The house is a little too quiet, the floors a little too clean. I find my morning routine has little gaps in it now without you here. There are a million little things that after 19 years just became part of my day. They are all gone, little grey kitty shaped holes in my life. No one to scratch insanely at my bedroom door when I sleep late making you wait for breakfast. No one pawing at my desk chair begging me to ignore work to pet you. No one laying under my desk just to be close. No one following me around the house meowing to remind me of your existence, like I could ever forget. No one thundering down the stairs making far to much noise for a little 10 pound being. No one climbing up my chest because my lap simply was not close enough. No one singing a loud kitty song in the dark of night as you prowled around “hunting” your favorite chipmunk stuffy. I could make a list that would be a mile long of all the little quirks and traits that made you so uniquely you, my little furry buddy but, my heart simply can’t take it right now. For 18 years you were a constant in my day, in my life. College, dating, marriage, divorce, cancer, countless homes, moving across the country multiple times and even moving over seas, you where there. A fat grey furry profusely shedding bundle of unconditional love, letting me cry into your fur when I was sad and comforting me when I was anxious. That’s gone now and my heart is going to need time to not feel broken.
I knew it was time, you were tired and your little body just worn out from almost two decades of life. I didn’t sleep the last night you were here. I stayed awake petting you as you were curled up into my side, your head on my shoulder, not wanting to miss what I knew in my heart was your last night with me. The next day when the doctor asked if I wanted to be there when you left I said yes, because even if it was going to hurt to watch, I couldn’t let you be with strangers in your last moments here. I needed to make sure the last thing you heard was, “You’re such a good boy. You are such a good boy.”
Way back in November I talked the Sailor into driving us on our first mini road trip to Enoshima. A quick 15 miles away or if you’re from the midwest, about a 40 minute drive in decent traffic, that included a few highways and tolls. For those of you not in the know, the Japanese drive on the left side of the road so, driving out in town can feel a bit awkward for us since we’ve been driving on the left side of the road for 24 years up until recently. This also makes the fact that the Sailor was down for the adventure that much more interesting. With the help of google maps, I navigated us out of the city and onto the highways. By the time we got to Enoshima, the Sailor’s initial traffic anxiety has calmed and we were able to find the Enoshima Aquarium parking garage without issue.
Saisho stop, Enoshima Aquarium. The aquarium sits right on the beach and has pretty hefty variety of indigenous fish from Sagami Bay and the Pacific but, what they are known for is their awesome collection of jelly fish which is what I was most interested in checking out.
The aquarium is split into 12 zones that include: 1. Sagami Bay Zone, 2. Deep Sea part 1, 3. Jelly Fish Fantasy Hall, 4. Pacific Ocean, 5. Research by his Majesty Akihito, 6. Jelly Fish Magic, 7. Penguins and Seals, 8. Deep Sea Part II, 9. Sea Turtle Beach, 10. Beach Experience Hall, 11. Dolphin Show Stadium and 12. Touch Pools. Catching a look at everything without waiting to see one of the shows took just under 2 hours. If we had kids that wanted to spend time at the touch pools or waited to see one of the shows it would have taken probably double that.
Once we had of fill of the aquatic wonders, we took a stroll over the Enoshima Bentenbashi Bridge to the actual Island of Enoshima to try and find the tides pools and perhaps the Iwaya Caves. Once on the Island we continued straight ahead towards the Hetsunomiya main shrine. We didn’t climb the steps to cross the tori gate and enter. Instead, we continued on with good ol’ google maps directions and veered off. A short walk up hill later, we ended up wandering through Okutsunomiya Shrine grounds, the oldest shrine of Enoshima. We happened upon the Wadatsumi-the dragon shrine and had to take a few minutes to snap photos of the large dragon sculpture on top.
A few more steps further and there was a steep downward stairway right in front of a restaurant that took us down through thick greenery that gave way to views of the sea. I later found out that this view point is called Chigogafuchi Abyss viewpoint. The name Chigogafuchi (which means “abyss of the servant child in a temple”, cheery, right?) comes from a tragic story that two servant children of a temple in Kamakura had committed suicide here during Edo era. A really beautiful view with a tragic history.
We continued to take another set of stairs down to the shore below the cliff or explore all the tide pools and watch the wave start to come in. Sadly Iwaya cave 2 had been closed recently to the public when we were there and I didn’t understand that there were actually 2 cave and that cave 1 may or may not have been open so we spent all of our time just wandering from one tide pool to the next checking out most of the rocky shore until it unexpectedly started raining on us. We took that as our queue to head back to the car and home.
I would love to go back and explore the island a bit more. The initial street up to the main shrine was lined with all kinds of small trinket and sweets shops. Small restaurants with amazing views of the sea and shore peppered the peak before we headed down the stairs to the shore. I’d love to find one to sit in and enjoy a hot bowl of ramen and watch the tide roll in or out. I’ve learned about a few other interesting sights (other than the cave we missed out on) like Nishiura Cove to see Mt. Fuji and the sunset, Sea Candle and Samuel Cocking Garden, walk the Oiwaya-michi pilgrimage way or even just spend more time exploring all the shops on Nakamise Street. I’ll just add it to the already very long list.
I’ve been slacking on keeping this blog updated. I’ve been trying to slowly learn a little Japanese and have been going through a phase of reading voraciously but, those are just excuses. I’m lazy and find I have to be at least a little inspired to write.
Anyway, way back in September, The Sailor and I took a little day trip to Tokyo to visit the Skytree. The Tokyo Skytree is the worlds tallest broadcasting and observation tower in the world. It was completed in 2011 at 634 meters (or 2,080 ft. for us non-metric dorks). If you’re interested in learning about the design, earthquake protections, naming and all that jazz, you can read about it here and if you want to learn more about what is in and around it you can do so here.
After perusing the highest tower in the world, we decided to see what else was in the area. After a quick search we decided to walk over to Sensoji or Asakusa Kannon Temple; a colorful, popular Buddhist temple that happens to be the oldest in Tokyo.
Kannon is the Goddess of Mercy and legend has it that 2 brothers pulled a statue of her out of the Sumida River in 628 which they then put back. But, the statue continued to return to them. The temple was built nearby where the story claims to take place. The original construction was completed in 645 (yes, the year 645) but sadly was destroyed during WWII. The current temple was built in its place shortly after the end of the war as a symbol of rebuilding and peace. It is a beautiful slice of the past nestled in the big city. If you’d like to read more specific details on it you can do so here and here.
After we had explored Senso-ji for a bit we decided to take a long walk to the Kappa-Dera or Sougenji Temple just a 20 minute walk away in the Tokyo neighborhood of Kappabashi which literally means Kappa Bridge. It was supposedly so plagued by the the pests that the area residences built a small kappa-temple to appease them. The altar is kept stocked with cucumbers, said to be the kappa’s favorite food, and i has a chamber that supposedly contains antique scroll-drawings of the goblins and even a real mummified kappa-arm.
Sadly, the tiny temple was closed and gated off so we couldn’t even get close. To say i was disappointed at missing out on this weird little treasure in Tokyo was an understatement. I guess we could have looked closer at the very limited hours of operation before walking over. If you’re interested in in reading more about the strangle little place you can do so here and here.
This is just one of several little day excursions to Tokyo we have taken. Stay tuned for more posts if I don’t slip into utter uninspired laziness again.
Come every March, Japan begins to thrum with the excitement of Sakura Season. It’s a beautiful time of year that has mild temperatures but most importantly brings the blooming of the Sakura or Cherry blossoms. Tree canopies of flowers ranging in hue from white and palest blush to vibrant fuchsia or even yellow.
Actually, the season usually starts in late February down south in Okinawa and slowly makes it way north to Hokkaido around May so depending on where you live or are planning to visit you can get an eye full from February to May. For us here in Yokosuka, we started seeing the blooms in late March.
