Nara Tokae Take Two

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We’ve come full circle! Nara Tokae was one of the first festivals Josh and I attended in Japan last year. In fact, Josh had just gotten off the plane from America the day before so he was super jet lagged. This year was much better for the both of us since we’ve enjoyed a whole year of life in Japan together. It was an anniversary of sorts, and quite the romantic date!

DSC02116 DSC02118 DSC02119 DSC02123 DSC02126 DSC02128 DSC02130 DSC02131 DSC02132 DSC02134 DSC02135 DSC02139 DSC02142 DSC02143 DSC02144 DSC02145 DSC02147 DSC02148 DSC02149 DSC02150 DSC02152 DSC02155 DSC02156 DSC02157 DSC02158 DSC02159 DSC02160 DSC02162 DSC02165 DSC02166During Tokae, the whole of Nara Park is lit up with lanterns to commemorate Obon, the festival of honoring the dead. The many lights are meant to guide the spirits from heaven back home so that they can mingle with the living for a short time until their return to the spirit world.

It was such a beautiful and breathtaking experience, especially with a loved one by your side. Here’s to another fantastic year together in Japan.

Ichiban Go Go Bonus: Through Josh’s Lens

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Here are some great shots that I found in Josh’s camera from Margaux’s visit to Japan, including the wonderful fireworks festival at Ise.

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A beautiful view of Nara city from Nigatsudou!

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Traveling to Kasuga Shinto Shrine in Nara Park.

DSC02015 An interesting perspective from a nearly identical moment in Kelly’s previous photo.DSC02017

The huge crowds at the Ise Fireworks Festival. I can’t believe we got a spot. In all honesty, we barely did, haha.

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Kelly looking so cute while we were off getting festival food!

DSC02038 DSC02039 DSC02043 DSC02072 DSC02074 DSC02076 DSC02077 DSC02078 DSC02095 DSC02102_1 DSC02105 DSC02109I would love to attend this fireworks festival again next year. It was a wonderful experience with friends, plus I really enjoyed going to the beach despite the water being a bit cold.

American Family Johnston Bonus: Through Josh’s Lens

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I felt like my great grandmother Margaret in this pretty garden hat.

While looking through Josh’s camera for my opcoming post on Tokae, I recently uncovered some extra photos from the tail end of our Johnston family trip this past spring as well as our time with Margaux. He got some great shots! I’ll be posting them here along with a little commentary. We visited Nagai Botanical Garden in Osaka, Osaka Castle, as well as the enormous Osaka Aquarium! I miss them and can’t wait to see them this Christmas in America.

DSC01722 DSC01729 DSC01735 DSC01738 DSC01743 DSC01750 DSC01751 DSC01762 DSC01770 DSC01773 DSC01777 DSC01779 DSC01783 DSC01784 DSC01792 DSC01793 DSC01794 DSC01796 DSC01804 DSC01806 DSC01808 DSC01809 DSC01813 DSC01819 DSC01823 DSC01826 DSC01827 DSC01798 DSC01801 DSC01739 DSC01741 DSC01742 DSC01760 DSC01776 The Osaka Aquarium was gigantic and beautiful- my favorite moment (besides seeing my absolute favorite spirit animal dolphins!) was seeing the majestic whale shark up close. Josh got some really dreamy shots of the whale shark that I would love to do something with in Photoshop soon.

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A capybara! So adorable!

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The happiest lil’ seal ever! He sat here grinning for nearly ten minutes looking down at all of us from the ceiling.

DSC01975 DSC01976 DSC01980 DSC01984 DSC01988 DSC01993 DSC01995Sweet pengie love! <3 They were “kissing” each other while mum was warming the nest egg.
DSC01998I would love to visit the Osaka Aquarium again. It was a nice family outing, and we got to pet a stingray too (they were surprisingly velvety).

Until next time, Team Johnston’s blasting off agaaaain! *sparkle in the sky*

Margaux-a-GoGo

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At the end of July my childhood friend and Josh’s high school friend Margaux came to visit us in Japan!

This is something we’ve talked about since middle school- us exploring Japan together. I always swore I would live in Japan one day, right?! Some days I still can’t believe I actually did it. We started our adventures in Nara City and from there we went to Osaka, Ise (for a wonderful time at the beach and an astounding fireworks show), Asuka, and Kyoto!

Margaux and I bought some kick-a matching Yatagarasu (the three legged crow) charms from Kashihara Shrine that you can only get there! She got this blue/yellow one, and I got yellow/blue.

Margaux and I bought some kick-a matching Yatagarasu (the three legged crow) charms from Kashihara Shrine that you can only get there! She got this blue/yellow one, and I got yellow/blue.

Margaux and I in Osaka!

Margaux and I in Osaka!

