The February Link Love

Hello February!

The shortest month of the year is already here and it is going to zoom past, I fear! (That’s right, I started this paragraph with a rhyme because sometimes that’s how I roll.) But I’m actually looking forward to days whizzing past right into spring (officially only 47 more days to go!), aren’t you?

I don’t think I ever mentioned it but this year my resolution-ish goal is to do things that scare me. Not really awful things but just things that I would hesitate to do at times. Such as trying something new that I’ve never done before (that swimming class at the gym) or being a little aggressive (pushing for more responsibility at work).

I’ve come to realize that the older I get, the more cautious I become…especially in my head. So this year, because I have a feeling it’s going to be a great year anyway, I’m going to try to challenge myself. (I mean, it’s about time, right?) And weirdly, I am looking forward to it!

How is your 2015 going? Hope you have an amazing February! x

——————————————————-Link Love——————————————————-

– Did you hear? This is how to fall in love.

– Travelling on a shipping container is a dream of mine.

– Bring the conveyor sushi to your home.

– These words.

– What New Yorkers read on their commute.

– Understanding Japanese onomatopoeic words through chocolates.

The New Years Back in Tokyo

I know I am pushing the limit by still posting new years related photos.
But I promise these are my very last. They were all taken after coming back to Tokyo and slipping back into reality. Cold windy days. So to brighten up my days, I did what any normal person would do and stuffed myself with delicious food and snacks! Oh and flowers!
Here are some photos:
The whiff of smoke is said to heal the places is touches.
regional omiyage // hozomon // omikuji drawers // strawberry daifuku
My omikuji…so crazy but I got dai-kichi (大吉) again! (three in a row!)
The ingredients for Nanakusa-gayu (七草粥), traditionally eaten on January 7th.
chinatown sweets are the prettiest // plump white flowers with a shade of pink
Nothing like gorgeous weekend flowers and snowflake nails to start of this year right! x

The Chi-no-wa at Konno Hachimangu Shrine

You don’t know how happy I was when I saw that Ru had written about Konno Hachimangu (金王八幡宮) in her recent post. It reminded me that I had a few photos of the same shrine from the end of the year so I thought I’d just let you go to her post to learn about this lovely shrine. You know I love reading about something a hundred times more than writing about it. (It has a surprising connection to mathematics, which I did not know!)

Because it was the end of the year, they had the Chi-no-wa (茅の輪) set up. It is a large ring, used as part of the purification ritual called Oh-harai (大祓い) to get rid of all the bad luck in the past year.

It was my first time seeing an actual chi-no-wa so I had to read the instructions. You start by walking through the ring, then go around the left and walk through again, then go around to the right and walk through for the final time. (You can see the instructions in the photo below.)

I think it had instant results because I picked an omikuji (おみくじ) and I got dai-kichi (大吉), the best one! Hurrah!

Here are some photos (and read about the shrine here):

The Random Snapshots from Okinawa

The wind in Tokyo is insane and I am cold to my bones. But the countdown to spring has already begun so I am staying optimistic that this cold dry season will pass soon enough.
Until then here are a few more photos of Okinawa:
Blue skies on my way to the supermarket.
Missing those warm white-tshirt-no-socks kind of weather.
Isn’t this the loveliest entrance ever?
So many bright colored flowers and buildings here.
Did you know karate originated in Okinawa? (I had no idea!)
Driving along the sea on our drive up to Naijin (今帰仁).
Fresh daikon outside the soba shop we went to for lunch.
Our uncle’s home is wonderfully in the middle of nowhere.
They had tons of siikwasaa (シークァーサー) trees. Yum.
Okinawa has mountains, too.
Okinawa habu (a venomous pit viper) is my worst nightmare. Argh.
Our family couldn’t fit into one car so here we are driving in two separate cars.
It felt a little odd seeing palm trees surrounding the shrine torii.
There was an omikuji vending machine!
Naha city is a whole lot of white.
Last sunset in Okinawa. It was the best week ever and I can’t wait to go back!
You know you’re back in Tokyo when a kid yells “SAMUI!” the minute we step off the plane.

The Year End Family Get Together in Okinawa

I’ve mentioned before that our family rarely does anything tourist-y in Okinawa. 
It is one of the top vacation spots for domestic travel in Japan. And I’m quite curious to explore this motherland of mine (I was born here). But I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve actually eaten out, much less hit the tourist attractions.
The reason for this is: family get-togethers.
We have a lot of these. Especially when we visit during the holidays. Okinawa is said to have a very strong sense of family and community, which means everyone comes to these gatherings. It can get very lively and last late into the night.
This time it was just my grandmother’s younger sister’s family and us (because there just wasn’t enough space to invite my grandmother’s other two sister’s families). We spent the entire day getting ready for the get-together, cleaning the house and cooking, cooking and cooking some more. Apparently, there really is no such thing as too much food on occasions like this. Or at least that’s what my grandma says.
We rarely get to spend time with our Okinawan-side of the family so it was really nice to have the time to catch up with all my relatives, especially with a feast like this! Oh, what a night!
What are your family get-togethers like?
Here are some photos:

