Monthly Archives: July 2014

Paying my way through Hong Kong 香港

Day 318:  July 22, 2014

Nǐ hǎo!  Today’s post features the highlights from a June trip to 香港 Hong Kong.

The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it. – Richard Bach

Skyline on Hong Kong island.

Skyline on Hong Kong Island, Victoria Harbor.

A little info:  Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.  Meaning, H.K. holds a different political system than mainland China, operating under the principal “one country, two systems.”

The Cantonese dialect of Chinese is the primary language spoken along with English as a designated official language.  In my limited experience, the overall English speaking ability in H.K. far surpasses the prevalence found in Tokyo.

The food:  

Stacking baskets of Dim Sum that's out of this world @ Tim Ho Wan.

Stacking baskets of Dim Sum that’s out of this world @ Tim Ho Wan.

Spring rolls, bok choy, pork soup dumplings. Yum.

Spring rolls, bok choy, pork soup dumplings.

天壇大佛 Tian Tan Buddha

Po L Monestary, __ white entry gates, and the high peaks of H.K.

Po Lin Monastery’s white entry gates and the high peaks of H.K.

Inside the temple, P Monestary

Inside the temple, Po Lin Monastery

dy...? Buddhist hand gesture info

Towering at 112 feet, The Tian Tan Buddha of Hong Kong.

Completed climb, eyeing the final 286 steps to Buddha.

Eyeing the final 268 steps to Buddha.

Clear sky on the Tian Tan Buddha.

The Buddha’s hand gesture is called Abhaya Mudra, the energy of No Fear.

View of the temple and monastery from the lotus platform.

View of the temple and monastery from the lotus platform.

The streets:  Navigating at first seems a bit overwhelming with neon signage at every turn and a babel of chatter consuming the sidewalks.  My travel buddy, a New York City native, took right to the madness and had us swimming with the current in no time.  (Thanks Lauren)

loud.

The stillness of this photo doesn’t accurately capture the pace on the streets. Brisk and boisterous.

Street meat hangin'

Street meat hangin’

Kowloon at night

Walking the H.K. Kowloon markets.

Hong Kong can nudge you out of your comfort zone but proves to be a place of priceless memories.  One photo I was always too hungry(?) to capture was a shot of the street corner’s steaming pork buns every morning.

Trust that these many little moments of perfection were paid for with much enjoyment.

As you think, you travel.  You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.  May you live all the days of your life. – Jonathan Swift

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Mt. Fuji, SW-23

Day 310:  July 14, 2014

Dear Dad,

In 2011, you lost your battle with brain cancer.  During the thick of your fight, GW dedicated a skydiving trip to you – a kickoff to our promise to do great things in the world when you’re gone:

Skydiving SW-23

GW skydiving, 2011 [SW-23]

Skydiving SW-23

Free-fall @ 13,000 ft.

SW-23: "Yeah baby!"

SW-23 “Yeah baby!”

My turn: our journey to the top of Mt. Fuji 富士山 in 2014:

Take your life to new heights.

Day 1, 0-9,000 ft.

July 13, Day 1: Base to 9,000 ft. (6,200 ft. elev. gain)

日本  Land of the Rising Sun

Above the clouds. Sunrise @ 10,000 ft., July 14, 2014.

Above the clouds. Sunrise @ 9,000 ft., July 14

Fuji dishing out some pain.

Fuji dishing out some pain.

SW-23, summit of Mt. Fuji @ 12,688 ft.

[SW-23] Summit of Mt. Fuji, 12,388 ft.

Almost 3 years, but feeling a little closer to you today, Pop.  From the top of MT. FUJI: “Yeah baby!” #SW23 #LIVESTRONG

Love always,  Katers

Mt. Fuji 富士山, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Japan

Mt. Fuji 富士山, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Japan

築地 Tsukiji’s beating heart

Day 303:  July 7, 2014

The smell of fresh seafood hits like a tidal wave as soon as the subway doors break open at Tsukiji station.   Exits lead to a maze of street stalls and restaurants buzzing with energy, anxious to feed you its freshest and finest.

Scroll for a quick tour of the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場 in Tokyo.

