Review – Sakuraco Japanese Candy & Snack Box

Sakura season is here! There’s no better time than to share with you the Sakuraco snack subscription box. Sakuraco were kind enough to send me this box for free but all opinions are my own. I’d been wanting to try this box for a while now, because the idea of a more traditional snack box really appealed to me. There are several others out there but they tend to focus more on modern junk food and otaku-type theming. Sakuraco stands out by offering a variety of very classic tastes and textures, and working directly with small Japanese businesses that have been producing these products for decades, if not longer. It felt like the perfect fit for a blog focusing on more traditional arts and cultures.

I received the April box, themed all around Sakura Festival. Nearly everything in the box has a sakura flavour, with a few complementary items with apple flavour and a few savoury/spicy items to help balance out the flavour profile of the box. This was a great idea to break things up a bit, as sakura can be a bit cloying on its own.

My first thought is that this box is beautifully presented. The mailing box itself is wrapped in protective packing material but once you remove that the box is beautiful. I intend to keep mine for storage, and this would also make them fantastic for gifting purposes. Once open, the box is inviting and piques your interest with a beautiful art card and a glossy magazine explaining all the products inside. This magazine is beautifully laid-out and photographed, and especially helpful as a lot of the items only have Japanese writing on them.

Once inside, I was amazed at the sheer variety and quantity of products they were able to include in a relatively small box.

I decided to create a little “sample plate” for myself, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to try everything at once. My father also helped me try out a few of the products, which I’m sure was a very arduous task for him 😉 I tried to aim for a variety of products, from sweet jellies to classic mochi to spicy and crunchy crackers. I’m reviewing the box concept as a whole but I thought I’d share my feelings on a few of these items anyway, to give you a better idea of what you might receive should you choose to sign up.

Sakura Jelly – Absolutely beautiful, very refreshing, but very mild in taste. Very soft jelly, and a slightly ephemeral experience due to the light texture and flavour.
Sakura Kuzumochi – Smaller, slightly denser, and a lot more flavourful than the larger pink sakura jelly, and my favourite of the two.
Sakura Daifuku – A delightful little sakura mochi filled with anko paste. Comforting and reliable if you like mochi. I won’t lie, these look a bit like tiny little butt-holes with the way they were folded together, and that just made me love them even more.
Sakura Kanten – A little gummy square, a bit like a french pate de fruits if you’re familiar with those. This one was wrapped in oblaat, which is an edible starch paper. It can be an odd experience if you’ve never had food wrapped in one, because it almost feels like you’re eating plastic, but it melted away quite quickly and the candy itself was delicious.
Sakura Manju – A soft, chewy dough-based manju bun filled with pickled sakura paste. I absolutely loved this one and want to eat twelve more right away!
Ume Arare – We’re reaching the more savoury side of the box now – these crackers are flavoured with salted ume, so there’s still a hint of sweetness, but tempered with sour and salty. These were sharp and unique and very enjoyable.
Chili Arare – A delightfully crunchy little ball with a kick of chili at the end. There were only two of these and frankly I regret giving the second one to my father because I want to eat more of them.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything I ate, and have high hopes for the rest of the items that I haven’t tried yet. It’s clear that every item in this box was selected carefully and thoughtfully. They all fit the theme and balance very well together.

The last item in the box was this absolutely beautiful little ceramic dish. There were three different designs available and I really lucked out and got the one I’d been hoping for! Of course I had to use it right away for my snack sampler!

The only negatives when it come to the Sakuraco subscription box, if I can consider them that, are that since you have no real control over which items you receive, if you have a lot of food allergies or intolerances this might not be ideal. I have a mild dairy allergy but it only causes minor histamine reactions in me, nothing serious or dangerous, so I’m fine if I monitor my consumption, but it definitely did make me stop and think about this. The beautiful little magazine clearly enumerates all potential allergens in every item, but if you have one to a common ingredient (wheat, eggs, milk, soy, etc) then it will definitely impede your enjoyment of this box. However, this is true for any food-based subscription or surprise box, and only you can decide what’s best for you.

The other issue is that one of the items in this box was very delicate and did not survive overseas transport. It’s a shame, because I was very much looking forward to this adorable boat-shaped senbei wafer filled with flavoured crackers. I still ate them all and enjoyed it very much, but the visual appeal of the whole experience was lost, which was a bit of a disappointment.

