What a lovely relaxed vibe this weekend while we got to catch up with old friends Ryo and Tash, to meet their gorgeous children Skyla and Otto, to enjoy some great food, wonderful company, fabulous shrines, and bonus time to celebrate Tash’s birthday!
We pretty much went everywhere by ‘mooch’ which felt incredibly refreshing after the heaving metros and hectic stations of Tokyo. It felt properly ‘weekendy’!
Milly adored baby Otto, and took every opportunity to have a lovely cuddle with him or to take charge of feeding and pushing.
Ryo did an amazing job at introducing us to some as-yet untried Japanese food types. Teppanaki was already a firm favourite, but it turns out even better when cooked by Bella! We also made our own Okonomiyaki which are Japanese savoury pancakes (also known as Japanese pizza in the US). They are made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, some kind of meat (or not!) and topped with whatever condiments the kids agree to. Delicious!
We visited several Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, some super local that we stumbled across, and in contrast, The Hase-dera Temple which was on an incredibly impressive scale. It is home to the largest wooden statue in Japan (of Kannon the Goddess of mercy) and was carved from a single giant tree that, legend has it, was once growing in Nara around 721 CE.
All were beautiful in their own way, immaculately cared for, and nestled within spectacular gardens. Blossoms are just starting to come out!
Hase-dera has a special garden in dedication to dead or unborn children who are carried to heaven without passing through judgement. It is full of statuettes know as mizuko jizo that represent these infants. Here are Emily and Skyla pouring water over one’s head to quench its thirst:
Over the course of the weekend, our girls revelled in some company of their own generation:
To celebrate Tash’s birthday we enjoyed by far my favourite Onsen (Japanese baths) experience to date. First Tash and I took care of Otto (plus coffee and cake!) while the boys went in, and then we handed over the snuggly baby, and took our turn in the womens side. There were several different baths set in rocks each with different mineral properties and temperatures. It was a very natural outdoor experience where the pools were sheltered within beautiful gardens, with naked nymphlike women draped around enjoying the serenity, or chatting with their friends and family. Tash kindly filled in some gaps in my Onsen etiquette knowledge eg no towelling off – its better to leave the minerals on your skin to sink in.
And James finally finished off Otto:
Huge thanks to Ryo and Tash for hosting us, and for pitching the perfect places and pace for our sunny weekend together.