Monday, December 19, 2011

Prayers and celebrations in December

This mansion was built in 1934 as a villa of a posh family of “zaibatsu”, or the plutocracy of a financial combine group, at the mountainside of my home town, Mikage-cho, Kobe.   It was a three-storied pure Japanese style architecture.  It escaped from the air raids of WWII miraculously and was bought by an overseas Chinese merchant.  He opened a Chinese restaurant there.  In the area of  about 1600 tsubo (about 5289 meter square) with a flowing brook and views changing from season to season, he saw an ideal scenery of his homeland Soshu and named it “Soshu-en”.  It was a quality restaurant where many prominent or famous people visited.

Old door plate has been put up even after the owner changed.

People see a symbol tree out of the window which looks like natural stained glass
reflecting the outside nature.

Years later after surviving the Great Hanshin Earthquake (1995), it was restored and renovated into a guest house and restaurant which has the Japanese and Eastern Asia style by the current owner. Since the wife of the first owner had a private church as a Christian, this place is also used for wedding ceremony and reception.

My son and his wife had a wedding here in 2007.  When he first visited, he felt something nostalgic, a feel of an old house of his grandparents where he would visit as a young child.  My maiden house was not so gorgeous as this mansion but had similarities part by part as a traditional Japanese house.  Many Japanese people would feel the same way.

Pure white silk dress and a bridal bouquet

It was December 7th.  Many of the colorful leaves were on the ground. 

The reception room was decorated with colors and plants of the season. 

Usually early December is not so cold in Kobe.

On the third anniversary of their wedding, a baby girl was born as their first child.
She is now one-year-old.

We are celebrating with great specials this month including Christmas.  While I’m happy with personal things, my heart aches to hear sad news one by one.  I've learned my friend was praying, watching over her mother's final battle against her disease, right at the time when I was having a good time at the birthday party. 

This post is going to be long.

I went to Kobe Luminaire again with my camera this year. It has nothing to do with Christmas but was started as a memorial to the lives lost (my childhood friend is one of them) in that earthquake.  Last year, some of the victims of the earthquake were talking about their experiences to the visitors in the booths set up by the Kobe City to keep the memory aliveWhile walking under the bright arches to citadels, how could I imagine such a record catastrophic earthquake and tsunami would hit Tohoku region on March 11th the next year?    Rudely awakened this year again, more people visited and funds were raised to donate to the stricken area.  These incidents are too harsh to remember but the lessons must be remembered forever in the country prone to big earthquakes. What happened to one region could happen to any region.

"Citadel of Peace" seen from the 24th floor of the Kobe City Hall

The other day our government announced that reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power station cooled to a stable state for the first time since the March 11 disaster. Although few people believe the assertion so far, I hope it be a start of any recovery in real terms for the next year.  It is said “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”  However, we can’t see the light without going through the tunnel.   No matter how the tunnel looks long and the reconstruction work daunting, I believe Tohoku will surely resurrect like Kobe

"Fountain of Prayer"

Illuminations surrounding a fountain was created to wish for the reconstruction of tsunami-hit areas.

Last but not least, I really appreciate visit and comment from each of you throughout the year.  May your days be filled with good health, peace, and love this holiday season and  New Year. 


  1. Your story of the villa, wedding and Fu-u reads like a fairy tale. What a perfect setting.

    The Kobe lights of Hope are very impressive. Best wishes to you too Yoko.

  2. A wonderful post, full of joyous and sad memories.
    Natural disasters can be terrible things yet we must be thankful that they and not wards did the damage. What troubles me most is the nuclear reactors. Once they leak, the radioactivity cannot be contained, it spreads all around the world in air and water currents. You cannot see or smell radioactive pollution, it is a silent killer and spreader of a number of sicknesses.

    On a happier note, O would love t stay in that splendidly restored villa. Such a beautiful wedding, was it your son's?

    Wishing you the joy of the season and may next year be a peaceful one for your country as well.

  3. Hi

    What a beautiful wedding! I'm sure Soshuen(蘇州園)in Mikage is one of the loveliest places in Kobe for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Your granddaughter is so adorable!! As you say, I have 120% sure that Tohoku and Fukushima will be restored and rebuilt in the future just as Kobe has been!!
    Kobe was a city of debris 16 years ago. But look at Kobe now, no one would have any doubt about it.
    I'm very glad to see the photos of the Kobe Luminaire on your blog. The last time I went to see it was 4 years ago. Have Happy Holidays!!


