The most comprehensive survey of Sir Norman Foster’s works ever

We’d planned yesterday to visit the exhibitions of works by two architectural giants held in Roppongi, Tokyo, Sir Norman Foster and Frank Gehry, but we made it to only the former, because the latter museum location was closed.

Above are some of Sir Norman Foster’s better known works: The German Parliament building, the British Museum courtyard and the Renault Distribution Center.
More than merely a parade of skyscrapers (below)…

Sir Foster tackled an amazing array of projects, showing tremendous versatility as well as diversity of forms and styles.

Government buildings,  libraries, residences, pavilions, biodomes, museums, airports, warehouses… he built them all.

Some of his works, like the structure at St Moritz was the spectacular backdrop scene in the latest James Bond flick, Spectre

image image


Some of the projects are astonishingly outlandish and involve designing residences in wasteland landscapes, on the moon and on Mars.

Below: Models of infrastructure and transportation projects were seen a-plenty…

… but planned mega-city projects ahead, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Stockholm are expected to be especially spectacular and to embody all that is Scifi and futuristic.

The exhibits were displayed in the Mori Art Museum’s observatory somehow fittingly framed by the panoramic views of Tokyo’s cityscape.

The exhibition is billed as the most comprehensive survey ever made of Sir Norman Foster’s works. Many of his other works were also featured in smaller photo displays, creatively mapped out on a 3D globe, so that we could see just how global his architectural firm (the largest in the U.K.) is.
Finally, we see the man himself, Sir Norman Foster beside one of his early works.



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Lake Ashi, Hakone-jinja and other lakeside attractions

Lake Ashi
If the weather is good and the waters not choppy, recommend a leisure cruise on Lake Ashi is a pleasant activity.
Lake Ashi is also one of Hakone’s key tourist attractions, framed by the nearby mountain range that includes the famous Mt. Fuji.
Situated some 720 m above sea level, Lake Ashi is the largest lake in Kanagawa prefecture, with an area of seven square kilometers and a circumference of 19 km.
Leisure cruises ply the route between Kojiri on the north shore and the township of Hakone to the south. At Lake Ashi, Hakone Sightseeing Cruises operates ships that connect the three ports on the lake. Enjoy a leisurely tour of the lake on these vessels which link Togendai Port, Moto-Hakone Port and Hakone-machi Port. Read more:

Visible from the lake is the Hakone Jinja Shrine — a very ancient Shinto shrine constructed in 757 during the reign of Emperor Kōshō (dedicated to the kami Ninigi-no-mikoto, Hiko Hohodemi-no-mikoto and flower princess, Konohana-sakuya-hime: Japan Encyclopedia). The much photographed torii-gate-on-the-water adds a bright focal point to the lake. The original shrine was at the summit of Mount Komagatake, but was later relocated to Lake Ashi’s shores. Its current form dates to 1667.

Lake Ashi is home to a mythical nine-headed dragon that was originally an evil spirit. An ascetic monk who had practised at the shrine on top of Mt. Komagatake had exorcized and pacified the dragon, turning it into a protective being instead. Mangan had received an oracle from the Hakone-Okami (Chief god of Hakone) through a dream while had training on the mountain, and in the year of 757, the shrine held a Chinsai ceremony (religious ceremony to appease the gods) at the current location of the lakeside of Ashinoko. The monk Mangan then enshrined the dragon here, along with the three kami deities that were already venerated here. Hakone Shrine celebrates shrine’s founder Priest Mangan and the legendary dragon on July 31st in the Ashinoko Kosui-Sai (Lakefront festival). One day before the festival, a precedence festival takes place one day before Hakone Shrine Festival is held. Shuji Ozawa, the chief priest of Hakone Shrine, gets on a boat on Lake Ashi and offers traditional red rice to the legendary nine-headed dragon believed as the protective god of the lake.

Apart from the dragon, other mythical beasts may be found. The “Kirin”(giraffe), an animal who has the face of a dragon, the tail of a bull, and hooves of a horse…is seen under the roof of the main hall. It is a sacred animal that lives 1000 years, its voice precisely replicates the musical scale, its footprints form perfect circles, and when it turns it always does so at a right angle. A pair of koma-inu (koma-dogs) or lions sit in front of the main shrine building.

Approximately 3,000 lanterns are lit and float on the water. More details on shrine rituals at Green Shinto’s page. The Shrine was popular with shogun and samurai from the Kamakura era. Hakone Shrine is a five minute walk from the Moto-Hakone boat pier. Fireworks displays take place on July 31st over the water.

You can take a pleasure boat across Lake Ashi (also referred to as “Lake Hakone” in some English-language brochures). Believe it or not, a couple of the boats plying the waters are replicas of a man-of-war pirate ship. It takes about half an hour to cross the lake to Hakone-machi (also called simply Hakone; machi means “city”) and Moto-Hakone, two resort towns right next to each other on the southern edge of the lake. This end of the lake affords the best view of Mount Fuji, one often depicted in tourist publications. Boats are in operation year-round (though they run less frequently in winter and not at all in stormy weather); the last boat departs around 5 pm from the end of March to the end of November.

Source: AshigaraNetTimes

You can take a boat from Moto-Hakone to Hakone-machi where you visit the other sights – the Sekisho Checkpoint and the Old Cedar Avenue (see this link):

The Hakone Checkpoint. Of historical interest if you want to get a sense of how the Castle Town of Edo (Old Tokyo) developed and functioned strategically, see for more
Tokugawa shogun placed 53 sekisho (facility for inspection) on major roads across the nation to defend Edo (current Tokyo).
Hakone Sekisho was one of the largest and was thought to be important among them.
Hakone Sekisho was placed on the current location in 1619, during an early period of Edo Era.
One of the main roles of sekisho was to control ‘incoming guns and outgoing women’, which means to prevent weapons from being brought into Edo and wives and children of feudal lords from fleeing from Edo.
However, Hakone Sekisho did not inspect ‘incoming guns’, and severely inspected ‘outgoing women’.
Sekisho, which operated for about 260 years during Edo Era, was dissolved in the next year of 1868, when the government changed.

Crytomeria (Japanese cedar) Avenue

Crytomeria (Japanese cedar) Avenue

Cryptomeria or Cedar Avenue
A section of path alongside Lake Ashi featuring over 400 cedar trees of more than 350 years old, provides us with an insight into the experience of what it would have  been like during olden days traveling along the Tokaido highway during the Edo period. Nearby, cedar trees also survive in Mukaisaka area, where is close to the Hakone Pass and boasts stone paving; in Shinya-machi, adjacent to the Hakone Sekisho; and Azumadake area, where is a network of walking trails. The trees reach up to 30 meters high, and some have a girth of over four meters.

The Best Views are from:

Source: Japanicam

Mt. Komagatake is a 1357-meter high lava dome, created by a Hakone volcanic eruption 40,000 years ago.  Reach the top of Mt. Komagatake in only 7 minutes using the ropeway (lakeside station is at Hakone-en). The total length of the ropeway is 1800 meters. Going up the mountain,Mt. Fuji and a chain of Hakone mountains are on the left; Odawara, Yokohama, Ohshima Island, and Sagami Bay on the right; and Ashinoko Lake and Suruga Bay behind you.

Almost 2400 years ago, the top of this mountain became a holy precinct for mountain ascetics. People never climbed Mt. Komagatake except on special, rare occasions because they were afraid. They held ceremonies and festivals at the lakeside Hakone Shrine to appease angry gods and evil spirits. At the peak of Mt. Komagatake however, is the Hakone Shrine Mototsumiya.  Just before the red shrine gate, there is a rock with a sacred straw rope. It is called “Bakou-seki” meaning that God came down on the rock with his white horse. They say there are some holes in it from where the horse stepped.  At the back of the shrine, some cube-shaped rocks that are scattered around. Those rocks had been used for various rituals in the old days.

Hakone Detached Palace Garden
The Hakone Imperial Villa was built here in 1886 as a summer retreat for the Imperial family and also to accommodate their foreign dignitary guests. Onshi Hakone Park is situated on a peninsula that juts into Lake Ashi.

The site of the former Hakone Imperial villa, is now a park that has been selected as one of Kanagawa’s best 50 scenic sights, one of the best 100 views of Mt. Fuji in the Kanto area, and one of Japan’s best 100 historical parks.

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The Glory of Glass at the Hakone Glass Forest (& Venetian Glass Museum)

FullSizeRender (35)

The fairytale setting in Medici style courtyard gardens dripping with roses, on the stunning hillside terrace made us want to linger at this museum all day. Housed in an aristocratic building modeled on a Venetian medieval villa, the museum’s grand collection of fine and elegant Venetian glassware, included among them the cobalt blue goblet handed down through the Rothschild family. Also on display are beautiful and luxurious antique furniture and still-working music-boxes and toys of the the 15th to the 18th century aristocracy of Venice. The republic of Venice in ancient times once called “the noblest country”, a “city on the water”, “Queen of the Adriatic” —  it was a prosperous maritime nation engaged in the bustling east Mediterranean Sea trade. Walking through this museum is like walking through the history of glass with a chance to the view the Venetian glasses which were once the favorite glasses of aristocracies all over Europe. Glass craft workshops occupied my kids, while our my elderly in-laws enjoyed their refreshments and pastries in cafes and five-star restaurants. A delightful way to pass the time for the whole family. Take a walk through the glorious history of glassmaking here.

