Lake Towada // Aomori, Japan

Lake Towada is beautiful yet eerie and mystical. We may not be in Scotland, but I was convinced that the Loch Ness Monster was going to come up through this fog at any moment. We visited in August so it was a bit chilly and obviously rainy. Lake Towada is known for its natural exhibition of the four seasons. It would be perfect during autumn / maple season! We would love to check it out again on a sunny day.

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Rice Paddy Art // Inakadate, Japan

Who knew that rice paddy fields could be a piece of art?! This blew our minds. These fields were planted with different kinds of rice to create ginormous elaborate artwork. (You can see a person walking on the road as an example of a scale in the photo block below.) Each year, they have a different design or scene, plant the rice then reap the harvest when it's time. They did Star Wars one year and this year they have two separate Japanese scenes. The field pictured above was inspired by the Japanese folklore, "Momotaro," which means "peach boy." It was so interesting!! We read that the entire village partakes in planting and reaping. It really gives a new meaning to, "It takes a village." 

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Konnichiwa! // Welcome to Japan

We were so excited to take Mia Kai on her first trip to Japan! She loved it and the people there loved her! She made instant friends as soon as we arrived in the airport. We stayed in an apartment rather than a hotel so we learned quite a bit more about Japan than we did last time. For instance, they have an incredibly strict and organized trash system. They are serious about recycling, and we are now an official recycling family because of it. Here's a sample of what our trash schedule looked like...

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Kyoto, Japan : Northwest Kyoto // Nijo-jo Shogun Castle

If you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 15: 

Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. 1 Timothy 4:4 (NLT) 


We are (surprisingly) only half-way into blogging about our Japan trip last November. So, back to the adventures...

Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys

Welcome to Nijo-jo, a magnificent shogun castle is Northwest Kyoto! I was swooning as we walked through these ancient buildings with worn wood and charming architecture. This was one of our favorite historic sites to visit, mainly because (1) it was a shogun castle so there were several displays of armor and descriptions of how warriors prepared for battle along the tour and (2) we were fascinated by the nightingale floors. 

Built in 1603, the palace was created to demonstrate shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu's prestige and to demonstrate the demise of the emperor's power. He built in concealed chambers where bodyguards could keep watch and spring out at any moment's notice. Ieyasu also had the interior fitted with nightingale floors to detect any intruders, as the floors would 'squeak' or 'sing' like a nightingale.

You better believe JD and I were trying out our best ninja moves in that palace. But the floors just kept squeaking.

Nijo-Jo // Jitney's Journeys

Some of you may recognize this photo (imagine it in black and white) as our Christmas card picture from this year. 

Kyoto, Japan // Jitney's Journeys

We ran into another group of kids that wanted to practice their English with us. 

Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys
Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys
Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys
Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys

Throughout all of our Kyoto sightseeing adventures, we followed the walking tours described in the Lonely Planet Kyoto travel guide (with a few detours, of course). 

Kyoto, Japan : Northwest Kyoto // the Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion (or Kinkaku-ji) was extraordinary. Don’t be deceived by the photos… This site was PACKED! The pavilion is surrounded by a serene body of water so it’s fairly easy to get a fantastic photo. Plus, if you stand at the fence and put up your blinders, it’s almost as if you have the place to yourself. Almost. 

Golden Pavilion, Japan
Golden Pavilion, Japan
Maple Trees of Kyoto, Japan

Even the maples were breathtaking here. You're basically walking under a canopy of autumn, if there were such a thing. 

Kids of Japan

Remember reading about the students who would stop and ask us questions for their English class then give us a gift thanking us for our time? Most of the groups asked us at this site. I still can't get over their yellow hats. So stinkin' cute.

Don't forget to Like and vote for my designs on the Minted challenge here.

Kyoto, Japan : Arashiyama

If you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 6: 

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)


Kyoto, Japan

The bus was packed from S. Higashiyama to Arashiyama. We were lucky enough to get window seats. A small group of high school girls stood beside us and overheard JD and I talking in English. “Oh! You speak English?” Thus began the delightful thirty-minute conversation we shared where we discussed Japan, America and our interests. They snapped a quick group selfie with us before their stop then waved goodbye to us through the window. It's amazing how interested and willing they were to speak with us in English. They recognized it as an opportunity to practice a new language with new people rather than fear it. The Japanese are incomparable in their hospitality.

The ride into Arashiyama is exhilarating. I wasn’t able to take photos but it’s an image we will (hopefully) never forget. A river flowed along the road with autumn trees lining the Japanese mountains. I could sit there for hours taking in the beauty. 

