Snowy Yamagata

Lately I’ve been touting the blessings of spring, but deep down, my heart belongs to winter.

A few weeks ago Dan and I took a weekend trip to Hijiori Onsen, a tiny town in the mountains in northwest Japan. We took the Shinkansen to the last stop, then a bus for an hour, and we found snow. A lot of it. 

The morning greeted us with fresh snowfall, so we took stroll through town. It was quiet except for the sound of the river.

I was happy to spend the afternoon at our ryokan, tucked under the kotatsu. Through the window I watched the snow fall and tried to study Japanese, alternating sips of beer and green tea. When I needed a break from kanji, I stitched. Occasionally we raced to the window to glimpse a pair of hawks fishing in the river outside.

Hijiori Onsen is a hot spring resort town, and our ryokan had 3 different baths. Our first afternoon, I had this one to myself. The next morning I sat in a copper tub with the windows open and let snowflakes flutter in.

We stayed two nights, and both dinners were absolute feasts. Regional specialties included beef yakiniku, duck nabe (soup), mountain vegetables, and really good rice. We cooked our beef and duck nabe over a table with coals set inside. On Friday night, dinner ended with a dance. More photos of our two days of kaiseki can be found here on Flickr.

The owners at Yuyado-Motokawarayu ryokan were extremely welcoming. If you get a chance, stop by and say hello.


Spring Sashiko Giveaway — We have a winner!

Thanks to everyone who left comments — it was great fun reading them all! I dumped the numbers in to the random number generator, and (drumroll please!) dadadadada…

Congrats to Liz! And to everyone else, thanks again for participating. ヾ(@⌒ー⌒@)ノ

If you are still interested in getting your itchy-stitchy fingers on the Spring Hanami Sashiko Kit, you can keep an eye on my Etsy shop where it will be available soon or pre-order one by sending me a message at Want to learn more about sashiko? You can check out my online tutorial here, or stay tuned for how-to videos, coming soon.

The 2012 Spring Hanami Sashiko Kit, $35  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Happy stitching, and happy Spring!

A Springtime Sashiko Giveaway!

* This giveaway is no longer accepting entries. Thanks! *

It’s almost hanami time! Yipskip!

I love hanami, the glorious time of year when people lay blankets and tarps in every park and available green space, spread their picnics, and enjoy the scenery. This year, I was inspired to make a new sashiko kit to celebrate.

Meet the Spring Hanami Sashiko Kit. Set yourself up with a classy picnic, or perhaps bring some hanami indoors.

And, I want to share the hanami love! One lucky reader will receive a Spring Hanami Sashiko Kit, and perhaps some other sakura styled treats from Tokyo. So tell me, what is your favorite thing about spring? Leave a comment by Tuesday, March 20th to enter the giveaway. One commenter will be selected at random (one entry per person, please).

The Spring Hanami Sashiko Kit is a limited edition kit for the spring season and will be available in my Etsy shop beginning next week. Though, if you’re really excited about it — like I know you are! — you can pre-order by sending me a message at I can accept payments via PayPal, and orders will ship next week.

The 2012 Spring Hanami Sashiko Kit, $35

This design was inspired by the fluttering of petals as they fall from sakura trees on a breezy day. I love to stand underneath the trees and watch them swirl around me. The design is stitched using high quality, 100% cotton sashiko thread in pinks and white onto a gradated blue cotton fabric. It may look like just the lighting in the photos, but the fabric actually changes from dark blue to light. Sometimes this shading reminds me of the sky, and sometimes a stream. I’ll let you decide.

This kit includes everything you need to make one 16″ by 18″ (40 cm by 46 cm) table mat, including front and back fabric, pattern, materials for transferring the pattern to the fabric, needle, thread, and illustrated instructions. All materials included in the kit are of the highest quality and have been made in Japan. You will need to supply your own scissors, pins, and needle and thread. A sewing machine isn’t required, but it might be nice.

Want to learn more about sashiko? You can check out my online tutorial here, or stay tuned for how-to videos, coming soon!

Happy Spring!

Pink is the color of my White Day.

Today was White Day in Japan. Because I’m a bit spoiled, I got these:

A messy desk with fabric thrown over the piles of craft seconds as a photo studio. See Dan? there is a method to my madness.

Those macarons were amazing. Are they always? I have no idea. I usually opt for fruit tartlets, or dark chocolate with salty bits, or pie. But these macarons were ridiculously good. I didn’t shove them all into my mouth at once, even though I thought about it. I really did.

White Day is March 14th, the day when men who received chocolates from their lady friends a month ago are suddenly faced with an awkward and stressful dilemma: to return the favor and possibly send the wrong message (too much! not enough!), or pretend they forgot and hide under the desk all day.

While White Day was maybe a little stressful for Dan (many coworkers, many awkward moments), it was darn good to me. I left class with a sugar rush and a pocket full of Melty Kiss.

Not to mention, I had my classy snack set waiting for me at home.

My fancy pink teacup, a raspberry macaron, and my newest sashiko kit (coming soon!), a sakura-covered picnic mat. It was a very sweet day.

Edo Wonderland

I feel a little bit like this today:

I’m not sure if it’s an allergy to the Japanese cedar tree or just a nasty cold, but my dizzy little rear end has been glued to the couch for the past 24 hours. I even missed Japanese class today, which means that though I missed just one day, when I return I’ll be a week behind. They move in warp speed.

But it’s the perfect opportunity to tell you about my trip to Nikko Edomura. Last week my school shuttled everyone up to visit Edo Wonderland, a 1600-1860s era “cultural theme park.”

As is the case for all school trips, the day’s highlight was the least educational component: the Ninja House.

Sorry this photo is fuzzy — there was a lot of balance concentration going on.

Inside, you must shriek with delight. It can’t be helped. Built on the slant of a hill, the interior is all wonky and crooked. It messed with my head so much, I thought the floor was moving.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. I visited the wax museum, where there was a whole lot of this:

And some of this:

And to round out the day, a dancing water show. I have no idea what was happening. It was a rainy day and I was sitting on a tatami mat, so all I could concentrate on were the smell of people’s feet.

The most amusing part about this trip for me was that just 30 minutes away, in the town of Nikko, sit some amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites, Tōshō-gū shrine among them. As in, real Edo-era buildings. (You can read about my first visit to them here.) Yet, our teachers didn’t mention these once. Maybe UNESCO should add a Ninja House.

If you are looking to visit Edo Wonderland, a good video showing what you’re in for can be found here.