Zen Garden Candy Kit

I’m home from California for now, so I’ll be back to posting pure unadulterated kimono content very soon! However, the night before I left Keith and I had fun with this adorable little kit where you make a zen garden out of candy and I thought I’d share it with you all.

Kansai_Gal sent us the kit (along with a candy bonsai kit which I left there and we’ll probably do next time I’m in California), and since I had to fly out the next day we decided to have a quiet night inside and I thought it would be a fun thing to do after dinner, and I was right.

The kit came with everything needed, even the little tray. I admit I was a bit sad the tray was cardboard and not actual wood, but it probably saved on weight and product cost so I understand. The fish were printed on the bottom of the tray, and you make a neat little jelly candy in the included mold that fits over the top to make the “pond” effect. Next step is to spread out the candy “sand”, which reminded me of Pixi Stix and tastes like Ramune soda. The realistic little rocks are actually candy-covered chocolate, and were surprisingly delicious.

It even came with an adorable little rake to make designs in the sand, but they honestly weren’t very visible.

I wasn’t expecting this to taste very good, frankly, but we ended up demolishing the whole thing within minutes. I highly suggest cutting off a little piece of jelly “pond” and dipping it in the “sand”, they balance each other out very well.

Overall this was a lot of fun! If you come across these kits I highly recommend getting one, just for the novelty of it. I’ve tried to find places selling it online and everyone is sold out, but maybe you’ll luck out.

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


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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!