More access info here and at these links: Hakone Garasunomori MuseumHakone Glass Forest Museum

Take a Hakone Tozan bus bound for Togendai and get off at Hyoseki/Hakone Glass no Mori Ma

Map Source:  Japan Guide

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How to make organizing your bills a breeze…

Organizing your bills is a cinch if you…

A. Deal with them … separate them from the junkmail … AS THEY COME THROUGH THE DOOR (the act of dealing with it also implants in your mind what is important and must be dealt with. Have a mail-opener and paper trashcan handy or permanently stationed at the designated mail-sorting spot.

B. You have an organizer sorter system which can be as simple as these two that I recommend:


1) This (see photo above) is the system I use and love, and the use of which, I am expanding and improvising for many other tasks as well.

A main pocket for important contact (eg. Bank) numbers, lots of pockets, easy to sort, label, I tag those for KIV action and keep only the latest bill (latest two months) to keep the file slim.

Tag to highlight "for ACTION" or KIV alerts

Tag to highlight “for ACTION” or KIV alerts

This is a file-folder-cum-document-case which can be hung on a wall-hook for easy access in an office, and unlike the accordion filebox, you can see every document and label clearly at a glance. You can also put it away neatly in a drawer or cubicle when not in use.

Compact and easy to put away, and portable and light enough to carry away for travel.

Compact and easy to put away, and portable and light enough to carry away for travel.

2) A simple box sorter placed on the workdesk or kitchen counter or other designated command-center of the house, works for many people. This is an age-old tradition seen in hotels.



The above sorter idea was taken from where you can read more on organizing bills.

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The day after the snow and rain…

It’s sunny again, after a day of snow and then rain…


The sweet fragrance of rain. There’s a name for the phenomenon discovered by scientists in 1964. It’s called “petrichor,” from the Greek words “petra,” meaning “stone,” and “ichor,” which refers to the fluid that flows like blood in the veins of the gods.

Excerpted from

“Walk through the first rainstorm of the season and it slowly hits you: that fresh, earthy smell.

Before it hits the ground, rain is just water. It has no smell. But after the drops hit the ground and interact with dirt, the fresh and almost sweet fragrance of rain is let go. Now, scientists think they’ve identified the exact mechanism that releases this aroma into the environment. …

When a raindrop hits a porous surface it traps tiny pockets of air. These bubbles then speed upward, like bubbles in a glass of champagne, before breaking the drop’s surface and releasing microscopic particles, called aerosols, into the air. The researchers think these aerosols carry the rainlike aroma.

Buie and his postdoc, Youngsoo Joung, filmed raindrops as they hit 38 different types of surfaces: 12 engineered materials and 16 soil samples. Joung even sampled soil from around MIT’s campus and along the Charles River.

The researchers observed the process with a system of high-speed cameras. Depending on the speed of the droplet, and the properties of the soil, a cloud of hundreds of aerosol droplets might be dispersed in as little as a few microseconds. The researchers saw this most often during light and moderate rain, while far fewer aerosols were released during heavy rain. …

Scientists have long observed that raindrops can trap and release aerosols when they fall on water, but this is the first time they’ve observed the process happening on soil.

The new research “brings the conversation of bubble-induced aerosol formation from the ocean over to the land,” said James Bird, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Boston University, who was not involved with the study. “Microbes from soil have been observed high in the atmosphere; this paper provides an elegant mechanism by which these microbes can be propelled past the stagnant layer of air around them to a place where the breeze can take them elsewhere.””

Read the whole article at:

Why rain gives off that fresh earthy smell? 

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Freezer-fridge organization and storage in no time at all

Buying the groceries is easy enough, but stuffing everything into the fridge and freezer afterwards can take a whole lot of time, and if you are in a hurry to cook as well, your hungry kids could be grumbling about there being no food on the table…retrieving the items later could take even longer, if you stuffed them higgledy-piggledy without some kind of system or organization.

The groceries. Bags opened and snipped

The groceries. Bags opened and snipped

In the photo above, I’ve just opened a number of food packets and unwrapped a number of mushroom packets and veggie items, as well as snipped open a few soup packets, and plonked them all into a boiling pot of meat soup shabu-shabu style. The dish takes all of 5 mins to prepare. However, the leftover grocery items need to be stored away properly in the fridge and freezer

You can shorten food storage and prep time following your grocery shopping trip, if you just take a few minutes to organize your kitchen and have handy just a few items like:

– clingwrap

– plastic bags of different sizes

– ziplock bags

– bag clips

– foil or plastic food bento-dividers

– tupperwares either nested or stackables of different sizes are particularly useful

– rubberbands

Bags, ziplocks,  clingwrap, ties or rubberbands, clips (stationery ones are best)

Bags, ziplocks, clingwrap, ties or rubberbands, clips (stationery ones are best)

Why bother at all?

Food goes bad or off, and meat and cut veggies start to oxidize and rot when left exposed. Wrapping the items or better, vacuum-packing them keeps them fresher longer.

Here’s how the items above can be put to work:

Bagged, wrapped, clipped or tied, ready for storage

Bagged, wrapped, clipped, tied, or placed in tuppers – ready for storage

In the photo above, you’ll now see that clips are holding the opened soup packets together, the mushroom and veggies have been bagged and the fish and meat packets re-clingwrapped, but only after they have been separated and divided into two portions, allowing you to later thaw only the portion you need.

The items are now ready to be put away and stored.

TAGS/LABELS are your time-savers!


Here’s a tip:


If you make a few label tags and separators out of cheap plastic stationery folders, your freezer will be neat and organized, and your food items easily retrievable.


Trays and baskets with dividers can be helpful in keeping food packets straight so you can see each item in the freezer easily.



Baskets and trays (see photo below) are really useful keeping small items like lemons, ginger, onions and garlic from straying or getting lost among the larger veggies.


Other veggies (greens and cabbages together in one drawer, fruit in another, mushroom and herbs in the topmost drawer)


And voila, here’s a fridge/freezer organized for freshness and easy retrieval food prep!


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Why so many people visit Meiji Jingu


Meiji Jingu from the air

Meiji Jingu from the air

In the heart of concrete jungle Tokyo, it’s hard to find a green belt to breathe and space out in. Nevertheless, there are a few such spaces, one of them is the Meiji Jingu or Meiji Imperial Shrine. (Shrine sacred groves are usually a good bet to find nature and eco-diversity)

Tori gateway to grounds of the Meiji Jingu Shrine

Tori gateway to Meiji Jingu Shrine


The approximately 700,000-square meter Yoyogi Forest, has about 100,000 trees donated by citizens across Japan, (in addition to the expansive Yoyogi park beside it), offering a haven from the incessant noise and crowds of the busy city with its dense foliage.

The shrine, founded in 1921, was dedicated to Emperor Meiji — the first modern emperor after the demise of rule by the samurai class — and his wife, Empress Shoken.

Meiji Jingu Shrine facade

Meiji Jingu Shrine facade

Meiji Jingu Shrine has had the largest number of New Year’s visitors in Japan for 34 consecutive years. And 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of Empress Shoken so before this year ends … is the year to come and visit.

Traditionally garbed priests

Traditionally garbed priests

If you get lucky you might spot a traditional wedding procession through the courtyard — the bride in a white kimono and hood and the groom in his formal black robe, walking together under a big red parasol, with Shinto priests trailing behind.

At the southern end of the shrine grounds visitors will come across the Meiji Jingu Treasure House, which displays many of the personal belongings of the Emperor and Empress, including the carriage which the emperor rode to the formal declaration of the Meiji Constitution in 1889. There is also a Museum Annex Building just to the east of the main shrine buildings that displays temporary exhibitions

The Treasure House

The Treasure House is an Important Cultural Property of Japan

See this interesting writeup of the Meiji Jingu Iris Garden and more historic tidbits of information.

Further sources:
Meiji Jingu Shrine

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Perfect tamagoyaki: An egg meal can be the most delicious thing…



Yesterday, when we eating at the Tsukiji market stalls in Tokyo, three strapping boys in Tokyo said the tamagoyaki (egg rolls) they ate was the most delicious thing they’d ever eaten, and I realized then it’s true that there’s no more important skill in the kitchen than skill with a skillet and eggs! To see how a perfect tamagoyaki, actually the dashitamagoyaki recipe is done, watch this video… The demonstration is done by a master sushi chef in Hokkaido
Click here

Making dashi tamagoyaki

Making dashi tamagoyaki

Recipe Ingredients for making perfect tamagoyaki.

Eggs 8
Sugar 30g
Salt 3 g
mirin 1 tsp
Sake 1 tsp
Bonito dashi soup stock

While still on the topic of perfect egg meals, I thought I’d also include the following notes on how to make a good omelet…

BY AMELIA HAMILTON (hope she doesn’t mind)

You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, but that’s just the beginning! Here’s what you need to know to make the perfect omelet.

Beat the Eggs

The first step is to beat your eggs. For a little oomph, add a splash of cream or milk and some salt and pepper. Beware of overbeating the eggs! This is a common mistake, and causes the egg whites to toughen. Nobody wants a tough omelet!

Choosing the Right Omelet
Pre-heat the omelet pan, spray with non-stick cooking spray if needed, and melt butter. Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Don’t you love that sizzle?

This article outlines the things to look for when choosing an omelet pan.

Although it’s not the original French Chef version, this Nordic Ware Pro Cast Aluminum 8 Inch Omelet Pan (sponsored link) will do the trick.

