Japan Adventures: Osaka

Philip and Simeon
Artists painting Osaka Castle off in the distance
Golden Ginkyo leaves
Osaka Castle moat and stone walls
Natalie at Osaka Castle
View from the top of Osaka Castle
Silly statues in Osaka
Olivia at the cat cafe


So cute!

Our first stop was in Osaka- the second largest city in Japan.

After the 30 minute train ride from Kyoto Station we arrived in Osaka. The train drops you off nearly at the entrance to Osaka Castle, so it was just a short walk to the castle park grounds, nearly 80 acres to explore. I was so impressed with the moat and stone walls, made for protecting the castle. I can’t believe what a fortress this once was and the history behind it, the battles fought literally where we stood. Japan has so much history and you can see that the Japanese are equally impressed with the history.

After a few hours at Osaka castle, our daughter begged us to find the Neko no Jikan cat cafe. How fun! We paid the fee, received a coffee and petted sweet kitties for an hour. Most cats used to the attention so mostly they’re just sleeping or wandering among their play area. It was a nice place to slow down for a bit and rest. This was day seven of our trip and we were definitely feeling tired with all the traveling up to that point.

Later we met up with some friends and had some beers and ramen, did some yukata shopping and headed back to the house until the next adventure…




Kawai Kanjiro: The Humble Potter

Kawai Kanjiro, (1890-1966), was known as a major contributor to the Mingei (traditional folk arts and crafts movement). More than just a potter and wood craftsman, he was the noblest of all kinds of person.

kawai via esotericsurvey.blogspot
image via esotericsurvey.blogspot

Kanjiro was an artist who wanted to remain a maker empowered by his craft, rather than as artist qualified by his fame or notoriety. He never signed a single piece of pottery. He said “my work itself is my signature.”

kawai via vam.ac.uk
image via vam.ac.uk
kawai kanjiro via studiokotokoto
image via studiokotokoto.com
Kawai_Kanjiro via esotericsurvey.blogspot
image via esotericsurvey.blogspot
kawai kanjiro multi chamber kiln
image via studiokotokoto.com

During his lifetime, Kanjiro turned down all official honors and rewards, including Japan’s Living National Treasure. He was a man unmotivated by material possessions and simply wanted to create for the sake of creating.

He continued to explore who he was through the things he touched and brought to life. This seemed to be a life long passion that became part of who he was. He said “to see my new self, I work.” This was a very important part of his craft. Constant improvement- “kaizen”. He believed “lifestyle is work, work is lifestyle.” They were one and the same.

Humble, unpretentious, real- He never lost touch with common folk and greatly respected the farmers in the countryside. “They are the kind of people we can never do without,” he wrote.


Series: 5 on the radar

obsessed 2
Uka oils hydrate parched nails and ragged cuticles. They can also be used as perfume and even lip balm.
Okuhoshima "Bunny" Island in Japan. photo c/o fromicetospice
Okuhoshima “Bunny” Island in Japan. photo c/o frommicetospice
Lush Hanami Scrub: to die for scent of lavender, rose, ylang ylang and sweet orange oil
Lush Hanami Scrub: to die for scent of lavender, rose, ylang ylang and sweet orange oil
Sakae art- incredible!
Sakae art- incredible!
Blythe dolls dressed in kimono (image from Junie Moon)
obsessed 18
Skincare Inspired By Geisha Beauty Rituals
obsessed 20 decoist
sublime space c/o Decoist

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!


DIY Japanese Garden

Backyard before November 2013
Backyard before November 2013
Grass and concrete removed
Grass and concrete removed
Mapping out
Mapping out
Lumber staining
Lumber staining
Heavy lifting done by Philip, Tony and Brandon
Heavy lifting done by Philip, Tony and Brandon
The work has just begun!
The work has just begun!


Getting ready to lay the decking
Getting ready to lay the decking
Decking installed
Decking installed
Decking done!
Decking done!
Lattice work
Lattice work
Landscaping begins
Landscaping begins
My little helpers!
My little helpers!
Nearly there!
Nearly there!
The mound
The mound

Last summer, my husband and I were debating what to do with our backyard. When we moved in nearly three years ago we knew we didn’t want to tackle the backyard right away. I spent many nights, up late at night, scouring Pinterest (addicting I tell you!) for fresh ideas for our future space.

We decided that we would take out all the grass (big water save) and remove a lot of the existing concrete-it was just a giant sea of concrete that really had no purpose. We wanted to create a back yard that reflected the simple character that our Craftsman style home has. Having a love for the simple, Japanese aesthetic, we followed our hearts and decided on a traditional Japanese garden.Truthfully, we modified our plans over and over again. Did you know how many different kinds of gravel there are? Choosing one plant over another. Researching which bamboo is not going to be invasive…and so on and so on. My handy husband built the wooden pergola, installed the decking, and built the fire pit/seating area. I was in charge of the landscaping design and finishing touches. After 6 looooooong months of working on our project (literally every weekend) it’s completed! We are so pleased with how it has turned out. We just hosted a baby shower with 40 people over and it is a wonderful place to have a party! Now that it’s finally Summer, were hosting a movie night with friends!

Japanese Gardens 101

Karesansui Garden in Pasadena, California at Huntington Library and Botanical Garden
Karesansui Garden in San Diego, California at Japanese Friendship Garden
Raked design
Rock textures in Pasadena, California
Pathway- notice the different shapes, sizes, textures. This is the designers way of controlling the visitor’s experience.
Common feature in Japanese Gardens: bridges
Pond stocked with koi. Notice the asymmetry of the rocks in the pond
This water basin is for visitors to wash their hands and refresh before entering the tea house.
Courtyard garden in Toyama, Japan
Gorgeous Japanese Maple with red foliage
Often large ponds like these will include an island.

One of my favorite aesthetics of Japanese design is in the garden. In a traditional Japanese garden, design emphasis is placed on the balance of yin/yang, harmony, mystery, and meaning. Here are some of the fundamentals in Japanese landscape design:

1 Gravel or sand- “Karesansui”-which in Japanese, translates as “dry mountain water”. This style of landscape is meant to be viewed but never entered- except for raking and maintenance purposes.

2 Rocks- Each selected as a work of art and it’s shape, color, texture, and character are carefully considered.

3 Plants- The seasons dictate which plants to use. Each plant is selected for its leaf colors, bark, stems- even branch pattern. Asymmetry is the goal.

4 Water- Represents change. It represents impermanence: it flows. A stream, pond, lake or even just a simple granite water basin creates ambient sound that’s conductive to meditation.

5 Paths- Paths are meant to guide you through the garden and are constructed in such a way that a visitor must move carefully and slowly through the garden.