Margaux appears to be holding in her laughter at how crazy I was getting over the beach. Haha.

Margaux appears to be holding in her laughter at how crazy I was getting over the beach. Haha. Many thanks to Kelly for the photo!

Bethany and I ready to jump on the beach! Many thanks to Kelly for the photo!

Bethany and I ready to jump on the beach!
Many thanks to Kelly for the photo!

Josh being a lil' cutie. Many thanks to Kelly for the photo!

Josh being a lil’ cutie.
Many thanks to Kelly for the photo!

Female form of Jizo with infant.

Female form of Jizo with infant.

A female Jizo statue at the base of Inari Mountain. I was shocked by how much this resembled mother Mary with and infant Jesus.

A female Jizo statue at the base of Inari Mountain. I was shocked by how much this resembled mother Mary with an infant Jesus.

Look what Margaux and I found in Asuka!

Look what Margaux and I found in Asuka!

Making the long trip towards the Kitora Tumulus in Asuka with Margaux

Making the long trip towards the Kitora Tumulus in Asuka with Margaux

Ofusa Kannon Temple

Ofusa Kannon Temple

Oka-dera Temple

Oka-dera Temple

Admiring the roses and windchimes <3

Admiring the roses and windchimes <3

They had Memphis barbecue!!! xD Oh what a meal that was.

They had Memphis barbecue!!! xD Oh what a meal that was.

Hard Rock Cafe Osaka! I was surprised to hear a new song by Madonna here.

Hard Rock Cafe Osaka! I was surprised to hear a new song by Madonna here.

Oka-dera Temple

Oka-dera Temple

A breathtaking view of Asuak city from the top of Oka-dera Temple.

A breathtaking view of Asuka city from the top of Oka-dera Temple.

A zen garden at the top of Oka-dera Temple

A zen garden at the top of Oka-dera Temple

My first time wearing a yukata! You might laugh, but I felt like a princess. It was a very special day for me indeed and I can't wait to wear it again to Nara Tokae.

My first time wearing a yukata! You might laugh, but I felt like a princess. It was a very special day for me indeed and I can’t wait to wear it again to Nara Tokae.

Hmm...are these three Eastern philosophers? I want to say it's Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Siddharta Gautama (Buddha) here, but I guess I would need investigate more closely to find out.

Hmm…are these three Eastern philosophers? I want to say it’s Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Siddharta Gautama (Buddha) here, but I guess I would need investigate more closely to find out.

A little flower brooch to match my yukata.

A little flower brooch to match my yukata.

Bethany and I after a fun filled day at the beach in Ise!

Bethany and I after a fun filled day at the beach in Ise!

The many beautiful windchimes at Ofusa Kannon Temple.

The many beautiful windchimes at Ofusa Kannon Temple.

Josh and Margaux at the exit of Kasuga Taisha Shrine.

Josh and Margaux at the exit of Kasuga Taisha Shrine.

Some interesting frogs near a golden female Jizo statue. I'd like to know what this symbolism is all about. It's so interesting!

Some interesting frogs near a golden female Jizo statue. I’d like to know what this symbolism is all about. It’s so interesting!

The pagoda at Oka-dera Temple. We saw this structure from way far away on the side of a mountain and still somehow decided we wanted to see it up close. It ended up being a pilgrimage site, which would explain the grueling nearly hour long uphill journey. Even so, I highly recommend it because the Temple was fantastic! It houses the largest clay Buddha in the world, and is said the be the "lid" of an ancient dragon sealed away beneath it.

The pagoda at Oka-dera Temple. We saw this structure from way far away on the side of a mountain and still somehow decided we wanted to see it up close. It ended up being a pilgrimage site, which would explain the grueling nearly hour long uphill journey. Even so, I highly recommend it because the Temple was fantastic! It houses the largest clay Buddha in the world, and is said the be the “lid” of an ancient dragon sealed away beneath it.

Margaux and I are excited to begin our Nara adventure

Margaux and I are excited to begin our Nara adventure

Small Hachiman shrine in Asuka.

Small Hachiman shrine in Asuka.

An interesting shrine at the base of Inari Mountain. What's it all about? I want to know!

An interesting shrine at the base of Inari Mountain. What’s it all about? I want to know!

A small Hachiman Shrine in Asuka

A small Hachiman Shrine in Asuka

Matsuri (Festival) Pikachus! The summer festing season is upon us!

Matsuri (Festival) Pikachus! The summer festing season is upon us!

Bethany and I at Ofusa Kannon Temple's Windchime Festival

Bethany and I at Ofusa Kannon Temple’s Windchime Festival

Two statues at the base of Inari Mountain

Two statues at the base of Inari Mountain

Margaux's Arrival in Nara!

Margaux’s Arrival in Nara!

Ofusa Kannon Temple