On the Way to Itsukushima Shrine!

Was is it train? bus? subway this morning? It could’ve been all of the above as I really don’t remember! All I know is that we are on our way to see the torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Itsukushima (popularly known as Miyajima) in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.

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It is considered the floating shrine on the sea. The plan was originally to go in the afternoon, but the tide might have been too high to get up close and in person, so instead we went in the morning.

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A ferry ride would get us over to the island and this was me taking it all in.

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Miyajima was beautiful and I could’ve spent the entire day there! But we were given only 2 hours to sightsee, shop and lunch. Most of us gave up our lunch so we could shop and sightsee more and settling for some ice cream for our lunch!

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So picturesque and looked just what you imagined Japan to be!

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Mary Alice and Midori. I love the way that the rickshaw driver had her hold her hand. Too clever!

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Some of us took a rickshaw ride… which I was going to do later in the week, but it never happened! Next time I go I will for sure.

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There were a lot of wild deer on Miyajima and I think that this one was looking for lunch!

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Some of us made friends with the deer!

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and me, what did I do? well that’s a story for another day!

and for now I will say…sayonara

 

and Even more Beads…

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Now that I have us back on track, I think its time that I finish our day at Toho Bead Factory!

There were some points in our tour where we weren’t allowed to take pictures as I am sure that Toho didn’t want to share their proprietary machines with their competitors. So they’re are some steps in the bead making that you won’t see.

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This young man seemed very proud of his work and was happy to show off the quality of the beads that he was inspecting!

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Different steps along the way of the bead making. So very fascinating!

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Did you ever think that there was this much work going into making a bead? Well I didn’t! And how do they keep the colors, the silver lined and a million and one other variations apart? Can you see that the beads in each hand are of a different finish?

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We were learning a bit about cloisonné making!

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We had fun shopping! I bought several package of tri-cuts as Mary Alice said that the Toho tri-cuts are not available in the US. Not sure what I will use them for?! But they are part of the stash now!

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and we all shopped!

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Mary Alice and I had fun using the Pic-Collage to sum up the day. This was her collage as there is a picture in there that wasn’t part of my collection.

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Waiting for the bus! Notice the sun catcher and those were the handiwork of Toho!

Tomorrow is our day to ferry over to Miyajima to see the Tori Gate and then the Hiroshima Peace Park.

so for now I will say…sayonara

 

Beads, Beads, Beads!

Beads

oops I really goofed! I have been working these posts in drafts as they’re so many pictures and it takes me a while to complete them. Between working at the shop, editing stitch guides for Needlepoint Now, my AlleyCat and of course a little stitching…I went out of order. This should’ve been the one when we got off the train. So there will still be 1 more day of beads coming, so that I can finish the story.

Last I left you, we were headed to Toho Bead Factory located in Hiroshima, Japan. Are you familiar with Toho beads? It is a brand name such as Sundance, Miyuki and there is one more major one (no not Mill Hill), but their name escapes me! Toho means “Eastern Treasure” and they strive to be the best. Just as Delicas are the cylinder type beads to Miyuki, Aiko (named after their daughter) are just the same to Toho. They are really a high quality bead with a larger hole, making it easier for the needle to pass through. Unfortunately many may not be familiar with their beads, unless you are a serious beader as most needlepoint shops don’t carry their beads!

From the Toho website: “Across vast lands and oceans, from ancient times, man has adored and loved these little glass balls as a treasure.The history of glass bead making in Japan is very short. It started in the Hiroshima Fukuyama area in the beginning of the Showa era (1930s)as a “Mom-and-Pop” business.Our company was started on Nov.3rd,1951. Since then, we’ve strived to improve our techniques, designed and created new equipment and facilities. Fortunately we can say today that when it comes to quality, we are the number one glass beads maker in the world and have gained respect of not only the people in this country but around the world. This is all thanks to the cooperation and understanding of our clients around the world. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude.

1.ALWAYS STRIVE TO SERVE THE PUBLIC.
2.ALWAYS STRIVE FOR CHANGE AND CREATION.
3.ALWAYS FLOW WITH THE CHANGE OF TIME.

The above is our motto for prosperity and is kept in our minds at all times.
Once again we would like to thank you for your cooperation and would like to ask you for your continued support.”

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This was the tshirt that everyone wore. I tried to purchase one, but no luck! I would love to do this on a canvas.