After egg mixture begins to set around edges, about 25 to 30 seconds, with heat-safe spatula, carefully push cooked egg from side of skillet toward center, so uncooked egg can reach bottom of hot skillet. Repeat 8 to 10 times around skillet, tilting as necessary, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Fill the Omelet

When the eggs are almost set, but still moist and creamy on top, sprinkle fillings over half of the omelet. Here are 50 great ideas for fillings.

How to Fold Omelets

Using your spatula, fold the unfilled half of our omelet over the filling. This short video will show you ow to do it without tearing your omelet. Don’t worry if you don’t do it perfectly- the omelet will still be delicious, it just won’t be as pretty

Shake pan gently to loosen any egg or filling from edge, then slide omelet to edge of skillet. Holding skillet above plate, tip skillet so omelet slides onto plate. Use a warmed plate for even better results. This article contains several tips for pre-warming your plates.

Caprese salad and omelets are two of my favorite foods. Why did it take me so long to put them together? Eggs, tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil. What’s not to like?

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Our first year harvest of kiwifruit

A fine first year harvest

A fine first year harvest

Golden fleshed  kiwis

Golden fleshed kiwis

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My 13 year-old girl and 17 year-old boy reorganize their own wardrobes

After I revamped and reorganized my wardrobe, my 13 year-old did the same for her own, we had switched out my chest of drawers into hers… here’s the result…

Top left are school uniform and thingies, bottom left are ECA sporting gear, rest of daily wear are sorted into drawers, jackets are hung to the right above, with a whole row of empty shelves to hold "stuff to come".

Top left are school uniform and thingies, bottom left are ECA sporting gear, rest of daily wear are sorted into drawers, jackets are hung to the right above, with a whole row of empty shelves to hold “stuff to come”.

Looking good, all's neat and tidy here too...

Looking good, all’s neat and tidy here too…

DD puts me to shame… With her spartanness.  How about inside the drawers, maybe they’re all higledy-pigledy?

I’m pretty satisfied, since I don’t remember having been this neat as a teenager myself!

Let’s see how DS fares by comparison…

DS' wardrobe has lots of cubbyholes, wit all items sorted from small items to large, short to long pants. No need for seasonal changing around for clothes at all

DS’ wardrobe has lots of cubbyholes, wit all items sorted from small items to large, short to long pants. No need for seasonal changing around for clothes at all

DS’ things aren’t as neatly folded or put away, but there’s an order to things, so I won’t be harping on anything.

What do you think? Do they deserve a “good job” for their efforts?

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My autumn country

Persimmons hang like Xmas bulbs

Persimmons hang like Xmas bulbs



A familiar Japanese landscape (from the Yes Harmony series)

A familiar Japanese landscape (from the Yes Harmony series)

Fallen chestnuts in the ground

Fallen chestnuts in the ground

Fall vegetable plantings in the runup to winter

Fall vegetable plantings in the runup to winter

The farmer's rose border

The farmer’s rose border


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Tackling the mudroom and entrance hallway

I threw out a good many pairs of old shoes and four piles of old newspapers, dusted the shoe shelves … let’s see the befores and afters…

Hanging shopping bags, trolleys, bags ...enough to trip up anyone exiting or entering in a hurry...

Hanging shopping bags, trolleys, bags …enough to trip up anyone exiting or entering in a hurry…


Shoe cupboard -before

Shoe cupboard -before

After - gave shelves and shoes too,ma good wipe down. Must remember to do this more often

After – gave shelves and shoes too, a good wipe down. Note to myself: Must remember to do this more often

Hard to keep odds and ends tidy, like picnic mats, airline slippers, shoe-brushes, airsprays. Baskets do the trick.

After: Hard to keep odds and ends tidy, like picnic mats, airline slippers, shoe-brushes, airsprays. Baskets do the trick.

Overhead - baskets sort out the gloves, scarves and hats. Labeled tags keep order

Before: Overhead – baskets to sort out the gloves, scarves and hats. Labeled tags keep order

After - sorted

After –  sorted. Everything has a home

Culled stuff like the frisbee kids stopped playing with...out with the garbage

Culled stuff like the frisbee kids stopped playing with…out with the garbage. Good riddance!

After - I could improve on the decor, but will leave that project for another day. For now, will settle for a clear and uncluttered entrance hallway

After – I could improve on the decor, but will leave that project for another day. 2 baskets on the floor keep heavy use items like my rose pruners and string handy, but tidy. For now, will settle for a clear and uncluttered entrance hallway

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Kitchen quickies

10 minutes to declutter the kitchen..

Before: will take 10 minutes to declutter the kitchen..

Put on some samba, chacha music, and just get down to it …

After: Dishes put away, counter wiped down ... Feeling goood...

After: Dishes put away, counter wiped down … Feeling goood…

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When a teenager organizes her life and room!

Time to study! This is what a 13 yo girl's study space looks like!

Time to study! This is what a 13 yo girl’s study space looks like!

DD leads the busiest of lives of the entire family. She made team captain this year of her badminton club. She is often off to school a full hour before school starts for early morning practice, and stays after school till dinnertime at the club. When she gets home, she is exhausted, recharges her batteries at dinner, through a bath, and then it’s homework. Before she goes to bed, she has write up her report/review of their practice day, and think up new plays for the next. I think they practise around 300 days out of a year.

So in order to cope with schoolwork, she has to be really organized at home, and having her room shipshape helps her maximize her precious little free time … There’s no time to spend hunting for lost erasers, pens or textbooks or clothes for that matter.

This is her decluttered and reorganized desk, which wasn’t bad before, as she is constantly on top of where everything is and has her own system for storage and everything.

Reorganized desk!

Reorganized desk!

DD wants to do well both at sports and at academics. As a leader and captain, she feels the need to set a good example for her team. Her favorite Japanese anime series is the Tennis Prince or Prince of Tennis, who excels at everything…
Paradoxically, it was only after she made team captain and had to work twice as hard, with less time for everything, that her grades seemed to soar, before this, she was really a “just average” at everything sort of girl.

This morning she was just presented an award for the best science project at school (beating all the science nerdy boys at school!) Go girls, you show’em!

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Desperate wardrobe makeover

It took several attempts to get my wardrobe into a manageable and satisfactory state this week.

I have been living with the Japanese plastic chest-of-drawers-in-the-cupboard-system for many years where you have to change over your seasonal clothes.

Before...chest of drawers left no room to hang up suits or clothes.

Before…chest of drawers left no room to hang up suits or clothes.

This created the problem where the majority of my clothes were folded. As wrinkled and creases on clothes made clothes less desirable to wear, I wore them less and less. I figured I actually wore less than 20% of my clothes as a result. I needed to find a more accessible storage solution to make the most of my clothes.

Folded away clothes leave creases and are hard to see...

Folded away clothes leave creases and are hard to see…

I made a first attempted makeover…bought a polebar and a small stackable storage baskets to hold undies and unmentionables, which go on the side, leaving central space purely for hanging clothes.

Second attempt...better!

Second attempt…better!

Oh and I got these lovely felt hangers -5 for 300 yen … But I made the mistake of hanging Tees on them. Hanging tees makes the necklines go all out of shape, and tees are something you actually want to slip off easily. The felt works best for dresses and tops that are always sliding off the hangers irritatingly and ending up on the floor.

Final attempt ... Hits the spot!

Final attempt … Perfect storage for year-round rotation of clothes

This is the perfect solution for me … I will now rotate wearing all my prettier tops, instead of living perpetually in tees! At the bottom right of the wardrobe, you can see all my T -shirts neatly folded. And no more changing over of seasonal clothes. They are all hung for the viewing.

I learnt how to fold the perfect T-shirt from a Japanese TV programme … using an A4 plastic clearfolder, you place your shirt facedown with the folder squarely on the back of the tee, and the fold the right sleeve and side of the shirt and then left side over the right and left respective edges of the clearfolder. Fold up the bottom edge of the shirt against the bottom edge of the clearfolder. Now slide the folder up and out of the folded tee. Fold the tee into half (the length of the clearfolder) and voila you have a perfectly folded tee everytime in the same shape.

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Re-organizing my wardrobe

Thinking of ways to reorganize my tiny wardrobe, drawing some ideas from these..


No. 2

No. 2

No. 3

No. 3

No. 4

No. 4

No. 5

No. 5


No. 7


More help at:

How to organize a lot of clothing in very little space

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The chatatenmushi booklouse isn’t only found in books!!!

Psocids or booklouse

Psocids or booklouse

I learned about a common bug found in every home today from the Japanese NHK TV programme. It is called chatatenmushi チャタテムシ(茶立虫)in Japanese (why do so many horrid bugs have such kawaii Japanese names??) or booklice / psocids in English.

Found in much the same places as dustmites, the booklouse is found in every home in locations like carpets and tatami mats. 22% of Japanese are allergic to booklice carcasses and poop.

The species known as booklice received their common name because they are commonly found amongst old books—they feed upon the paste used in binding.

Psocids are small, scavenging insects with a relatively generalized body plan. They feed primarily on fungi, algae, lichen, and organic detritus. The booklouse feeds on a kind of book fungus, spores of which is commonly found in house dust that settles on books and on book fungus seen as book spots and stains in old books and papers. Book lice have chewing mandibles, and damage books and papers.

Besides damaging books, they also sometimes infest food storage areas, where they feed on dry, starchy materials. So be sure to clean out your larders often. They are scavengers and do not bite humans.

Some species are wingless and they are easily mistaken for bedbug nymphs and vice-versa. Booklice are found in carpets along with dustmites, and can be vacuumed up easily.