Shortly after the first blooms, lanterns and lights begin to appear strung among the trees preparing for dusk and evening hanami. Hanami simply put, is blossom viewing. People pack up picnic style and head out to local parks everywhere and sit and enjoy the simple fleeting beauty of the blossoms with friends and family. Hanami is an anytime, all day kind of thing and consists of walking around or just sitting and relaxing. I’m a fan of hanami.
The tradition of hanami has been around for centuries and hanami parties date back to the 700s. Yes, seven, zero, zero. No “1” in front. For y’all over in the states, white folk wouldn’t be coming from Europe to the shores of the US for over double that time. Take a moment to let that concept sink in. Anyway, way back in the day sometime between 710 and 790, hanami included parties under plum blossoms and wisteria as well as sakura. Today some of the older generations still gather under plum blossoms rather than cherry as they tend to be a little less crowded and partyesque than the younger occasionally more boisterous crowds that the sakura draw.
Historically the sakura has had great significance to the Japanese culture. Their appearance signified the start of the rice planing season and some used them to foretell the years harvests. It’s short but wondrously beautiful life span was treated as a metaphor for life and was the central theme for countless poems throughout the eras. While the tradition of hanami gatherings started in the imperial court originally, it didn’t take long to funnel down through the various classes to the merchants and farmers. Today everyone can and does partake in some form of hanami.
With the Sakura season also comes copious offerings of specialty Sakura themed treats, drinks and memorabilia. If you ever wanted a cherry blossom tee shirt or parasol, now is your time for the most choices. If y you’d like to partake in a variety of sakura flavored candies and baked goods, there is no better time. Many stop in the local Starbucks and order up a seasonal Sakura flavored drink. I must warn you though, it’s an acquired taste; obviously floral, much like lavender or rose but, also reminiscent of… soap. Partake so you can say you did but, know you have a 50/50 shot of loving it or forcing your self to finish so it’s not money wasted.
About three weeks ago, the Sailor and I headed out to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo to have our own little hanami. We had originally planned to journey to Arakurayama Sengen Park for some epic pictures that would have included Mt. Fuji and the Chureito Pagoda. If you have ever seen a post card or poster with a 5 story red pagoda and a large snow capped mountain in the back surrounded by cherry trees in full pink bloom, than you’ve seen what I’m talking about. Alas, Arakurayama Sengen Park is a 3 hour train ride one way and when the morning dawned neither none of us were up for that kind of journey. I had a either an epic case of allergies or a wicked cold (I’m guessing a little of both) and the Sailor was prepping for surgery on his schnoz in less than 48 hours. So we opted for the quicker hour long train and subway jaunt to Tokyo.
The park was literally a 5 minute walk from the subway station. We were met with a long queue of people waiting to pay their 500¥ each for entrance to the Park. As usual, the line was organized and directed with flawless precision that the Japanese are known for and moved along at a nice constant and orderly fashion leaving the wait to be a tolerable 15 minutes or so. It was worth it. We were greeted by sprawling lawns surrounded by paved paths that meander around the grounds; under trees, around, ponds and passed pagodas. It was crowded and still lovely. Amidst the urban sprawl of Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen is a bit of green and pink beauty and a nice respite from the concrete and brick city. Hundreds of people lazily walked along the paths, groups of people of all ages and backgrounds lounged on blankets on the lawn; chatting, playing games, reading, napping and in one very specific case, dressed in victorianesque clothing while posing dolls in similar attire and taking pictures of them. No joke. We saw couples of every age holding hands or leaning into each other while sitting on benches quietly taking in the view. We even witnessed a proposal under the blooms with everyone that walked by stopping to offer sincere congratulations in more than one language. Even feeling high on cold medication yet still somehow mildly congested and achey, I couldn’t help but completely enjoy every moment with a silly smile constantly plastered on my face. I’d say we had a successful first Hanami in Japan.
I have always love animals. All of them. Lizards? Cool mini dinosaurs. Snakes? Awesome danger noodles. Deer? Scared skinny puppies with antlers. Horses, giant doofy dogs. I was the kid that would sit for hours in the neighbors back field quietly watching fawns with their mother in the hopes of them ignoring me and coming closer. It worked. I was thrilled.
My earliest childhood was spent in the small suburbs of Cleveland. The only animals I saw on the regular were our two smelly but lovable Labs (OK one was an asshole who bit the neighbor’s kid but, the dog had effed up ears and a thyroid problem and we told the girl to not touch her because she was sensitive but, she did anyway so really, she kinda asked for it) and the occasional the neighbor’s cat and her seemingly endless litters of kittens. Our house was 900 square feet at best and our back yard was roughly the length of a 76′ Blazer and a 74′ Chevy Pickup Truck parked nose to tale and width of a 84′ aluminum swing set. I knew it wasn’t adequate for anything but the two lumbering dogs we currently had but, I asked for a pony for my birthday and Christmas every year anyway. I vaguely remember for what I think might have been a gift for my 5th or 6th birthday driving for what seemed like forever to a dusty horse farm to get to sit on a pony while a girl led me around for like 30 minutes. It was 30 minutes of pure unadulterated joy for me. On the ride home, my snarky ass sister grumbled that she was so glad she rode 2 hours to watch me sit on a pony and get led around in the heat for a half hour just like at the fair. I didn’t care. I was hooked. That 30 minutes of slow plodding around in a circle didn’t quench my thirst for riding it fed the fire.
When I was nine, my parents bought their first any only home in what my sister hatefully referred to as, “middle of nowhere”. I had to agree. It was a small ranch that was built in the late 60’s and still had all the original wallpaper and appliances but, it sat on 5 acres most of which were wooded or swampy and when the wind was right it smelled like cow shit from the dairy farm less than a mile away behind our property. We were culture shocked to say the least. There were no side walks and instead of places being blocks away they were miles, plural. My shock didn’t last long though. We had been there maybe a month when I realized, “Hey, there are HORSE farms all over this place,” and started with incessant pleading to take me to at least to try and ride. It took almost a year before they caved and asked around where they could take me for lessons. Big mistake, HUGE.
I was ten when I walked into that small ten stall barn and smelled the mix of conditioned leather, molasses, manure and horse sweat to have my first lesson. They fitted me with a helmet covered in black velvet and handed me the reins of a a small Morgan cross pony name Lady and had me walk her to the ring. My mother stood just outside the rail watching and knew from the stupid grin that stretched across my face that it was over. I was hooked and there was no going back. That first lesson I remember completely. There were 3 other kids most younger than me and apparently had plenty more experience but, I was a sponge that only had to be told once how or what to do. The woman that would become my trainer told my mom after the hour was up that I was a natural. That I had kept up with the other students that had been riding for months at that point. She told my mother the minimal gear I would need to comfortably ride and they made arrangements for me to come once a week every week for an hour group lesson with another group of kids closer to my age and a little more advanced in their skills to push me a little harder than the group I rode with that day. I could have died from happiness.
We went the next day to get me appropriate boots. I saw the look on my mother’s face when she looked around the small tack shop my trainer had recommended and the pricing of all the equipment. Even then, I knew we weren’t rich. I knew that riding boots, even the cheap rubber ones that cost $100 were a lot for my parents. But I was 10 years old and selfish like most children are at that age and WANTED this, bad. And I got it.
Weeks passed and I went from walking and trotting to cantering and jumping small cross poles in record time. In less than a year I was jumping small oxers, competing in beginners walk trot shows winning ribbons, doing hunter paces, and my trainer even took me on a few fox hunts. My parents paid for it how ever they could. Even they recognized that not only did it fill me with joy but, I was diligent. I worked hard at it and I was good because of it.
