MOMENTS.

**I interrupt my FAM IN JAPAN posts to share a quick update**

Life has been very sweet recently. The weather is warming up, the flowers are in full bloom, classes are back in swing, events are lined up on the calendar, and each day really feels like such a gift!! And gifts are sweet. 

My time here in Kashiwa is wrapping up. It is a very surreal feeling. Three years was such a mountain of time... and yet, here I am nearing the summit. The best part of nearing the end of a good thing though, is that you hold the moments much more tenderly. As if God gives us the strange ability to see the tiniest things as the brightest, most beautiful, most riveting shining gold gems on the planet. For me, those moments have been these photos above.

sipping slowly on hot coffee with dear friends
crusing my neighborhood farmers market
watching the reflection on the lake at sunset
chatting with students waiting for the bus
seeing popular Tokyo street views from new heights
savoring dinners with coworkers
spending nights around homemade meals with my Kashiwa family
embracing the emotions at farewell parties

 

This season I am in is a powerful and enriching time in my life. Every moment of every day is soaked in purpose, memories, meaning and...sweetness. That's really the beauty of living abroad, but more so, of living a life along God's greater plan and not my own. Had I stayed in my comfort zone, had I listened to my voice rather than the Lords, had I let my fear cripple me instead of lean on faith...I would have missed out on all this beauty and all this richness here in Japan. That is the truest sign of God's grace in my life. 

He is good, all the time. 

4 more months in Japan - let's goooooo!

FAM IN JAPAN - PART IV - FUSHIMIINARI

Lucky for us...we stayed at an airbnb right near Fushimi Inari station and famous Fushimi Inari Taishi shrine! We walked to a nearby bakery to get breaky, and then headed to the shrine as soon as possible. We arrived at around 9am and the place was already packed with tourists. We were a bit overwhelmed but soon learned a **PRO TIP** that changed the game (scroll to find out)!

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our airbnb was super dope and had enough room for all of us (11ppl!!) I especially loved the entrance that felt very Japanese. 

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breaky on the way to the shrine! Gotta love Japanese bakeries! 

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Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the most famous spots in all of Japan. Apparently it is a place to pray for good luck in business...as each of the red tori gates has been donated by a Japanese business! Foxes are also famous around here for guarding the shrine (usually they are dogs) so you see fox memorabilia everywhere. 

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haha I posed Eden here to get a pic of her with the shrine...NOT knowing she would do this face!! HAHAHHA...she is too cute. 

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The boys were up next...and I figured out a way to get them to smile like this. The trick is to use an element of boys that is pretty much embedded in them from birth... "competition." So what I kept saying was, "OKAY...lets see who was the bigger smile!! Hunty or Cam??" Which produced this shot! hahahaaa.

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aaaaaaand ...back to these faces. 

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My sissy and her two oldest girls. 

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My bro D and Hunty. Hunter loves D!! 

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OK PEOPLE...HERE IS THE ***PRO TIP***!!!! --> Walking up the tori gates is crazy. You can't get a good photo even if you were Beyonce so the trick is...walk 10 minutes up in the crowd and then TURN AROUND TO EXIT. Since everyone is pre-occupied about walking up to the top of the mountain..the exit is magically EMPTY!!!! And you have a 99% higher chance of getting a photo without any people in it...it timed correctly. 

Take for example...

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Russ + Jen with not a single other person in the shot and I did not edit anyone out!! This is pretty much miraculous considering there were thousands of people at this place. LESSON LEARNED. 

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Classic Russ doing yoga everywhere.

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After taking a bunch of photos...we grubbed on some street food and then headed out for the rest of the day. 

Fushimi Inari was awesome and a good stop off for us!! Now off to show you pics of our next spot which was truly epic..N A R A !!!!! 

FAM IN JAPAN - PART III - KYOTO

**I am a bit behind on posting!! School started back in action this week and it's been busy with the new schedule. But, I finally have time to sit down and write about our first full day in Kyoto!!** 

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On our first full day in Kyoto, we woke up early to hit up ARASHIYAMA...and I was so stoked to go since I had never been before! 

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Hunter was really intrigued by this man selling balancing dragonflies and I almost bought him one until I saw it was 20 dollars!! 

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For those who don't remember...Tayah Ruth was born last August at the exact moment that I was on a plane back to Japan! That is no joke! She made a very memorable entrance into the world and I was so excited to spend as much time with her as possible in Japan. She is the chubbiest, happiest, chillest baby ever!!

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Arashiyama was so epic!! Despite the crowds, we were able to get some good pics...and even one of all the kids "standing" (stac is holding Tayah up LOL).

 

After cruising the bamboo forest, we went on a little walk over to see some monkeys! The kids were super stoked about that. 

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Eden!!! This girl has the biggest personality and willingly poses for all my pics...I love her sassiness and confidence at such a young age haha! 

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When we turned the corner to see KATSURA river I was in absolute awe. STUNNING. 

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Hunter is 6 now...and he's growing up so fast! I love his personality and curiosity about everything. Every time we would get on the train he would say "how long is this one? how many minutes are we on here?" He is currently obsessed with NBA players and teams which proves he is a true Komae! haha. 

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I love these boys.

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So...we paid a few bucks and walked 30 minutes up to see the monkeys on the mountain! The walk up was a little more strenuous than we imagined (or wanted haha) but the kids did a great job and didn't complain at all! At the top we got an awesome view of a bunch of monkeys roaming freely around...pretty cool. 

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haha I love this pic of Lenny! 

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My sissy and I joke that there is not a single pic of her in Japan without the Ergo on HAHA. true. Tayah loves being carried by her mommy! 

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For lunch we had OYAKODON (chicken+egg over rice) by the river and that was EPIC. Such a peaceful and beautiful lunch. I ordered the ZENZAI, which is red bean soup with mochi, and it was PERFECTOOOOOO. WOW. I think a true sign that I am full-blooded Japanese is that I love red bean!

Ok...up next was something I was personally so excited to finally check out ...the hippest coffee shop in all the land, ARABICA. 

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This coffee shop is the epitome of Japanese coffee culture - minimalism + hip baristas + hyped coffee drinks + simple logo + instagramable spot ...WOW 

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The line was a good 35minutes...and lucky for me, my awesome bro Ant waited in line with me! 

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#worthit

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Arashiyama was epic...but after lunch it was time for our next stop...KINKAKUJI (GOLDEN TEMPLE) 

 

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I love this pic on the left because it perfectly depicts how we traveled all 10 days in Japan..2 strollers, 5 kids 6 adults...rollin deep! 

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We happened to be there right at the perfect time of day where the reflection of KINKAKUJI (the golden temple) was so insanely clear in the water...JAPAN IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

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I can't wait to show Tayah this picture when shes a teenager...and convince her to come back to Japan with me to recreate this hehe. 

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It was really fun to travel around with my bros. They are all so chill and cool...love spending time with them! 

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We were lucky to stumble upon more sakura on our walk through a local neighborhood. 

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We ended the night at a local park we found! And I gotta say...this pic is a framer!!

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THANK YOU KYOTO...I LOVE YOU FOREVERR!!!!!

 

Still one more day of pics from this amazing city!