Booklice range from approximately 1mm to 2mm in length (1/25″ to 1/13″). Control methods are similar to control of dustmites involving meticulous vacuuming of carpets and tatami and keeping low humidity in the home. In fact, booklice cannot survive when humidity falls below 40%. Keeping a PVC clear folder over your books is an easy way of keeping the bugs from breeding in your books (just wipe off the dust periodically).

Some species have wings (see photo of winged variety below), others are wingless. Some species can spin silk from glands in their mouth. Psocids lay their eggs in minute crevices or on foliage, although a few species are known to be viviparous. The young are born as miniature, wingless versions of the adult. These nymphs typically molt six times before reaching full adulthood. The total lifespan of a psocid is rarely more than a few months.

Booklouse eggs take 2 to 4 weeks to hatch and can reach adulthood approximately 2 months later. Adult booklice can live for six months.

To sum up, here’s a quote from the Booklice article,

“Booklice feed on molds and will overrun cereals and similar materials that support mold growth. Their presence, therefore, is a nuisance and can render some foods unfit. The starchy paste of wallpaper and books also can support mold growth or may be attacked directly by booklice. Outside of annoyance, their damage is insignificant.” — Booklice.

More info below…


Facts, Identification & Control
Latin Name
Order Psocoptera

There are more than 200 species of psocids (often pronounced “so-sheed”) in the United States. Most psocids are tiny insects. Depending on the species, the size ranges from 1 to 6 mm. The color of psocids varies according to the species. Psocids that live outdoors often have wings. Psocids that invade homes usually have very small wings or no wings at all.

Psocids have chewing mouthparts, but they do not bite people or pets. When they invade kitchens, they can contaminate open packages of food.

Behavior, Diet & Habits
Psocids are tiny insects that live in damp environments. They eat mold and mildew. Some people call them barklice or booklice. The name barklice probably comes from the fact that outdoors they gather under the bark of trees. The name booklice comes from the fact that they gather on moldy books in damp homes. Experts think that the sizing and starch in the bindings of books supports mold growth in humid environments.

Psocids invade areas where there is dampness and mold, like basements and crawlspaces. They also infest areas where a plumbing leak causes mildew or mold to grow. Psocids have infested bath traps with leaking or sweating pipes. They have also infested air conditioning drain lines. They feed on mold in their damp environment.

Psocids often seem to appear suddenly. This may be because they are so small that people do not notice them when there are only a few around. Some people think psocids look like tiny termites.

Psocids cannot retain water in their bodies, so they are sensitive to changes in humidity. A key step in controlling psocids is reducing the humidity in their environment. When the humidity is low, the psocids will die. If the humidity stays low, they will not reinfest.

The females lay eggs in the spring and summer. The immature insects are called nymphs. They look like the adults but have no wings.

Signs of a Psocid Infestation
The main sign of psocids is the sighting of the psocids themselves on surfaces or in products.


Make a careful inspection to find the moisture sources. If psocids are active in the kitchen, start the inspection under the sink. Empty the cabinet if necessary. Inspect every area that has plumbing. In the bathroom, there should be a trap door near the head of the bathtub for access to the pipes. Inspect tile walls carefully. If grout is missing, mildew can grow behind the tiles.

There can be other moisture sources besides the plumbing. Look at the gutters and downspouts. Make sure they are not blocked. Downspouts should drain away from the foundation.

Check the crawlspace vents. They should be open in warm weather. If there is moisture on basement walls, specialists at the home store can recommend ways to waterproof them. A dehumidifier can also help reduce moisture in a basement.

The local pest control professional can select techniques that are effective in the situation.

More Information
Although people call them booklice, psocids are not really lice and do not feed on blood. They are insects in the order Psocoptera.


References and sources:

NHK Asaichi TV programme



Wikipedia “Psocids / Psocoptera


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Fall mushroom recipes

Some quick notes from the Three Chefs cooking show (NHK Asaichi programme)

Tsumire sardine-paste-ball soup

Tsumire sardine-paste-ball soup

Sardine- tsumire fishpaste ball soup<いわしのつみれ>

・いわし・・・3尾 sardines 3 sardines
・卵黄・・・1コ 1 egg
・かたくり粉・・・大さじ1TBsp katakuriko flour (arrowroot flour)
・おろししょうが・・・小さじ2分の1 tsp Grated ginger

日本料理・橋本幹造さんの「マッシュだしのつみれ汁」Frozen mushrooms are best.



・マッシュルーム・・・12コ 12 mushrooms (quartered)
・水菜・・・2分の1ワ. half bunch of mizuna greens.
・昆布だし・・・400ミリリットル 400 ml konbu seaweed kelp dashi stock souo
・塩・・・小さじ2分の1 1/2 tsp salt
・薄口しょうゆ・・・小さじ2分の1 1/2 tsp soy sauce

<橋本流“昆布だし”> ingredients for konbu dashi souo
・昆布(10センチ角)・・・2枚 2 pcs of 10 cm konbu seaweed kelp
・水1.5リットル. 5 litres of water

Make konbu-dashi soup

Add quartered mushrooms, bring to the boil and immediately turn off fire, cover and remove to stand on coaster.

Prepare sardines, remove bones, chop finely with two choppers, in a glass bowl, add katakuriko-flour, egg, grated ginger, shoyu, salt, form into balls.
Add sardine balls into soup, add to soup and reheat soup, once s. balls are cooked through, remove scum and serve with chopped fresh greens.






This recipe is exactly how my mother cooks it.



Chinese mushroom-jiang recipe

中国料理・井桁良樹さんの「やみつき マッシュ醤(ジャン)」



・マッシュルーム・・・12コ 12 mushrooms
・サラダ油・・・カップ2分の1 1/2 cup salad oil
・赤とうがらし(小口切り)・・・大さじ11 Tb finely sliced Chinese red chilli peppers
・にんにく(みじん切り)・・・大さじ11. TB finely chopped garlic
・しょうが(みじん切り)・・・大さじ1 1 TB fineky chopped ginger

・セロリ(小)・・・1本 1 stalk celery
・黒酢・・・小さじ1 1 tsp black vinegar

・八丁みそ(なければ赤みそ)・・・小さじ2 2 tsp red miso
・紹興酒(なければ酒)・・・大さじ2 2 TB sake
・砂糖・・・大さじ1 TB sugar
・しょうゆ・・・小さじ2 tsp soy sauce

・マッシュルーム・・・8コ 8 mushrooms
・春菊・・・1ワ 1 bunch of chrysanthemum leaves
・ごま油・・・小さじ2 2 tsp sesame oil
・塩・・・少々 pinch of salt




To make mushroom jiang sauce, add the 2tsp of miso paste, 1 TB sugar, 2 tsp soysauce, and whip all together into a mixture


Use frozen mushrooms for best result. slice ready all the veggies.

Add oil to the frying pan. While oil in frying pan is still cold, add mushrooms,  heat and fry for 6-7 mins, add chopped garlic, ginger,  finely chopped celery (fibrous skin removed) and fry over medium heat. Add black vinegar and mushroom-jiang to the pan above, and lower the heat  cook for 1 1/2 mins more.
You may like to add mushroom jiang dish as topping to fried rice, or grilled salmon, or serve as a side dish.


Mascarpone mushroom pasta

Mascarpone mushroom pasta

Italian mascarpone and mushroom pasta – ingredients.

イタリアン マリオ・フリットリさんの「濃厚!マシュカルポーネパスタ」



・マッシュルーム(中)・・・6コ 6 medium mushrooms
・バター・・・5グラム 5 g butter
・たまねぎ・・・8分の1コ 1/8 onion
・ブランデー・・・30ミリリットル 30 ml brandy
・チキンブイヨン・・・40ミリリットル 40 ml chicken bouillon
・生クリーム・・・60ミリリットル 60 ml fresh cream
・マスカルポーネチーズ・・・大さじ2 Tbsp marscarpone cheese
・塩・・・少々pinch of salt
・こしょう・・・少々a bit of salt
・タリアテッレ(乾)・・・120グラム 120g tagliatele pasta

・エクストラバージンオリーブ油・・・15ミリリットル 15 ml EV Olive oil
・にんにく・・・1かけ 1 clove garlic
・タイム・・・2本 2 sprigs of thyme

・マッシュルーム・・・1~2コ 1-2 mushrooms for topping









青柳康夫さん(女子栄養大学 栄養学部 保健栄養学科 教授)です。


To cook Italian mascarpone and mushroom pasta

Add to a heated frying pan the following: Olive oil, garlic, thyme, chopped onions, (remove thyme soon),
Add chopped fresh mushrooms fry well
Add Brandy, then, Fresh cream, Chicken soup
Stir and mix well on Medium heat for 3  mins

For special touch, add  ***muscapone cheese
Add ready boiled pasta, stir well for 2 mins
Last in, add butter
Dress with parmesan and sprig of thyme to garnish, and top with shaved thin slices of fresh mushroom to garnish

マッシュルームだしのしゃぶしゃぶ Mushroom shabu-shabu steamboat

マッシュルームカレー curried mushrooms

マッシュルームのアヒージョ Mushrooms by a takoyaki machine (escargot machine would do too)


Add Garlic oil, sliced bacon to the mushrooms in the takoyaki maker, and turn over the mushrooms at intervals till nicely done.