Once a week wasn’t enough though. I wanted more. I begged my parents to buy me a horse or pay for more lessons a week. As much as they would have loved too, we just really could not afford it so, my mother approached my trainer who was also the owner of the barn, and asked how I could EARN extra riding time. My trainer seeing my love and want to do whatever it took to get on a horse as often as possible seized that opportunity and said I could work around the barn for extra time. So my entire weekends were spent dropped off at dawn where I worked all morning and afternoon cleaning tack, scrubbing water buckets, throwing hay, sweeping floors, grooming school ponies and tacking them up for beginners lessons, teaching beginners how to groom and tack before their lessons started, mucking stalls, feeding, turning out, I even spent days working at a summer camp where she owned ponies… you name it eventually I worked my way up to doing it. And sometime before dinner, my trainer Sandy, would tell me what school horse or if I was lucky one of her personal horses could use a ride and tell me to have at it. For one bliss filled hour I got to lope around a ring on that horse. By the time I was in middle school, I was a fixture there at that place.
Sandy was an eccentric lady. She was harsh. She never sugar coated anything, ever. She didn’t hand out praise often and when she did, it was well earned. She made me a rider. She often bought horses in with the sole purpose of getting them in a little better shape to sell them. Some of them she bought just because how they looked; like they had potential. I was usually the guinea pig she plopped on them to see what they were like. Some were beautiful fluid beasts that weren’t at the barn long. Others bucked me around the ring until I was told “Just jump off!!” and dove into the sand to tuck and roll away. Each one made me a better rider capable of adjusting to different sizes, temperaments, and paces.
There was one horse, a mare named Stacy, that I remember riding so clearly. She had just come into the barn a week or so before and no one had ridden her yet. She was given time to adjust and relax in her new surroundings. She was a lithe dark bay mare thoroughbred that was meant to be a race house but just didn’t have the mentality for it. She was sweet and calm with big doe eyes and long delicate legs. It was summer time and I spent at least 5 days a week at the barn all day long. That afternoon after I had done all my daily tasks, Sandy told me to groom and tack her up to ride her and she was going to see what she could do. Sandy ended up giving me a free hour long lesson as she put this new mare though her paces. At one point she asked me to lengthen her stride trotting and moments later shouted out “Beautiful!” I beamed. Coming from that lady she might as well told me I was perfection on a horse. When my mom picked me up later that night, Sandy told her about me riding Stacy and how she was not an easy ride but, how I had made he look easy. She told my mom if I kept riding like that, I could be a serious contender in the Hunter Show ring. I could have skipped home across clouds. I rode Stacy every lesson after that for a month. Then one morning I was told someone was coming that afternoon to look at her. I groomed her to shine and cleaned my tack to match. I rode her for the woman that showed up later and must have impressed her because she bought the mare that same day. I wish I could say I wasn’t sad, but I was. It was a lesson though I had already learned ten times over though with previous ponies and horses. There would be others. I often asked my parents to buy this one or that one for me when I knew they weren’t expensive but, the answer was always no and I was OK with that. I still got to ride and really, that was all that mattered to me.
There was one time that I came almost close to getting my own horse. I was 12 and a girl I took lessons with’s parent’s were looking for a horse to buy her. Sandy brought in the flashy chestnut paint with 2 blue eyes. His show name was some french word that I can’t remember but, his barn name was Champ. I fucking LOVED this horse even though I didn’t get to ride him but once.
We were at a small unrated show at the local large farm. I was showing grudgingly in walk trot cross poles on a school pony that was for sale even though in my lessons I was jumping courses up to 3′ but, shows were exponentially more expensive above walk trot classes so there I remained. Plus, I was essentially helping to sell the pony I was one but, I didn’t care. What really mattered to me was that I was just there, riding. I didn’t need to compete and win ribbons to validate myself. I was there for the love of it. The girl, Katie, that had been looking at buying Champ, was a sweet freckle faced red head that was 2 or 3 years younger than me that I genuinely liked. We took lessons together and were friendly in big sister, little sister kind of way. This was a show she was bringing Champ to to test out how he was in that setting. Her parents buying him was all but a done deal… Until she got on him in that big arena with all the people and loud noises and lights. His nostrils flared, his eyes went wide and with a snort, they were off. Katie panicked and fell right off over his hind end. I was on my easy peasy schooling pony already and galloped off to catch the runaway riderless horse that I loved.
As I trotted back over with Champ in tow, I heard Sandy tell the now sobbing Katie she had to get back on. Katie refused. She, and her parents were done with Champ, I could tell. I was crestfallen. Gone were my hopes of riding him for Sandy in between Katie’s lessons to keep him fit and ready for her. Gone was my secret hope that I’d be the one they’d ask to ride him while they went on their many vacations.
Then oddly, Sandy sighed, knowing what I also knew and also not wanted to appear harsh in public (she would have forced the girl on the horse in private, she was ruthless in the ring at home) and said, “Christan, swap saddles. Katie is riding Suzy-Q. She needs to get back on and she doesn’t want to ride Champ so, you are. Gleefully, right there in the practice ring, I swapped our saddles and got Katie up comfortably on my steady, boring school pony. I held onto Champ while Sandy had Katie trot around a few times to calm her nerves, quiet her crying and get her confidence back. She had ridden Suzy countless times before and knew the pony well. Her relief at the familiarity was visible.
Meanwhile, Sandy turned her attention to me while Katie stood to the side on snoozing Suzy with her parents and mine. I hopped on Champ and the minute I was in the saddle, this horse had my heart. Nostrils flared, eyes wide, we were off before I had my foot in the second stirrup. I smiled like a manic because I loved a horse that loved to run. If they were a lazy mule that I had to constantly urge on, I was bored. I like the wind in my face. It was like flying. It took me less than half the ring to take him in hand and get him to a nice even canter, snorting with each stride. Sandy had me doing ground work; circles with lead changes, serpentines and transitions. Then she had me try a few small jumps. Then she raised them. Then she had me do a short course. Then she raised them again. And again. It was easy for me. I did this practically every day on a different horse everyday. This time there were just a bunch of people around and the ring was bigger. I didn’t know it at the time but, all the people in the practice ring had stopped to watch the scrawny blond child with big glasses ride the shit out of that flashy spooked horse. I was just doing what I loved.
My mother actually saw a patient from the doctor she worked for at that show. Her name was Helen and she was a small fun lady with short spiky hair whose stocky horse’s name ironically was Suzy. She was chatting with my mom when all this went down. Later my mother told her that she said she couldn’t believe how I rode that horse. My mom laughed and said, “Yeah, she’s never been on him before now. She likes the crazy ones.” My mom had no idea how impressed that lady was.
I rode Champ that day in walk/trot/cross poles, because that’s what Katie and I had both signed up for. He was already lathered for our extensive warm up when I walked him into the ring still snorting and twitchy. Keeping him at a trot after cantering balls to the wall around a course that I later found out was 3′-6″ tall mostly was… a challenge but, I did it. I was given a 4th place ribbon. When the woman that was announcing and presenting the ribbons handed me mine she quietly said, “You, my dear, need to ride that guy in a course with much bigger jumps next time and you’ll take the blue for sure”.
I knew better than to ask my parents to buy me Champ. We couldn’t afford that kind of cost upfront let alone the month cost of keeping him even if I worked to help pay for it. Several people approached my trainer that day asking about Champ. One was my father. Even he loved that crazy eyed spooky beast. Sandy gave him first chance to buy and offered him a smoking deal because she liked me, he still had to ultimately say no though. Someone else bought him. They never even rode him, their decision, I was told, mainly based on seeing me ride him that day. My heart broke a little more and I never saw him again. My mom told me later how my dad had contemplated trying to buy him for me. That meant enough.
