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. 

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.  😀

Gardens of Light 2019

I don’t know if it’s the changing seasons or the general state of the world or what, but my motivation for new content hasn’t been fantastic lately. Also, I’m still unreasonably enamoured of the last outfit I put on the mannequin and don’t want to change it yet.

However, I don’t want to leave you guys hanging for too long! And I’ve been sitting on these photos trying to decide if they were relevant enough to share for a year. A year! I’m such a trash panda sometimes. That said, I figured I may as well get off my butt and share.

Every year, the Montreal Botanical Gardens holds a lantern festival called Gardens of Light. The reason I was hesitant to share this initially is that the bulk of the lanterns are in the Chinese Pavilion, and I try to avoid encouraging that “all far-east Asian cultures are analogous” mentality. But there are also displays in the Japanese Garden, as well as exhibits of Japanese items inside the smaller Japanese pavilion. Also they’re just beautiful lanterns and we all need some beauty right now.

Last year, I was lucky enough to finally meet Elsa of Elsa Eats after knowing her online for nearly fifteen years now. She and her sister were in town for a short period of time, so we hit up a food truck gathering, then the lantern festival, and then drinks and snacks over at Le Blossom Bar. We all had a lovely time, and one day when I find myself on her side of the pond we can do this again.

And without further ado, the photos! First up, of course, the lanterns.

The Lanterns

Japanese Pavilion

Blossom Bar

Man Vs. Kitsuke – Yakuza Style

Despite not being part of the lolita fashion scene, I watch a few lolita youtubers. Recently Tyler Willis/ScarfingScarves (of Last Week Lolita News) did a fun little video entitled “Man Vs. Kawaii” where she got her cameraman/partner to coordinate an outfit. It was a charming video and the end result was pretty amazing!

Now, I don’t have a lolita wardrobe, and I don’t have a cameraman/partner who can physically explore my collection. I do, however, have an incredibly tolerant and patient dude in my life who puts up with my long-distance shenanigans and kindly accepted my request for him to pull something together for me to put on the mannequin. Red and black is kind of his thing, so I wasn’t remotely surprised when he chose this colour palette to work from.

He told me he was going for a sort of a pinstripe suit/Yakuza style and I think it totally works. This kimono is wool and has a slightly nubbly texture, very much like a tweed suit would. I also love the obi with it. Whether it was his intention or not, I feel like it’s a great callback to Yakuza tattoos. I admit, my instinct would have been to go with a brighter colour for the accessories, maybe yellow, but I actually think the black works well, since it almost vanishes. I was also worried the Erstwilder geisha brooch/obidome would disappear against the obi, but it’s bright enough that it’s visible without being overly distracting. The only thing I had trouble with was the fan – I love that he included it but it’s hard to make it work on the mannequin. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get it to stay in her hand. So tucked into the obi it is, I guess.  😆

I think he did a great job, especially for someone whose only knowledge of kimono and kitsuke is what he’s picked up from my ramblings! He actually put together another ensemble too, so keep an eye out for that some time in the future.

Items used in this coordination