The Twelve Zodiac Signs or Eto in Japanese

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

My mother went to Miyajima ( Itsukushima Shrine ) and bought these twelve zodiac dolls. They are so lovely, aren’t they ? Each animal plays a role as the sign of a year. The year 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit. The year 2010 was the Year of the Tiger. You might see the year’s animal on New Year’s cards or on good luck charms.


The people born in the year 2011 will be under the sign of the rabbit. There are 12 signs and the cycle repeats itself, so if you think asking a person’s age is embarrassing, you might ask their sign and figure out how old they are instead! Some people say people who were born in the same Eto have something in common. For Example, my late grandmother’s sign was mouse. She liked to save things. She treasured things and kept important things in a box and put them in a deep closet without using them. It is said that people under the sign of mouse (born in 2008, 1996 etc) are frugal. My sign is the wild boar (born in 2007,1995 – maybe you can guess if I am 15 or 27 or…) They say wild boar people often make a mad dash. In my family , I’m a wild boar, others are sheep, chicken and mouse. Guess who is the strongest !

Blog Comment on Ryutakuji Temple

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

I use internet every day. E-mail is indispensable for me and through my blog I have encountered many people. I really appreciate it and feel grateful. However spam in my blog drives me crazy. My spam blocker used to be on a strict setting and was even removing some legitimate mail., so I eased it. But then I started to get so many spam messages that had to be deleted. Yesterday as I was deleting spam I managed to delete some precious comments from readers, too ! I had received a very interesting comment about Ryutakuji temple, for example, and I was going to email the reader back, but then I lost the address. I also lost very nice comments from Eric. I also deleted an interesting message from an American who visited Ryutakuji to meet Soen Nakagawa Roshi in 1979. I’m sorry so sorry about that. If you read this entry, could you send your message one more time ? Thank you.


Sometimes people ask some questions about traveling in Japan through blog comments but if you have questions, please click contact” and send me e-mail at “www., otherwise I might fail to read your inquiry.

Green Tea Gyokuro in Shizuoka ( Asahina )

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010


We went to Asahina in Okabe. It is a very quiet and small town. The river Asahina runs through the area and along the valley they grow high-grade tea called gyokuro. It is said that gyokuro combats fatigue and I was very curious to see if it would work on me.

Do you know why gyokuro is special ?

It’s because the tea leaves are covered with reed screens called “yoshizu” two or three weeks prior to picking. Since this shades leaves from direct sunlight, they are tender. They have a lot of theanine and that brings a sweet and mild flavor. Gyokuro is rich in caffeine which stimulates the brain and nervous system. Also the chlorophyll in gyokuro is said to be good for the skin.



We had gyokuro at the “hyogetsutei”. Hyougetsutei means gourd and moon. In this building we could see a lot of gourds and moon. These two items seemed to be logos for this place. As we admired the beauty of its architecture, we were also amazed by the mild taste of gyokuro. We had gyokuro in these special utensils.

We had two cups of tea and after that we ate the green tea leaves with dressing. The leaves were soft, tasted great.  




Great view spot of Mt.Fuji ( Fuji and Fujinomiya in Shizuoka )

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010


We went on a hike the other day. It was a very warm and windless day for December. We met at Jittusouji temple in Fuji City. This is a Nichiren temple. The head temple is in Minobu town in Yamanashi and called Kuonji. One of my American friends visited Kuonji and he said it was the best and most impressive place for him. In fact I was a kind of surprised because he has visited many famous temples in Kyoto and Kamakura. But he named Kuonji in Minobu as the best. Temples or shrines in Kyoto, Nara, Kamakura are great but they are often too crowded so some people can’t relax.


First, we greeted Nichiren-san, then, started our hike toward the top of Mt. Myojyo. Atsuko has a lot of experience of mountain climbing and she goes on a hike probably once a week. Kazuko and Chikako know this area very well.





We walked along tea fields and orange gardens. We could still enjoy autumn colors. I like this time of the year because I rarely meet snakes and there are no mosquitoes. The first half was very easy but the second half was hard for me. We had to walk up a rather steep trail to the summit. I perspired very much and my sweat was running down. Finally, we reached the top ! There we saw a clear Mt. Fuji. Fuji City where I live stretches to the right and Fujinomiya city stretches to the left. Looking back, we could see Fujikawa River, its mouth and Suruga Bay. On the top we didn’t have any wind but had a lot of sunshine. We saw only a few people besides us. Atsuko carried a portable gas stove to boil water and made us coffee. It was out of this world ! She sometimes makes instant ramen on the mountain and it’s also great. We had lunch and tea there. We suddenly realized we had already stayed there more than one and half hours. I felt like only 30 minutes or so. On our way back we found a lavatory near the top. It was unexpectedly clean. Also my friends showed me the parking space in case I go there by car. But I don’t want to drive up there. I definitely need to walk to enjoy tea on the summit. We saw farmers on our way and we got some oranges from them. They are very generous. Thank you !














Green Tea Potourri

Monday, December 6th, 2010


I made some tea using hand-rolled green tealeaves. After that I spread the leaves and dried them. You can eat the leaves or they can be used for cooking but this time I made tea potpourri. It was very easy. You can make a sachet like this. A tea farmer’s wife made this and gave it to me. According to her, her friend’s son does Kendo ( Japanese fencing ) and he keeps gear in a bag. He always tried to keep it clean but since gear gets a lot of sweat on it, sometimes it stinks or even mold grows on it. But after putting the tea potpourri sack in the gear bag, he hasn’t had a problem. Tea has power as a sterilizer.

Hear I use tea potpourri, tea seeds, snake gourd ( the red ones ) and pine cones.

Everyone who visits my place see it and ask me what it is . I always tell them to smell it and everyone enjoys the smell. After drinking high quality tea, why don’t you make a tea potpourri ? High quality tea might be expensive but it will give you long-lasting benefits.