Friday, June 23, 2017

JUNE BLOG FEATURE: JJ from Genki Kids Rainbow Art

Hello. Hello.  Call me JJ ok. I'm a passionate and creative Aussie expat Mum in Osaka. I took advantage of my naturally colourful self to be an arty Mum when my daughter was young, so we could spend the early years together everyday. I've been in Osaka about two decades, but yeh, I'm still a happy bilingual novice.

I hold creativity workshops and parties for children, and I facilitate arty crafty workshops for women (with wine). Prioritizing child led learning and child centred  fun in an academic, educational Japanese world, seems essential for building imaginative skills, and fostering confidence and self identity. Allowing women the opportunity to learn new skills, bond with others, and share time in a meaningful way, is something both expat and Japanese ladies crave in their busy everyday. It's always a fun and enthralling role to have. Oh yes. It deeply is.  



The things I adore are exploring backstreets, discovering local life, and photographing all the beauty I see daily on Instagram. I love vintage fashion, weekday cafes, and chatting to locals. I'm inspired by curiosity in kids, cloud art, kindness, and free fun. In 2017 I want to write more postcards, create more rituals, and make umeshu. How about you? 




I photograph always. On my old 4s. But who cares right? Check out my insta hashtag for original arty kid photo fun at  #genkikidsrainbowartclass , and my Facebook public page of super ideas for creative kid inspiration, "GENKI kids Rainbow ART". Mail me on Instagram or FB if you have ideas, wanna hold a workshop, or just wanna share the best latte art in Osaka together.


Being open, caring and forever open to new ways of building a creative life is essential to a youthful outlook, and a heart that radiates authenticity. Well, that's my way of living anyhow. My #osakalife . Kanpai! 



Get in touch:
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/genkikidsrainbowart
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/starlightjj/

Sunday, May 14, 2017

SPECIAL BLOG FEATURE: Lindsey Sawada from Setagaya Yoga Studio


Hi, I'm Lindsey from  England. I have been living in Kyodo, Setagaya (Tokyo) for 20 years. I live with my husband, daughter, mother-in-law, and my grumpy old rescue cat.

I have been working with children for the past 27 years starting with babysitting at age 14, followed by volunteering with a youth centre for children with Downs Syndrome, several nanny positions, taught at a preschool,  junior high and high school. I also teach dance, fitness and yoga. 

I am now the owner of Setagaya Yoga Studio. The classes at the studio are for children and their mummies. The classes can be taught in English, Japanese or a combination of both depending on the student's needs. The studio looks out onto a garden where, on nice days, we can take the classes outdoors. Even on the days that the classes are indoors it's really nice to look out onto the green space. 



It's has been an amazing journey to be able to get to a point in my life where I know that what I do isn't just beneficial to me but can be beneficial to other people. The things that I can pass on can go on to be shared by others. 

I don't know of other yoga studios designated specifically for children in Tokyo yet, so the idea is pretty new here. A lot of people ask me how I manage to get young children to concentrate on yoga asanas (poses) for 40-50 minutes at a time and the answer to that is that I don't. At the studio, even though we do a lot of asana, they are disguised by walking around on all fours pretending to be wild animals, or rolling ourselves up in the mats pretending to be sushi, we dance, sing, we also touch on yogic principles through story-telling and role-play. 


Children gain confidence by leading some of the activities too. I have had some great feedback from parents about children having a more relaxed air about them when they get home, being kinder to their siblings as well as sleeping better at night. Kids' yoga has been scientifically proven to help children manage stress and build concentration. I particularly like that yoga is non-competitive so children can exercise without the pressure of winning or losing. The meaning of yoga is 'union' and we definitely see cooperation and union going on during class.



The stretch classes for mums are invaluable at realigning the body, easing aches, pains and stiffness. We use breathing techniques which help to keep us relaxed with our kids even through their occasionally challenging behaviour. I also really like to work on having a flexible and aligned spine because it leads to optimal organ health, improved circulation, digestion and mobility. These stretch classes are not difficult, most of the poses are taken sitting down. The goal is to obtain alignment in the gentlest way possible. 


