Back to Brooklyn

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It has been almost a year since I left Japan and settled back in Brooklyn, NY. Time has flown by and I often think about my overseas experience – including all the likes & dislikes.

Well, now I’m back in Brooklyn about to embark on a new adventure. . . parenthood!

Please join me at my new blog Actually Ashlee where I plan to share unique finds, lots of food & travel adventures and what it’s like to raise a baby in Brooklyn. I am looking forward to the new chapter in life and hope you’ll be excited as well!

Happy October!

Ashlee

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Sayonara Nihon!

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In Spring of 2011 Mr. Cakes was presented with the chance to spend a year in Japan on an exchange program for work. At the time we were unsure of many details but interested in the possibility.

Then the terrible tsunami happened and delayed our trip. By August plans were picking up and on October 12, 2011 Mr. Cakes and I flew from JFK to Narita to begin our year abroad.

I am grateful for the experience of spending a year immersed in a foreign culture. There are many more countries Mr. Cakes and I want to explore, but a year in Japan was an amazing opportunity we are so glad we didn’t miss out on!

This year is not without bumps or moments of missing home, but time flies and with lots of support from Mr. Cakes, Bunny Cain, my sister and both our families.

Thank you to all our friends & family who took the time, money and efforts to explore this crazy land with us and keep in touch. You will each be thought of fondly as we look back on this amazing year. (Rx, KC, Neeta7, and my family)

Cheers to the new pals we made, Karinda, Burke and Greenburg you will always be welcome to visit rat city and stay with us in Brooklyn and sleep under our kotatsu.

I’d really like to express how incredible the experience of writing and actually publishing each entry has been. Typos and all! If not only for self-indulgent reasons but to simply share the possibility of traveling and living abroad. The feedback and kind notes only further encouraged me. I have enjoyed hearing from Aunt Janice & Uncle Lew and learning so much about the adventures you two have had!

The past year has flown by and I look forward to future trips back to Japan.

For now, goodnight Tokyo! 

XO

Ashlee In Transit

Kinkaku-ji

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Kankaku-ji or The Golden Pavilion is one of the most visited temples in Kyoto. You can read a little about the history here. What is most impressive is how the garden design works with the actual structure. When you view the temple it is just stunning. Not a branch, leaf, or root our of place. 

So much time and effort goes into maintaining the architecture, gardens, and grounds! The pavilion as it stands is a rebuilt structure from 1955 (due to fires), however the history dates to 1397. There is some debate as to how ‘gold’ the initial structure was and whether or not the current finishes are accurate.

The debate doesn’t matter as much when in person. The whole atmosphere has almost a magical quality to it. Kinkaku-ji is relatively small for a temple structure but has an amazing presence and certainly creates a lasting impact on the observer.

Mr. Cakes and I thoroughly enjoyed having a look for ourselves at The Golden Pavilion! We caught ourselves staring at even the reflections of the landscaping. It was just that beautiful!

Sagano Bamboo Forest

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If you search ‘Bamboo Forest Kyoto’ you will find the most beautiful images. Or if you have the time, check out this site. We tried our best to capture the amazing scenery along the walking path at Sagano Bamboo Forest, but we were just too distracted!

In truth Mr. Cakes and I needed a good 4 days in Kyoto to see and do everything we had intended. However with a short weekend we tried to pack in all we could in a couple of days. The first day we decided to take the train out of Kyoto center and head to Arashiyama check out the Bamboo Forest.

We were not let down! Although there were no panda sighting, it was a pleasant day to be walking outside. Amongst the many things I have done and seen in Japan this was probably one of my favorite days. The bamboo was incredibly tall and the path was just a special little walk way for each person to enjoy the beauty.

This was already carved into the bamboo. But how fitting to see on our way out! I will always remember our afternoon at Sagano Bamboo Forest.

Open Air Folk Museum

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While Neeta7 was here we made sure to get out of busy Tokyo for a day. The Open-Air Folk Museum was a wonderful and interesting day trip to see historical Japanese homes and enjoy some fresh air!

A small exhibit is displayed at the visitor center and elaborates on how the homes were built. Here you can see some of the hand tools used to construct the impeccable and sturdy homes that were onsite.

Above, you can see an interior snap of the Hara House which was built in 1911. Below, the Misawa House had a very unusual roof. What is remarkable about each home is that none of them are built with nails. Each home has its own mortise and tenon – type joinery style. Some being extremely elaborate but all of which are made by hand to last and withstand local weather conditions.

Cheese! We’ve known each other since 5th grade and have been pals for most of the time since. Ha, all of the time since!

Many of the homes were open to walk through and you could really get a sense of what life was like. While 1 or 2 homes were for merchants or well off families, most seemed to house farmers, metal smiths or other trades. So thinking about life without running water, electricity, or other luxuries was very humbling.

The thatched roof on many of the homes was remarkable. I have never seen anything like it! The roof was said to be very protective of the outside elements, I sure believe it, seeing as some of these homes were in cold areas with lots of precipitation.

Mr. Cakes, Neeta and myself managed to wonder around the different homes all afternoon and enjoy ourselves. It was like stepping back in time. Anyone looking for a break from Tokyo or just an interesting day trip should head out to Nihon Minkaen, Open-Air Folk Museum for a lovely day.