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The clock base was created with all beads and crystals! And those are some very long bugle beads.

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This heart display was created in many different colorways! and yes it is all beads.

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and next time we will enter the factory and have a fabulous tour!

so for now I will say…sayonara

BTW…I am not still in Japan! I am home with AlleyCat as she would disown me if I had left her this long.

 

and More Beads!

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This is the plant manager, Shigeru Nishimura. A very gracious man who spent a lot of time with us, treated us to lunch, answered all of our questions and so much more. I have always loved Toho beads, but after this tour…I have devolped a new love and appreciation for beads, their beads especially. There are 80 employees in this factory that makes all these beads for a world-wide distribution. I am sure that they work way more than a 40-hour week. I wanted to ask what is their normal work week? but I never had the chance.

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This area was extremely hot! and I mean hot! I used to be a chef in a commercial kitchen and I know what it means to slave over a hot stove, but trust me that pales in comparison! We were warned not to get too close many times over.

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This man would scoop out an amount of the molten glass and bring it over to a table where it seemed as if he was kneading it as you would do a loaf of bread dough.

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He brought it over to this table to accomplish that. This is not one of my better pictures!

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and then it would be scooped up and placed into this other piece of equipment. Yes that is fire that you see beneath it all!

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Then we went downstairs and watched it come down.

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and watched it travel some more!

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and travel and travel.

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it was still hot as you could see the steam rising!

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and it was still red hot in areas!

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and it would travel some more!

 

 

Land of the Rising Sun; Day 8

Last I left you, we were getting on the bullit train to travel to Okayama for our next 2 fabulous days in Japan. The first day will be spent at the Toho bead factory in Okayama. I was very excited about this when I first saw it on the intinerary! We were going to see how beads are created. Orginally we were supposed to go to both Toho and Miyuki, but Miyuki thought we were too big a group. This day has so much to share, that it might take 3 days of postings as there’s just too many pictures. Something to look forward to, I hope!

Okay I digress as I want to tell you more about the bullit train. Part of our tour package was a Japanese Rail Pass which would allow us to travel on the train, and also some other public transportation including the ferry to Miyajima tomorrow.

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Okay I have seen it spelled bullit and bullet. It is a beautiful way to travel is all I have to say! The Shinkansen (新幹線, new trunk line) is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by five Japan Railways Group companies, which can travel up to 200mph. Pretty fast!

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The first time we were using the train, I noticed someone poking their head out on the approach… but this would take me a few days to figure this out.

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Not the same person as the other picture, and I still wonder what the name of this job was that was being taken so very seriously.

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Maybe checking the time? or maybe adjusting the gloves? Do you see the numbers on the floor? You would stand at that number that was printed on your ticket. When the train stopped you would enter that car that matched the number on your ticket. Very organized!

As I watched and observed (as how else do you learn?) that this conductor would make sure that the train lined up exactly so that the doors opened at the correct place. They would point to the ground as the train stopped and being that this all happened in the blink of an eye, it was really hard to get a picture!

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Notice how clean everything is! A little shop for drinks or snacks and stuff.

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clean, clean!

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all for now I will say…sayonara

 

Land of the Rising Sun; Day 7

Lemmikko

Again it was the public transportation of the day…bus, train, subway, etc and it would take us to Lemmikko Studios where we were to have a beading class.

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We were graciously greeted with bows and introductions and entered the studio, which was warm and inviting. Take off your shoes and put on the slippers. I had no problem with taking off the shoes, but I preferred no slippers and the exchange of words went back and forth. I was told by one of my tour mates that they really didnot want my bare feet touching their floors!

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A tour through the rest of the studio was in order before we settled into class. I wanted one package of every bead that she had!

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Are you familiar with tambour beading? well this is what it was! And the small piece is what we would be “trying to create”… not as easy at it looks!

Definition of tambour is the French word for drum. Tambour work is embroidery done with a hook where the fabric must be stretched tight as a drum. The fabric is stretched or laced and sewn on on a rectangular frame or in a circular frame. A tambour hook makes one stitch, the chain stitch. The hook is held on top of the frame with the threaded beads or sequins underneath.”

To be honest I sort of struggled with mine. We practiced for a few hours just to master that chain stitch! What you are creating is on the back and you just see your chain stitches on top. Beads and sequins are restrung before starting and you feel your way along as the beads and sequins are underneath, turning it over every so often to check your work. When Googling tambour beading I came across an old posting from Plays with Needles and she really explains it much better than I…so check it out. 

