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July 29, 2014

Kaneko Kohyo Pottery | Fuji at the Dinner Table

Hailing from Gifu, an area renowned for its porcelain manufacture for the past 1 300 years, is this crafty ode to Mount Fuji by Kaneko Kohyo. Obsessed with anything Fuji related, I loved the simple striking design and the bold use of colour on this fashionable condiment grater.

Commonly used to grate ginger, wasabi and Japanese radish (daikon), condiments so integral to Japanese cooking, I thought it the perfect gift for friends who love to cook and like to surprise their guests with some table grandiosity. Even better is that the condiments are served at their freshest which is key to authentically creating Japanese dishes. I have quickly learned the difference in taste by using tubed ginger paste to self-grating and admittedly have never tried grating my own wasabi - a Fuji challenge for another day.

As a number of Fuji goods are often so hard to identify during their intended use (Fuji bowls that only appear as such when turned upside-down), I liked that this Fuji grater maintains its mountain-like appearance all while the workers guests apply the elbow grease.

Fuji Grater

July 28, 2014

Kousaido | Beauty Secrets of a Geisha

Something that has stood the test of time is a neat little pot of geisha perfume that I bought in Japan back in 2007. At the time I was over from Taiwan and was looking for a small keepsake in Narita to take back for myself.  What I settled on was a simple round pot of sweet-smelling lip cream. It was only a year later when I met my husband that I realised that I had been using perfume on my lips for over a year!

I have a seen products from the Kousaido brand numerous times since my first scented encounter and have always been tempted to buy their Made in Japan products purely for the refreshing Japanese design of their geisha inspired packages. Floral prints reminiscent of pretty kimono and simple hand-drawn illustrations of the ingredients are all it takes to have me in a flurry of indecision in a shop.

My latest Kousaido purchase, found in a newly opened Japanese design shop in Tama Plaza Terrace, is from their range of bathsalts. With familiar scents reminiscent of the Japanese countryside: Yuzu, Bamboo, Cherry Blossom, Plum and Green Tea sachets all made it to the till. So lovely in fact that I bought some genuine lip treatment and blotting papers to go in my maternity bag. All essential for birthing like a Geisha in the Japanese Summer heat of course!

KOUSAIDO Blotting Papers

July 14, 2014

Risonare Yatsugatake | First Winery Resort in the Japanese Mountains

As Facebook fills up with Summer holiday threads, images of icy cool water and vivid nail polish amid the regular humdrum of daily life prove ever so alluring. With no plans to travel afar in the next month running up to the birth of our child, I have been living vicariously through these news feeds. Saving them in my Best Places to Visit in 2014 folder, alongside the Top Movies of 2014 for a family of couch potatoes (oh the irony!), I have started to streamline our options.

One which remains at the top for a re-visit is Risonare Yatsugatake in Yamanashi. Thick with memories, we celebrated our wedding in Japan to take advantage of the Klein-Dytham Leaf Chapel, we have intended year on year to return in celebration of our anniversary.

Now that our son is a little older and we can enjoy the water facilities together and sample local Japanese wine alone, I am looking into Risonare and their many resorts and luxury ryokans again. Interestingly the company is set to expand to Bali which is another destination on our list.

Do you have any favourite holiday destinations in Japan, complete with good service, good food and spa facilities?

July 07, 2014

Mamimu | Manhole Cover Tea Towels

Often a gift brought back as a souvenir for friends in Japan, I was surprised by perplexed faces as to what should be done with the big piece of cloth, or tea towel, so standard in my kitchen growing up. I usually start with its dish-drying qualities, to be met with surprised faces and remarks of its cumbersome size again. I have even feverishly suggested that it could make a pretty tray cover upon which to serve guests tea, knowing all to well that I have never used it for this purpose myself.

Then I noticed our oil-stained, mangy tea towel tonight and realised it was time to refresh the collection. Often I keep these sentimental, awkwardly big pieces of material far beyond their best-buy date and it is because they hold some meaning for me. Mamimu hits the mark in this regard. With eyes glued to the pavement, lest I fall over, I have been fascinated by Japanese manhole covers since my first days of sightseeing in Tokyo some Summers ago.

I am delighted to have rediscovered Japanese designer June Mineyama’s Tokyo Manhole Teatowels.

July 05, 2014

Cookpad | Japanese Cake Artistry

When learning a language, in my case Japanese, your motivation is often linked to your success rate. Far from where I should be after almost 5 years living in Japan, I seem to have progressed most diligently in the food arena.

With a Mother-in-law who knows her way around the kitchen as a guide I have become interested in a whole spread of Japanese mountain vegetables that I never knew existed before arriving in Yokohama. As I am still learning what to do with them all let alone what their English names are, I have been using familiar ingredients to keep Summer kitchen time to a minimum and up the enjoyment time with the family.

After a few flops with my everyday basket of vegetables, I decided to give Cookpad another go. Cookpad is a widely used Japanese cooking site with a variety of recipes that are easy to whip up for bentos, hanami picnics or just a good old family meal. What was once my learning tool for Japanese cooking vocabulary has now also been translated into English which now has my lazy self hook line and sinker.

Our energetic toddler so full of delight and I have been in quarantine for the past few days dealing with  a bout of Chicken pox (水疱瘡), so I have been putting his fire to good use as a grating, chopping and blending companion. Our focus is his birthday cake. Specifically a spotty carrot cake, Mr Tumble inspired, but I am thinking there is some leeway to  channel Yayoi KusamaDamien Hirst or any other modern artist. Got lost here.

Hirst Cake

July 03, 2014

Esther Horchner | Onsen Girl Teacups

In a spirited move for a previously bashful onsen-goer, a couple of girlfriends and I made our way to Ito in Shizuoka Prefecture this past weekend. Far from comfortable disrobing for Japanese public baths before having a child, I seem to have overcome the fear and somewhat embraced it. I say 'somewhat' as the  onsen was not entirely throbbing with ladies at the time.

What made it a special experience for me is that I am 7.5months pregnant and was unsure as to whether I could use the onsen while pregnant, both from the etiquette, safety and heat perspective.

Given, my beetroot face rivaled the colour of my kinmedai come dinner time, but I had the most relaxing time, my skin felt amazing and I slept through till morning in spite of third trimester insomnia. Now when I came across these fabulous naked lady tea cups recently, by Dutch designer Esther Horchner, I knew that they must be mine. Happy onsen memories with these in hand… is it too early for a Christmas wish list? Perhaps a Push Present!

Creative Crockery | Onsen Girl

June 23, 2014

Yusuke Yonezu | Japanese Children's Illustrator

A dreamy contorted duck on an envelope from a private student is what first drew me to Japanese illustrator Yusuke Yonezu's whimsical animal drawings. I then started noticing his designs all over the place. A friend's wallet sported his owl. A neighbour's calendar showcased his French bulldog. And I stumbled upon a whole range of his animal-themed stationery in our local Japanese bookstore, Tama Plaza Yurindo. So, I got myself some kawaii note-paper and a slimline paper-sleeves to keep my work notes in order.

It wasn't until I started to search for some fresh wall art for the new baby’s  that he popped up yet again. I just cannot get enough of his endless genius. And his Japanese kids book illustrations - too delightful - I cannot sing his praises enough.

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