Mushroom cheese recipes








・浮き粉・・・13グラム ※なければ米粉でも




・赤じそ・・・4枚 ※梅干しに入っている葉でもよい






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Carbonara (bacon)



Original recipe makes 8 servingsChange Servings
1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 slices bacon, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pinch salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
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20 mins
20 mins
40 mins Directions
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti pasta until al dente. Drain well. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and set aside.
Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook chopped bacon until slightly crisp; remove and drain onto paper towels. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon fat; add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and heat in reused large skillet. Add chopped onion, and cook over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add minced garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add wine if desired; cook one more minute.
Return cooked bacon to pan; add cooked and drained spaghetti. Toss to coat and heat through, adding more olive oil if it seems dry or is sticking together. Add beaten eggs and cook, tossing constantly with tongs or large fork until eggs are barely set. Quickly add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste (remember that bacon and Parmesan are very salty).
Serve immediately with chopped parsley sprinkled on top, and extra Parmesan cheese at table.
Kitchen-Friendly View

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Super-quick onion gratin soup


2 cups sliced onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
5 cups brown soup stock (any kind)
1 tablespoon flour (or cornstarch)
6 thick slices toasted French baguette bread
3/4 cup grated cheese (or use ready in a packet pizza cheese to save time)

PREPARATION (recipe in Japanese follows below)

Microwave sliced onion for 5 mins in olive oil (and butter for fragrance optional) until soft (saranwrap to prevent splatter inside oven).

Panfry garlic in a frying pan, then mix the microwaved onion in with the fried garlic. Add water to make soup, cornstarch, stirring well, soupstock, salt, and pepper.

Rub fresh cut garlic over bread, layer cheese over bread and toast.

Bring to a boil, place baguette toast in each individual soup dish, ladle out the boiling soup and sprinkle with some more grated cheese.

Chef’s tip: To increase flavour, add cheese

Optional: serve (with some minty herb or other green herb garnish if you like)

Serves 6 to 8.









山岸喬さん(北見工業大学 特任教授)



ケルセチン アップ術


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Easy 15 min Japanese bento namuru recipe

Namuru in Japanese or Namul, the Korean version, incorporates many types of vegetables, roots. For the most part, vegetables are blanched before being seasoned, but this can also vary depending on the ingredients being used. Seasonings include sesame oil, vinegar, garlic and sesame seeds.
The Japanese bean sprout namuru is milder than its Korean counterpart, minus the garlic from its contents. I love garlic, but it’s a no-no with my kids and they seem to prefer it without because I do this for bentos practically every week. I also use the quickest and shortest-cut and fewest ingredients recipe, with the three veggies that my kids will eat – beansprouts, spinach or komatsuna greens and carrots, that you see in the photo.



4 servings
Prep time: 15 min
Cooking time: 5 min
400 grams/1 pkt bean spouts or soy bean sprouts / 1 pkt green spinach / 1/2 or 1 carrot sliced finely …and use the following for each veggie lot or increase proportionately. (I blanch-boil the sprouts first, no more than 2 mins, remove, then add the carrots cook 3 mins or more till soft and remove, add spinach to pot, 30 secs to 1 mins, and remove boil. Season according to the recipe below in between the batches.
Repeat the following steps for each batch. (See second recipe below if you like garlic.)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ra-yu (chili oil)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp dashi flavoring (I use aji-dashi granules ever since one of the famous 3 chefs said it gives the best umami flavor, it’s worth hunting for it, but most websites recommend hondashi)
2-3 tbsp ground roasted sesame seeds

1. Put 8 cups of water into a pot and add salt. Bring to boil.
2. Grind sesame seeds, or buy ready ground fine sesame.
3. Rinse sprouts and blanch them for two minutes in boiling water. Drain sprouts in a colander.
4. Place sprouts in a bowl and dress with the la-yu, sesame oil, dashi flavoring and sesame seeds.
It’s best to dress the sprouts when they are warm so that the oils and flavoring saturate the sprouts evenly.
Namuru is a dish that can be made in 15 minutes with little effort (as long as you have ground sesame seeds). A little bit of namuru will give you a lot of flavor especially if you add a lot of chili oil. (DD doesnt like it spicy, so I add very little, and DS and I add more after.

***Tip: It used to be hit-and-miss with my namuru until I remembered to do this. I don’t see other recipes doing it, but this is my secret for not having soggy veggies, don’t overcook, and I press all the veggies between colanders ( i used to press them between two plates) to remove excess water. Find it makes the world of difference. Some recipes use soy sauce, but my recipe is the mildest of all. You can use the supermarket ready “namuru tare” too, and have a great effect, if you follow the blanch-boil, drain, squeeze between the colander steps, and then just mix with the supermarket tare. Add more salt to the boiling water or to taste, if you want it more flavorful, but I am going on a low-salt diet myself.
… My recipe ends here…
This next recipe is from

I make namul with all kinds of vegetables, including the most commonly used one, bean sprouts. But at this time of year I like to make it with brightly colored spring greens. The toasty sesame oil dressing is a perfect foil to the bitterness of many of these greens. Here I’ve used three kinds of greens that are easily available to me, but do use whatever you have around where you live. I’ve used the dark green, mildly bitter leaves of a puntarelle or catalogna (which I used to think was cima de rapa), spinach leaves, and lamb’s lettuce (also known asmâche – see more about ithere). If I were in Japan at this time of year I’d use spinach, nanohana, and maybe some komatsuna. I’ve listed some green vegetables that would work below.
Recipe: Spring greens namul (namuru)
2 cups or so of cooked or blanched greens (the uncooked amount depends on what kind of greens you’re using, but in my case I had a small head of puntarelle, about 200 g / 7 oz of spinach, and a big handful of lamb’s lettuce)
1 1/2 Tbs. dark sesame oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
1 large garlic clove (see ‘etiquette’ notes!)
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
Optional: pinch of sugar
Optional: chili oil (ra-yu)

You can use one kind of green leafy vegetable or several. Wash the leaves well to get rid of any grit and so on. If the leaves have stalky parts, cut them off and slice thinly (as I did here with the puntarelle leaves). Cut the leaves up if necessary.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Put in the leafy parts that take the longest to cook first – in my case I put the puntarelle stems in first. Boil for about 2-3 minutes, then put in the rest. Boil for about 2 minutes or just until the leaves are limp, but not turning into mush! (For tender baby spinach leaves for instance you only need to boil them about 30 seconds.)

Drain well Return to the pot and add cold water, to refresh and cool them. Drain again and squeeze out the moisture well.

Grate the garlic clove on a fine grater, or smash it to a pulp with a knife, or pass it through a garlic press. Mix with the salt and oil. Mix into the well drained and squeezed out greens very well – your hands are the best tools for this. Mix in the sesame seeds. Taste, and adjust the seasoning: if it’s not salty enough, add a little salt; if the greens are bit too bitter for you, add a little bit of sugar. If you want it spicy, add a few drops of chili oil.

You can make this ahead and store it in the refrigerator for up to a couple of days, though no longer – think of it as a salad. Of course it’s better with the garlic… but not for school bento. Mixing the grated or mashed garlic with salt does lessen the impact slightly.

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The link between clutter and depression

Lisa Kaplan Gordan, Aug 8

Clutter is a bummer — literally. New study shows a link between depression and the amount of stuff in your home.

A new study indicates that clutter in the home can trigger depression. Image: Colin McEwan/Flickr
Dishes in the sink, toys throughout the house, stuff covering every flat surface; this clutter not only makes our homes look bad, it makes us feel bad, too.

At least that’s what researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) discovered when they explored in real time the relationship between 32 California families and the thousands of objects in their homes. The resulting book, Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century, is a rare look at how middle-class Americans use the space in their homes and interact with the things they accumulate over a lifetime.
Our over-worked closets are overflowing with things we rarely touch.
Related: Your Home’s Unsung Hero — The Closet
It turns out that clutter has a profound affect on our mood and self-esteem. CELF’s anthropologists, social scientists, and archaeologists found:
A link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. The more stuff, the more stress women feel. Men, on the other hand, don’t seem bothered by mess, which accounts for tensions between tidy wives and their clutter bug hubbies.

Women associate a tidy home with a happy and successful family. The more dishes that pile up in the sink, the more anxious women feel.
Even families that want to reduce clutter often are emotionally paralyzed when it comes to sorting and pitching objects. They either can’t break sentimental attachments to objects or believe their things have hidden monetary value.
Related: How to Get Rid of Stuff and Declutter Your Life
Although U.S. consumers bear only 3% of the world’s children, we buy 40% of the world’s toys. And these toys live in every room, fighting for display space with kids’ trophies, artwork, and snapshots of their last soccer game.
Although Life At Home documents the clutter problem, the book offers no solutions. But there are some simple things you can do to de-clutter your home and raise your spirits.
1. Adopt the Rule of Five. Every time you get up from your desk or walk through a room, put away five things. Or, each hour, devote five minutes to de-cluttering. At the end of the day, you’ve cleaned for an hour.
2. Pledge to clear and clean your kitchen sink every day. It takes a couple of seconds more to place a dish in the dishwasher than dump it in the sink. A clean sink will instantly raise your spirits and decrease your anxiety.
3. Return to yesteryear when only photos of ancestors or weddings earned a place on a shelf. Put snapshots in a family album, which will immediately de-clutter many flat surfaces.
4. Unburden your refrigerator door. Researchers found a correlation between the number of items stuck to the fridge door and the amount of clutter throughout the house. Toss extra magnets, file restaurant menus, and place calendars in less conspicuous places.
5. Hack out unexpected new storage space in out-of-the-way places, like under the stairs.

