Where I’ve been, Where I am, Where I’m going.

I am sorry there’s been radio silence for so long! I’ve just had a lot going on in my life, both good and bad. In a nutshell, for those of you who don’t want the nitty-gritty, I spent a week in the hospital in early December and am still sort of recovering despite it nearly being July; I travelled a ton in February through April; I got engaged; I am currently back home prepping for a wedding, but will be moving across the continent once I’m legally able to. If you’re curious and want the deets, keep reading. There’s a bit of gory medical detail in the first paragraph below, but no photos, don’t worry.

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Life, the Universe and Everything

This is one of those coordinations I’ve wanted to do from the very moment I got this kimono, and have just been putting off for one reason or another for years. It was high time I fixed that! This past Thursday was my 42nd birthday, and this coordinate has auspicious motifs of hayama and kagami (arrows and mirrors) and my favourite colour (teal) so I decided it was finally time to do it.

This kimono is definitely interesting – it’s brighter and more bold than most kurotomesode of the era, and it’s definitely very long for its age. The hem has a slight roll to it, so it’s a bit heavier than the rest of the fabric. This, along with the length, lead me to suspect it was a hikizuri, meant to be worn trailing. I’d like to think it may have been a geisha’s piece, worn at the new year, but this is just a suspicion of mine and I have no way to verify it. Whatever it is, I absolutely love it and should coordinate it more often.

The cool afternoon lighting in my living room makes the teal look bluer in these photos, but it definitely sits right between green and blue in person. I decided to use reds and blues in the accessories to emphasize how bold and punchy this piece is, and to sort of reinforce the geisha-adjacent feel of it. I also decided to let it drape, hikizuri style, to show off the beautiful flow of it, and tied the obi wider than normal to match. The collars are a bit wonky, but sometimes I just cannot get them to cooperate due to the shape of the mannequin. Alas.

This birthday has been a good one and I have very upbeat feelings about this coming loop around the sun. I hope I can share lots of new content and great news with you all soon!

Items used in this coordination

Kiyoko Beauty – Shop Feature and Product Reviews

A while back, I came across Kiyoko Beauty, a Canadian company dedicated to making Japanese and Korean beauty more accessible here in North America (they ship to the US as well!). I gave them a budget and asked for product suggestions to feature, and they were kind enough to work with me to basically double what I was able to get for my budget. It was enormously appreciated, and allowed me to bring a wider range of products to you all.

Before anything else, I would like to thank the staff for being so patient with me. This review has been a very long time in coming, but I’ve been travelling a lot, having some issues with a sick lizard, and wanted to make sure I gave all the products a good long test to make sure my reviews were as thorough as possible.

However, this timing benefits you as my readers, because they’re currently having a huge Black Friday sale, which is on until November 30th. If you’re looking to try any traditional or modern Japanese (or Korean, but I focus on the Japanese here) beauty products, or looking to get some holiday shopping done, this is a fantastic opportunity for you.

I tried a variety of hair and skin care products, and thoroughly enjoyed every single one. I can recommend all of these, with a few case-specific (sensitive skin, colour-treated hair) caveats mentioned in each section.

Tsubaki (camellia) oil has been used in Japan as a miracle multi-use beauty product for centuries. This is pure camellia oil with no additives and it has been so versatile. I've used it on my hair, my nails and cuticles, and my dry legs. It would be great for face too, for someone with drier skin than myself. If you only consider one product from this post, this is the one to go for.

I have been on the hunt for a true sakura fragrance and had high hopes for this line. It smells absolutely amazing, but it's almost got more of a fruity and sweet scent than I was looking for. That said, it's a fantastic line, I used up all three of these products (shampoo, conditioner, and hair mask) while I was in California and they made my hair look and feel great and didn't strip my hair colour more than any other shampoo I've used. These may have not hit my "sakura" button but I'm definitely debating buying more!

I won't lie, the name of this brand may have been my primary motivator to select these. They were literally calling my name! This line feels luxurious and elevated, from the packaging to the subtle orange bossom fragrance. The products were great, but they definitely did something funky with my hair colour - it's gone from its usual teal to a very natural-looking brown! It's not terrible but I wouldn't really recommend this particular line for colour-treated hair. It's not marketed that way though, so I knew it was a possibility.

I wanted to try some skincare as well and the folks at Kiyoko suggested Kikumasamune. I grabbed a face cream and a cleanser. The oil cleanser is absolutely amazing. It's got a delicious but subtle orange fragrance to it, removes makeup like a dream, and leaves my face feeling soft and smooth. The moisturiser contains sake lees and probiotics, and worked fantastically for me for quite a while, until my dermatitis started acting up (for unrelated reasons). I've had to go back to more specialised products but I'm looking forward to being able to finish it off when my skin settles back down though! However, it absolutely smells like sake so that is something to consider.

These sheet masks are fantastic. I have no idea how they manage to both clear up breakouts and dry oily skin while hydrating the face so well! They have a faint scent of both cucumber and pineapple, which is very invigorating and refreshing, so they're a great pick-me-up to wear while getting ready for a big evening. One thing to note, these masks are not individually packed. The bag has a press-and-seal strip so they do stay moist for a long time, and I appreciate the lack of disposable waste, but I like to toss a sheet mask or two in my carryon bag when I'm spending a whole day travelling and that's not possible with these.