I went to different trainers. Changed disciplines from the even beauty of Hunters to faced paced, break-neck turns of the Jumper circuit. I rode some crazy horses and eventually found a quarter horse named Beastly AKA Beast to lease my junior year of high school. He had grown fat and out of shape, almost sway backed, since his owner had gone to college. She loved that horse and I don’t think she really wanted to let someone else ride him but, she knew he needed the exercise and she needed someone to help off set his cost of living while she was at college. I loved that horse. I hope she knows I loved him like he was my own. He was unfaltering. You could throw a kick ball at his trotting legs and he didn’t even bat an eyelash as the rubber ball careened around him. He liked soda and would try and steal my bottle of Mountain Dew from my hand to drink them. He would eat anything. I was standing by his temp stall at a horse show once after competing eating a snack bar hotdog not paying attention and he stole it right out of my hand and ate it like some kind of weird cannibal horse. We started slow, taking our time working off his chubby belly and strengthening his back muscles back up to make sure he was fit for jumping and the strain of it. By the time he was back in fighting condition, he had learned my weaknesses and exploited them mercilessly. If he was done with me being in charge he’d wait until just the right moment and duck he shoulder and stop just short of a jump or turn sending me sailing over his head if I wasn’t paying close enough attention. My trainer Stef started calling me crash. Beast taught me to how fall without getting hurt. Sometimes when he sensed that I was just a little too comfortable, he’d take off at breakneck speed just to keep me on my toes. I rode him exclusively for almost 2 years before I left for college. His owner ultimately ended up selling him to at really sweet woman at our barn. She bought him for her husband to occasionally take on trail rides with her. I was told he was well loved buy his new owners. Trails were always where Beast really shined brightest. I think it was a perfect and happy ending to his career really.
After that, riding fell to the wayside for me. College took precedence. Then I dropped out. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or what I wanted to do. My last trainer who was only a few years older than me, had become my friend while she taught me and remained so. When she heard I was back home and some shiftless lay about trying to figure out life, she told me the trainer she was now a rider for needed a groom and I got the job. I spent almost a year physically toiling aways for that man. I didn’t particularly like him but, I loved my friend who was the pro-rider for him, I loved the 30 some horses I took care of and I even really liked the owners of the horses. But, I was grossly under paid and I got burnt out physically. I enrolled at a small remote branch of a local university and quit shortly after. That was my last real time spent around horses. Riding, while it was my passion and true love for years, is expensive. Hunting on horse back used to be known as the sport of Kings. I’d like to think it’s because every little thing you need to do it cost a small fortune. I have missed it everyday since the last time I sat on a horse. I remember all my experiences so fondly, even the bad ones. Sometimes especially the bad ones. Like when I my first trainer had trusted me, a 13 year old girl, to do some of the turn outs while she was gone for a few days in the summer with the understanding I would ride X, Y and Z horse only those days as payment for my help. During a summer rain storm when the barn adult barn had wasn’t there, I was trying to bring in a horse that I was NOT supposed to handle but, because a tree branch had knocked down a portion of fence of the pasture he was in I had to. The sweet boy was so good for me as I brought him across the parking lot until a tarp covering straw broke loose and flapped in his face and he literally yanked my arm out of the socket. He walked quietly to his stall while I sobbed holding his lead with one hand as my left hung oddly sagging at my side. The there was only one other girl there to ride her horse who was a year older than me. She started crying when I made her yank my arm back into place. It was a terrible idea and I almost passed out and may have heaved a little. I then threatened t kick her ass if she told anyone. I was afraid my mother would let me go to the barn alone anymore and my trainer wouldn’t trust me do do anything with her horses without her being around. I was young and stupid and my left should still occasionally clicks and pops funny to this day. I have no regrets. Not so fun fact, my first trainer when on to MURDER her husband. The last I had heard she was in prison for it. She plead self defense but, apparently lost the case and was convicted. I tried doing a search online for details and couldn’t find any so, I don’t know if it’s true or not. It had been over a decade and a half since I had been to her farm so I was far removed at that point.
About 3 years ago, I went with a friend to take her little daughter to her riding lesson in Virginia. As I walked in the barn and that familiar leather, cedar, sweat and manure smell hit me, it was like coming home. Tears streamed down my face as I laughed and apologized. I tried to explain but, it’s hard to put into words that feeling to someone that hasn’t had it. The young girls working there gave me knowing looks though as they directed the 5 year olds to which pony would be theirs that morning. I knew I had missed it but, until that moment I hadn’t realized how much. Maybe one day when I don’t have the debt I do from school and have a little extra cash, i’ll buy a failed track horse to just be a fun project that I lope around fields for fun with. Nothing could make me smile more than that idea.
I could write a novel on my experience riding. The joy it brought me. The sense of accomplishment and confidence it instilled in me. I was a gawky, scrawny, nerdy child with braces and glasses that could barely dribble a basket ball and couldn’t run a race successfully if my life depended on it but, if you put me on any horse, I could ride the hell out of it no matter what kind of wild eyed beast or flea bitten nag it might be. If you put me on a horse, I sat a little taller and felt more pride than I had ever felt before or since for that matter. For those brief moments in my life, astride an animal easily ten times my size, I was in charge and a force to be reckoned with.
Six or so years ago, the Sailor promised me that when he made Chief, he would take me to Hawaii to celebrate. Shortly after that he made Chief and moments later I was told I had the big C. Needless to say, any plans, regardless of promise, was forgotten while we dealt with that shit blip. Years passed, the Chief got saltier, my hair fell out, then grew back and we moved to Japan. I never let him forget that he still owed me a some authentic Mai Tai’s on any one of the Hawaiian Islands many beaches.
Lo and behold, shortly after arriving at Yokosuka, the Sailor informed me that in February, the command was sending him to Oahu to take a class for a few weeks and he asked me if I wanted to join him when his class was done, for a little vacation. I mean, did he even need to ask? Because yes, my answer is always YES to traveling anywhere especially a tropical paradise.
I had never been to Waikiki and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I could have done without the traffic and human congestion downtown but, Waikiki is a city so it wasn’t exactly a surprise. But the country side, oh the country side; Lush green jungle covered mountains and valleys with cerulean waters as a back drop to white sandy beaches. Needless to say, those off the beaten path areas were my jam.
My first day there Kyle had class right after he picked me up from the airport. I literally took a coma for the day to try and deal with the jet lag. I literally traveled back in time to experience that same morning again. The next day was Valentines Day but Kyle only had the morning off and had the night portion of class that evening. So we spent the day together and I spent that evening with a delivery pizza in my PJs still working off that jet lag. After that, it was nonstop fun and sightseeing.
We went on base at Pearl Harbor a few times. Twice to sight see and a few other times for grabbing stuff from the base store. The times we visited the base to sign see walked around the Ford Island Loop, took a short boat ride out to see the Pearl Harbor Memorial, went to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum and Toured the USS Missouri.
The Ford Island Loop is just over 3 miles and is an easy paved walk with some cool views. Blue dots embedded in the walk way direct you along with frequent informational boards and plaques pointing out memorable things to see at that point and interesting information. The most poignant thing on the walk for me were all the strafing marks from the attack in 1942 still found in the concrete. Here is this beautiful blue bay and palm trees everywhere then suddenly, in the side walk a line of pitting reminding you this beautiful place was once bombed chaos.
The boat ride out by the Memorial takes you by the Battleship Missouri and the Memorial that resides over the wreck of the Arizona. Unfortunately the dock to actually visit the memorial was damaged in a little ship fender bender and was not open for guests so, we couldn’t go through.
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum wasn’t exactly on my top list of places to go. I mean, I didn’t MIND but, that’s the Sailor’s gig. I was pleasantly surprised as how much I really enjoyed it. My favorite part was by far the hangar or planes being restored, some even being worked on as we wandered around. When the Sailor asked which plane was my favorite, I had no hesitation, it was Swamp Ghost. She’s a Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress piloted by Captain Frederick ‘Fred’ C. Eaton, Jr, that ditched in a swamp on Papua New Guinea during the WWII. It was a really interesting story which you can get a glimpse of at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum website. You also really should read about the Disney Swamp Ghost Nose Art which helped in my selection of this beauty being my personal fav of the day.
Hangar 79 were the planes on display are kept in have doors at either end. The original blue glass still show the bullet holes from he Japanese attack. Again, another somber reminder of this area’s significance to our history.
We went on the USS Missouri and opted for the fancy guided tour because, you know, ship stuff. I learned a bunch of cool stuff from the very nice guide as well as my own personal salty Sailor.
