29 March 2008


The mooch eats just about everything - these are on the top of the fav food list...

28 March 2008

its official...

Ive become a bit crazy over cherry blossom, with good reason. It is hard to capture their amazing beauty but when you look from afar they look light fluffs of white colour, almost like a painting superimposed over real life. The really cool thing about me joining all of Japan in their cherry blossom craziness is that they are EVERYWHERE. You dont notice them until this time of year. They are along streets, in parks, in courtyards of housing blocks, hanging over walkways, and of course in specially placed gardens and significant places and in various shades of pinks and whites.

The flowers last just about a week unless it rains or is very windy. The treat of the season is called 'hana mi' which means to look at flowers. You do this by means of a picnic (or drinking session) under the trees and look at the flowers and watch as they gently drop to the ground. It is such a lovely thing to do.

So the mooch, the pooch and I went to the local Yoyogi park, which has huge trees and lots of space, I have mentioned before, and just hung out with the cherry blossoms. You can see centuries of inspiration for art and poetry and why it is a huge part of Japanese culture. I guess because it is so transient and beautiful it gives people a change to stop and take a breath.

So, everyday until they fall down, we are out hunting for lovely things to see and play with.

27 March 2008


A while back I mentioned there was a camellia tree in our front garden. During winter it had lost many leaves and looked very sad and dried. As the days have became warmer I could see the flower buds growing but I did not know what colours they were going to be. These beauties are all from the same tree. Someone very clever has grafted these ones together so it produces 3 different coloured flowers. I love the shape too!! There are so many flowers out at the moment and cherry blossom is almost at its peak. Walking is a pleasure when the sun is out and the breeze is blowing. People are out and about and coming out of hibernation, picnics, coffee, walking under the cherry blossom trees and taking photos with their mobile phones. Spring is so beautiful in Japan.

24 March 2008

one of these kids.....is not the same

BUT, at a glance, in the supermarket, with a bored child, they do look the SAME. The one on the left is bleach, the one on the right is dishwashing liquid. I had run out of bleach and quickly grabbed what I thought was another bottle. You dont really want to get them mixed up (these bottle sit on the bottom shelf NEXT TO EACH OTHER and are the same price - $1)....I had just bought a maxi bottle of dishwashing liquid so I added this to my collection.....I'm thinking why on earth would the packing of two different products be the same?..... and why a mint green and pink bottle at that, it cannot be a coincidence?!....I'm sure further investigation will reveal some crazy story.......

23 March 2008


We took a big drive yesterday to see the sea (Izu Hanto peninsula) and on the way, stopped on the side of the road as a curious tourist to see all about strawberry picking. You simply stop and pay the $12pp and then wait behind the lead car until all the other people come and then they take you to a hot house. Nice and organised Japanese way of doing things. After you park and enter the hot house you get a tray with two compartments. One is full of condensed milk (to dip the strawberries) the other is for the green bits you dont eat. So, this picking game is just to pick and eat on the spot, not to pick and collect and take home...oh yeh right.....

But it was cool fun and we made sure we ate only the big, perfect, sweet, juicy ones (of which there were many, many, toooo many)......

The very big start day of sakura or cherry blossom season is TODAY!!! We have seen many trees that have already been and gone, it also rained very hard for two days last week so many blossoms are gone. BUT, there are so many about to burst and today we will go to search out some of the trees and hopefully get some good photos. The above photos are from my mobile phone. Two weekend trips in a row we have either, forgotten the memory card but bought the camera (twice), run out of battery, or forgotten the camera completely............we dont bother to get mad at each other because what can you do???? There is a lack of photos from the Izu Hanto peninsula but it is beautiful and mde even moreso by the HUGE looming and beautiful shape of snow capped Mt Fuji. It was breathtaking to see it silent and beautiful everytime you turn around...