This is it! This is the sakura scent I've been on the hunt for! It's light, floral, a little herbaceous, and a little powdery. It's also incredibly moisturising and didn't irritate my eczema or dermatitis. If I could buy industrial barrels of this cream, I absolutely would. I cannot say enough good things about it!

Again, I want to give a huge thank you to the team at Kiyoko Beauty. On top of the great products and affordable prices, the service I received was so incredibly helpful and thorough. They helped me work within my budget, and gave me some fantastic suggestions that took my concerns and interests into account. So if you’re looking for some cult favourite products from Japan, I highly suggest you check out Kiyoko Beauty.

 I purchased this item at a discounted price for honest review purposes.This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site. 

Classy and Creepy

Happy Halloween! An appropriate day to raise myself from the dead, I think. I’ve just been incredibly busy, travelling and working and whatnot, but I do have some stuff in the works for the next little while.

I knew I had to get this one up today, though. The “obi” is too perfect for a classy and creepy outfit. Funny thing is, it’s not an obi at all. It’s two table runners from Target! One wrapped twice around the body, and one for the musubi. I wanted to keep the rest of the outfit subtle but still halloween-y so my bat menuki obidome and spiderweb haneri, and then remembered I had this lovely piece of soft spiderweb mesh I found in a remnant bin at the fabric store. It makes the perfect shawl, doesn’t it?

I love how this outfit feels seasonal and creepy but totally wearable, and I also love how the two star pieces are both found items that have nothing to do with kimono. The orange accessories were the finishing touch, and they add just the right amount of pop.

Items used in this coordination

Review – Zen Garden by Island Falls Home

Have you ever wanted to bring a little bit of Zen mindfulness into your home? Maybe as a way to focus on yourself for a few minutes during a long work day or to decompress after a marathon session of cleaning? Island Falls Home has got you covered.

As some of you already know, I live with anxiety and OCD, and I have a strong suspicion I’m also dealing with ADHD. Anything that helps me calm down and focus is a welcome addition to my life. I have a little bowl of fidget toys on my desk but I wanted something that took a bit more effort, and felt a little more mature. I’d been looking into small desktop-style zen gardens for a while but frankly all the ones I saw felt cheap or tacky. I’ve found ones with sand that was far too large, ones that included ridiculous little tchotchkes like garden gnomes, ones that were all plastic and flimsy-looking, and ones that had absolutely no sense of scale (giant maneki nekos next to a torii gate the size of your thumb…)

But then I found Island Falls Home. They are a small family-owned business based in the UK, and all they do is sand gardens. This sort of focus allows them to source quality pieces and stay on theme with their products, and that attention to detail really shows. They currently offer two zen gardens (the Traditional kit, which I have here, and the Oasis of Calm which is beautiful and looks like a rippling pond) and one sand planetarium.

I knew when I found their products that I wanted to share them with you all, so I reached out to the owners. James was lovely and through our interactions it was clear that he has a true passion for traditional Japanese arts and culture, and you can tell these kits are a labour of love. He was incredibly generous and offered to send me one to check out at my leisure. To save on overhead I arranged to have it sent here to California, and I’ve been testing it out for almost two weeks now, and love it.

The attention to detail is obvious from the moment you receive the kits. The packaging feels elegant and sturdy, and everything is carefully and lovingly organised and protected. From the tissue wrapping to the bow on the tool box to the well-designed insert, no detail has been overlooked here. The presentation would also make these a fantastic gift.

But what really matters is the garden itself, right? Thankfully that attention to detail is continued throughout.

The kit comes with a wide variety of accessories. There are two sakura trees with bark bases to help them stand up properly, a cute little bridge, a torii gate, a lovely little pagoda, and a selection of stones and moss for a touch of nature. My only (very minor) issue is that the pagoda is ceramic and feels very high quality but the bridge and torii are plastic. They’re still very well-made and nicely detailed, but I’d love to see all these pieces in ceramic to add to the luxe feeling of the kit.

There’s also a fantastic assortment of handcrafted bamboo rakes and tools, which allow you to meditatively create infinite designs in the sand. The sand itself is incredibly fine and smooth and clean, and clearly high quality. This is a place where a lot of kits cheap out, and it’s obvious Island Falls Home did not. It’s sourced from a company in Ontario, which as a Canadian is a nice little bonus. I do wish the kit had some sort of storage container for the sand if it needs to be put away for storage, travel, or moving, but a quart-sized food storage bag would work for the time being.

I could take hundreds of photos of the permutations I’ve created with this kit, but I’d rather be a bit concise and focus on this set up I did trying to feature as many items as I could. The end result is cohesive and uncluttered, and allows for a lot of meditative motions. I also don’t want to influence anyone who buys these kits, I’d rather you let your own moods and emotions guide you.

Overall, if you’ve been looking for a desk zen garden, or even if you hadn’t considered one before but now see the appeal, I highly recommend these! You can grab the Traditional Zen Garden kit on Amazon here, or the Oasis of Calm kit here. Prime day is coming up soon, which could be a great time to take advantage of free shipping if you’re considering one of these.

 I received this item from the retailer or manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.