Read more:

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Easy as A-B-C-itinerary doing Disneyland-sea and Ski trip to Mt Naeba


Your snow destination
Your snow destination – click to enlarge


A. From Narita Airport, take the Limousine Bus directly to Tokyo Resort. 1 hr ride

Getting to Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea is easy. From Narita Airport, it is only about one hour by bus, so it makes a good first stop on a trip to Japan. Take the bus, which runs about 6 times per day, from Narita terminal 1, stop #7. Spend the night in one of the resort hotels and be ready to visit the park bright and early.


B. Disney Sea to Tokyo Station 15 mins by train (forget the bus which takes 35mins)


C. From Tokyo Station, take the Joetsu-Shinkansen train to Echigo-Yuzawa station. Basic fare 3350 yen per adult ticket, plus-plus for high seasons, check fare here.



Free shuttle express bus from the Echigo-Yuzawa station to Prince Hotel Naeba for hotel guests, or local bus to other lodges. Check out the hotel website and booking page: This hotel has its own hotspring onsen. The mountain is just in front of the hotel.

If traveling in multiples, check out the value-for-money JR Prince Naeba hotel ski packages 1, 2, or 3 day options and book through

Read a writeup about the Naeba ski package at My Tokyo Guide as well.

There are many ski areas here but for truly spectacular mountain-views and more challenging ski slopes at Mt Naeba/Kagura, get off at Echigo-Yuzawa station, and take the shuttle bus to stay at the Prince Naeba Hotel resort or one of the smaller ski lodges at Mt. Naeba.

Arriving at Echigo-Yuzawa


There is a bus stop in front of Echigo Yuzawa Station East Exit which you can catch the shuttle bus to Naeba ski resort. Please look for the bus stop No 1 for Naeba ski resort. See local bus schedule.

Arriving at Naeba

Ski piste map of Naeba

Ski piste map of Naeba

You will also have Gondola access from Naeba to the higher altitude Kagura slope.

Kagura area (click on picture for full resolution)

Kagura area (click on picture for full resolution)

For more access info to Naeba/Kagura resort area, see this page.

Mt Naeba in relation to other mountains

Mt Naeba in relation to other mountains

Other Options – Alternative accommodation:


Oyado-Honjin Ryokan (high-end) Japanese inn and onsen accommodation  See their website for info and bookings Note: This inn is a 10 min walk from the magnificent Naeba-Kagura slopes we recommended, but is right on an easy beginner slope of its own.

2**Lodge Oka, 5 min from Naeba slopes, reasonable room rates.. It costs between 3000 yen and 10,000 yen depending on your room and window view and season choice and whether meals are included. Food is very very reasonable and good, though not fancy (you can look at the website photos). You can book in English


Booking shinkansen

Types of Joetsu- Shinkansen trains, see here

Timetable of Joetsu-Shinkansen here.

Reserve your shinkansen tickets through this page …


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Found a den!

Mystery person with a hat

Mystery person with a hat

Love everything about this place. Chandeliers, wine and jazz at night, chansons and sweets by day.

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What’s cool about Singapore?


Singapore University of Technology and Design, what makes a visually attractive city?


My husband and I used to entertain Japanese friends quite a bit in Singapore, but I am now taking my daughter back home to visit Singapore. She was a wee littler thing when she last visited, and doesn’t have many memories of the country. What’s changed is that  I now have to accommodate a teenager’s tastes. So it’s time to consider – what’s hip and cool about Singapore, when I show her (as well as my other foreign visitor-friends) around Singapore. Trying to outdo STB now, I will try to sell Singapore in this blog. (Any suggestions on what to do and where to shop for the hip, cool, kids?)

So first off, where are the best places in Singapore for taking great SELFIEs???

Turning my thoughts to what’s GREAT about Singapore,  I will try now to enumerate plusses of a country the size of one tatami-mat compared to Japan, here’s what I come up with

City views

City views


The City VIEW!!! Bird’s-eye views

Central Business District SKYSCRAPERs photographed from Elgin Bridge.

What’s great about Singapore – like all cities, I really appreciate that as a modern city, there are plenty of places that are visually pleasingly when you try to take a 360-degree panoramic selfie.


And then there’s all the visually great Design and Architecture… see the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Who doesn’t want a pic. of the most expensive hotel building in the world? & of the cascading Infinity Pool at the top? See more pixes

It can be a heck of a walk on a hot day at the Esplanade(above), so use the Segway to get about; Resort World Singapore, Sentosa below.

File:Resorts World Sentosa viewed from the Tiger Sky Tower, Sentosa, Singapore - 20110131.jpg

The view from Tiger Sky Tower, Sentosa. (Visit to just brag you know who is Michael Graves and for the Michael Graves experienc


It’s about a rich colonial and immigrant HERITAGE & HISTORY

Nobody passes up visiting the Raffle’s Hotel their first time.

Photo: Raffles Hotel

 ChiJmes is about the Old juxtaposed with the Modern.

(Chijmes is a national heritage site situated in the compound of an old girl’s convent school, Chijmes is now a popular dining, shopping and entertainment site. Chijmes is popular amongst expats, tourists and young professionals. )

Inside ChiJmes Chapel Hall (above). Must tell! about this grim bit of  trivia – Gate of Hope special door, “The Gate of Hope”. In the historical years, due to poverty, many babies were abandoned here for the Catholic nuns to look after.

Another grand one to visit would be the St Andrew’s Cathedral (below) or Armenian Street Church

Singapore's Old Colonial District Walking Tour

And then next, you can do the museum thing that all tourists do. Combine the Asian Civilizations Museum with the Singapore riverside walk.

Or the rotunda and dome of the National Museum of Singapore are worth a peek, and its exhibits too if visitors have time.

Yes, we sell our HERITAGE & HISTORY!

Raffles Evening

Desperate for a dash of colonial history and a taste of colonial luxury and decadence? (Raffles Hotel below left).


Local heritage is also about the kitsche-ky kodak kolor and tacky and not-so-tacky souvenirs.

Wedding portrait of a Peranakan couple.jpg

Peranakan culture souvenirs and perhaps a trip to the Asian Civilizations Museum  or the Peranakan Museum(see below)

Peranakan Trail

Koon Seng Road shophouses


Some friends ask to see night views, if you get lucky, fireworks displays or National Day are great times for lightups. [These times are also terrible for the traffic crush]. Generally the city never sleeps, but here are some things to look out for …

The city SKYLINE

The NIGHTviews by the Singapore River or by the Marina Bay!

No doubt the reason why so many Hong Kongers are here, is that they want a nightview that reminds them of Tsim Sha Tsui!

A metropoliscape must have the neons.


What’s a trip without a RIDE of some kind?

Themepark rides at Universal Studios for the young and  bold.

Singapore Flyer, world’s largest observation wheel for all. See the NationalGeo’s fabulous photo.

Monorail, cable-car ride and a go-back-in-time-Singapore River bumboat cruise for the older and more stately …

Heartlands and durian(substitute for apple-pie!) I sometimes recommend riding the MRT to the heartlands, housing estates, eat at a hawker centre, and then back to the hotel! Just don’t ride the train during rush hour.

The “Durian” at the Esplanade, Marina Bay (above), and the real deal below.

Durio kutej F 070203 ime.jpg

Time for a mention of the Merlion, be sure to warn whoever you recommend to visit it, that it is really really small for a symbol of Singapore. Umpteen times it’s been mentioned on TV shows in Japan, that it is the most disappointing thing about visiting Singapore, everyone thinks it is as large as the Liberty Statue of the US of A or close to it.  The calendars and tourist boards do “lie” with their posters!


But what’s a vacation for my kids/friends without souvenir shopping (for their friends back home), and a trip to the “kitschky” places (China Town and Chinese templesArab Quarter & Sultan Street mosque, Kampong Glam or Little India:













What else do we usually say Singapore’s got to offer? It’s got lots of SUN, SAND (OK, not that much sand, compared to Japan or Hawaii) and SEA…mostly at World Resort Sentosa for the tourist, for longer-term stayers, see this page but they are never as clean or idyllic as depicted on that page!  (By the way, STB if you’re reading this, Wikipedia’s Sentosa article and photos needs upgrading desperately, the photos are so so sad, I wouldn’t want to visit it just looking at them!)

Sigh, watch the $ dollar sign flash and disappear from my purse as I take my daughter to the themepark, Universal Studios.

A trip to the outer islands, is in order, particularly to Turtle Island, for DD who loves turtles

I took my son to see the crocodiles last time!


Not forgetting FOOD, which is usually no 1 on the kids’ list. For visiting adults, it’s a question of where to feast like the natives, but with ambience!

Raffles Hotel Kopi tiam or

 Singapore Sling at the Long Bar

Pushcart restaurants like the Red Star Restaurant or Jade Keppel Club restaurant are always a big hit for the kids and guests for the fun of ordering from 90 types of dim sum on its menu from the old-fashioned pushcart trolleys! Pushcart dimsun a MUST for first-time Japanese visitors!

See other recommendations here | Dim Sum Guide |

Jumbo restaurant for Black Pepper Crab – Black Pepper Crab is usually more suited to the taste-buds of Japanese than Chilli Pepper Crab.(see Singapore’s Restaurants dot com for more recommendations of seafood eateries)

Chatterbox for Hainan Chicken Rice at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel (mostly because of its central location), expensive though. Ground floor (1st floor to Japanese) Mandarin Orchard Hotel, Orchard Road.

