San Diego Japanese Food Festival 2014

join us for a taste of japan

Held in Balboa Park


Yakitori being grilled


Ladies selling taiyaki




Taiyaki- red bean filled sweet dessert




Liv loves sushi (and Attack on Titan) :-)


Rillakuma had to come too


Gates to gardens


Local artisan


Aren’t these beautiful?


Karesansui (dry landscape) garden


New pavilion during expansion


This past weekend we visited San Diego’s Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park for their annual Taste of Japan- a place to sample many of Japans “street foods”, common throughout Japan. We purchased many delicious food items. We enjoyed yakitori (grilled meats, organs-grilled over special coals from Japan), yakisoba (grilled noodles with veggies), sushi, taiyaki (red bean waffle cake shaped like a fish), and ended our eating adventures with shaved ice.

The Taste of Japan also featured local artisans like Tsuyosa Creations who recycles old kimono’s into beautiful bags, purses and pillows. Kyocera- known for their knife and kitchen tools were there for people to try out. Totally bamboo was here selling bamboo kitchenware and accessories and Sylvia Hwa was here selling Asian-inspired, hand-made cards, notebooks, and bags.

Singers performed traditional Japanese folk songs and they even had a Halloween costume contest for the little kids along with fun Halloween crafts.

The Friendship Garden is a great place to visit if you love Japanese culture, art and a quiet, serene place to visit. The strolling gardens offer beautiful specimens of pine tree, bonsai and more. I hear it’s the place to go to see the cherry trees blossom in the Spring.

They offer changing exhibits throughout the year that focus on Japanese culture and are currently expanding the gardens which will include a traditional tea house, a pavilion for three hundred patrons, and outdoor amphitheater. It’s my understanding that they will also offer classes in the traditional arts once they expansion is completed.

Fall pumpkin inspiration…

japanese inspired pumpkins

I love the Fall season. Cooler weather, changing leaves, shorter days and plenty of fun things to do- like decorating pumpkins! I bought these cute pumpkins and decided to paint them with Japanese motifs. I chose the cherry blossom and a textile design that frequents many Japanese fabrics. I used primer first on the pumpkins, then painted them. I think they turned out kawaii!

Teaching children Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging)

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The art of Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) is one of my favorite classes to teach- after all, who doesn’t love flowers? This is always a favorite activity for the kids to do. Their excitement about flowers (especially for the girls) is really fun to see. The beauty of ikebana is it’s personal expression of the individual, yet is created for all to see. They have their own idea about how it should look, what flowers to use, the placement of those flowers, how many/how little to use. It is a gift to see how much thought is given to each flower- the attention and intention when placing each. It brings many smiles and lots of happiness!

A great starter book is Ikebana: by Shoza Sato (enter here). The book has very simple instruction with color photographs, materials list and so on. There are other very beautifully illustrated books on ikebana, but start with the basics.

I bought floral foam from Joann’s and shallow aluminum baking pan from the 99 cent store. The flowers were purchased from Trader Joes and some even came from my own yard. I have authentic Japanese hasami (Ikebana scissors), and I purchased a class pack of scissors at our local school supply store. It really is that easy to get started. I gave each student their vessel (aluminum baking pan), floral foam and scissor. Then they each chose their flowers and added water to their vessel. I like to show them beforehand what to look for and keep in mind that balance, texture, color, contrast, movement and lines are all important. A great deal of thought goes into each. Once the demonstration was over they were free to make their own beautiful ikebana.

Modern Kanzashi Hair Ornament

kanzashi DIY

French clip style

kanzashi DIY 7

Kimi’s pretty kanzashi hair ornament

kanzashi DIY 1

alligator and french clip style

kanzashi DIY 2

bunny comb

kanzashi DIY 3

kanzashi and jewels

kanzashi DIY 4

detail of kanzashi

kanzashi DIY 6

Hannah’s lovely hair ornament

Today, we made beautiful tsumami kanzashi hair ornaments. This style (folded flowers)- are usually made out of silk.

Our version has a modern take on this traditional craft. We used a variety of card stock paper for the base- there are so many types to choose from. Next, we glued our card stock (I suggest making templates to use) and placed it carefully onto our alligator clip and french clip barrettes. Lastly, we chose kanzashi flowers and sparkly gems to glue on. We had so much fun making these hair ornaments. Each girl had so much fun with this craft for our Summer Camp. Many told me they can’t wait for next year! As a teacher, this makes me so very happy. :-)

Great Wave of Kanagawa Watercolor








The Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Great Wave off Kanagawa is probably one of the most iconic pictures in Japanese Culture today. Produced between 1830-1833, Katsushika Hokusai was a very famous Ukiyo-e woodblock print artist in his time.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Hokusai first started to paint at age 6. It was stated sometime years before his death (at age 89) that he once said:

“At the age of five years I had the habit of sketching things. At the age of fifty I had produced a large number of pictures, but for all that, none of them had any merit until the age of seventy. At seventy-three finally I learned something about the true nature of things, birds, animals, insects, fish, the grasses and the trees. So at the age of eighty years I will have made some progress, at ninety I will have penetrated the deepest significance of things, at a hundred I will make real wonders and at a hundred and ten, every point, every line, will have a life of its own.”

We had a great time re-imagining our own interpretation of The Great Wave. Many chose several shades of blue that really made each picture unique and special. Japanese arts and crafts are rarely taught outside of Japan. Even in today’s Japanese culture, arts and crafts are taught as a way to preserve and understand the past.

I believe it is a beautiful sentiment to carry on traditions of the past to future generations to learn and appreciate the beauty of it’s culture. I am so lucky to be able to share these wonderful arts with children.

Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens


Love of Lotus Pavillion


Beautiful Bonsai


Natalie and Philip at the karesansui garden


Tea Room


Ladies dressed in kimono for Tea Ceremony


Inside Japanese house- Love the bunny!


I love everything about this picture- (except the guy standing on the other side )


Lovely rose in the rose garden

Here are some pictures from our latest trip to the Huntington. On this particular visit,  there was a traditional tea (chado) ceremony. The picture of the women in kimono in tea house was a special capture. I wish I would have brought my larger lens, but I really love this picture!

Our family has been members of the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens for many years and we visit quite frequently. If you are a lover of plants, art, culture and beauty, this is the place to go. You could probably spend more than a day exploring, considering its massive size (120 acres to be exact) and more than a dozen different theme gardens to enjoy. The Japanese and Chinese are our favorite by far, but the tropical gardens and cactus gardens are special too. If you are a lover of art, this place has no shortage of it. There are several houses throughout to go and admire all the works of art.

If you can make arrangements ahead of time, I highly recommend enjoying the high tea room- fresh fruit, tiny sandwiches, desserts, salads and of course tea! Please visit for more information. They are located in San Marino, CA


Bento Box Lunch



heart shaped cucumbers


Some Bento box materials


Flower shaped carrots (we cooked them first)


Some of the “fix-ins” for the Bento box


We used small bread loaf pans as our Bento Boxes


A Bento box creation


Another Bento box example


Do you see the face on the crackers?


Beautifully crafted Bento boxes

Every Summer I teach a Japanese Arts and Crafts Camp for kids (age 8-13). This year, we created Bento box lunches. If you do a quick Google search you will find many fine examples of Bento box lunches.


It is said that the Japanese “eat with their eyes”, so it is important that the meal be visually interesting and fun. Our girls had so much fun creating these special little lunches. We used mostly fruits and vegetables in our bento, but fish, lunch meat, cheese and so on can be used as long as it can be refrigerated. Have a good time and try making your own Bento box the kids will enjoy eating!