Gillian Lynne the dancer/ choreographer is a huge inspiration to me. When she was a young girl at school she couldn't sit still and focus, often disrupting other children. She was sent to see a specialist who gave her the diagnosis of being a dancer instead of someone with some sort of disorder like her teachers and mother had expected. Gillian began ballet, found her passion and eventually went on to have a marvellous career in dance and even choreographed the world famous musical Cats. Gillian still works in dance at age 91! Both Gillian and I know that some of us just don't learn optimally through sitting still with books but through moving our bodies. Kids yoga undoubtedly addresses the confinement and stress that children can feel through being sat in a classroom all day.

This spring Tokyo gardeners are inspiring me a lot too. People have such tiny spaces of earth, or little balconies that are made to look exquisite. Whilst chatting to gardeners and admiring their work I have made a lot of new friends some who have come over to look at my garden and given me advice about how to make it into my ideal functional yet aesthetically pleasing space - it's a work in progress that I suspect may take me years.


In 2017 I will continue to deepen my knowledge of teaching yoga for children, continue to practice meditation and yoga. I will also try to continue to be as good and kind of a person that I can be by helping wherever I possibly can, even if it's just offering a smile to people on the street - something that I think is really lacking in big cities.

I spend my free time:
  • Driving across town to take my daughter to circus class. 
  • Hanging upside down at aerial fitness classes.
  • Doing yoga.
  • Spending time with my family by the beach or in nature.
  • Gardening.
  • Drinking deep red wines.
  • Meeting new people in my neighbourhood and discovering new places to eat.
  • I love to read too. At the moment I'm reading 'You Have 4 Minutes to Change Your Life', a book offering 4 minute meditations to help find balance. It's pretty nice for busy people and beginner meditators.


Contact and follow me here:

Tel - 090-5317-4121


Classes

The studio is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

Mama Stretch classes 
9:30am -10:30am
11:00am- 12:00pm

Kids Yoga Classes
3:00pm -3:40pm (ages 3 and 4)
4:00pm - 4:45pm ( ages 5 and 6)
5:00pm - 5:50pm ( ages 7 and 8)

For other requests please enquire, I'm very open to suggestions and am happy to volunteer at events etc. I hope to see loads of you at the studio soon. 

-- 
Setagaya Yoga Studio

Sunday, April 30, 2017

APRIL BLOG FEATURE: Erinn LaMattery from Off on a Whim



Beginning in California, I embarked on a journey around the world, eventually settling into life in the foothills of the beautiful Mt. Koya in Japan. This beautiful little town has been home to my family of 4 children for over 16 years, giving them a peaceful and secure upbringing.

Okunoin Cemetery at Mt. Koya, my place of peace


Besides the birth of my last child, this town has also been home to Off on a Whim, a custom made jewelry business built upon the Japanese Power Stone philosophy that each stone holds the power to support and assist you during your daily journey through life. I work closely with customers to build their perfect pieces with colors and stones that represent the challenges they are facing, in memory of departed loved ones, and in celebration of life’s victories. My materials come straight from the earth as I choose not to work with plastics, giving customers that connection to the world around them.


Desert Pearl, one of our popular items, in triple layer



So many people have played a large part in helping me move forward with this business and grow it to where we are today. Color and nature are my greatest inspiration, springtime flowers, summer trees, fall leaves, winter skies, I try to pull what is around me into my work. 


Recently  popular, Off on a Whim Tree of Life Suncatchers, 
measuring around 13cm end to end, great gifts!

This year I want to focus on creating some tutorials for YouTube and building up a YouTube channel, as well as develop a newsletter. I hope to cut back my day job hours so I can focus better on turnaround time for my work. I have plans to reach out to brick and mortar shops for some consignment and wholesale contracts, and am considering starting up workshops to teach the basics to people who are interested to make their own pieces. I'm also beginning to collaborate with other artists to create new pieces.

I started branching out in gold filled and diamond chip pieces


Isn’t free time a myth? Raising and providing for 4 children has effectively ended the luxury of free time. But when it does manage to skitter across my path, you can find me reading a book, doing a puzzle, or just chilling with a TV show. 


Contact and follow me here: 








You can order/ buy my work here! And take advantage of our limited time offer for 15% off your order on Etsy through June 30, 2017. Enter  BikuLove at checkout to apply it!


Thursday, March 23, 2017

MARCH BLOG FEATURE: Kirstyn Takahashi from The Cake Fairy

I'm Kirstyn from NZ. Now living in Tokyo with my husband and two children. I am also known as the Cake Fairy.