Our first evening out exploring had us basically just driving around the island looking around taking it in. We ended up on a basically deserted beach at sunset in Makana. We stopped to just enjoy the view for a bit before heading back to the hotel.
The next day we decided on a ride to the North Shore. Along the way we planned to stop at the Pali Lookout. Cold, rain and fog didn’t stop us but, didn’t make for the greatest pictures. Thankfully we went when we did because that evening there was a landslide that closed the main highway down to the point making it inaccessible for the rest of out trip.
If you know Kyle and I then you know we have a love for Disney. Every trip to any of the parks in the US is not complete without Dole Whip. If you don’t know Dole Whip, you are missing out! It’s a creamy delectable pineapple soft serve that Dole invented specifically for Disney to offer. Official Dole Whip can only be found at The Polynesian Resort and Aloha Isle in Adventure Land at Disney World in Florida, at the Tiki Juice Bar in Disneyland in California and at the Dole Plantation. It just so happens that the Dole Plantation is on Oahu on the way to the north shore. Needless to say, we went specifically for that personal favorite icy treat.
When I first saw Disney’s Moana, I, like everyone else loved Heihei the empty headed chicken. I just assumed that he was a creative liberty taken by the animators and story creators to include the trademark silly/adorable/laugh getting animal that every Disney animated film has. And that’s true BUT, there is fact behind that feathery knucklehead. These guys are literally EVERYWHERE on the island and I loved them. I couldn’t help but yell out, “BABY CHICKENS!” every time we drove or walked past a fluffy little brood peeping along in the sandy grass.
The North Shore is known for surfing. The Banzai Pipeline or just, Pipeline is notorious for huge waves which break in the shallows just above a jagged, vast reef, forming large, hollow, thick curls of water. If you have seen a movie with surfing, where the surfer rides through a tube of water as the wave bends and curls over as it breaks, that’s what the water is like at Sunset Beach Park. Many people have died or been seriously injured at Pipeline and it’s been called one of the world’s deadliest waves. We were content to just sit and enjoy the view listening to the crash, than be in it.
There are lots of cool hikes around Oahu. One was within walking distance of our hotel. Diamond Head is a slightly rugged hike up an extinct volcano. Some of it is paved, some not and some consisted of concrete stairs through a tunnel. It was a crowded, hot, sweaty workout that resulted in some beautiful panoramic views of Waikiki.
After the day of hiking in the sun, we treated ourselves to a quick walk and swim at Waikiki Beach at sunset. It was the closest beach to our hotel but, also a really crowded one being that it’s right along the shore of the city. At dinner time though, many people and their families trickle back to their rooms and condos to go to dinner and the beach is bearable and the sunset beautiful.
I have never been snorkeling. Listen, I come from a land locked state in the US so swimming, not my strong suit. My parents weren’t the type that signed me up for lessons either. I vaguely remember being tossed into a pool and hearing “kick your legs,” so, really no surprise I haven’t partaken in a lot of water activities in my life. Pair that with an irrational fear of carnivorous fish and deep water and you have yourself me, an awkward, fear filled swimmer. I want to change that a little. I mean, I’ll never be the one at the pool gracefully swimming laps but, the though I just floating on the surface looking down at cool coral and colorful fish, yeah, I can try that. Knowing my level of experience (none) Kyle suggested Hanauma Bay, a beautiful protected marine life conservation area and underwater park where there is little to no waves and guaranteed fish in the reef. The first time we went, the wave break was so uncommonly bad that sand was churning to where you couldn’t see even a few inches below the surface which explained why it wasn’t as crowded as we expected. We opted to hike the ridge that day rather than battle the churning waters. But, Kyle had bought me a mask, a snorkel and even got me some fancy flippers, I was going to try my hand at floating above some fish dang it so, a few days later we went back. It was a beautiful day; sunny with just a few wispy white clouds for occasional reprieve from the sun. I won’t lie, I struggled with panic the first few times I tried to lay face down in the water. Kyle patiently waited floating around me popping up to look at me and make sure I wasn’t freaking out. Eventually though, my internal screaming silenced and my tensed body begging me to run to shore, eased and let me tell you, it began to be fun and the views, awesome. Needless to say, I loved it. So many fish so brightly colored and anemones blooming like flowers on the reef. My shoulders ached the next day from all the breast stroking and wiggling over and around coral without touching it for fear of hurting a single thing. It was a shame that SOMEONE (cough ** Kyle** cough, cough) forgot to bring the GoPro with the waterproof case with him or I could have shared some sweet underwater pics. He promises next time he won’t forget.
Oahu has been the setting for scenes in several major motion pictures. One of the most famous, Jurassic Park. That scene were the dinosaurs are “flocking this way” and Alan Grant with Tim and Lex almost get trampled by a stampede of Dinos? You know, this one:
It was filmed on Oahu. The Sailor being a huge Jurassic Park fan (me too but not as big as that guy) wanted to see it. Turns out there is a nature preserve called the Kualoa Ranch where you can do just that… for a price. A very hefty price we learned when we arrived. They had horseback tours, ATV tours, zip lining, boat tours, small dune-buggy like off-road vehicles they called Raptor tours or the easy peasy open sided bus tour. All for hundreds of dollars each. While we both did contemplate forking over the cash, ultimately we felt that the amount of money could go a lot farther elsewhere, especially since it was raining and muddy mess that day. Instead we opted to just drive back out to the public roads and look around the outskirts of the valley. Luckily on one of the drives (because we came back that direction a couple of times) the skies cleared up and we happened upon the back side of the reserve and were treated to a pretty spectacular view into the valley with the ocean merrily crashing behind uson the shore across the street we parked on.
As we continued our drive that day we ended up just up the road about 30 minutes at Pounders Beach where we practically had the place tp ourselves other than the few body surfers and boogie boarders. So we sat in the sand and enjoyed it for a while.
Another day, another hike. This day was Makapuu Lighthouse. I had hoped to spot one or two humpback whales while we were in Hawaii and the Sailor told me this would be the place most likely. And he was right. It was a pretty walk up a paved trail along the cliff edge with regular look outs for breaks and whale watching. I stopped at every single one and danced with glee at every breach I was lucky enough to witness. We both tried our hardest to catch one in picture or video and the Sailor was mildly successful but it’s hard as they were a distance out. Even without the performances by the giant mammals of the sea, the views were beautiful.
All of our previous hikes on Oahu had been practice, appetizers to the main course, to get me feeling confident that I could conquer Koko Crater trail. It’s an abandoned railway-turned-trail to the peak of the crater. Reviews said it was difficult and occasionally reviews used the word “grueling”. The Sailor assured me that I could do it, that we could stop as much as I needed and wanted on the way up. So I agreed. I agreed to 1,043 steps straight up. Below, you will not see any cute smiling pictures of me glowing with joy and sweat because I died half way up and this is my ghost writing this. JK. I didn’t die but, I though I might at the time. 10 out of 10 would do it again for the spectacular views and sense of utter bad ass accomplishment. Shout out to Kyle for having the patience of a saint as I literally stopped every 5-15 steps of so for the last half of the epic climb. Even telling me to stop and sit down if he saw I was trying to just push through red faced and on shaky legs. For also not being embarrassed by me crab walking on the way back down on the part that was suspended off the ground by like 8 feet. We had taken a little detour around that part on the way up for my benefit and I had insisted that I was fine to do it going down. I was wrong. Several steps down I panicked juuuuuust a little and then I couldn’t trust myself to not slip a leg between ties and break a femur by walking down it bipedal. So i sat my ass down and carb walked the rest of the way like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. A tiny ancient Japanese lady breezed by me while I did it and I still have no shame in my crab walking game.