After reading it myself, I don’t feel so bad that I struggled. I would try it again (as I gave my kit to Elizabeth) sitting in a better chair and not having to bend over so much.

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This was our teacher demonstrating and why do they always make it look so easy?

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Mary Alice was getting a little extra help!

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I think that they both got it!

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This is Midori with the sensei, who was very charming btw.

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We were learning to make the roses here and I aced that part!

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These were samples of her work!

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This was amazing and yes its all sequins and beads! There are lots of bugle beads in this, but I learned that they called them bamboo beads.

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She was trained in France and her work was just amazing! amazing! amazing! This was my favorite piece BTW!

Travel night again as we are moving to Okayama, a little bento box, a seat on the bullit train, a nap…and tomorrow is all about beads too!

and for now, I will say…sayonara

 

Day 6 in Tokyo

We were on a bus, a train or subway…which was it? on our way to Asakusa to enjoy the celebration of Sanja Matsuri. Sanja literally means 3 shrine festival, with the word matsuri meaning festival. It is one of the 3 great Shinto Festivals filled with the counds of taiko drums, flutes and packed with people and yatai (food stalls) in honor of the 3 men who established and founded the famous Sensoji Temple.

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It is an ancient temple located in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan and is Tokyo’s oldest temple!

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This meets you at the entrance and is created in red and black is to represent thunder for the Thunder God “Kaminarimon.”  The main street that runs in front of Asakusa is named this and is one of its most significant streets.

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Nakamise-Dori starts at the temple gates and leads to the main hall of the Sensoji Temple.

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There was lots and lots of shopping to do! and many stops for a bite to eat or a drink.

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There is the Sky Tree that we saw earlier!

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Portable shrines and floats are being readied to be pulled through the streets while loud shouts accompany them, and during the festival’s 3 days, 1.5 million people come out to celebrate.

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Every float had revelers garbed in different colors. They would carry the float while jostling it up and down and shouting! Lots of hard work and it was HOT!

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He stopped to pose for me!

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A juxtaposition of the old and the new!

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aren’t they precious?

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this was Debby’s picture as she found a dog dressed in ceremonial garb!

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It was a long hot day and what did we do that night? Well I am sure after something to eat, I crashed in my room and watched a baseball game!

The next 2 days of our trip will be all about beads, so stay tuned!

and for now, I will say…sayonara

 

Good Morning Tokyo!

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This beautiful view is what greeted me in the morning! I have lucked out with my room location the last few hotels with the great secenery from my window!

This is Day 6 in the Land of the Rising Sun starting off with a walk and a bus ride to the Tokyo Sky Tree.

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and of course there was always some beauty to discover along the way!

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“Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー Tōkyō Sukaitsurī) is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida,Tokyo, Japan. It became the tallest structure in Japan in 2010 and reached its full height of 634.0 metres (2,080 ft) in March 2011, making it the tallest tower in the world, displacing the Canton Tower,and the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa (829.8 m/2,722 ft).”

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Just a bit of smog in Tokyo! Reminded me of when I first moved to Los Angeles in the early 80′s.

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It was still an amazing view!

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It was quite the ride up to the top!

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Back down on the ground now!

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Does this look familiar? Well its the Sky Tree! I asked Kathy Schenkel if she had any Japan or Tokyo travel rounds and she said no, but I will come up with something. So this is what she sent me! Granted the sky tree is not red, but I love it anyway and I thank you Kathy! Pat is going to be here next week and we are going to pull threads and beads together…but I think that this could be a walk through the stash project.

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Next up was a visit to the Sumida Aquarium since it was located in the Tokyo Sky Tree Town. A nice relaxing hour to chill…and we had worked up quite a hunger so it was time for lunch! Some of the group opted for McDonald’s (not to say that I didn’t enjoy McD’s a time or two when I was there!) but at least half of us went into the noodle house.

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Watching our lunch being cooked!

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I was most fascinated with this noodle cooker (center left)…

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Notice the steam? and the different levels of the baskets? I was mesmerized watching it. There were timers on each basket that would raise it when finished!

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and here was my lunch! Very enjoyable indeed… next up was a choice of Cold Stone

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and these young ladies were quite entertaining as they would sing for us!

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or gelato!