Early morning arrival outside Tsukuji Market, Tokyo.

Early morning outside Tsukuji Market, Tokyo.

Activities at Tsukiji Market start in the early morning hours.  By 3 AM fresh seafood products arrive to the market, at 5 AM the frantic sales and auctions begin.

Washing the blades

8 AM, washing the blades

Tuna as fresh as it gets.

Tuna for sale at Tsukiji.

Take care or you’ll nearly be run over by workers in rubber boots darting by on tiny “turret trucks” carrying foam boxes stacked high with sea creatures of every description.

Tsukuji info

The market handles more than 400 different types of seafood: cheap seaweed to the most expensive caviar, and tiny sardines to 700 lb tuna.

Tsukuji info

Intense activity during the morning hours at the intermediate wholesalers area.

The economics:  About 3,000 tons of fish and shellfish are handled at Tsukiji market every day.  An estimated 17% of the world’s total fish catch passes through its gates.  Overall, a total yearly value in excess of  ¥600 billion (approximately $5.9 billion).

octopus

Every form of creature that can be hauled from the sea is welcome at Tsukiji.

A days work at Tsukuji.

Many see Tsukiji as a last holdout of an older, quainter Japan.

The shellfish ladies

The shellfish ladies

Sushi time:  A visit to Tsukiji Fish Market is not complete without  enjoying some fresh sushi in one of the restaurants at the Jogai Shijō (outer market).

The shops are small, most with lines of people patiently waiting to get inside. The food is hands down, once-in-a-lifetime good.

Soulmates. sushi. tokyo.

Maeda-san. The heart and soul of Tokyo.

Sushi in Tsukuji. Doesn't get any "fresher" than that ladies and gentlemen.

Sushi in Tsukuji. As fresh as it gets ladies and gentlemen.

I formerly would’ve looked on this place as an aquarium of sea monsters – certainly not for eating.  But a year among the Japanese and some insight into the importance of seafood in Japanese cuisine and culture has changed that. Tsukiji 築地 is a cultural treasure.

“The beating heart of sushi culture that spread across the world.” – NY Times

鎌倉 Kamakura ∞

Day 299:  July 3, 2014

鎌倉Kamakura:  An ancient city just south of Tokyo, once the capital of Japan in the late 12th century.  Kamakura is home to its own, original culture, welcoming sunrise meditation and hillside hikes – which can be added to fresh mattcha ice cream and a meeting with Buddha as reasons to visit.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura

The Great Buddha of Kamakura

This iconic Daibutsu is arguably among the few images which have come to represent Japan in the world’s collective imagination. [Time]

Newly grown bamboo

Journey to the Buddha begins in the bamboo groves.

Tree facts

“Biyakushin,” a national treasure. Planted over 700 years ago by Zen Master Mugaku Sogen.

This temple area serves as the final place of prayer along the Hundred Kannon Pilgrimage.  Kannon is a popular form of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) in Japanese Buddhism and is known as the “God (Goddess) of Mercy,” the Bodhisattva who helps the suffering in this world.

Meditation pillows

Meditation pillows

A notice at the entrance to the grounds reads,

“Stranger, whosoever thou art and whatsoever be thy creed, when thou enterest this sanctuary remember thou treadest upon ground hallowed by the worship of ages.

This is the Temple of Buddha and the gate of the eternal, and should therefore be entered with reverence.”

The Great Buddha of Kamakura ∞ 大仏が大好き

The Great Buddha of Kamakura ∞ 大仏が大好き

The structure dates back to 1252. Visitors are allowed inside the hollow statue to leave messages and wishes.

The 43 ft. Buddha dates back to 1252. Visitors are allowed inside the hollow statue to leave messages and wishes.

The Infinite Knot ∞ is a line without a beginning or end that radiates both calm and movement.  In the Buddha’s hand gesture for meditation,  it represents the idea that everything in this world is interconnected.

Zen stone garden, 枯山水 "karesansui"

Zen stone garden, 枯山水 “karesansui”

Tatami room

Tatami room 畳

“Until only infinity remained of beauty”
― John Ashbery, Some Trees

Hope you’ll join me on these last few weeks exploring the true beauty that is Japan …