During the week I insisted on trying as many local food spots as possible. Zippy’s for Chili and Korean fried chicken. L&L for Kalua pork and cabbage. Leonard’s for Malasadas. Eggs n’ Things for Loco Moco not to mention food trucks along whatever beach we happened to be driving by. The one thing that I needed in my life, which I frequently told the Sailor throughout the week was some fresh delicious Poke. Now, i knew this was one of the few things that he would NOT be interested in but, I NEEDED it. So I asked (forced) him to take me to Fresh Catch on the way back to the hotel from Koko Head to do just that finally. It was a tiny place with old school glass deli cases that held dozens of types of fresh fish made into every flavor combination of Poke you can image among many other fresh seafood options. To be fair, I picked this place because they also served BBQ and fried chicken for him. It had plain concrete floor and there were a couple wooden picnic tables for those that wanted to stay and eat their purchases. The moment we entered the tiny place I knew I’d be leaving with my Poke and Kyle would be leaving as fast as possible. As we stood in the short line to the register, he leaned over and with a wrinkled nose said, “It smells like fish in here.” So I got my Firecracker Ahi Poke Bowl to go and we left. When we got back to the hotel, the Sailor walked over to McDonalds to get him self some cheeseburgers and I tucked into my coveted ahi tuna tossed with spicy chili, scallions and roe. It was spicy, savory, roe poppingly delicious.
After the day, our last day of vacation, spent conquering Koko, we earned the reward of one final Mai Tai (or two) from the famous Duke’s. The Sailor had surprised me taking me there for dinner the night after Valentine’s Day since we hadn’t gotten to be together the previous night. I didn’t know about Duke’s until we walked up and I did a quick google to find it pretty fancy. Color me impressed. Kyle’s not one for fancy restaurants ever! Apparently he remembers it fondly from his early Navy career and drinking Mai Tais at the bar with the other knuckleheads on his ship when they were in port at Pearl Harbor. I started with a famous Mai Tai per the Sailor’s recommendation for my cocktail and then had a swoon worthy macadamia encrusted sautéed Mahi Mahi. The Sailor ordered something called a Tropical Itch that came with an actual back scratcher in it which he left in while he drank it.
It was only fitting to go back and end our last night there sitting on the back patio listening to the sounds of Waikiki waves while we got tipsy going over all the amazing sights and sounds and food we had crammed into the 12 days we were there.
It was a perfect end to an amazing vacation full of adventures. ❤
I had heard that Tokyo could put on a heck of a light show for the holidays. A quick internet search brought me directly to the knowledge of the Winter Illumination around Tokyo. So, the Sailor and I hopped on a train (then a subway) and popped over to Roppongi Hills to see what the deal was for that location. We climbed our way from the subterranean level of the subway to find a squeaky clean she-she mall full if Louis Vuitton, Rolex and Cartier.
While window shopping for $10,000 watches and hand bags does have it’s moments, the allure can wear off when you quickly realize that you can’t afford a keychain. Since we had a few hours until sundown we decided to take a nice long stroll over to the Imperial Palace. If our calculations were right, we’d get there just as the sun was setting for a few photo ops, have time to check out the downtown shopping on that side of town then head back to see the lights and catch the same subway back towards home.
It took roughly an hour to walk from Roppongi to where the Imperial Palace is. I couldn’t even recount how many super cars and ultra Luxury vehicles we saw tooling around the streets.
As we drew near to the Palace entrance you first notice the moat surrounding the grounds as well as the high stone wall. We got our first glimpse of the historic site against the modern city line background. It’s such a dramatic 360 view; The historic residence of the Imperial family on one side and the opposite, modern Tokyo.
The residence is on the site of a former Edo Castle. The Castle used to be the seat of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from the early 17th to late 19th centuries. In 1868 the shogunate was overthrown and the capital and Imperial Residence were moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. In 1888 construction of a new Imperial Palace was completed. That palace was destroyed during World War Two but, rebuilt in the same style after.
The large open plaza in front of the palace is the Kokyo Gaien. It is from here that we could see the Meganebashi, orEyeglass Bridge, with the Palace behind it. The interior grounds are only open to the public twice a year; on January 2nd for New Year’s Greetings and December 23rd from the Emperor’s Birthday. Apparently there are guided tours during the day that we may have to go back at some point and check out.
Having entertained ourselves with the Palace, we decided to take a short walk around some of the other downtown shopping areas as we meandered back towards Roppongi Hills to take in the lights now that darkness was falling. Billboards and Digital signs were on every street. There was an art gallery with a super car installation that you could go in and walk around (the Sailor was content to take pictures through the window) to see the cars up close. We found the Omega Boutique and got to experience riding the Omega glass elevator up to the boutique and back down again. It was summons by the footman at the entrance to the fancy watch area to take it up and when we rode it back down, the sales associate bowed to us until we were completely below the floor line. Talk about feeling like a a fancy AF lady…
We even happened upon a Patek Philippe store. It’s a watch brand that I had never heard of but, the Sailor was clearly impressed and took pictures. Then I saw the “cheapest” watch in the window (¥8,683,200 which is roughly $76,548) and slowly backed away, afraid of breathing on the window wrong.
After we had our fill of window shopping yet again, we hit up GPS to take us back to Midtown Roppongi. The directions took us through a park that happened to have some sort of food festival going on. We saw A LOT of fish and shellfish. I wish we would have stopped to take a better look and maybe attempt to find something that wouldn’t kill me and that the Sailor wouldn’t mind trying. Alas, we laughed our way through the very crowded tents to emerge to holiday lights being turned on along the sidewalks and paths.
As we made our way around the mall to the back area where the light show was set up, of course there was another supercar exhibit with the lights in the background, because, Tokyo. The Sailor was thrilled.
But, the main attraction; the reason we came. It did not disappoint. Thousands of LED lights and globes set to music. Smoke machines that not only coated the ground at times but also blew smoke filled bubbles that drifted through the display at times and out over the crowd. A pathway led you around the entire set up allowing you to see it from every angle. We slowly walked the entire circumference sneaking a stop here and there to take photos and videos. When we finally had our fill we started the walk back to the subway through even more lighted pathways.
Considering this was just one of several light displays in Tokyo that run through February, I might have to talk the sailor into going back a time or two more to check them out. I mean, who doesn’t love Christmas lights?!
A few weekends ago we decided to take a little day trip to Chiba to check out Mt. Nokogiri and Nihon-ji Tenbodai Temple grounds. With the Holidays fast approaching and the chaos that comes with them, I’ve been just sitting on the hundreds of pictures we took and writing a sentence or two between trips to the mall, hanging decorations and lines at the post office.
Anyway, our day trip started off with a short walk to Yokosuka-chuo train station to hitch a ride to Kurihama port where we took a 45 minute ride on the Tokyowan Ferry that runs pretty much hourly. Right around ¥2500 got us round trip walk on tickets over to Boso Peninsula, Chiba. Well worth it. It was a overcast and somewhat foggy morning but the views were still pretty and a nice way to spend part of the journey.
A 15 minute walk got us to the Nokogiriyama rope way. ¥500 gets you a oneway ticket in a little car suspended from a series of cables to the top of the mountain and ¥930 will get you a round trip up and down. Since we planned to not just take in the lookouts at the top of the ropeway of Mt. Nokogiri and head down but, to continue on and hike around the temple grounds, we forked over a whooping ¥1000 for two one way tickets and joined the queue for the suspended journey. It’s the easiest way to get up and I would imagine beautiful in full on fall with the leaves turning or in the throughs of spring when it’s at it’s lushest green. Be warned, they FILL the cable car and you’ll find yourself standing shoulder to shoulder. Still for the low price and the quick trip up you still get a great view and an easy ride.
Once you reach the top you are treated to a beautiful view of Tokyo Bay and the Chiba Valley. You’ll also get your ankles batted at by the resident cat colony that lords over the vending machine area staking claim to the picnic tables whether you like it or not. Take your chances with offering them innocent pet. You have a about a 50/50 chance of being met with purrs or slaps and hissing. So basically they are normal jerk face cats. I pet every last dirty one and had no regrets.