We planned on starting at the Bamboo Forest but we accidentally passed by the entrance. When we finally stopped to get directions, we turned back around and started the day off with a coffee break instead. The Bamboo Forest entrance is a little hidden but we finally found it near the north gate of Tenryu-ji. 

Bamboo Forest

We’re also pretty certain we missed most of the forest. Don’t get me wrong, we saw a LOT of bamboo (and it was awesome) but the path we took lasted less than .5 mile. It was a rough morning for the Todd Navigation Duo. We quickly found our way out of the forest and headed toward Jojakko-ji, a temple perched on top of a mossy knoll. The photo below isn't great quality but I LOVED how the moss covered the gate's roof. Nature's inspiration at its best. 

Kyoto, Japan
+IMG_9519.jpg

We stopped for a fancy bowl of noodles at Komichi and were not disappointed. This is one place we would definitely eat at again.

Komichi

We continued walking, searching for a bus station and ended up here:

Kyoto, Japan

In other words, we had nowhere else to go. We hiked up to another road and waved down a taxi that drove us to Kinkaku-ji (aka: the Golden Pavilion - we'll post about this next).

Between the hills and long distances, there was a lot of walking this day. So much that I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get out of bed the next morning. Even my Crossfit, buff-of-a-husband was a little sore. Our navigation skills failed at the end of the route when we couldn’t find the correct bus or hail a taxi. If you take this route, I wish we could give you better advice but we ended up walking another solid mile before finding transportation back home. By the time we finally got back to the house, we were filled with nothing but laughter. 

After a full day of poor navigation but breathtaking sites, there’s no other reaction you can have. 

twenty7

I apologize for the lateness in the week, but f you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 5:

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25 (NIV) 


I was hoping to have an amazing post ready for today that would blow your mind and motivate you to no end. But that didn't happen. [today is my 27th birthday - whoop whoop!]

The past week or so, I've been working super hard trying to get art pieces and some of our travel photography ready for the Three Cheers! Minted x West Elm's 3rd Art Challenge. It's the first challenge I've entered (thanks for the encouragement, Ashley O.) and entering a Minted challenge was one of my top goals for the year. Since I've gotten to the point where I set my goals for the year on my birthday rather than New Year's (procrastination has gotten the best of me), I'd say I'm knocking them out pretty well so far. ;) 

You can help! Click on the 'Minted | Vote for Me' button to the right or here and vote on some of my entries. Be careful though, Minted can warp you in and before you know it, you've voted on 99 pieces and saved at least 110 to your wishlist. All in good fun, right? 

JD and I will be picking up my new annual Moleskine tonight so be on the lookout for the real twenty7 post coming soon! (The Moleskine helps me to collect my thoughts.)

And, because I know you've missed reading about Japan this week, I can't leave you hanging... Here's one of our favorite souvenirs from the trip: A manga artist from the Kyoto International Manga Museum drew / painted / manga-nized this canvas for us. It's currently hanging on our travel wall and we just can't get enough of it. 

Kyoto, Japan : Southern Higashiyama Part 2 // Scripture Memory: Week 4

If you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 4: 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)


The lovely foliage and views in Southern Higashiyama in Kyoto, Japan.

The lovely foliage and views in Southern Higashiyama in Kyoto, Japan.

Welcome to the second part of S. Higashiyama. I'm not gonna lie, we actually have no idea what this temple is called. It's been around for hundreds of years, so surely someone can tell us what it is, right? 

How we ended up here: Remember how I said 'we followed the walking tours described in the Lonely Planet Kyoto travel guide (with a few detours, of course)'? Well, this was one of those detours. JD found a path at the top of the cemetery behind Chion-In that led to the woods (it sounds a lot creepier than it really was). So we follow this path with no clue of where it's leading us. Halfway up, I try to coerce JD to turn around but lo-and-behold, someone is walking down the mountain and persuades us to keep going up because there are some amazing views (beginning to sound like the blowhole detour in Hawaii, right?). We keep trekking up and see this amazing temple... with a chainlink fence surrounding it. It took us a solid thirty minutes before we could find the entrance. But we did. And it was well worth it. 

This is also where a lady told me I was pronouncing "Arigatou" and "Kyoto" incorrectly. [The link will pull up the video we made at this location. Please disregard the knappy hair and the horrific pronunciations (it was only the first day! I promise it got better with time.)]

#jitneysjourneys

#jitneysjourneys

Higashiyama  New construction at the front of the temple.

Higashiyama New construction at the front of the temple.

Higashiyama   The massive platform where you can look out onto the city of Kyoto.