I have really fond memories of choosing which birthday cake I wanted from a cake book when I was young. I would often help my parents create the cake and began making them for my teachers and family too.
When my kids turned 1 respectively I wanted to give them a birthday cake as exciting as I remembered my childhood cakes to be, but was unable to find anything similar here in Tokyo at the time. Most Japanese celebrations revolve around strawberry cream shortcakes which are not overly decorated, so there is a niche here for those who want something more western and colorful.


Created for a Sony Pictures event for Angry Birds

I sharpened up my skills and began making cakes for my family and friends' celebrations. I realized that it was really a passion for me and I am still so excited every time when I get to make someone else happy with my cakes. It's such a privilege to share people's special occasions. I like to see how kids change in their cake requests from year to year, and I love hearing the stories of people's lives. Husbands who surprise their wives with thoughtful cakes, parents who book their child's first birthday cakes months ahead because they are so excited! 


A request from my son for a realistic Stag beetle cake
Cake decorating is very labor intensive so I find it hard to get long periods of uninterrupted time to create. I am thankful that my family and friends have been so supportive of me and I am lucky to be able to balance orders around the other responsibilities in my life in an attempt to get some balance. That being said, I often feel like I am sliding through on the skin of my teeth every day.
 A custom cake to match a party dress

I try to push the limits with my cakes where I can. I love the challenge of interesting and unusual requests. I hope to make people say "Wow!", and the best comment, "I can't believe it's a cake!" Sometimes gravity is an annoying obstacle however!
 Anyone for a slice of Gruffalo?

I am so blessed to enjoy what I do and create customized, one-of-a-kind cakes, making happy memories for people. 
Here are some more of my favorites:


Contact me at:
Instagram: cakefairytokyo 


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

FEBRUARY BLOG FEATURE: Kumiko Kato from Kamay Kitchen


I'm originally from Hiroshima and now live in Shimokitazawa. I'm married with one child.

I run a small restaurant/ cafe called Kamay Kitchen which serves Teishoku (set menu meals), cakes, drinks, etc. We cook a fusion of Japanese and Philippine home-cooked recipes and try to use organic rice and vegetables as much as possible. We don’t use any MSG and try very hard to avoid GMO foods.


I sometimes do bento (Japanese lunch box) catering as well as outside catering for camping events and festivals.

Our place is super kid and baby-friendly. There is a tatami area with toys, a diaper changing table, and kids' chairs. We do two kinds of sets for babies and children. Of course, the place is no smoking.
From time-to-time we hold some workshops and events in Kamay Kitchen such as Ukulele classes, cooking workshops and live music and movie events.

I'm inspired by good food, vegetables, nice music, kimono, family and friends. I spend my free time going to live concerts, dancing with a beer in my hand! I also sing and play ukulele at live events. I organise events such YANAKAMA STREET MARKET and OHIRU NO KAORI.



Contact and follow me here:

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kamaykitchen/
Instagram   @kamay_kumiko
Twitter @wanatsu

Friday, January 27, 2017

This Year I Choose Love

It feels to me that this is the year of women. I'm dumbfounded by the fact that women are still having to take to the streets to protest unequal pay, angry about workplace disadvantage after childbirth and the generally sexist treatment and rhetoric being used in recent months. I think women have just had enough.

Why do we still feel bullied in the workplace (often from other women), feel like we are giving up a career when we have children, feel judged for our parenting decisions (to work/ to stay at home) feel guilt about working, feel guilt for parenting when we feel we should be working? No man is judged for their work-life decisions. It's a given that they will continue on the path they set out on. Or change it...whatever. We often have to take a diversion when we decide to become a mother. For some it's a career break, some a career diversion and for others a complete career change. I feel like we have been on a treadmill for the past 100 years. Emmeline Pankhurst must be doing flik-flaks in her grave. Or else, weeping.


This year we choose love. For me this means supporting inspirational women I've connected with over the years both in person and through social media. In this blog series they share insights into their lives as they juggle parenting and running a business that they find meaningful.  Not only do these women work in creative fields, they creatively construct a job to fit around their families. They are surrounded by friends and family who are supportive of their work, which allows them to make a positive contribution (both financially and emotionally). Yes, our lives are pretty hectic at times, but we carry on because we are passionate about what we do. In the words of an upcoming poster on this feature, "I think I skid through on the seat of my pants, balancing plates in my head most days!!" 

