The Long Weekend in Niijima and Shikinejima

It was supposed to be a big festive summer.

But even though summer came, the festivities never did.

So we decided to take a long weekend and explore Tokyo’s islands. With an e-bike, of course.

The views were fantastic and the water felt amazing. And I felt something I hadn’t in a long time….freedom.

The Day by the Waves of Kamakura

What is summer without the ocean?

There was a beach volleyball tournament at the beach in Shonan, which we went to see. Kugenuma Beach is the super popular spot where everyone comes to swim, surf and party in the summer. As you can imagine, it’s pretty darn crowded.

After some time watching the volleyball games, we headed down the coast towards Kamakura.

Now Shichiri-ga-hama Beach is more my style. There aren’t as many people, due to the lack of shower facilities. Just local surfers and an occasional bbq going on. The sand is almost black and the waves are strong and constant. I’ve always loved this spot to look out to sea.

Did I also mention that you can see Mount Fuji from the beach? It looks incredibility close from here, which I love.

Which beach is more your style?

Here are some photos:

2-1-12 Shichiri-ga-hama, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa JAPAN
TEL: 0467 32 9777
HOURS: 8:00am-8:00pm (10am-8pm on week days in the winter)

The Kurushima Straight Boat Tour

I went on my first Kurushima Straight (来島海峡) boat tour this summer!
My parents and my sister drove out to Oshima Island (大島), which is the first exit off Shimanami Kaido (しまなみ海道) from Imabari (今治), to take a boat tour of the Kurushima Straight tidal currents. Kurushima Straight is said to have one of the three most rapid currents in Japan, along with Kanmon Straight (関門海峡) and Naruto Straight (鳴門海峡). I’ve never been to either of them so I couldn’t really compare…but the boat ride was fun!
As Kurushima Straight is located in the middle of Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海) and leads to both Kyushu and Kansai areas, it is considered an important international route for many ships and vessels. But in the olden days, it was also considered a very difficult place to navigate, due to the narrow routes and the unpredictable rapid currents. The tour guide mentioned that the speed of the current whirlpools at times exceeded 10 knots (not that I know what that means…I’m guessing very fast).
The boat tour took us under Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge (来島海峡大橋), which is part of Shimanami Kaido, and towards the Kurushima Straight tidal currents. We also navigated around islands such as Kojima (小島) and Kurushima (来島), before going by Hashihama Port (波止浜港) to see various ships that are docked there.
I had a great time on the tour, especially with the wind blowing in my hair. It felt great and the waves and tidal currents made for a thrilling boat ride. If you’re ever in the area, I would definitely recommend this 40 minute boat tour to learn about the history and experience the tidal currents!
While we were on Oshima, we also stopped by the Imabari City Murakami Suigun Museum, which is all about the pirates that roamed and guarded the Seto Inland Sea. We also stopped by a roadside station to try the local soft serve and mikan juice. So so good!
Who knew Oshima could be so much fun?
Here are some photos:
Our tickets for the Kurushima Straight tidal current boat tour.
Big smiles all around…even though we had to wear orange life jackets!
Some parts of the straight are so calm you’d never know…
The anchorage (left photo) is a 150,000 block of concrete that secures the bridge cables. 
Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge is the first bridge consisting of three successive suspension bridges in the world.
Everyone’s eyes were glued to the large current whirlpools.
Not only did we see the whirlpool but we felt the pull on the boat as well.
My first time seeing the bridge from underneath!
Many of the smaller islands still have a small community of people living there.
Hashihama Port is home to Imabari Shipbuilding, Japan’s largest ship building company.
The water looks so peaceful from here.
There were many smaller boats out and about as well.
We had a great time on the boat tour!
This was the boat that took us around the Kurushima Straight.
Mikan and lemon soft serve and ponkan juice! Yum!
My ticket to Imabari City Murakamisuigun Museum
Ships with the “上” flag were able to pass through the straight safely back in the day.
I’ve discovered that Imabari may be a small city but it is rich with history.
Bari-san and his lady dressed up to promote Imabari!

