atop which seems to float a crystal Buddha.
The doors to the columbarium are usually open, but you need a smart card to activate the Buddhas. There will be a caretaker around, just ask and they will happily help. The caretaker will swipe their smart card, bow to the ancestors within, and then the multitude of will Buddhas begin their performance. Plan to spend at least fifteen minutes inside because once the LED warms up, the colors begin to change, at points creating landscapes and other designs. You can discern which Buddhas are in use when they light up white.
It is one of the most unique temples I've visited and when (if) tourism resumes during our time here, I'll be bringing my visitors here!
Okay, it was actually candy making watching , but this is a very special type of Japanese sweet. Amezaiku is, rather than a craft, a performance art in which the artists makes shapes out of mizuame (thick gomme syrup). Amezaiku artists used to travel around and perform at events and festivals. The art has faded a little and with COVID there aren't festivals to share and sell this beautiful sweet. Thankfully there are a few small shops-this one near Yanaka-where you can choose your candy, watch them make it, then take it home to enjoy!
I haven't touched mine yet. Once wrapped they last for months so I'm enjoying my beautiful crane for just a bit more. FYI-You can take a class to learn to make this yourself!
Galentines, Mardi Gras and Birthday Fun
As they say, you can take a girl out of New Orleans but you can't take New Orleans out of the girl. Between celebrating this season of love with friends and family, honoring another turn around the sun, we pulled out all the goodies for Mardi Gras. Since each fell one day after the next I was exhausted by the time the fun quieted, but happy as a lark!
I'll confess: I had big plans originally. I was going to have a Mardi Gras birthday party. Small gathering, but big in style-just to be clear. Did it happen? No. Invites for other things continued to pop up and what made my heart truly happy was the time spent with each person. Ultimately, though, we were able to enjoy a taste of home on Fat Tuesday at the sweetest little coffee shop in Akasaka. It was lovely, a beautiful cap on a fabulous week.
Making Washi Paper
This was incredibly special-and shockingly quick!
Washi is a paper that uses local fiber, processed by hand and made in the traditional manner. It's often made using fibers from the inner bark of the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub, or the paper mulberry bush.
Our dear friend Fumie set up a class for us in Nihombashi, and after being instructed by the most patient sensei we took our turns swirling our sieves through the mulberry water (think a more watery paper mâché), choosing our design, spraying it with hose water, drying it twice, then pulling it off like a band-aid to reveal our one-of-a-kind designs.
All in all it took less than ten minutes a person and was absolutely fabulous!
Enoshima Day Trip
This is going to require its own post, but the long and short of it was this: Enoshima is a gorgeous southerly island just off of Kamakura that requires more than one visit to fully take it in. With the loveliest view of Fuji, caves to explore, shrines to visit, a beautiful illumination at night and lots and lots of good food...it's a magical day trip and one worth making during winter. Why? The illuminations at the Sea Candle.
Did I mention the sakura are in bloom? It was the loveliest surprise and added to the magic of the day.
Make sure you enjoy the gardens and grab a French toast while you're there. It is perhaps the best I've had and the perfect size. Just enough, and not too heavy. Might I recommend the crème brûlée?
Phew! Friends, it's been a busy month but such a good one. We return home in 18 months so while I can, as safely as I can, I'm absorbing every moment while its possible.
Time to get Friday started. Where will I go today?