20 March 2008

bits and bobs

This is my latest craze. Paper cutting. It is very easy and the results are beautiful. I am making a new card range and many of them feature these paper cuts. I am also updating my webiste so will post the link when it is done. I still feel like life is balanced, even after saying that the other day, which usually puts a jinx on the balance issue. I think I discovered why. The mooch now sleeps all night long almost every night without fail and I go to bed fairly early (I also eat very well -lots of Japanese foods- and exercise, dont drink or smoke...that helps too). The combination of these things means I have plenty of rest and can deal with any issues/dramas/tantrums/messes/stuff that arises during the day and still have energy to be creative. I am so happy as it took a long time to train the little mini to sleep all night!! Good boy!! :) I had a dinner with the Mums and teachers from the daycare centre. It was so much fun. I was surprised that most of the Mums are Japanese and just a couple of us foreigners thrown in. Their company was beautiful, they are such quiet, yet strong women. We talked a lot about birth and kids related things.....probably boring if you dont have kids...the karate teachers also came along, yes, they have karate lessons once a week...so cute....... It is amazing how the attitude towards birth in Japan is so different to Australia. I was told that they are encouraged to not ask for pain relief, in fact it is discouraged and there are strict times when it is administered (if at all) so if you require it during a time that is not the scheduled time, then you go without. Pain must be felt to be a good mother.....wow...I was also told in the past generations you were not to make any sounds and just bear the pain and get on with the birth. One woman's mother was berating her for making so much noise!! There is a word called 'gaman' and it basically means strength. It is used in many different ways but especially in this case, it is the inner strength women need when lying in agony. They are told to 'have strength'!! One lady told me in her ante natal class of 41 women, she was the only one who asked for pain relief. I guess it is just how things are done. If you are prepared and know what to expect it makes things a bit eaiser to deal with, perhaps not in terms of pain.
I have bought a couple of kids books lately, maybe more for myself than mini mooch. This one above is one of the most beautifully designed books I have seen. It is about animals and colours. As you can see you turn the first page to which has a question "It has a big body....what is it" and the sound it makes, then you turn the page and the shape is cut out with the answer. It is so cute.

I have a couple more books to share and will add them when I photograph them.

Today Tokyo forgot it was Spring. It was 6 degrees at 2.30pm. It has rained all day long. When you buy something they wrap the bag with a plastic bag to stop it from getting wet...

What makes a rainy day brighter? Cake!! And look at these beauties. They come by the slice and are a good as they look. These cakes are special to Comme ca cafe

16 March 2008

illustration friday-heavy


Ume is the plum tree which has these beautiful blossoms. I made the fatal error of calling them 'cherry blossoms' which to any Japanese person is just plain silly. Of course they arent cherry blossoms. The ume blooms before the cherry blossom and the trees are very different. The ume is a small, gnarled, ugly and stumpy looking tree but produces an incredibly delicate and beautiful blossom. The blossom lasts for just a few weeks, sometimes days if there is rain or a strong wind, before becoming fluffy with green leaves. Today we went to a local botanical garden to look at them. They really are very, very pretty. You can see the inspiration for so many paintings, drawings and poetry. Lovely also were the people looking, not touching, yelling or knicking bits. It was sweet to see families sitting under the trees and watching grandparents teaching their grandchildren about the blossoms as they rolled the fallen petals in their hands.

In a couple of weeks the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom. Some have already arrived. Today the park looked very dry and barren after winter but soon will be transformed into a beautiful pink and white wonderland. I am looking forward to return soon to soak up the atmosphere that can only be felt in Japan.

13 March 2008

the poop etiquette

I didnt know whether this was going to be interesting, but I have found it fascinating so thought it might be worth making a note about it. There are manners about everything here in Japan, even the mute key on your mobile is called the 'manner mode'. There are books and magazines on manners and what should be done where. I like manners and I am trying to teach the mooch about how to say 'ta' and begin to tell him what is acceptable and not acceptable. I like that people here are courteous, helpful, speedy, friendly, thoughtful, respectful, careful. There is even a language called Keigo, which is spoken to elders or used in very formal situations. Many people dont know how to use it in depth these days, as it is kind of old fashioned and not necessary as there are not too many emperors and samurai these days.....but always in shops and other public places, you and other people are referred to in this very polite manner of speech. This politeness and manner is instrinsic everywhere. Like many things, manners can be picked up simply by watching how other people do things. So begins the poop etiquette. I walk a lot with the dog and at home in Australia picking up poop is just part of the walk. Here in Japan it is more than just an absent minded chore. After being here 6 weeks I am realising I am not doing the poop collection thing in the right way and I feel people are noticing. After all the dog is a blue and white whippet, I am a foreigner and have a huge and usually very talkative mooch. I am easy to spot. As it is not always possible to predict the quantity, quality or number of poops on any given walk one needs to be prepared, clearly just bringing the bags is not considered prepared. Most people take a handbag when they are out walking with their dog and in it is a mix of the following:
  • plastic poop bags
  • newspapers
  • toilet papers
  • water bottle
  • junk mail