Desserts to try:  mango pudding and and (kakigori) ice shavings called ice kachang, see 5 local desserts to chill out with 

Raw fruits and raw juices are expensive in Japan, but they are everywhere to be found in Singapore foodcourts, and on the streets. My husband swears by the banana and orange juice. I prefer my pineapple-orange one or a fresh coconut juice (which DH says Japanese won’t care for).

For fine Chinese dining, try the Lei Garden restaurant at Chijmes and/the Jade restaurant at Fullerton Hotel especially if you wish to try Peking Duck. Or for quality Viking buffet-fare (why are buffets called Vikings in Japan?)


Though there are lots of places to recommend, but access and centrally located places are usually key for time-strapped visiting friends.

What’s a trip to Singapore without a huge dose of the tropical air?  My favourite most restful place to take people is to the Halia for Laksa, it never fails to impress… Besides, the Botanic Gardens is free …

… though if you’re feeling pinched, the Food-For-Thought foodcourt there is good as well.  Besides the Botanic Gardens is free …

And the Gardens by the Bay is not!  But a touristy must-see as one of the top 10 indoor garden parks of the world.

Gardens by the BayStay for the evening show.

And for a girlie getaway, I always recommend they have lunch or dine at the Beaufort Hotel and try its So Spa packages especially the volcanic Mud Pool one.

Singapore is the playground of the rich, so they say, so a visit to Singapore usually involves major luxury mall shopping preferably during the Great Singapore Sale, but expect to see a big hole in your wallet if you do.

Just one really important advice to my Japanese visitors to Singapore, don’t get caught without a foldable umbrella with all those frequent unpredictable convection rains, and try not to find yourself at rush hour or on a rainy day nowhere near an MRT subway station, because it will be pretty impossible to catch a cab then.

If all that’s not enough, see 10 best things to do in Singapore


[Most of the pictures used in this article are from Wikimedia Commons]

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Recipes for making the most of your sakana grill* (Japanese fish grill)

How to use your Japanese fish grill (* the sakana grill in case you don’t know is a grill fixture located on the underside of a gas or electric stove. It is a standard feature of most Japanese homes, and is called a fish grill, because it is most commonly used kitchen device for grilling fish, the most common main protein served with rice in the traditional Japanese breakfast. After so many years of living in Japan, I couldn’t survive without it anymore!

The sakana grill grills at 400 degree celsius, the conventional oven at 180 degrees and the frying pan at 220 degrees.
According to BBQ experts, with just a few pointers to avoid burning, the Japanese fish grill produces the best effect in cooking while being the fastest cooking and crisping tool. It also produces superior texture when reheating your tempura food, compared with the microwave oven.

Here’s how you cook a complete meal on a Japanese kitchen grill at one go!

Recipe 1:

Fork holes all over your slice of chicken chop
Add honey and mix well to chicken in a plastic bag (soy sauce, op: garlic flakes/chopped finely)
Lay out in the middle of the grill

Wrap in an aluminium foil, layered inside with a sheet of cookie paper, chopped cabbage, making sure the paper doesn’t emerge from the foil.

Line Zucchini in a row on the side edge of grill and on the opposite edge with sliced Paprika

Grill all in about 4 mins.

An easy complete meal all at one go.


Recipe 2

Section nagaimo potatoes into cyclindrical slices. Sit them on the grill and drizzle some Tomato sauce or ketchup and cheese on top of nagaimo

Lay out a few slices of Tofu blocks (hard frying type) … Drizzle with olive or sesame oil. Salt and pepper or soy sauce to taste

In a sheet of aluminium foil, fold up edges to make a boat for the chopped Avocado, sprinkle salt and pepper. Serve and drizzle with shoyu condiment to taste.

Grill all in about 3 mins.

Recipe 3

On an aluminium foil, lay out cherry tomatoes – and at the same time, in the spare space toast baguette bread topped with cheese.

Grill all for 4 mins.

Mash the cherry potatoes with a fork in glass bowl and add olive oil top with chopped basil, serve on top of boiled somen noodles

Boiled egg in the grill!

Wet fully a sheet of kitchen paper towel, wrap around a raw egg. Then wrap a large sheet of aluminium foil around the egg firecracker (or candy) style, and grill for 4 mins.

This next recipe was prepared by an Italian chef:

Make your pizza dough in the usual way using a regular pizza recipe.

In a small tin tray, line with a sheet of aluminium foil.

Lay or spread out the pizza dough on the sheet of foil to the edges of the tray. Fork holes all over the dough.

Spoon tomato sauce liberally over the spread out dough, and then top with liberal layer of parmesan cheese.

Grill for 3 mins. Open the grill and add blobs of mozzarella cheese and basil leaves, return to grill for 2 1/2 mins

Where is the best spot for laying out the fish for grilling?

Along either sides of the grill, lay the length of the fish across the grill (going northwards of you with you at the center of an imaginary compass) with the head at the furthest corner of the grill, this causes the head portion to grill faster, as the head is generally slower to cook.

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Disguised eggplant and eggplant soup recipe that kids will love


Recipe 1

1. Add 75 ml milk to Pancake mix 150 ml to a glass bowl
Add 1egg,
Bacon, chopped
11/2 TBKetchup
3 TB powered Cheese
1/3 tsp Curry spice
All in sequence and mix well

2. Flour lengthwise quartered eggplant (slash diagonals on skin) with katakuriko flour
Skewer and Make a kebab-stick of the the eggplant using bamboo skewers. Should be small ones, so they can sit flat in the frypan (if you are using a frying pan instead of deep fryer)
Add the above pancake mixture to form a patty or sausage-like- shape around the eggplant kebab.
3. Use a paper towel to mop up any excess mixture from your kebab, flour lightly with katakuri flour (this will create a crunchy texture)
4. In a frypan deepfry the kebabs till brown (about 3-4 mins) in oil heated to 180degrees Celcius remove and serve

Serves 4. Lay out Dips: Maple syrup / mustard to taste /Ketchup


Recipe 2

1. Skin the eggplant and cut into thick chunks, microwave

2. Fry onions till transparent, add eggplant
–>Add cubes of raw chicken 100 g
–>Add 2 cups of soymilk
–>2 TB. Cream or more to taste
–>Salt and pepper

3. Put it all to boil gently.
Blend the mixture and serve adter dribbling some olive oil over it.









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The living room and command centre of the house

This is my seventh post on house makeover and organization.

Everyone's lounging and congregating space. The living area is a busy space.

Everyone’s lounging and congregating space. The living area is a busy space.

This post is about function, flow interweaving with form and interfaces…and it focuses on managing school scheduling and household documentation and bills and record-keeping.

Today, I tackle my living room to make some changes. In the light of forthcoming major exams, work-from-home and intensive sports tournament scheduling, we needed to streamline the way we communicated as a family to improve efficiency and productivity, as well as to avoid interpersonal friction. This room takes heavy traffic, everybody congregates here and in the adjoining dining area,  several times a day. It also tends to get awfully messy and to become everybody’s dumping ground for clothes, books, homework, empty snack plates etc.


A closet by the door serves to collect all the jackets, caps, gloves, scarves, etc., as people walk through the door.  Being rather small, everybody is allowed one at most two jackets in the closet’s hanging space.

The living room is the nerve and command centre of the home, it is where we share and coordinate information, so we have house rules for the kids…for everyone, which have been negotiated and drafted in consultation with the children. Below are the major areas of central control:

Landphone line and stationery station

Landphone line and stationery station

Around this space, we have our communication board and calendar schedule where major events are marker-penned for all to see, where day-to-day routines of bento, and school schedule are indicated, and a phone contacts and emergency numbers are instantly accessible.

Everybody's calendar schedule

Everybody’s calendar schedule

School bento and activity schedule noticeboard, school letters go straight in there after school

School bento and activity schedule noticeboard, school letters go straight in there after school

And next to our TV and music & media entertainment station, here is our central station for all our communications and social media devices, this is the charging station as well as depository for all electronic devices – phones, smartphones, iPad, iTouch, iPods and DS’ have to be returned by a certain time,  and during the Golden Hour of study time (8-10 pm) is no-screen time.  They also have to be returned here just before bedtime. Blinking lights and social media bleeps are terribly distracting for study concentration, and disturb the formation of deep sleep for our children.

Beside the media station (TV, DVD player, etc) is our social media, mobile phone and game center)

Beside the media station (TV, DVD player, etc) is our social media, mobile phone and game center)

One of the hardest aspects of school life and scheduling to keep under control, is the constant stream of letters and communication from school. The other equally huge minefield is the constant stream of mail and household matters that require our attention such as bills, some urgent, some not, but most require some kind of action or record-keeping.

I like to keep it simple. These “color-box” shelving are the cheapest standard book shelves you can find in any furniture shop. We have been using them since the kids were born, and they are easily adaptable for a great many purposes. We turned them on their side, slotted in baskets. In two of them, we keep vitamins, earbuds, and daily use skin-lotions and medical items (not first aid which is kept separately). School documents are filed in accordion type file folders that cost only a few cents/yen and that fit perfectly into the standard cubby holes, and a nifty black slide-out multiple pocket file-cum-brief document carrier will hold all types of bills and banking documents. Throw out and shred old statements, keeping most current two, and that will keep your filing system portable and manageable. Portability and compactness is also vital for us living here in the event of fire or earthquake disaster. A simple all-purpose basket can hold you latest magazines, start discarding old issues just before it starts to bulge. Accordion folders are useful or stationery such as envelopes, as well as for odds and ends and keepsake cards or souvenirs.