Higashiyama The massive platform where you can look out onto the city of Kyoto.

What did you eat? This was typically one of the first questions people asked us when we returned. Answer: Noodles. Lots and lots of noodles. 

Kasagi-Ya  It took us a few laps up and down the street before we found this dessert place suggested by the Lonely Planet guide. Also, well worth it. We drank our fair share of hot tea and enjoyed a couple of interesting desserts . Please take notice of JD's giant hands holding the tiny, delicate tea pot. Once again,  we were giants . 

Kasagi-Ya It took us a few laps up and down the street before we found this dessert place suggested by the Lonely Planet guide. Also, well worth it. We drank our fair share of hot tea and enjoyed a couple of interesting desserts . Please take notice of JD's giant hands holding the tiny, delicate tea pot. Once again, we were giants

Omen Kodai-Ji  These were some of the best udon noodles we had on the entire trip; and trust me, we had  a lot  of udon noodles. They have a list of suggestions when making your noodles. If you go to Kyoto, you must eat here. 

Omen Kodai-Ji These were some of the best udon noodles we had on the entire trip; and trust me, we had a lot of udon noodles. They have a list of suggestions when making your noodles. If you go to Kyoto, you must eat here. 

Omen Kodai-Ji   The udon noodle setup, complete with vegetables, sesame seeds and kinpira. And, of course, warm washcloths to wash your hands. The Japanese are super clean. We loved it.

Omen Kodai-Ji The udon noodle setup, complete with vegetables, sesame seeds and kinpira. And, of course, warm washcloths to wash your hands. The Japanese are super clean. We loved it.

Issen Yoshoku  This happened. If you've talked to us about our trip in person, you've heard the story of the mannequin. Well, here she is! The story: We walk into this restaurant and notice a mannequin sitting at  every table . The waitress then takes us to an empty 10-person picnic style table (except for the mannequin) and motions for JD and me to sit on the  same side  as each other and to scoot in close to the mannequin. This was potentially one of the most awkward, yet enjoyable, meals we've ever had. We could not stop laughing. JD was a huge fan of their okonomiyaki, which is a mix between a thin pancake and a crepe filled with meat, seafood and veggies. Don't you want to dine with a mannequin now?

Issen Yoshoku This happened. If you've talked to us about our trip in person, you've heard the story of the mannequin. Well, here she is! The story: We walk into this restaurant and notice a mannequin sitting at every table. The waitress then takes us to an empty 10-person picnic style table (except for the mannequin) and motions for JD and me to sit on the same side as each other and to scoot in close to the mannequin. This was potentially one of the most awkward, yet enjoyable, meals we've ever had. We could not stop laughing. JD was a huge fan of their okonomiyaki, which is a mix between a thin pancake and a crepe filled with meat, seafood and veggies. Don't you want to dine with a mannequin now?

Kyoto, Japan : Southern Higashiyama Part 1 // Scripture Memory: Week 3

If you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 3: 

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:10-11 (NIV)


Southern Higashiyama was one of our favorite parts of Kyoto, coming in at a close second to Arashiyama. Throughout all of our Kyoto sightseeing adventures, we followed the walking tours described in the Lonely Planet Kyoto travel guide (with a few detours, of course). 

One of the many charming walkways through Kyoto.

One of the many charming walkways through Kyoto.

This was the first geisha we saw walking around town. Please check out her specialty socks that separate the big toe from the other toes and are made just for those shoes. Fun fact about Gion (another district of Kyoto beside S. Higashiyama): You can pay to become a  maiko  (apprentice geisha) which includes full make-up and a formal kimono.

This was the first geisha we saw walking around town. Please check out her specialty socks that separate the big toe from the other toes and are made just for those shoes. Fun fact about Gion (another district of Kyoto beside S. Higashiyama): You can pay to become a maiko (apprentice geisha) which includes full make-up and a formal kimono.

Kiyomizu-dera  entrance

Kiyomizu-dera entrance

Kiyomizu-dera  This Buddhist temple overlooks a Kyoto hillside, supported by 139 15m-high wooden pillars. 

Kiyomizu-dera This Buddhist temple overlooks a Kyoto hillside, supported by 139 15m-high wooden pillars. 

Otowa-no-taki Spring  People waited in line for a solid 30 minutes just to get a sip of this sacred water, believed to bestow health and long life. We weren't that patient. 

Otowa-no-taki Spring People waited in line for a solid 30 minutes just to get a sip of this sacred water, believed to bestow health and long life. We weren't that patient. 