I would have thought this was a bit of over kill but I had not walked in streets where there is no grass whatsover, no big smelly gardens, no dirt. No kind of ground cover whatsover that soaks up wee or poops. That means whatever comes out stays on the ashphalt or runs in all directions. In addition, houses are packed in so you are guaranteed that anything that comes out is going to be on someones front doorstep and with a population of over 20 million, you can be sure someone will see your dog do it. More than once I have been faced with a very sticky, smelly pool of poops and seriously at that time, I wish I had one of those handbags with all those tools in it. One of these poop pools was deposited at a busy bus stop, at least 15 people waiting, right where you get on......I wished the ground to open up and swallow me. Im with it now. I got a bag with some tools. The water is so you can wash the wee away or any sticky poop pool residue. Some people have a nozzle like a watering can on the end of a the bottle, I think thats a great idea!! The paper is proving more of a challenge. You are supposed to be ready with a piece of junk mail or newspaper and then at the right poop moment slip it under the bum and catch it. Some people hold the paper and let the dog poop in the paper. And others still go the bum wipe.....Ok, I love Long Long but I am not going that far........Im not the mid air kind of poop catcher so I have been laying it on the ground. BUT you need serious co ordination to get the paper out, unfold it and get it positioned so all the poop gets on it, all in a few seconds. Especially when you have an indescisive dog looks who looks like he wants to do it but then changes his mind. So Im forever getting out the bit of paper then putting it away and then just to tease me he does it the minute I look away. I guess its just practice. At least now when I get into a messy bit of trouble I have the tools to show others that I have the manners to keep myself and the ground clean and organised. Oh, by the way, there are no bins so you bring everything home.

12 March 2008


The weather is lovely again, not a tease this time, I think winter has gone for good!! Being at the park is fun for the mooch and relaxing for me. Maybe it is because the sun is shining and we need less layers of clothing when going out, but, everyday has been so happy and bright this past week. I am really enjoying being a Mama to the mooch. We had a simple but beautiful day today of gardening which included a lot of raking, shovelling and watering of plants with a tiny watering can, all while the pooch slept in the sun, walking with the dog and walking without the dog, exploring some new parts of town without shoes, reading some new books, blowing bubbles and playing with Daddy who came home early. Life feels balanced. Hooray for spring :)

11 March 2008

illustration friday-garden

illustration friday

cafe and thinking

There is a magazine that specialises in cafe culture in Tokyo. It features the really nice cafes about town and photographs them beautifully. It also includes the food they serve and the kinds of things you can drink, as well as any other quirks. There is map provided for each cafe so finding each one should not be too difficult.....should being the operative word....I want to find the one below. There is huge upside and a matching downside to many of these cafes, the upside, you can bring your dog to many of them, inside, even big dogs. I went to one yesterday and there was a huge samoyed on the floor. Not too sure about o,h &s, but it is nice. Downside is most places allow smoking. I hate smoking and Japan is chronic with smokers and very cheap cigarettes. I love getting a coffee but especially when Im with the mooch, I get so bummed when someone lights up and starts puffing in my direction....

I have been taking the mooch to daycare for two weeks now. He goes for just two days a week from 9-2. It is enough for me to do what I need to do and gives him some social stimulation and interaction and the chance to do and learn things that I cant provide. The leap has not been as big as I expected. I think I have been mentally preparing for this day for a long time, knowing that if it is not day care it will be school and sooner or later I will have to let him go into the care of another person. I feel happy for him as I think I have found the right place, they have about 6 kids in the room so it isnt too overwhelming. He comes home happy and chirpy and making all kinds of new sounds and noises. It is a big thing to trust the carers when you dont know them, you just have to trust that it is what it says it is....Today is the first time I have actually felt quiet in a long time, especially since mini mooch was born. It is starting to get sunny and warm and I have decided not to try and do 1 million things while he is away but stay at home, plan some activites, draw and get my folio organised and just think (and vaccum, do washing, dishes etc...). It is these moments that I realise how truly lucky I am to have such loving family and friends and just how much I love my little mooch. He fills my life with sunshine everyday.