Pros:

  • Amazing selection of sweet and savoury goods from all over Japan
  • More traditional than a lot of other Japanese snack subscriptions
  • Beautiful packaging
  • Excellent value for the price
  • Fast shipping

Cons:

  • Some items may not transport well (see the poor mangled Senbei Boat)
  • May not be ideal for people with food sensitivities or allergies

In the end, only you can decide whether or not a box like this is worth it for you personally but I can say I wholeheartedly recommend it for any fan of more traditional Japanese flavours and textures! If you’d like to check out Sakuraco for yourself, please consider using my referral link by clicking here. Thank you!

 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. 

Review – Matcha Set from Tangpin Tea

Today I am sharing with you this lovely matcha set from Tangpin Tea on Etsy. I have been on the hunt for a more complete matcha set including a whisk and when I saw this one I fell in love with the green drip glaze and reached out to the seller.

This set is comprised of a chawan (茶碗, tea bowl), a chashaku  (茶杓, tea scoop), a chasen (茶筅,  tea whisk), and a naoshi (直し, whisk stand). Essentially, the very basic elements needed to properly prepare a bowl of matcha. For actual tea ceremony there are many more pieces needed, but if what you’re looking for is a pretty, affordable set to make your own comforting bowl of matcha, it’s perfect!

Now, please bear in mind that this review is coming from the perspective of someone who has not studied tea ceremony – I am just someone who enjoys matcha and little soothing rituals!

Appearance-wise, this set appeals to me greatly. As I’ve mentioned, I absolutely loved the glaze – it’s hard to capture in photos but it almost has a cyan-to-celadon gradient to it, it’s got much more depth in person. I also like that it’s subtle, not a huge contrast against the white. It’s also available in a pinkish red and a light brown drip, all on the same white base, but I can’t speak to the depth or variation in those. I only have one other chawan and it’s got a much heavier, almost “earthy” feel to it, whereas this one feels delicate without feeling flimsy or fragile. It feels spring-like! Perfect for looking forward to the upcoming change of seasons.

The chashaku and chasen are quite standard-looking and made of bamboo, but they have a good comfortable feel to them. The whisk is well-made and I don’t anticipate it deforming or losing bits any time soon and there are no signs of splitting or warping on the scoop.

This set is mass-produced, and while it’s certainly not on par with artisan-made individual pieces, I think for the price it’s absolutely lovely! It’s great for everyday use and I wouldn’t feel terrified of using it regularly.

 I purchased this item at a discounted price for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me. 

Anime with kimono eye-candy, take 2

It’s been quite a long time since I did a post featuring anime with kimono front and centre. Since then, a bunch of new series have come out. I thought I’d share some of the ones I’ve particularly enjoyed with you all. If you have any suggestions I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear them!


Kakuriyo no yadomeshi (Bed and Breakfast for Spirits)

Sadly, this adorable romantic slice-of-life anime seems to have flown under the radar. It’s the story of Aoi, a young woman who ends up running a small restaurant in the Hidden Realm of spirits. She wears kimono nearly all the time, as do the bulk of the spirits she interacts with. Of course there’s a romance with master of the inn, the ogre king. It turns out her grandfather used to visit regularly and incurred significant gambling debts, and promised Aoi in marriage. The series features a wonderful combination of charming characters, a growing romance, and plenty of delicious food.

Unfortunately, only one season aired back in 2018 and so far there’s no hint of a second series at the moment. However, you can still catch that one season on Funimation right here.

Kakuriyo no yadomeshi on Wikipedia
Kakuriyo no yadomeshi on IMDB


Maiko-san chi no makanai san (Kiyo in Kyoto: from the Maiko House)

From the spirit world to the modern world, we now go to Maiko-san chi no makanai san. This is the story of Kiyo and her best friend Sumire. They move from Aomori to Kyoto to become maiko (apprentice geisha). While Sumire seems made for the job, Kiyo doesn’t have what it takes. Rather than leave embittered or jealous, Kiyo becomes the cook for the maiko house as well as essentially their head cheerleader. She’s supportive and encouraging and loves seeing Sumire and all the other girls in the house succeed.