The Fireworks in Ichikawa

Did you go to a firework festival this summer?
The annual fireworks at Edo River (江戸川, edo-gawa) is always on the first weekend of August. This firework festival is one of the biggest ones in the greater Tokyo area. 
It’s a little bit confusing because it has two names. Edogawa ward in Tokyo began this annual firework festival along the river in 1976 and they call it the Edogawa-ku Firework Festival (江戸川区花火大会). But then in 1985, Ichikawa city in Chiba, which is right across the river from Edogawa ward, joined in on hosting the firework festival, calling it the Ichikawa Shimin Noryo Firework Festival (市川市民納涼花火大会). So technically it’s the same firework festival with a different name, depending on where you watch it from.  
I know Dru was on the other side but I like watching from the Ichikawa side of the river because you don’t have to save your place during the middle of the night to get a decent spot. Last year, there were approximately 490 thousand people on the Ichikawa side and a whopping 900 thousand people on the Edogawa side.
A lot of people take pride in which side they watch from. I was told by my coworker, who defines himself as a true Edokko (江戸っ子), that someone who was born and raised in Tokyo would never cross over to Chiba to watch the fireworks. But me? I was born in Okinawa and I could really care less about which side I watch it from, so naturally I choose the side that has less people and a larger space.
Like last year, we had a little picnic in the evening before the fireworks. I love festival food, it’s so good! We ate and talked while watching the sun go down, which was beautiful in itself. And when the fireworks finally started with a huge bang, we were ready to be entertained!
Here are some photos:
The festival stalls selling everything from yaki-soba to shaved ice!
A photo in between buying food from the stalls.
It was a beautiful sunny day!
You can never have too much festival food! 
We celebrated my bestie’s birthday with a candle in the jyaga-bata! 😀
Happy 30th birthday to D!
The beautiful sun setting across the river (that’s the Edogawa side of the river).
The festival starts with the traditional 1,000 fireworks in the first 5 seconds!
These are my favorite fireworks, with just one color…simple but stunning!
What a night. Hoping to be here next year, too!

The Blueberry Picking in Koigakubo

Some days I desperately crave fresh blueberries.
This was one of those days and I headed to the local supermarket. But all they had were the small teeny tiny plastic packets of 20 or so blueberries that cost 400 yen. Growing up in Michigan, it’s nearly impossible for me to pay so much for so little. I should be used to it by now, but I can’t. So I decided that I might as well go pick some myself.
I couldn’t go all the way to Saitama like last summer, so I hopped on a train for Kokubunji. 
Blueberries were first introduced to Japan in 1951 and the first blueberry farm opened in Tokyo’s Kodaira-shi (小平市) in 1968. In the 90s, blueberries became popular in Japan due to their richness in anthocyanin and more and more farms began to produce blueberries. Even in Tokyo, several of the cities and wards have started promoting blueberry farms. So I just went through the list and randomly chose one near Koigakubo Station on the Seibu Kokubunji Line.
Matsumoto Engei (松本園芸) had a corner of their land dedicated to blueberries, but as it was still early in the season, I actually had the whole area to myself! I was handed a basket, which I learned you wrap around your waist, to pick blueberries. I felt like a professional.
It was a hot day but it felt good standing outside, stepping from bush to bush in search of blueberries. So much so that I definitely picked more than I had planned on. But it didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that there can be not such thing as too many blueberries, so I picked a little more (I really couldn’t stop) and then headed to the checkout.
The lady at the checkout who weighed my blueberries was so nice and friendly. We got to talking and I realized that their specialty is in producing poinsettias for Christmas. She showed me around their greenhouse which was already growing poinsettias in rows and rows of planters. It was all very interesting and she made my day by giving me a beautiful hibiscus plant as a gift on my way out!
It always amazes me how farmers can be so generous. I know that they give things away because they aren’t able to sell them. But still, vegetables and flowers are quite expensive at times for me and the gesture always brightens my day. Especially because the hibiscus reminds me of Okinawa!
 So, did you go blueberry picking this summer? (FYI: there’s still time to go!) x
Here are some photos:

I cannot get over how beautiful the shades of gradation are on blueberries!
This is my pretty hibiscus plant!
I made blueberry lemon cheese tart when I got home…then promptly fell asleep 😀

2-39-6 Higashi-tokura, Kokubunji-shi, Tokyo JAPAN
TEL: 042 321 7865
Blueberry Picking: 200 yen / 100g

The July Link Love

Hello to the second half of year 2014!