  4. Dear Yoko, this is a truly amazing post that you offer us today! The restaurant is so unique and traditional yet very surprising by having a catholic church! I can easily imagine why your son wanted to celebrate his wedding there...and your little grand daughter is just so sweet!
    As for the lights in Kobe: a pure enchantment! I already told you a few months agao how i feel connected to Kobe after spending a long week end there and visiting the Earthquake museum and the memorial by the wharf! My husband and daughter couldn't believe how the city had regrown from its ashes! It was a very emotional visit in the museum, especially looking at all the personal belongings that are in exhibition.
    We can't stop being sad when thinking of all the friends and anonymous who died during the earthquake but we should also honour them by celebrating and enjoying our own lives. By being alive, we can perpetuate their memory. My daughter's piano teacher is from Kobe and she told me that her elderly mother survived...It seems as if her "time has not come"but I remember our my friend teacher was worried! Of course...
    I think that we always have more thoughts for those who are not with us anymore when there are celebrations and Christmas is one of these moments of the year when there seem to be a worldwide truce, when men stop fighting!
    Thank you again for such a beautiful emotional post Yoko.

  5. Hello Yoko:
    What an absolutely fascinating and very lovely post for the way in which it features both the very personal as well as items which are very much, such as the recent disasters in Japan, in the public domain.

    Of course, as you may well imagine, our hearts are captivated by the mansion which is not only historical but so very attractive - indeed the perfect spot for a wedding.

  6. Dear Yoko, your posts are always so beautiful, but this one is even more! It's special for me, because I'm waiting for my first grandson who is due to in 10 days:)
    Much love for you and your family:)

  7. So many beautiful images here as usual. I think your son's little girl is beautiful and truly delightful, what a joy she must be!

    Many people must be thinking of the terrible events of the past year in Japan, and hoping that next year will be better. I remember seeing the pictures of Kobe earthquake on television long ago, and I think it's really inspiring that the city has created these wonderful lights, a delicate filigree.

    I always appreciate your interesting, unusual posts. I hope that you have a good holiday season and all the best in 2012.

  8. Yokoさん こんにちは

  9. Hi,Stardust.
    Thank you for sharing your good memories,Today.
    Merry Christmas!

  10. Unfortunately in life we must live with both joys and sorrows. You have certainly showed us both in this post. Your grand-daughter is so beautiful. She must bring much pleasure. The photos of Kobe Luminarie are incredible. We create beauty to remember tragedy. May your holiday season be filled with joy. Wishing you a healthy, peace-filled and happy 2012

  11. Todas las imágenes son preciosas Yoko... pero lo más tu nieta... ¡Qué maravilla de niña!! Felicidades por tu permanencia en este Planeta tan bello... Bss

  12. The mansion looks so grand and beautiful.
    And your granddaughter is so cute, she must be the apple of everyones eyes in your household!!!
    And that light festival is so amazing, loved the fountain one the most...
    Its been a privilage following you and your blog, I have learnt so much about Japan.
    Will continue to do so in 2012.
    Have a happy week ahead Yoko:)

  13. Small light will grow large. There are always hope and wish around us. My colleague have been working in Miyagi prefercture for rebuilding the city.
    Next year we will continue to support the people in the affected area and see their smile.

  14. 雰囲気のある素敵な式場ですね。記念日に生まれたおじょうちゃんももう一歳ですか。成長が楽しみですね。今年もルミナリエが催されて神戸の復興と暮れてゆく年とを思います。今年は特に東北の被災地が重なり合って、、、。堂々としたブログの数々を一年間楽しませていただきました。ありがとうございます。

  15. Like you, stardust, I wish the entire planet could be content all at the same time. It is strange to think that while some people are joyful others are going through sorrow. I suppose it all balances out in the end, though, because we all experience some of each at different times. The photograph of the “cathedral of peace” gave me chills because of its sheer symmetry and glowing beauty. And your point about having to go through a tunnel to see the light is a profound observation. Also, I love the mansion and its deep-rooted history … the chapel area with the window to the changing seasons is inspiring. But the picture of your grandchild is the loveliest and most hopeful scene of them all.

  16. The pictures of the Citadel of Peace and the Fountain of Prayer at Kobe gave me chills. A wonderful way to remember a terrible disaster. The recent earthquake and tsunami occurred on my father's birthday, I will always remember the date.
    Your little granddaughter is so beautiful. And the mansion at Mikage-cho is beautiful.... just how I imagine the buildings in Japan should look!
    Good wishes to you and your family, Yoko..... enjoy your time together!

  17. the wedding site is truly a beautiful place! how wonderful for your son and daughter-in-law to have their wedding there. you have a precious granddaughter!

    thank you for intertwining the message of celebration and Christmas with the remembrance of loss and recovery. we all need to be mindful of both.

    happy holidays to you and yours!

  18. The story about resurrect after the earthquak gives me a little bit shivers..People who were there at the moment have to come over their fear for what happend. And you are right about the tunnel you just have to cross it before there is ligth again.
    I wish you a beautiful christmas and a fantastic 2012.
    Gr. Marijke

  19. Your granddaughter is very cute. What a joy!

    Lovely villa! I think it's beautiful. Happy Christmas and I wish you all the best in 2012!

