Friday, April 8, 2011

Springtime is HERE!!

Hundreds of Japanese were relaxing and enjoying a picnic in Shinjuku-goyen National Park

In Japan, the cherry blossom symbolizes the nature of life and are widely used in Japanese culture and art.  The cherry blossom is also depicted on a 100 yen coin (equal to our dollar bill).  "Sakura" viewing, the Japanese translation for cherry blossom, dates back to hundreds of years ago when the custom was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial court but eventually spread to the common people as well.  Today, many festivals and celebrations are held during cherry blossom season and people enjoy picnics while sitting under sakura trees.

Shinjuku-goyen with Tokyo Tower in the background
Carrie and I went up to Tokyo to check out the cherry blossoms there.  We went to the Imperial Palace where they still weren't in full bloom and then onto Shinjuku-goyen National Park.  It's rated among the top places for viewing around Tokyo.  I would definitely have to agree!  There were hundreds of people enjoying picnics and walking around the park on this beautiful spring day!  You can't help but smile when you're walking down a path completely surrounded by flowers and cherry blossoms.  Spring is definitely here and I could not be more excited.  I'm just going to let the pictures speak for themselves since that's what you really want to see anyways!

This is one of my favorite pics!

Lots of women were dressed up in their spring kimonos.
What a perfect day to spend walking around Tokyo! 
It was like a canopy of cherry blossoms!

WOW!  I couldn't believe how full the trees were!
Traditional Japanese tea house with cherry blossoms.

I found my new favorite burger place in Tokyo...
Freshness Burger!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cherry blossoms in Kamakura

Leah, Carrie, Kelli, Christina and I at the Great Budda
Christina, Leah and I at the main shrine
Yesterday was the first time I was able to get away from Yokosuka in a while.  Some of the other nurses and I went to Kamakura to check out the cherry blossoms.  Although they were only at about 50% bloom they were still very pretty and worth the trip!  We went to the main shrine and the Great Buddha, both of which I visited when I first moved here, and we also checked out the Hase Kannon Temple.  It's nice to see the sights in  different seasons.
The long walk through the torri gates to
the main shrine.  Even though they weren't
at full bloom, it was still pretty!

Local vendors wearing "Don't Give Up, Japan" shirts.
Many local Japanese street vendors are all working together to support their country during this time of disaster.  Part of the proceeds went towards a fund for the people of Sendai and the other surrounding towns that were devastated during the earthquake and tsunami.  I thought it was pretty cool to see them all wearing "Don't give up Japan" t-shirts.

Hase Kannon Temple
All the statues representing loss of children and
The legend behind the Hase Kannon Temple is actually pretty interesting that I just learned about.  Kannon is the Japanese goddess for mercy.  As legend has it, in 721 a pious monk discovered a large camphor tree in the mountain forests near the village of Hase in the Nara region (close to Osaka a few hours south-west from Yokosuka).  He realized the trunk of the tree was so large that it provided enough material for carving two statues of the eleven-headed Kannon.  The statue he carved from the lower part of the trunk was enshrined in Hasedera Temple near Nara.  The statue from the upper half (actually the larger one) was thrown into the sea near Osaka with a prayer that it would reappear to save the people.  Fifteen years later, it washed ashore at Nagai Beach on the Miura Peninsula not too far from Kamakura, sending out rays of light as it did.  The statue was then brought to Kamakura and a temple was constructed to honor it.  Today, people come from all over to honor their lost children from miscarriages by placing miniature statues at the temple to be watched over by Kannon.
Cherry blossoms next to the koi pond at the main shrine
Cleansing station at the Great Buddha.
Cherry blossoms at the Great Buddha
View from the top of Hase Kannon Temple.  The land in the
distance is Miura Peninsula.
Cherry blossoms in a park walking from the train station in Yokosuka
One of the many delicious sushi-go-rounds!!  SO GOOD!

Running around Yokosuka...

Lighthouse at the top of the cliffs in Uraga
Even though I haven't been able to travel anywhere the past few weeks, I've still been keeping busy.  I've been checking out some new runs around Yokosuka with some friends.  The lighthouse pictures are from a park in Uraga (a few train stops past mine to the south).  Taura Plum blossom park (3 train stops north of yoko) is also another beautiful run up on a hill looking over Yokosuka and the harbor.  I was lucky to catch Taura's plum blossoms just starting to bloom.  Plum blossoms usually bloom a few weeks earlier than the cherry blossoms.

Uraga park...  Awesome trails looking over the water!
Kim Gerber and I on a run at Taura
Seeing this at the top was worth the 10 mile run and hundreds of stairs!
Taking a break while looking out over Yokosuka
This wasn't even all of them!  But, they sure were
 a butt-kicker in the middle of the run.
I got to catch a cool sunset on the way back from Taura.