This is a very slow, calm little series. Each episode is split into three chapters, interspersed with “Dish of the Day” featurettes. They get a little repetitive, but give recipes and trivia as well as giving us glimpses of the other girls in the house, so in the end I don’t mind them. If you’re looking for something lovely, soothing, and heartwarming to watch, you can check out Maiko-san chi no makanai san on NHK’s official website.

Maiko-san chi no makanai san on Wikipedia
Maiko-san chi no makanai san on IMDB


Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

I feel like including this one is a no-brainer. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is an incredibly popular franchise now, spanning from a manga to anime to movies to a stage show. It’s even on Netflix in English now, that’s how widespread its popularity is. It’s the story of Tanjiro and his sister Nezuko, who lose their family after a vicious demon attack. Tanjiro becomes part of the Demon Slayer corps, determined to avenge his family.

Taking place in an alternate-reality Taisho-era Japan, this series has plenty of action, drama, and heart. There are many traditional kimono and kimono-inspired outfits on almost all the main characters, making this a great watch for anyone interested in that. You can find Demon Slayer currently on Netflix!

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba on Wikipedia
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba on IMDB


Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto

The next alternate history/fantasy series takes place at the very end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. We follow the story of supernatural-hunting mercenary Yojiro, who joins up with a theatre troupe bent on revenge. The premise sounds quite silly when written out like that, but I’m four episodes in and totally hooked.

The kimono factor in this one is way up there, due to the troupe’s costumes and the historical placement of the entire series. Unfortunately, this series is aired on a Japanese streaming platform 2007 and isn’t currently licensed anywhere so it might be hard to find. Typically I don’t condone piracy, but it seems to be the only way to watch this currently.

Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto on Wikipedia
Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto on IMDB


Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood

Another new, unfinished series, Joran takes place in an alternate history where the Tokugawa Shogunate never lost power. They’ve also found a way to extract a form of electricity from people with a mysterious power, so the aesthetic is a fascinating combination of turn-of-the-century Japan and a modern, almost cyberpunk style.

The story follows Sawa, a Changeling woman who can take the form of a white crow. Her entire clan was slaughtered by Janome, a man determined to create artificial changelings. Sawa is a member of the Nue, a government-sanctioned execution squad.

I can’t elaborate much more than this, because this series is still currently ongoing and I don’t want to spoil anything! But so far this show has a lot of promise, and I’m eagerly anticipating the rest of the episodes. You can follow Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood now on Crunchyroll. This series has some quite graphic violence, as well as explicit nudity and sex so definitely adults only!

Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood on Wikipedia
Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood on IMDB


(This post was voted on over at my Patreon. If you want a chance to vote on upcoming content, as well as get sneak peeks and exclusive content, please consider supporting me. Perks start at $1 a month!)

Mini-Review – Maiko-san Chi no Makanai-san (Kiyo in Kyoto) Anime

If there are three things I love in my media, it’s slice-of-life, food, and kimono. I got a good dose of all those while watching Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi and then all three of them with bonus drama while watching Watadou, and now there’s a new anime out to fill that niche even better! Only one episode is out so far, so this won’t be any sort of an in-depth review, but I’ve been anticipating this anime ever since I found out the manga (which I love) was being adapted.

Kiyo preparing a huge lunch for the maiko – All images courtesy of NHK

Known in Japanese as Maiko-san Chi no Makanai-san and in English as Kiyo in Kyoto, this is the story of Kiyo, a teenager who moves to Kyoto and becomes the live-in cook for an Okiya (maiko residence) where her friend Sumire is in training to become a maiko. One of the things that makes their dynamic, and the whole show really, so wholesome is how supportive of Sumire Kiyo is. Initially they were training together, but it’s explained that Kiyo was too clumsy and not graceful enough, so she is taken on as the cook. Rather than be jealous that her good friend is en-route to become a very popular geisha, Kiyo is her biggest cheerleader. It’s sweet and charming and we need more positivity and happiness like this right now.’

Sumire and Kiyo in the kitchen – All images courtesy of NHK

The girls all dressed up for work – All images courtesy of NHK

There’s a broad range of kimono in just this one episode, from the day-wear of the maiko while they’re out running errands to the more elegant outfits of the Matron and dance Sensei. And of course, there are the elaborate, colourful outfits of the maiko which we see only briefly but I’m sure will become more of a central visual element as the show continues.