  20. Let us just hope that your grand-daughters life is not touched by too many disasters, either natural or man-made.

  21. The mansion was a beautiful place to have a wedding and reception, Yoko. It was a lovely post remembering your son's wedding and the birth of your sweet granddaughter. Such joys and traditions of remembering help through trying times and occurrences, like natural disasters.

    Wishes of good health and contentment in the New Year to your family, Yoko.

  22. Beautiful pictures, thank you for taking us with you on this memory journey,

  23. Another lovely post with so many magical shots! What I love most is the real tree framed in the window in the chapel -- just brilliant!

  24. First of all, let me offer my sincere thanks for your too kind comments on our blogs! We are very appreciative.

    I get busy and forget or am unable to visit all of my favorite blogs, but rest assured your blog is on the top of my list.

    Everytime I visit, I am overcome with a calmness - a sense of peace. Your images are so exquisite, and your words so filled with love for the earth, for family, for your people and indeed, for all people.

    It is so nice that the mansion continues in existence even if modified down through the years. The chapel seemed a bit unusual but your explanation made sense of it.

    The wedding is suffused with beauty and what bountiful joy in the arrival of a little one.

    My very best to you and your family. May good health follow your days and may you prosper in the New Year!

  25. Hi Yoko
    I love all the photos (yours especially). Happy Holidays, and may next year be a great year for you and your family. I wish your friend well, and the people of Japan a good year in 2012.


  27. …………()
    …………( )
    °º♫✿ ♪FELIZ
    °º✿ NATAL!!!
    º° ✿♥ ♫° ·.

  28. Do you like my new photos. I like to read texts in a translator. Many interesting life for you. I wish you a wonderful Christmas and much health, happiness in the new year. /Peter

  29. I'm somehow very assured that affected areas will be restored. Who knows what will be there in 10-20 years. Maybe a memorial to all to remember about nuclear danger, or even a nature reserve. Maybe more of safe solar and wind energy will be used instead of nuclear one in Japan and worldwide.

    We should hope, right?

  30. What a wonderful post! Your granddaughter is adorable! I wish you and your family good health.
    I wish you new discoveries in the new year. I`m so glad that, this year, our blogs have found each other in the blogosphere.

  31. Your granddaughter in a leopard pattern is cool and adorable. Time flies.
    Whenever we see Kobe-Luminarie we remenber Hanshin-Awaji earthquake though I generally forget about earthquake. This is a beautiful light for an alarm bell.
    Have a Merry Christmas.

  32. Hello Yoko!.....This is a beautiful and sympathetic post.Your granddaughter is lovely,full of laughter,light and hope for the future.I greatly admire the Japanese people's courage in dealing with so many catastrophes,in your beautiful country.

    Wishing you and your family a Happy Christmas and New Year,

  33. Hi Yoko, Your post is another beauty and I love the Japanese mansion and garden.
    Your granddaughter is the sweetest little girl, a little ray of sunshine during the sad times around Christmas. It is not an easy time of year for everyone. I also find it difficult thinking about my dear sister who past away a few winters ago.
    Thank you for sharing your magical images. The Kobe Luminarie, Lights of Hope are a lovely tribute as well as stunning!
    Have a wonderful Christmas and many Blessings for the New year.

  34. Just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas. Mickie:)

  35. Beautiful - I enjoyed reading!
    Christmas blessings!
    Mississippi, USA

  36. Yokoさん
     今晩は。ご家族お集まりで楽しいクリスマスの週末をお過ごしの事と存知ます。ご紹介頂けた「さむがりやのサンタさん」とても愉快な絵本のようですね。キラキラ目を輝かせてお話しを聞いてくれる子供達がいる限りこれからも素晴らしい絵本は私達の宝物ですね。Thanks to your kind comments and encouragement.  I'm happy to meet you this year!

  37. Dear Yoko,

    I read your post three times and your phrase with the tunnel keeps coming back. I'll think about it and try to understand what is telling me. But the first thought that came into my mind was that it touched me because I feel we're walking through a tunnel for a long time now and the end with it's bright light never appeared... Is it because it's the wrong tunnel or because of our steps that keep stumbling and repeting the same mistakes?! I don't know the answer but I hope the new year will help us discover the wisdom for living a simple, natural life. Because at this point where we are now, a change is necessary.

    You have a beautiful family, Yoko. I wish you enjoy them and each other for many, happy years to come in good health and harmony!

    Thank you for everything and all the best,

  38. Thank you, Friends, for your nice and kind comments. I’ve been inspired by your posts and have been encouraged and supported by your impressions and thoughts on my posts throughout the year, which I appreciated from the bottom of my heart.