9 March 2008


We decided to take a road trip out of Tokyo to the famous Nikko. While driving in we were not too sure if in fact we were heading into the French Alps. It was such a nice drive to see such lovely snowy peaks. A bit of a change from the You Yangs. A while back, I had a group of friends visit me in Melbourne, from Japan. As we drove to Geelong I pointed out the mountains on the right. They said, where?.... I pointed again, again they asked where?...well, it was the You Yangs I was trying to show them...but I guess they were more accustomed to the skyline above so it is hard to make the comparison.....anyways.....Nikko is much more beautiful than I thought. Is is very quiet, organised, peaceful with clean air and very cold, clean river water. There are lots of small tea houses and food places and a most impressive shrine and temple area. Like most places in Japan, there is a special kind of food associated with any given place. In the town I used to live in it was small, sweet river fish, for this town, Nikko, it is a style of food called Yuba. It is the skin from tofu and also other parts of the tofu making process. You really need to like tofu to eat this kind of ood. Luckily I love it.
This is yuba sashimi. The green stuff is fresh wasabi with yuzu (a type of citrus fruit). So the taste is hot and citrus, dipped in soy with the slippery texture of tofu skin is very nice.

This is the lunch tray with (top left) rolled tofu skin with veges in a broth, (top right) fish balls, vege and miso sauce, (bottom left) azuki bean rice, (bottom right) chauwan mushi - steamed egg custard with tofu. There are also pickles and sweet beans in the small bowls. It was a real combination of warm/cold, sweet/salty, soft/crunchy, someone has thought a lot about this dish. It came with a dessert just like cream caramel but made from tofu or basically soy milk. It was so nice I forgot to take a picture before I ate it...oops. And guess what, we only found out afterwards that you are supposed to eat this kind of food in Nikko. We just stopped in because we found a carpark nearby and thought the old guy looking out the window was going to tell us to move because we were not eating at his restaurant!! Bonus....

Nikko is about 2 hours drive from Tokyo. A nice easy and uncongested expressway will take you there. The mooch has been so good lately, I'm sure you remember my troubles with him in the past months. Now he can last about 1.5 hours until he gets grizzly in the back seat. Did I mention this place is 2 hours from Tokyo....OK, so I had to spend the last 1/2 hr in the back seat entertaining him, but he is so sweet and fun and look at this face. He is finally free to stretch his little legs...awww....

This is the main drag. Up from here is the area where you go to see the temples. We just did part of it as it is actually very large and I think its better to stay overnight as with most places, if you get there in the afternoon it is very crowded and noisy. So we might come back and do some more looking at temples.
This very beautiful bridge and amazingly clear water also runs through the main drag. We will definantly go back to Nikko. It was an easy day trip from Tokyo, with a car of course. Mooch was OK on the way back. I cannot thank sultanas enough. They are my ongoing silver bullet!!

7 March 2008


This is how the strawberries come. This tray cost about $4AU. Each one not lonly looks perfect but also each one is like the best tasting strawberry you have ever eaten. It is like this for all the fruits and all the veges. They are beautiful. I wonder what happens to the ones that dont fit this shape, size and weight category? It is someones job to place these guys in the tray. I wonder if these foods taste so good and look so good because they are genetically modified? This little tray is symbolic of much about Japan, organised, conform, high quality, simple, beautiful. I have never eaten so many strawberries in my life. They are my favourite fruit mmmmmmm.