Squid Mince, an Aomori comfort food – All images courtesy of NHK

A cute segment is where Kiyo and Sumire discuss their “dish of the day”, a dish or food tradition mentioned in the show. There were several in this episode, and they do feel a bit filler-ish and repetitive, but they’re still informative and interesting so I don’t mind them yet. That might change after multiple episodes though XD. I’ll likely be doing a follow-up on this series (and a few others I’ve been meaning to share) in an Anime with Kimono Eye-Candy entry sometime soon.

You can watch the first episode of Maiko-san Chi no Makanai-san/Kiyo in Kyoto in Japanese with English subtitles and occasional English narration explaining culture and traditions of the geisha district on NHK World right here!

 

Picrew.Me Kimono Avatar Creators part 3

It’s that time again! I’ve gone through literally hundreds of avatar creators on Picrew.me to bring you ones with kimono! Sadly none of these are kimono-specific, but they all have kimono hidden within their depths, typically with options to customise styles and colours. You can, of course, also use them to make non-kimono avatar, but where’s the fun in that?

If you need instructions on how to use the interface, I have a detailed breakdown in my first Picrew post.

https://picrew.me/image_maker/112551

The yukata in this one is the veeeery last option available, but it's got a bunch of cute patterns! The base is also very customiseable, so it's great if you're like me and enjoy making avatars of yourself.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/296093

A modern art style that I really enjoy. I also appreciate that this particular Picrew was not made by a Japanese creator, but they included reasonably accurate wafuku nonetheless. It also has hanbok, cheong sam, and sari options!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/332867

Neko-musume (catgirl) maker! I like that this one has kimono and haori options, and the little cats paw kamon is just too cute.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/196270

I will say up front, there's only one kimono option with three colours here (this pattern, solid, and white) and the collar is a bit weird. But it makes really cute portraits so I decided to included.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/190588/

A fun androgynous maker! There's only a few patterns of kimono but there are options for wearing it one-shoulder and some over-layers and things that make it a lot more fun.

https://picrew.me/image_maker/28224

A soft almost watercolour style avatar creator. This one is very soothing and pretty, and has both solid and patterned kimono options. It also has kimono worn in a more masculine style, and you can create some fairly androgynous characters with it.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/137904

Another cute one with a wide variety of traditional Eastern clothing. Only a few kimono options, but it let me recreate my actual undercut hairstyle so I'm biased!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/186583

How adorable is this one?! There are only two options, white feminine style and black masculine style, but I couldn't resist including it because it's just so damn cute.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/395214

I cannot express how happy it makes me when I find a Picrew avatar maker that includes hearing aids! This one only has a few kimono options, but the inclusivity absolutely made it worth sharing. Also I really want boba now...
https://picrew.me/image_maker/549603

This one stands out because of the fun, vintage-feeling pixel art style. Again, there are sadly not many kimono options, but I felt that it was unique enough to include.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/579735

Aaaaa! Full body sitting chibi avatar! Cuuuute! In all seriousness though, this contains a variety of colour options for the kimono as well as a hakama ensemble with multiple colour options. And the faces are so expressive!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/1695

This one is listed as a "ninja maker". It's a very simplified little avatar with a very stylised kimonoish outfit. Just included this one because it made me smile.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/45252

This one is technically a "witch" maker, but nobody ever said witches can't wear kimono, right? Bonus points for the really pretty traditional-style background options too.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/177583

Another charming one with a bunch of traditional Eastern clothing options. There are several colour and pattern options for kimono already, and several blank slots so I imagine they're in the process of adding more.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/388945

The faces on this one just make me laugh! Not a lot of options for the kimono itself, but the avatars are really charming.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/399481

There's both casual and wedding kimono for both avatars in this creator and you can change the colours for all of them! It's the first one I've seen that allows for a couple in kimono. Technically it's male and female, but a lot of the options are androgynous enough that I think it would be possible to make a variety of couples.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/165901

This couple is more obviously two women based solely on the outfits. Unfortunately, there's also only these two options for the kimono, but there are plenty of other clothes so you could do yourself in wafuku and your girlfriend (or sister, or bestie) in yofuku, or even the two sides of your own wardrobe!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/166256

Make your own bento lunch! You can choose everything here, from the tabletop to the drink to the garnish on the rice. Playing with it made me incredibly hungry and now I am craving kara-age. Maybe don't check this one out if you're already hungry.

As always, I hope you have fun with these and I’d love to see what you create with them.  😀