Thursday, April 30, 2015

Japanese Public Gardens

We return to the regularly scheduled travelogue with our visit to two public gardens in Tokyo.

Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Garden is one of the oldest Daimyo gardens dating back to the beginning of the Edo era. (1603-1868) A green oasis surrounded by tall building, this beautiful garden features the typical elements of a Japanese landscape garden, including a pond and man-made hills, symbolizing the ocean, lakes and mountains of the real world, and circular walking trails to enjoy the garden from various perspectives.

During the Edo Period, the garden was built on land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay, and served as the residence of various feudal lords and government officials. In 1875, after the fall of the feudal government, it was turned into the Shiba Detached Imperial Villa, however, all the buildings were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

We happened upon a couple having wedding photos taken and asked if we could take their picture in their traditional clothing. They consented and then asked that we join them in a picture for their album.

Noble and I like the juxtaposition of ancient and modern.

Our hosts told us that there are over 100 varieties of cherry trees in Japan. Many were still in bloom.

Including this one with green blossoms. Incredible!

We met lots of friendly fish in the pond too.

An interesting bamboo fence.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

We Interrupt This Travelogue . . .

To bring you the latest news on the redecorating front.

Currently at work on the living room, PFCMom is ready to begin painting the entry hall, which is more like a cubbie hole than a hall, but let's not be picky.

Everything is patched, primed, and ready to paint.

The ceiling will be a semi-gloss pure white which helps the ceiling reflect light, making the room seem brighter. The walls will be Glidden GLY13 Creamy Buttermilk.

This painting job needs to be done, including removing the old carpet and painting the floor, and all the furniture replaced, plus bookshelves brought over from our other house and books put up, by May 15, which is the evening of Mr. Movie's graduation party. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Really Good Food

Breakfast on Friday, prepared by our hostess:

A bowl of rice, a bowl of soup; upper left is eggplant, very delicious; upper right, salmon, below it is fish eggs, the yellow is a rolled omelet; the two red spears are crab; greens, shredded cabbage, melon and grapefruit. All of it fresh and delicious. I wish I knew a better word to describe it; it was all really, really good. Some of the tastes and textures were new to me, and fish eggs were an absolute first! But I didn't feel like spitting anything out. I ate it all and enjoyed it.

Breakfast on Saturday.

Yogurt, the small square dish held a seaweed mixture (like gelatin); rice porridge; on the long rectangle dish: citrus (some kind of Japanese cross), shredded cabbage, broccoli, avocado, one wedge of tomato, two difference kinds of fish eggs; tempura-green bell pepper, pumpkin and a couple of things I can't remember; two ham rolls. Again, totally delicious!

I didn't think to take a picture of breakfast the first day, but want to say that the soybean soup was the best way to start a cold morning. It was creamy like half and half, and tasted like sweet corn. I enjoyed the whole heavenly bowlful. That was just the beginning; then we were served a plate of an omelet, two 'lil smokie type sausages, and the shredded cabbage, veggies and fruits. There was also a tiny cup of soybeans that we were instructed to stir rapidly with our chopsticks; the stirring produced a stickiness to the beans (not sure how they were prepared) then we slurped them up, sort of like slurping jello. At this point I wasn't very adept with the chopsticks so we all had a good laugh as I tried to maneuver food from the plates and bowls to my mouth.  

The three delicious breakfasts, all plated so beautifully, and presented so elegantly (I experienced dish envy big time!) inspired me to put more effort into making the breakfasts I serve every morning more visually appealing. It takes just a few minutes more and a bit more thought but makes the meal so pleasant and interesting. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

A few funny people

After we rode the water taxi downstream we got out at a place where Sumo Wrestling is held.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Continuing in Japan

Tokyo is the largest city I've ever been in (until I went to Seoul, which has a million more people!) so I looked out from the observation deck in total amazement and bewilderment. The past five years of living in a town of 2,100 people has shrunk my perspective. Tokyo is just mind-bogglingly huge, largely flat and goes on for miles!

While we visited, the weather was chilly, including a day of rain. I was glad I had my Pashmina and a flannel lined coat with a hood. Noble braved the cold the first day then borrowed warmer wraps the next days.

This gate marks a traditional shopping area in the downtown area (although how can you tell what is downtown when it is all urban?). We enjoyed looking at all the trinkets and souvenirs for sale. I bought some postcards to send to loved ones, and some magnets to add to the collection on my fridge.

At the other end of the market street is a huge Buddhist Temple. The woman in the bright green coat is our hostess, and the girl in jeans next to her is our former exchange student.

Before entering the Temple we purified ourselves, first with smoke, then with water.

If I remember correctly, this dragon is outside the temple. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the temple was closing for the day, so Noble didn't snap any pictures of the interior. We tossed our coins in the collection and took a quick look around the room before exiting.

The Johnny-Jump-Ups were so pretty! Here we're waiting for a water taxi for a ride up the river.

Moored to the opposite bank of the river was this old style boat. It was sure relaxing to sit in the warm cabin of the water taxi after so much walking in the cold.

Friday, April 24, 2015

I fell in love . . .

. . .with Japan and Korea. It was such a fantastic trip I want to share some photos and impressions.

First up, this unflattering frame of me in the home of our hostess in Japan. We stayed in their traditional Japanese style family room, sleeping on mats on the floor. I was surprised at how comfortable they were.

I'm living in the dark ages . . . their car had a screen which doubled as a television. Incredible! And a little distracting.

On our first full day there we went to see the Skytree Tower in Tokyo. Here I am with my friend, mother of the exchange student we hosted in 2003. We ate lunch at a restaurant on the 32nd floor in the building at the left of the photo.

Pasta with tomatoes and cheese for PFCMom

Pasta with olive oil and veggies for Noble

Skytree Tower is about 640 meters tall; built to be taller than anything around it so it can broadcast the television signal clearly and without interference. There is a shopping mall near the base of it.

Here are Noble and I with the tower in looming over us.


And the view from the observation deck on the 450th "floor" was spectacular. 

Here are some of the interior support beams:

And here we are standing on a glass viewing floor looking down at the ground below.

Finally, not for the faint of heart, my first experience with a "squatty potty". I encountered these in the airport, subway and bus stations. Good thing I'm not squeamish or a germophobe, as they are a bit smelly, but otherwise not a bad experience. When you've gotta go, it doesn't matter so much.

More tomorrow, stay tuned.