My brother good and ready to eat!
Our second cousins teaching us a new pose…still have no idea what it was.
A lot of my favorite dishes…mmmh!
So hard to choose where to start with this much food!
Chimaki is delicious and filling, made from things like rice, beans, and meat.
It’s finally my turn to hand out otoshidama (お年玉) now 😀
My great aunt, grandma, and baby sister taking a break from eating to chat!
For once in my life, I was too busy eating and chatting to take photos…and you can see why! x

The Year End Osoji in Okinawa

After flying into Okinawa, we jumped right into the year end tradition of Osoji (大掃除).
Growing up in Michigan, my family always kept with the tradition of spring cleaning. It makes sense to open the windows and clean the house out once the cold weather goes away. Especially in Michigan, it’s just too darn cold to do any cleaning at the end of the year.
But in Japan, osoji is part of the sacred new years ritual of preparing your house for the god(s) that will visit you in the new year. It goes hand in hand with the kadomatsu (門松) and shi-me-kazari (注連飾り), which are also put up to welcome the god(s) into your home.
In the Edo Period, they called this year end cleaning Susu-harai (すす払い). Most families in Japan do osoji in the last couple of days of the year now, but previously susu-harai was done on the 13th of December. It was considered the day to start preparing for the new year.
My family is neither Shinto or Buddhists, but we keep with tradition because it’s easier to do hardcore cleaning when you have the whole family there. The more hands the better, right? And also, it’s just a great feeling to be able to welcome the new year with a clean house.
Do you do osoji at the end of the year?
Here are some photos:
My mom was in charge of the yard.
My baby sister and I were in charge of all the windows and doors.
My daddy was in charge of fixing and cleaning electronics around the house, like fans and lamps.
Did I mention we were in Okinawa? Perfect weather to open the windows and clean!
My other sister was in charge of vacuuming the entire place.
We washed all the curtains. If you look closely, you can see my brother by the window.
Grandma coming to peek at how everyone was doing in between her osoji in the kitchen.
It may seem like I was just taking photos the entire time, but I did my part…you have to believe me!
It felt really great to get the house in order before the new year!

The Hatsuhinode in Okinawa

The new years holiday has passed and things are pretty much back to ‘normal’ now. I fell off the blogging wagon for a bit, but am hopefully on a roll to share with you some photos from my family trip to Okinawa!
This was our hatsuhinode (初日の出).

Ever since I started living alone, I’ve been going home to my parent’s place for the new years holiday. First it was Akita, then Osaka, and now Imabari. I can’t imagine not spending the holidays with family (probably because I don’t have a family of my own yet). So despite the expensive airfare and crazy holiday traffice, I always head home.

But this new years holiday, I decided we should all head down to Okinawa to spend new years with grandma. Because we moved around a lot, I never got the chance to spend vast amounts of time with my grandma after moving away from Okinawa when I was four. I send letters and we talk on the phone…but you know, it’s still nothing compared to actually spending time together.

Last time we were in Okinawa for Golden Week, we were only there together for four days and my baby sister was still in boarding school and couldn’t be there. But now that my parents are retired, they’re a lot more flexible with their schedule, so I thought what better time than now for a family trip to Okinawa? Especially when this years new years holiday gave us nine consecutive days off of work?

It ended up being the best idea ever.

The warmer weather was just what everyone needed, we got to catch up with old friends and family, and best of all, my grandma kept on telling me how happy she was to have everyone there for the holidays!

Made me so happy.

One of the things my grandma and I were excited about leading up to this trip was hatsuhinode, the first light of the year. And despite the weather forecast for a cloudy day, I kept my hopes up that we would be able to see a peak of the first sunrise together.

My uncle’s family drove down to see the sunrise with us. We all gathered (this may wound weird…) at my grandpa’s grave, because it has a really great view of the sea facing east. You’ll see that Okinawan graves are much larger than the one’s in mainland Japan. We waited in the cold for quite sometime as large clouds blocked the sunrise. But because it was so windy, it blew the clouds away and we were soon basking in the warm rays of this year’s first sunrise!

For me, it was the best way to welcome the new year.

Here are some photos:

The morning started out with massive clouds covering the sky.
But as the sun rose, the clouds slowly moved away.
Everyone waiting to see the sunrise between the clouds.
And there it was! The first sunrise of 2015!
There were a lot of oohs and ahhhs as we all basked in the sunlight.
The clouds came rolling in again, giving us an even more dramatic sky.
Smiles and warm tea bottles.
After gazing at the ever changing sky for a while, it was time for family photos!
First family photo of the year!
We also brought new flowers for our grandpa and ancestor’s grave.
The view right before we left to go back home.
We all came back to eat breakfast together.
No better way to warm up than to eat hot oden and other new years dishes.
My sisters and cousins…we all decided waking up before dawn was worth it! x