I hope you can stop by at the end of each month to read about their fascinating lives.

Victoria

PS Please share the posts where you can and visit their social media accounts and business pages to show your support.



JANUARY BLOG FEATURE: Gretchen Miura at SORABento

I grew up in New Jersey, outside of NYC, and ventured west to California to study Anthropology in college. I was lucky to travel when I was young and eventually found myself in Asia.  For the past 15 years I have been living in northern Japan with my husband and our 4 children. 

Raising children in a different culture has been both challenging and illuminating. I particularly appreciate the food culture of Japan and the attitude towards providing healthy food for children, both at home and in the schools. I am always amazed at the colorful and well balanced bentos (packed lunches) that people make and slowly learned how to pack them myself. I wanted to share this part of the Japanese culture that has had such a positive influence in my life. I also love to sew which is why I created my company SORAbento. 




SORAbento offers handmade bento bags, insulated lunch totes and other eco-friendly bags that are based on traditional Japanese designs. These styles cover a variety of shapes and sizes so you can carry a small packed lunch, a larger picnic spread or your latest haul form the farmer`s market. Quite frankly they are suitable for a multitude of uses and you can carry anything you like!

www.etsy.com/shop/SORAbento

I feel like I offer something unique in the sense that I live in Japan and have infused the style of my bags with a subtle Japanese aesthetic. Wabi-sabi is a word that describes a transient and simple beauty found in nature and its organic imperfections. I strive to create a balance between utility and beauty and hope that the customers find the bags useful in daily life as well as a tiny bit inspiring! 
www.etsy.com/shop/SORAbento

The amount of energy in the current `makers movement` is really encouraging to me. Jess Brown`s rag dolls have been a constant source of inspiration for me. With their unique heirloom look they have a special handmade quality that appeals to me. Another favorite is Sara at Shisodelicious on Instagram. She shares her beautiful bentos that integrate whole foods from Japanese and Western cuisines in a truly enlightened way! I am grateful that there is a sustained interest in buying handmade items and healthy, locally produced food, which lies at the heart of SORAbento.

Despite all of this talk about healthy eating I must admit that I have a huge sweet tooth. I love to bake sweets and share them with friends over a cup of coffee and a good chat! 


Connect with SORABento

You can learn more about SORAbento, life in rural Japan or tips on preparing bentos at my website www.sorabento.com

You can check out all the bags available for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/SORAbento

I am on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SoraJapan4 
(or search directly for SORAbento once on Facebook).

My instagram is sora_bento. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

An exciting delivery

Anyone who follows me on Instagram or Facebook or reads this blog will know about my obsession with all things vintage... and all things Japanese. My most favourite of all things vintage and Japanese is kimono, and all the accessories that go along with it. 

So I was absolutely thrilled when a friend asked me if I would be interested in her mum's old kimono to use in my jewellery designs. Interested?! I almost jumped up and down on the spot and squealed! But instead said, "Yes, yes please that would be fantastic!" And a few days later she dropped off this box...

Want to see what's inside? Really? OK, let's go.

The first thing I found was a lovely cotton yukata. Can you feel my excitement building...?


And then a long haori jacket with the most exquisite lining.



Some fabulous obi for yukata (how much do you love the stripes?!)


And then a stack of large white envelopes. Ever wondered how a kimono is stored? Each one is folded in a special way so that it is completely flat and then stored in a paper envelope like this. My heart was thumping already so I started to open them up one by one...



This deep purple kimono had a shibori (kind of Japanese tie-dye) motif and hand-stitched crosses.



A Jackson Pollock-inspired kimono.





Just look at the tiny splashes of gold outlining on the leaves. Not on all leaves, just a few clumps here and there...



A snowflake-inspired light kimono. The fabric on this one looks like a summer kimono, but I'm a bit confused about the motif. Perhaps this is so that you feel cool in the humid Japanese summer?



I think this purple kimono is my absolute favourite. I love the over-sized geometric design and the deep, deep luscious shade of purple.



A floral kimono with exquisite detail. Look at that painting!



And just when I thought it was getting near the end... 4 gorgeous obi (kimono belt).






I am one lucky designer. Now I have to work up the courage to break these beauties up. Not sure I can do it.

Thanks for reading. 

Mata,

Victoria