But wait, there’s MORE! That’s right, more look out points with amazing sights. If you’re feeling like glute workout and want to get to the true peak, you can climb a flight of stone stairs on the “hike to hell” for a spectacular view of the bay and valley. If it’s a clear day, you’ll get to see Mt Fuji looming over the bay. On a really clear day you might even catch a glimpse of the Tokyo Skytree. Unfortunately for us, it was a bit hazy the day we visited but, the vistas were not disappointing. It’s here that you’ll get a chance to take in Jigoku Nozoki or “View of Hell” which is probably the most famous view on the Mountain. You can clamor up a steep rock wall to find your self walking down a stone stair case to a small cliff that juts out over the valley. It’s railed off but, if you have issues with heights the rail won’t matter to you. It offers stunning views and pretty sweet photo opportunities especially if you have a willing partner to remain over by the summit of the stairs to get a sweet pic of you out on the cliff. This area of the peak offers a complete 360 degree view. If you’re disappointed with it at this point, just go home, you obviously can don’t get nature and views.
Heres were you can decided to head back down on the ropeway or wind your way through the grounds of the Nihonji Temple. The ¥600 per person to get in is well worth it. You can easily spend at least a few hours or more exploring the grounds. While it’s an easy hike, it’s still a work out. To see everything, be prepared to walk up and down and up and down several series of cut stone stairs and slopes. Like hundred of stairs. It’s well worth it for all that you get to see.
Since we were at the top thanks to the rope way we worked our way down. The mountain got its unique saw-tooth shape from years of quarrying which begins to show as you enter the trail. It has been a Buddhist site for over 1300 years so it should be no surprise that the first sight you come upon as you start your descent is 30-meter tall Buddhist Hyaku-Shaku Kannon of the Goddess of Mercy. Carved in 1966 into a stone cliff, it is dedicated to those who died in WWII. The Kannon is also worshiped as a protector of transportation due to its protected location surrounded by rocks.
As you wind your way around the paths, up and down slopes and stairs you find hundreds of groupings of small stone carved rakan or disciples known as the 1500 arhat. These are mortals who have attained enlightenment, and each has a unique facial expression and demeanor. They are perched along the cliffs in nooks and on ledges of the winding paths of the mountain slope. The 1500 statues vary in size and shape, with many beheaded, the unfortunate result of the anti-Buddhist Haibutsu Kishaku movement that came after the Meiji Restoration. During this time many Buddhist sites were attacked and damaged.
The statues here were not spared in the violence, but their bodies remain, some with repaired heads and some without adding to the uniqueness of each. The scars are still visible but, time and the elements have softened the edges and covered some with a down moss bandaid. The trails leading to the individual groups often lead to dead ends so, don’t be surprised when you need to back track to the main trail. Keep an eye out for the “mind your head” signs on the low tunnel like passageways as you go.
I was obsessed with the 1500 arhat. We took over hundred pictures of them and could have easily taken a few hundred more.
As you start to approach the bottom of the mountain you come upon the Ishidaibutsu, the largest cliff-carved Buddha in Japan. To say it is imposing is a bit of an understatement. It was carved in 1783, 1000 years after the temple was founded. Fun fact, as the healing Buddha, he holds a container of medicine in his hand and is is said that “if you bathe in the radiance of the emerald contained in it, your illness will be healed”.
To the right of the Ishidaibutsu is a small picnic area that was perfect for a short rest as well a peak at a spectacular view from the tables.
Once we were done taking in the greatness of the great Ishidaibutsu, we headed down the final section of the trail to the temple its self. The oldest place of worship in the Kanto region, Nihonji Temple is a Soto Buddhist temple built over 1300 years ago in 725 CE. CE as in AD. Wrap your brains around that history folks. The temple was originally a monastery and was home to well-known figures such as Roben, the founder of Todai-ji in Nara and Kukai, the founder of Shingon. Having changed from the Hosso Sect to Tendai and now Soto Zen, the temple has been abandoned and revived multiple times throughout the ages. With the anti-Buddhist movement leading to attacks and damage as well as fires after an earthquake in 1939, the temple has undergone restoration for most of its existence.
The walk continues to wind down the rest of the mountain; down stairs, over stone bridges, through the dense wooded forrest, leading you past the back parking lot and depositing you on the opposite side of the mountain you started on.
From here you have 3 choices: Hike your ass back up the way you just came, over and around the mountain. At this point I’m willing to bet you’ve had your fill of stairs and slopes. This leaves you with the other 2 options. You can take a 10 minute walk to the left and catch a bus that will take about 15 minutes to hustle you to the ferry. Or you can follow GPS and go right and walk around the base of the mountain back to the ferry. We chose the latter of those last two. BE WARNED! There are several tunnels that do not have operational sidewalks nor were the berms ample. We found ourselves timing our jogs through the tunnels between traffic flows occasionally flattening ourselves, laughing, along the sooty wall as a truck or kei car sped by unaware of our perilous presence. A few of the tunnels had walkways outside along the cliffs to the bay but, most were closed for apparent repairs. We braved on such sidewalk and found it led to a dead end which then forced us to hop in the window/barrier halfway through the tunnel and jog the rest of the way battling traffic anyway. Basically, I’d recommend taking the bus around the mountain or sucking it up and back tracking through the temple grounds back the way you came. Regardless, the 45 minute ferry ride back across the bay was a welcome rest before walking back to the train station then ultimately walking back home. 10 out of 10 would recommend. 10 out of 10 would go back during a different season for a different view of the scenery.
You were a little wiggling ball of wiry hair with a wet nose and tongue when I got you on a cold February morning. I didn’t need a dog and I sure as hell shouldn’t have gotten one. I was 22, in college, working 2 jobs and living in a garage apartment with a less than stellar boyfriend. I knew I didn’t have a lot of time but, I wanted you, I needed you. I needed something to love and to love me back and you were it. I loved you from the moment I saw you with your black floppy ears and your wonderful puppy breath.
You’ve had many names; Roxy. Roxanne. Rox. Puppers. Pooper. Poo-poo. Stinky Butt. You answered to them all, tail wagging and with a twinkle in your mischievous eyes.
You spent days and nights curled up, wedged between me and the back of my chair while I was hunched over my drafting table working endlessly on drawings and projects. You were content to lay next to me on the floor while I spent countless hours making models and sample boards. The one summer I took two architecture studio classes and didn’t get to sleep for almost 10 weeks straight, you kept me company during my sleep deprived stupor. When those classes finally ended and I had time off to relax, I slept for 32 hour straight, you never left my side watching over my near comatose body.
I had a late night project playlist that included “Roxanne” by the Police. Every time that song would come on, you would wake up and stare from me to my my laptop speakers, tilting your adorable little head back and forth confused why the warm humming box on the table was singing at you like I usually did. I never failed to make me laugh. I wish cell phones had cameras for pictures and videos back then because I would have taken thousands of your adorable little face when that song came on.
You weren’t always wonderful, you were just as much a little shit in your youth. You liked to run and you were so fast! I would be going out to get the mail or to put something in my car and as I opened the door you would be flying down the stairs and bounding out before I could scream your name. More than once I chased you down the driveway and back (and down and back and down…) petrified with fear that one day you’d dart across the quiet dead end street when a neighbor happened to be driving by and hit you. They never did but it didn’t stop me from sobbing as I made the long walk home with you trapped in my arms licking my face happy as can be from your high speed adventure.
You went with me everywhere. If I was running up to the gas station at 1am you wanted to come and I happily took you. One night I realized that I had forgotten to lock the door so after putting you and my purse in the car, I ran back to lock it. Much to my chagrin when I returned to my car I found you happily standing on the lock door button watching me wagging your little stumpy tail in anticipation of going for a ride. It was a chilly 1 am and my keys and cell phone were in the now locked car with you. I had to swallow my pride and bang on the neighbor’s door to call mom and pops to bring me a spare set of keys. I sat for close to 45 minutes outside the car watching you watch me in wonder. Just as pops pulled up our long driveway you jumped back over the center counsel to the back seat stepping on the lock door button again thus unlocking the doors; something I had been trying to get you to do for 30 minutes before I had called for help and then again for 30 minutes after calling for help before giving up and waiting the last 15 more minutes for help to come. Pops laughed and went back home. You were just so pleased with yourself I couldn’t be mad.