Jishu-jinja  One of the two 'Love Stones'. Visitors attempt to ensure success in love by closing their eyes and walking between the two love stones, a mere 18 meter journey. Several groups of school children were running around so we did our best to touch a stone without losing each other in the mass of  yellow hats . 

Jishu-jinja One of the two 'Love Stones'. Visitors attempt to ensure success in love by closing their eyes and walking between the two love stones, a mere 18 meter journey. Several groups of school children were running around so we did our best to touch a stone without losing each other in the mass of yellow hats

Chion-In (aka The Big Bell)  Making its grand appearance in 1633, this is the largest bell in Japan. We didn't get a chance to see the monks ringing it but it was still fun to see! 

Chion-In (aka The Big Bell) Making its grand appearance in 1633, this is the largest bell in Japan. We didn't get a chance to see the monks ringing it but it was still fun to see! 

              Do these remind anyone else of Mushu from Mulan?

              Do these remind anyone else of Mushu from Mulan?

Kodai-Ji  This temple was founded in 1605.  The extensive grounds include gardens designed by the famed landscape architect Kobori Enshu, and tea houses designed by the renowned master of tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyu (Lonely Planet). 

Kodai-Ji This temple was founded in 1605. The extensive grounds include gardens designed by the famed landscape architect Kobori Enshu, and tea houses designed by the renowned master of tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyu (Lonely Planet). 

Kodai-Ji

Kodai-Ji

Kodai-Ji

Kodai-Ji

Kodai - Ji  This may have been the most magical-looking place in Japan that we visited. JD and I stood here for quite a while, soaking in the beauty of this place. 

Kodai - Ji This may have been the most magical-looking place in Japan that we visited. JD and I stood here for quite a while, soaking in the beauty of this place. 

Ok, so the lady who took the photo above (of us in front of the tiny temple) asked if she could take one of us in front of this stunning maple. We couldn't refuse. Not even this photo captures the sheer vibrancy of the maple season in Kyoto. The foliage was stunning. 

Ok, so the lady who took the photo above (of us in front of the tiny temple) asked if she could take one of us in front of this stunning maple. We couldn't refuse. Not even this photo captures the sheer vibrancy of the maple season in Kyoto. The foliage was stunning. 

Kyoto, Japan : We Were Giants // Scripture Memory: Week 2

If you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 2: 

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)


We spent our first week in Japan journeying through the temples and alleyways of the beautiful Kyoto. The maples were stunning and the weather was fantastic. Aside from cherry blossom season, autumn (early Nov) is the prime time to visit Japan because of the fall foliage and dry / mild weather. This also means that this is one of the busiest tourist seasons of the year... which also means we had a difficult time finding lodging (as we can only book our hotel room a couple of weeks in advance). Even though the entire town of Kyoto was 99% booked by the time we were able to make reservations, JD ended up finding a lovely Japanese townhouse on VRBO.com located in southern Higashiyama. 

Kyoto Tip: If you're looking for somewhere to stay in Kyoto, we definitely recommend the S. Higashiyama area, moreso than downtown Kyoto. We walked to most tourist places (while sneaking through charming alleyways) or rode the subway to the other areas of town. It is quiet and centrally-located.

The townhouse was an adventure in itself. Think Kung-fu Panda mixed with a little Mulan. Let me tell you, Japan is not built for tall people (see photo of JD the Giant, he's not even on his tippy-toes). The doorways were no taller than 6' in our living accommodations and most temples. The stairs were super steep and narrow (treacherous to walk down when you're wearing your house slippers). And JD may or may not have almost punched through the paper door when he was sleeping one night too. The whole trip: We both felt super large and clumsy. We were giants.

This townhouse had two tatami bedrooms (where you sleep on a thin mattress on the floor) and one bedroom with two twin western beds. And by western bed, I mean a frame with a boxspring. We grabbed four tatami mats, placed them over the boxsprings and actually slept quite comfortably! The shower and tub were a little odd. We may have also broken off the holder for the shower handle (Clumsy Giants, I tell ya!). Apparently, you're supposed to stand on the bathroom floor, shut the door and shower in the room as if the whole room was a shower. But we didn't know that sooo we took showers while standing in the 3' deep tub. The toilet seat was heated (major bonus!) but be careful not to sit too long because your bum will get roasted (according to the warning labels on the lid). They also had a fantastic kitchen but we hardly used it since we wanted to try the local cuisine (and had trouble finding a grocery store). We cleaned laundry using the washer-and-dryer-in-one machine, which we thought was genius until we finished our first load. We searched convenient stores for lint brushes then spent the next few hours brushing the lint off our clothes. In all seriousness though, the place, overall, was really cool (you can look through the slideshow below).