Can you believe that the year is already half over? Seriously, hold your horses 2014! It’s almost impossible to keep up. Last month was full of crazy busy days, crazy weird weather, and crazy fun weekends. I have so many blog posts in draft, it’s…again, crazy. I really need to get a move on.

But I decided to celebrate and kick off July with a swim during my lunch hour! Yay! I was completely out of shape and couldn’t do as many laps as I wanted to…but it felt amazing! So refreshing to be in the water. I’m hoping to finally get the hang of the freestyle breathing technique. Sunshine, swimming goggles, and I are going to be the best of friends this summer!

Do you have any projects or goals for this summer? x

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

– Curious about this library that serves drinks in Shibuya! (link in Japanese)

– Weird books, anyone?

– Have you tried the new Häagen-Dazs flavor already?

– Went to see this movie and loved it!

– These origami brooches.

– Have you ever written a letter to your younger self?

– Learning about a blogger friend’s writing life and now thinking about mine! x

The Starlight Cinema 2013

I completely forgot about the outdoor movie I saw last month.
Ebisu Garden Place always hosts the Starlight Cinema during the summer weekends. They shows one movie a night outside on the large 300-inch screen. They always have a great selection of movies.
My friend M and I saw Mamma Mia last year and had a great time so we decided to make this a tradition. This year we went to see Nankyoku Ryorinin (南極料理人). The english title is The Chef of South Polar. It’s a hilarious story following a chef who is suddenly stationed at a south polar research expedition. I don’t know how to explain it but it’s such a Japanese movie, I loved it and was laughing my head off the entire time! Have you seen it?

Here are some pictures:

If you’ve never gone, I hope you’ll go enjoy movie night here next summer! x

The Little Town by the Sea

I’ve finally started getting back into work mode. Just in the nick of time because we’ve been busy at the office. But I haven’t had time to go through the pictures from my time at home in Ehime during obon break. So I thought I’d take you on a little evening walk (the only time people venture outside because it’s so hot) around my parents house. 
Here are some pictures:

There are many rice fields around town…and the prefecture, too.
There are also many ports for ferries and various ships along the shore.
Knots and nails.
You can see private boats like this, too.
The Seto Inland Sea has fast tidal currents…always rushing somewhere.
My grandma’s old bike that I still use to get around town.

Sitting on the side of the coast and watching the sea.

You can see the bridges from Shimanami-kaido, which links Hiroshima to Ehime, from here.

Doesn’t this quiet little town have the best views?

The Pool Day After Work

In one of my efforts to deny the fact that summer is coming to an end, my bff and I went to hang out at a pool the other day after work.
Did you know Keio Plaza hotel has a pool? It’s right down the street from where I work so it’s the perfect spot to cool down during the summer. It’s kind of surreal seeing the skyscrapers rise high above us. It’s also a great place to practice the breaststroke. I’d forgotten how much harder it is to stay afloat in the pool when compared to the ocean. I think we were the only ones swimming laps but it was fun.
Week day pool nights are the best!

The Birthday Post

Some say it’s just a number but I’ve come to realize that I am a person who likes celebrate birthdays. It’s a pretty big deal, staying alive for a whole year.

I turned 31 today. Not sure how I feel about this yet. It’s starting to become a pretty large number. I feel like I should know more and be doing more. But I do know that I’m moving forward in a direction that I feel good about. So I’m happy about that.

If I were to give advice to my next-year-self, I’d say to wear sunscreen and take a chance at things that are out of my comfort zone.

Do you have any advice? I’d love to hear! 😀