When that not so stellar boyfriend we lived with became a world class asshole you were there listening and cowering as we screamed at each other and when the dust settled you crept out to me and laid with me ever my protector while I cried at the mess I found myself in. More than once we fell asleep together, my face buried in your tear soaked fur. When the time finally came that I left, it was because of you and my fear that the asshole would take you or hurt you just to spite me. You were too sweet and innocent and deserved more than that little shit hole apartment filled with anger and fear.
You never met a person or other animal that you didn’t love except your archenemies, the chipmunks. You had a terrible habit of peeing on certain people’s laps that you loved a little extra and yet, they loved you back and held you regardless, knowing they could walk away with pee cover pants. You were just too lovable to deny.
Everyone said your breed were bad with kids and forget about babies. But not you. You loved babies. Loved. You would lay with your head on their carrier just staring at them. If they were on a blanket on the ground, you had to be near them, slowly creeping closer until at least you nose touched them, happy to just be near. And when those babies turned into fur grabbing ear pulling, drag you around the house in a giggling head lock toddlers, you never snapped or hid, you took it and you always happily went back for more.
You were stinky. You had an over active anal glad that without warning would release and fill a room with a noxious haze that rivaled the smell of a skunk spray. You knew it and inevitably would slink off embarrassed and afraid of the bath you knew was coming. Just saying the words “stinky butt” made to dart to hide in the basement. And as noxious and gross as it was, we loved you. How could we not?
And when we subjected you to a needy, annoying orphan kitten, you took that too. You let him follow you around and nuzzle into you for comfort. Your face said, “Please make it go away” but, you tolerated it because you were just too good. When he got bigger, you loved him. You’d chase each other around the house tumbling and rolling. You never hurt him even though there were plenty of times you took a hard swipe to the face from a claw that left you yelping. You never held it against him and even in your elderly years a decade of not seeing each other, you remembered him and still loved him.
You snuggled under covers all the way to my feet. Inevitably you would get hot and would crawl out panting to breathe hot stinking breath on me while sharing my pillow. I didn’t kick you out of the bed though.
You would chase a tennis ball until you collapsed and swim the length of the pond and back until so exhausted we had to force you to stop for fear of you drowning. The swimming was weird because what terrier like swimming?
When I was too poor to afford grooming, you suffered my DIY clipper cuts with minimal struggle. You never barked, snapped or ran, even if I nicked an ear flap or tail top. You accepted your fate with the saddest pleading face and when I was done you zoomed around the yard with your tail tucked down practically flying over the grass.
You loved Christmas. You were a little weirdo that KNEW what gifts were yours under the tree and would constantly try and steal them to open them. We would have to hide your little wrapped toys and treats in a closet until it was Christmas Eve night and time for you to open them. When we would set them on the ground for you, you would tear into the paper with reckless abandon much like a 6 year old child. After the paper was shredded and discarded you would prance around the room making sure to show everyone your new thing before moving to the next. Maybe we were the weirdos for buying presents and wrapping them for a dog but, you loved it. You loved it as much as the kids did. Your weird human like joy at Christmas presents brought joy to us.
You were with me when I had to move almost 3,000 miles away for a job. You quietly sat in the back seat wedged between suitcases and bins for 5 days while we drove in a haphazard path across the United States. You barked at prairie dogs and escaped from a hotel room in Billings to run laps around the NO PETS ALLOWED hotel before finally running back in the room panting, pleased with yourself as always.
When you didn’t adjust well to city living it broke my heart. You lost weight and hair. You chewed your paws bloody. You were sensitive and had issues most likely for the fucked up situation I had you in when I brought you home as a baby. The small fenced yard and loud street noises made you a mess. For over a year I tried diet changes and doggie anti-depressants but nothing helped. I sent you home to mom and pops for a visit and was told I wasn’t getting you back based on the sad sight you were. So you lived on five acres with them but I always missed you. I’m pretty sure the asshole cat did as well.
Mom and pops got not one but TWO tiny yappy Mexican dogs that you immediately mothered like they were your own little puppies. You played with a one pound puppy ever so gently, letting the tiny terror hang from your jowls while you laid on the floor as to be low enough for them to attack. You herded them to the house when they strayed too far and barked at them if they didn’t listen. You had more patience with those two than the humans did.
When, unbeknownst to anyone, you had a abscessed tooth that started to hurt when you ate, you were a badass and hooked a nail behind it and cleanly ripped it out, root and all and went right back to chewing your bone. It freaked out mom and pops but, it didn’t phase you. You were a little spitfire who didn’t let a stinking tooth come between her and her treats.
Over the years you were a landmark that meant home; a furry, happy, silly face to welcome me at the door with wiggles of joy and sloppy kisses every time I would visit. You always remembered me, jumping and whining joyous hellos. The years passed and your glossy black ears and eye patches started to show more white than black. Your eyes got cloudy and rheumy but, you still ran like the wind and thought you could jump from the top step without missing a beat.
The last few times I was home, your white muzzle was obvious. You struggled to get moving after sleeping; limping for the first several steps while you worked your arthritic joints back into functioning. There was no more jumping from the top step or zoomies around the yard. You were deaf and probably mostly blind. And I cried at the sight. I cried because I knew this day was coming. The day that I would get a call from mom saying, “Roxy isn’t with us anymore.” That day was today.
You gave me almost 17 years of unconditional love, hilarious memories and pure joy. My heart is broken knowing that you aren’t in this world anymore and I wasn’t there to hold you as you left it. When I come home you won’t be there excited to see me and my heart will break all over again. I will always love you and miss you. Home is forever changed with your absence. I hope they have munk-munks in doggie heaven for you to chase forever and all the treats you can eat Pooper.
I’ve been binge watching “Parenthood” for several days now. It mostly makes me laugh with relatable situations with crazy family and kids being assholes. The usual. But the last few episodes got a little too relatable. One of the fucking characters goes and gets damn breast cancer. Like, what the shit. So suddenly my mind numbing binge watching become s a freaking trial of emotional strength because I can not escape the topic. What the shit. It is October after all so everything is pink and “feel your tatas”.
I hit the 3 year mark since my diagnosis this September and it’s been 2.25 years since any treatment. Yet here I am getting all emotional watching some fictional character on some stupid TV show go through some fake treatment. And I hate that it makes me this way. I hate that it makes me remember my own bullshit. I hate that there are so many scenes that I can’t stop myself from saying, out loud, “That’s not how it is. That’s wrong.” There was one episode where the character’s mother-in-law comes to help her around the house and it reminds me of all my family and friends that wanted (and most did) come over to help and it made me just as frustrated as it was making this character, because when you’re sick you want to do what you can yourself. To try and be as “normal” as possible. Thinking of that time makes me feel bad because I was shitty to people back then. I was shitty to people who just wanted to help but, I was angry and wanted things to just go back to normal and they were anything but normal. I’m pretty sure my husband only survived because he’s quiet and waited for me to ask for help rather than just do things for me. Well, with the exception of offering to go get me cheeseburgers or go to the store to get me pie.
It just sucks. I don’t want to be emotional about it. I don’t want to have to get emo over some bullshit TV show episode or song. I don’t want to remember this bullshit and feel bad because I look bad and feel selfish. I didn’t worry about anyone else around me’s feelings. I didn’t have the fortitude to give a shit about how my bullshit toxic tits were screwing up life for everyone around me. I want to distance my self from it. For it to be my past that I sometimes forget even happened. Even as I sit here and watch more episodes about bullshit breast cancer and type this, my stupid husband must feel my emo rising and has continued to crack jokes about the cat and some song and anything other than the bullshit on the TV. Yet, here I sit, drinking wine, still watching this TV bullshit, feeling all emo but, tying to ignore the stupid emotions rising, trying to not feel shitty about some cancer bullshit that pretty much will always be bullshit, my bullshit.