We ended our day at a nearby park ‘riding’ a vintage train.  

Birthday Celebration

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October is almost here! My birthday came and went. I have many posts to catch up on and look forward to sharing all my new experiences. However things have been so busy as we start to prepare for our move back to NYC.

Fall is my favorite season and with the NFL lockout over there is plenty to look forward to. I will make the most of my time left in Japan and will then enjoy catching up with friends and family in the States!

In a matter of 2 weeks we will be out of our apartment and into temporary housing (hotel) before flying back to rat city. I intend to carry on with entries pertaining to Japan, even though I may be back in the States. Cheating? Well, time just really ran away from me. I’ll add as many updates as possible before the shippers come and take ms. mac,  so don’t forget to check in with me!

Des Day

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In October of 2011 Mr. Cakes met Desmond Burke, his counterpart in the London branch of the bank. No one could have planned for such a pair to work at head office and have so much in common.

Unfortunately this month marked the exit date for the British contingency. Des and Greenburg finished their time working abroad, leaving Mr. Cakes with less entertainment during the work day. Before flying off we all managed to have several sayanora parties for Des to (but don’t) look back (in anger) and laugh at all that has happened.

Best of luck catching up in London and we look forward to hearing about all your adventures in your homeland.

Birthday Surprise

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September is my birth month. Usually I spend my birthday dining out or taking a trip to Atlantic City. This year I was looking forward to choosing a fancy restaurant for a night out, but someone had other plans in mind for me.

Well, before I could confirm reservations for a dinner, Mr. Cakes decided to surprise me with a special gift! He flew in one of my best pals from Illinois to knock on our apartment door and surprise me. Did she ever! While I many not have reacted (screamed, cried or passed out) as she was hoping, I was in shock. Right there, in front of me, Neeta 7.

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I met Neeta in 5th grade and we have kept in touch through many moves, b-day celebrations, holidays, and nights out. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday visitor.

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With a full 5 days in Tokyo we tried to make the most of our time together. However in such a big and busy city it was nice to just relax with a good pal and a good glass of wine. Happy Birthday to all September babies!

4 More Years

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At the end of August Mr. Cakes and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary. Where did the time go? This year we decided to treat ourselves to a weekend in Dogashima. Located on the west side of the Izu Peninsula, Dogashima is known for its scenic coast line.

With only 2 days to explore all the caves, cliffs, and stone formations we barely had time to relax. Not to worry, we managed to spend some time in the open air onsen at our lovely ryokan. Our ryokan, or Japanese Inn was conveniently located a short distance from public transportation and had an amazing view to boot.

Mr. Cakes and I arrived Saturday evening and our timing couldn’t have been better! Once we settled into our room we were able to look out and enjoy the most amazing view! As the sun set we had a wonderful time looking back on our year abroad and of course the past 4 years of marriage.

Sunday we woke up and took the local boat tour. Although short, the ride provided an up close view of the rocks and cliffs in the area. Not to mention a ride through the cave! You can tell by my snap below we weren’t the only ones enjoying the ride!

After the boat ride we did some climbing and exploring along the cliffs. I wasn’t as eager to get as high and close to the edge as Mr. Cakes was.

Monday morning it was time to check out and make our way back to the city. I look forward to visiting the Izu Peninsula again! Something (or someone) tells me that I’ll be back at some point in the future! Maybe our 10 year anniversary?

Imperial Palace

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On my second day in Japan I went to the Imperial Palace Grounds before attending orientation. I found the visit to be a wonderful ‘welcome’ to Japan. Since then I stop by regularly. It is conveniently located next to where Mr. Cakes works!

At one point in time it was said that the Imperial Grounds were the most valuable real-estate in the world. Located in the center of Tokyo and housing the Imperial family, the public grounds provide gardens, a visitor centre, and lots of open areas to walk.

You can read more on the history here.

Below is a snap of the guard tower at the East Gate.

The grounds cover just over 1 square mile in the center of Tokyo. While I have not taken the tour of the palace buildings or the private inner gardens I have walked freely though the public grounds and gardens, which are impeccably maintained.

These bonsai trees are especially well-groomed and maintained by a grounds crew of nearly 100. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old. You can see how angular the trunks grow and how ‘clean’ each tree looks.

On this visit I was with my pal KC from Brooklyn. It rained all day, but we managed to explore the grounds and hopefully he enjoy the Imperial Palace without all the crowds.

The red jackets and umbrellas really stood out in all the green and gray of the grounds.

There really is a lot of grounds to maintain, so when you need a rest, you need a rest!

I told Mr. Cakes that one day, I want a bamboo garden!

Leaving the East Gardens you really get a comparable view of old and new.

Below is the double-bridge Nijūbashi which leads to the residence of the Imperial Family.

The Imperial Palace, or Kyokyo, is a highly toured spot in Tokyo. There are reserved tours available to see the Imperial Palace buildings and private gardens. How ever long you decide to explore, I think it will be a welcome break from all the hustle and bustle of the concrete craziness of Tokyo.