5 March 2008


Heres a couple of things the mooch and I have been working on. There is strong guidance from me, obviously, but he is really enjoying threading, tearing, scribbling, putting the lids on and off the textas, sticking, stapling (with help) and just loving new and engaging things to do. These actvities work best when I follow my own simples rules:
  • have an idea of what you want to make
  • have all materials ready including a drop sheet or table cover
  • assist, guide and show rather than let him do whatever he likes, this way he learns the rules of how to be safe and careful and respectful. He can have self expression, but he needs to know some limits (in terms of how to behave etc) first
  • keep calm and relaxed and be excited for him with lots of encouragement
  • display the finished artwork in his room or on the fridge and get Daddy to talk with him about it later in the day or another day

These and other ideas are so simple if you have a box of goodies that you can delve into at any time. The 100yen shop is awesome for collecting materials but you can use anything around the home like old drink bottles, foil, pegs newspapers etc etc. One of the best activities I have found keeps him occupied while I make dinner, is sit him on the floor and in a big metal colander, fill it with all the teaspoons from the draw. Have another big metal bowl next to the colander and he swaps the spoons from bowl to bowl while banging and making a lot of noise. He loves it and it is very easy to clean up afterwards!!

4 March 2008

illustration friday-leap


Now the mooch is 15 months old, he is able to do more things, draw, paint, squish play doh, stack, order, swap, flip, build, smash, tear, post, etc, etc. I am very impressed at what a small child can do in a co ordinated way. I have been looking forward to him getting to age where we can start to do these things together. I have collected a large basket of materials and everyday we do a new project. I will post some photos of our collaborations.

In the meantime, I discovered greylead pencils again, they are so lovely to draw with. I have been collecting my own drawings and projects and will also post some of them soon.

3 March 2008

Day 30 and beyond - this is life

We got a car and this has allowed us to take some great trips these past few days. Space and clean air is possible to find and often less than an hour drive out of Tokyo. You can access most places by public transport but as with any type of travel, often the best experiences are the ones you find by accident and off the beaten track - which you cant do as easily by using PT. The amazing and beautiful Mt Fuji and surrounds was very clear when we saw it. Luckily the head of the house was so excited to drive the new car, it meant we were out the door by 8am, but it also meant we got these beautiful views before the clouds rolled in. I had visited this place before but it was so cloudy I could only glimpse at the size of the mountain (volcano). It is enormous, lovely, quiet and spiritual. I have no desire to climb it.
The nearby temple is dedicated to the spirits of the area to take care of the volcano so it does not erupt. It is a beautiful temple, quiet, mossy and very big.

These shoes were waiting outside.
From the car you can get a very good view of the mountain. It is a beauitful symmetrical shape unhindered by any other natural (but plenty of man made) structures (including a very big amusement park with a lot of roller coasters...)....

This field of space is at a place called childrens country. It is a large area of trees, woods, mini zoo, walks, some rides and bikes, picnic areas and just some space to relax and fly kites, run around and relax. It was a great drive for us. I think the dog would have loved to have a run here, they dont allow pets unfortunately....
So how about my first 30 days in Japan? So far it has been far less stressful and lonely than I thought it would be. Life has happend quite naturally, as our belongings arrived, we keep finding new places, new freedoms and new thoughts. It seems that you can really feel you are living when you are outside your 'normal' life, the one you usually have at home. Time is borrowed here and the soon as we began it already felt like the countdown to finishing. I feel this very strongly. This is the motivation to do as much as possible and see as many things as we can because we will not be able to do these things when we are outside Japan. I really like Japan. The people are lovely and respectful and gentle, generally. There is a common respect for other people and other peoples things that I often feel missing at home. The food is so amazing. It is always the best quality and the best variety. The seafood and fish is the best I have eaten. The strawberries and sweet and ripe, everytime. The service in restaurants is fast and thoughtful. A small dish and fork often appears for the mooch, without me asking. Sometimes complementary ice cream arrives. I feel this time in Japan, I dont need to be so patriotic in a flag waving kind of way. I will be an Aussie wherever I go and that is a good feeling. I miss home but I know it is there and that is enough comfort. The mooch is now in daycare two days a week, it is good so far for us both. I have not yet passed the stage where I stop thinking about him all day while he is there and get ready 2 hrs before he is due to picked up. Im sure this will pass as I get used to it and do more of my own things. He is growing up so fast and becoming such a lovely person. I didnt think I could love anyone as much as I love him. I saw a doco last night where a fox came into a nest and stole an egg and the mother was screeching. I felt that. So, my first 30 days has been incredible. I dont feel like I have grown up, but Im sure I have.