Now if this wasn’t enough for the day…we are now off to Asakusa to celebrate Sanja Matsuri. And that is for the next post as I have so many pictures to sort through!

and for now, I will say…sayonara

 

Land of the Rising Sun; Day 5

On our way to Tokyo today! And another day of adventures and new experiences. Assorted public transportation conveyances and lots of walking brought us to our hotel where we would be staying while in Tokyo.

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Just a few pictures from our walk to the hotel. They were not ready for us to checkin, so what’s the next best thing? Lunch! and then we would be off to the Hokusai Museum.

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I am sure that you recognize this picture? It is Japan’s most famous artwork! A woodblock print of the Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. Do you see Mt. Fuji in the middle of the picture? This is the most famous piece from his 36-views of Mount Fuji.

Now it was time to check into our rooms and then it was off to our early evening adventure which would be a sumo-wrestling match!

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Along our walk to the Ryogoku KokugiKan Sumo Hall.

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Waiting to get into the sumo hall! Looks like this is quite a popular event!

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This is a suspended Shinto-style roof over the dohyo, which is the ring where the match occurs…and according to Wikipedia:

The dohyō (土俵) is the ring in which sumo wrestling bouts are held. A modern dohyō is a circle of rice-straw bales 4.55 meters in diameter, mounted on a square platform of clay 6.7m on a side, and 34 to 60 cm high. The surface is covered by sand.

A new dohyō is built prior to each tournament by the yobidashi, who are responsible for this activity. The dohyō is removed after each tournament, and in the case of Nagoya, pieces are taken home by the fans as souvenirs. The yobidashi also build the dohyō for training stables and sumo touring events.”

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The kensho banners are the advertisers for each bout. The more importance of the bout, the more advertisers there are!

It was a very enjoyable experience!

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Time to move on and who do I find myself waking behind? You would think that they would have better bags than what they are carrying?

Another fabulous evening of Shabu-Shabu as we entered the restaurant, Hananomai.

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The table was all set and it was such a feast for the eyes! This was different from last night as the vegetables for the shabu-shabu were already in the pot, just waiting to be cooked.

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and there were these additional plates of delicous morsels that accompanied our meals.

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and then when that was over…more food just kept coming and coming! I was sitiing here with Pat, a BFF and since she’s not a fan of the raw seafood, it left more for me.

We were all looking away as we quickly learned that this was…

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where the sumo wrestlers in traning came to practice!

All too soon this fun-filled evening was over and time to go to the hotel and turn in. A few of us needed to do laundry though…

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and thanks to Debby for these 2 pictures! We all got a kick out of the scenery…

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Goodnight Tokyo!

and for now, I will say…sayonara

 

Day 4 In Kyoto

We took a bus back to our starting point for the day, where the hotel shuttle would pick us up. Checked in and they were nice big rooms! By now I had learned how to use the heat/ac unit (as it is all written in Japanese) and for this night we needed some heat! I found an English speaking station on tv and watched some news. But some of us, well while in Japan do as the Japanese do…

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and some would enter the bath. The hotel supplied these robes and they really did look quite Japanese, don’t you think?

We would have a dining area set aside for us and enjoy a wonderful evening of sake, Japanese beer and shabu-shabu…

ShabuShabu

According to Wikipedia “Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ , also spelled syabu-syabu) is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water. The term is onomatopoeic, derived from the sound emitted when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking pot and served with dipping sauces. The food is cooked piece by piece by the diner at the table. Shabu-shabu is considered to be more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki.

They are demonstrating how to do it here and then soon we would take over! It was really delicious and I do enjoy shabu-shabu very much.

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There were a few side dishes served too and as always, so perfectly presented! A very enjoyable evening and soon it was time for our goodnights as we would leave for Tokyo tomorrow.

I am not always the best sleeper. I always fall asleep right away, but it’s staying asleep all night that is not always so possible! So I woke up and of course had to peek out the window and what do I see? BTW sunrise was rather early around 4-4:30am.

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WOW!

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I went back to sleep for a few hours and when I woke up it was sunny, so I quickly ran to the window again!

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I was so thrilled and I just sat there for about an hour or so texting this picture to everyone I could think of!

Finally it was time to have breakfast and check out. This hotel had a very nice gift shop right in the lobby and we were able to do some shopping!

We were on our way to Tokyo and another very full day!

and for now I will say…sayonara