    Roxana – I read your interpretation about what I wrote about “the light at the end of the tunnel” with interests. I think interpretation is up to you. What I have in mind is that our life consists of many tunnels, some are long, some are short. I believe there’s the light at the end of the tunnel, however, we can’t find the light by just waiting, we have to work on it with a light/hope within us no matter how hard. The tunnel this time is much longer and darker due to wrong handling of nuclear power. I believe everything under the sun depends on the balance, which men have forgotten to keep for the sake of human convenience. I think and hope we learn, grow, and hone our wisdom and strength to reach the light at the times of suffering.

  39. Beautiful photos, it looks like an amazing place to have a wedding. I hope you have a wonderful 2012!

  40. Yoko, a most beautiful post filled with lovely images! Your words are especially deep and heartfelt. The mansion looks like a gorgeous place to have a wedding ... very peaceful and pretty. Your granddaughter is a most precious little girl. Viewing sweet photographs of her brought a big smile to my face. Also, a thoughtful tribute to the victims of the earthquake. Your message and photographs are so very lovely. Thank you for sharing such beauty. What a glorious soul you have!

  41. Hello, stardust.

     I was given many crops from your glorious works.
     We are far distantly each other, but this human interchange has cultural significance.

     Thank you for your heartwarming message and many visit, in this year.

     Healthy and Happy new years for you and yours.

    Close spring, ruma ❀

  42. Pokazywane prze Ciebie miejsca są magiczne. Muszą być dla Was bardzo ważne, skoro w przypadku różnych nieszczęść są odbudowywane.Pięknie to pokazałaś na zdjęciach. Dziękuję za bardzo ciekawy post, pozdrawiam i życzę szczęśliwego Nowego Roku.

    FOR IN show you the place is magical. They must be very important for you, since in the case of various disasters are rebuilt. This beautifully showed us the pictures. Thank you for your very interesting post, I greet and wish you a happy New Year.

  43. Such lovely and colorful photos. Sadness as well as joy is a part of life. I'm so sorry for the sadness in your life now. I know that you truly appreciate the beauty that surrounds you in your country, and I know it helps you keep a happy heart. Take care, my friend. Mickie :)

  44. Que 2012 traga novos sonhos, novas alegrias e muita inspiração para belas fotografias!

    ¨¨¨¸.•°` BOAS FESTAS!!!
    ¸.•°`♥✿⊱╮FELIZ 2012!!!

  45. Your posts remain wonderful, no matter what the subject. I am in awe of the beauty of the Japanese world and saddened by the heartbreak of the disasters you speak of.

    May the new year bring peace and happiness and heal old wounds.

  46. Wish you and your family a very Happy and Joyful New Year Yoko:)

  47. Hello Yoko, sorry I'm late in commenting here but I wanted to stop by and wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    I'm fascinated by your photos. That must have been such a beautiful wedding. The setting is magical. Your grandchild is adorable! My heart goes out to the victims that you've written about. I hope the coming years are not as cruel as the year that has just gone by.

  48. Happy New Year to you and your family. May 2012 be full of happiness and good health.

  49. 3...

    ♫♫.•*¨`*•..¸ ☼ ☼ ¸.•*¨`*•.♫♫♫.
    ╔═════════ ೋღღೋ ═════════╗
    ೋ ~~* FELIZ ANO NOVO *~~ ೋ
    ╚═════════ ೋღღೋ ═════════╝
    ♫♫.•*¨`*•..¸☼ 2012☼ ¸.•*¨`*•.♫♫

  50. Hello Yoko, I came by to wish you a Happy 2012 and was pleased to see this post with photos of your beautiful granddaughter. I love the symbol tree framed by the window at the mansion where your son was married. Surely your grandchild's smile and the lights of Kobe gladdened your heart even as we all must remember the sadder times of 2011. I hope for the light at the end of the tunnel for many in 2012. Happy New Year!

  51. Dear stardust.
    Happy new year 2012.

      Your time is yours, with your heart.
      The prayer for all peace.
    Close spring, ruma ❃

  52. Dear Yoko!

    Thank you so much for your kind words and good wishes.

    It has been a pleasure to get to know you through your blog and I sense you are a kind and gentle soul with great love for people and for the earth and for your native land.

    All of that comes through in your exquisite photography! You have a photographer's eye and a true understanding of what the camera is all about and what it can do.

    I love your blog and your photographs and look forward to another year of wondrous posts.

    Our best wishes to you and yours for a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

  53. I have been completely amazed by your blog, your writing, and your images.I am inspired by your hopefulness. I was very moved by your thoughtful response to Roxana- what a beautiful thought- that we carry the light at the end of the tunnel within us. Thank you for stopping by with comments on my blog.


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