Accordion filing system fits into basket and cubbyhole of bookcase

Accordion filing system (perfect for school communication, notes and schedules, contact numbers) fits into basket-drawer and cubbyhole of bookcase

Left: household management notes folder with pockets and tab dividers. Right: Slide-out multiple pocket-system in a black document carrier.

Left: household management notes folder with pockets and tab dividers. Right: Slide-out multiple pocket-system in a black document carrier.

The document carrier, house-management-foler fit into the drawer

The document carrier, house-management-foler fit into the drawer

Our set-up is now more efficient, serious and work-and-activity-oriented in the light of our high schooler’s college-going goals, but most of our ideas can easily be adapted for any family’s goals and purposes.

Finally, I decided to remove the fussy, lace curtains, to let in more light into living area, and to remind us that we have a view and that there is a world outside to be explored.




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My girl’s bedroom – reorganization

imageimage My twelve year old’s room organizes itself. This is ‘cuz DD has always been hands on with her own room, and hands off to Mum. And she does a nifty job, it is up for the prize of nicest room in the house, even though it is the smallest.

She threw out a whole lot of stuffed toys and kept only these...

She threw out a whole lot of stuffed toys and kept only these…

DD re-arranged her books and study-table, she likes it busy, but unlike me she has a near photographic memory and remembers where everything is and what’s in each drawer. Above is what’s left of her stuffed collection, others washed and off to charity shops (see below)



So the re-organizing job here is all done by DD herself, which really makes my job super-easy! She’s always been this way, self-organizing. On her very first day of school, she wouldn’t let herself out the door, till she had packed and repacked her schoolbag ten times!

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Dream-space makeover

I admit to being a real sloth in my bedroom, I don’t do any housework in this room except for changing and washing the sheets and linen often. More often than not, the moment my head touches the pillow, I’m out like a light.

Aiming for a restful but happy dream haven

Aiming for a restful but happy dream haven

For the Japanese, a good energy and a good start to the day begins in the kitchen, so the kitchen should be spick and span to start day off on a good footing.

But according to the “Perfect Housewife” Anthea Turner, leaving the bedroom with the bed done and the room neat sets the right tone for the day. Well that won’t work for me, for one thing, I rise at five in the morning when hubby is still a sleeping log in bed, and I traipse downstairs in a zombie state with eyes half closed. My only goal is to get the breakfast out on the table and two bento lunchboxes out for the kids. No amount of persuasion is going to get me to do my beds on top of those goals.

I bought new sunny cushions to match the blanket covers, and that was it. No fussy bedfooters for me, because I like to vacuum under the beds to make sure I get all the dust. Keep the bedroom simple and uncluttered. Cleaning takes all of 5 mins of vacuuming or floor-mopping…and the once-a-month wipe down of windows and blinds.

The Laundry on wet rainy days gets taken into this room from the bedroom balcony, so it can get messy, all the more important to keep the room clear all the time.

Bedroom mission accomplished, next goal, the kids’ bedrooms.

P.S. Dear hubby of mine promises to build me a headboard for the bed, but the bed will have to do as it is for now.

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Library makeover

I have to make a start in the library-study. This room drives me nuts…this is a room I have been dreading because it involves the throwing out books – but it has to be done. My son has university entrance exams in half a year, and it takes hours to find a single title because this room is too disorganized. I have let it go for way too long. Our library-study is just bursting at the seams, and you can’t get in without stepping on books or pushing over piles of books, so here goes my best efforts. I start by removing every book wiping down the shelf and replacing books sorted.


Books can kill … in this country they can become lethal weapons. Yep, when an earthquake hits, we all run out of this room. The chandelier shakes, big fat books could come falling from the top shelves and give you the whack on the head that could be your undoing. During the 3/11 Fukushima disaster, the study lamp and white board crashed to the floor giving me a fright. So top shelves have to be secured, or stuffed so full they don’t budge.

Top shelves secured with string

Top shelves secured with string

Next task … to carve out a cozy study nook.

Oops, just noticed … I ought to fix up those loose wires under the PC!
And as always, the piece de resistance…is the window dressing.

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The dish ran away with the spoon … so we need crock solutions

That’s how it sometimes feels like when the stored crockery and cutlery are in disarray…and it can be an embarrassing affair when you are entertaining, to be missing a dessert spoon or saucer. So I learnt to find them all a special home. I also learnt how to stack my teacups and saucers, Martha Stewart-style. image

It also pays to make a date to remove old shelving paper, replace them with new ones, wash and wipe down all the dishes, plates and teacups… image

A butch cupboard with transparent glass makes you want to display your stuff in style, and to take care of your sets, since multiples always look better.

Cutlery, spoons, forks and knives can be wheeled out in this butler-on-wheels, along with seasonings, and special dish for that special person, adding a touch of resort luxury style!

Cutlery, spoons, forks and knives can be wheeled out in this butler-on-wheels, along with seasonings, and special dish for that special person, adding a touch of resort luxury style!

But what do you do with all the rarely used crockery, or odds-and-ends, or eyesore items that you want to keep out of sight? Well, you keep them sorted, but out of sight.

Wineglasses are specially kept in a dedicated case bubble-wrapped

Wineglasses are specially kept in a dedicated case bubble-wrapped 300¥ Case


The great frequency with which earthquakes happen, it makes sense to keep wineglasses tucked away in protection. I stapled bubblewrap to cardboard partitions to separate the wineglasses, and then wrapped one large sheet of bubblewrap around all the glasses to create a nest.  The two makeshift yellow floral print cases cost about 300 ¥ each only.

Other stuff that went into storage…the odd party salad bowl…ice-shaving-maker..

. imageimageimageimageimageimage

The cleaning cloths, cleansers and gloves all need a proper dedicated home too…these are used daily.

imageimageimageimage Underfoot deep storage is used to store emergency water and the home-pickled bottles with red lids.

Underfoot small cellar stores water rations

Underfoot small cellar stores water rations

With the kitchen appliances and countertop and all surfaces given a good cleanup, the makeover is almost complete.


The finishing touch is dressing the window. A cozy window makes washing up more fun, well..less of a chore anyway, and a few decorative touches make the home look cared for and thought about.

Before: messy mug collection line the sill

Before: messy mug collection line the sill

After: Cat themed pieces decorate the sill

After: Cat themed pieces decorate the sill

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Task Three – Storage’s the thing

Having all the storage space in the world ain’t no good if it ain’t organized, and you can’t find nuthin’.  Forgotten food that gets old and has to be tossed, is money wasted. So task three in the kitchen is to get the pantry sorted and food labelled.

My twelve year-old got into the act and helped me do the labels…

Labels save time searching for what you need and keep things tidy

Labels save time searching for what you need and keep things tidy

A pull-out shelf-on-rollers is a nifty and convenient hing to have…

Pullout comdiment-shelving beside the stove is one of the most convenient forms of storage

Pullout comdiment-shelving beside the stove is one of the most convenient forms of storage

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Kitchen makeover – Task Two – addressing the Bento Bane

Today, the big job for me is the re-organization of the drawers…especially the bento- and tupperware drawers.


Bento-making uses stuff that come in tiny parts, different shapes and sizes and materials, and are apt to get lost and to look real untidy, so they have to be classed according to function or stages of bento prep, and in receptacles of the same type to create the illusion of a unifying theme of color, texture or shape.


Now they are finally all in one cupboard top to bottom, above and below the microwave oven used for defrosting food before bento making. Lost tupper-lids have found their mates. All in one place. Nice.
Above: utensils organized according to cutting and chopping implements, measuring tools and bowls.

Kitchen utensils and tools have to be within easy reach. I just realized this: the first time you organize the kitchen, if you are the primer user, you need to be the one to organize it, to rationalize and streamline where things go. Or it usually doesn’t work.

When I first got married, my husband organized the kitchen – that was because he worked in an Italian kitchen for several years, and considered the kitchen and cooking his favourite domain and past-time.

But the system was a pain for me for too long. Not only did I have to learn and memorize where things were kept, my style of cooking differed from his, and daily bento-making was my priority, so the kitchen just didn’t work for me… I found myself traipsing in trails from different cupboards, shelves, drawers in a haphazard way all over the kitchen most of the time.

And forget model kitchens, they’re not always practical, which model kitchen or magazine features all the non-matching nitty-gritty utensils and containers you need for bento-making”???  You ned to think of your busiest routine day and retrace your tasks, path from storage to worktop counter…and store your items accordingly to nix unnecessary movement.

For example, it only needed a little tweak like switching the breadmaker with the waterpot, but it saved a whole lot of extra-walking and time on busy mornings, besides avoiding people bumping into each other trying to get past each other in all the wrong stations.

Now, since the breadmachine is now beside the baskets where the breadmixes, cereal and napkins and coasters are kept, while the hotwater is right next to the tea and coffee, which makes a whole lot more sense than before, and it looks nicer having a proper breakfast, and coffee-and-tea-station.

A tea and coffee station at last!

A tea and coffee station at last!

All things bread related

All things bread related

Now that all the utensils have been washed, dried and re-arranged and proper homes found for them, the kitchen is in half-working order.

The next step will be to organize the crockery, baking ware, teacups, and then the larder….work for another day. Stay tuned.

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Seven-Year-Household-Itch: Time for reorganization


Goal: A sanitized fridge and easier navigation and efficient use of kitchen

Goal: A sanitized fridge and easier navigation and efficient use of kitchen

I’ve got the seven-year itch. An itch to shake things up in the household department. We’ve had our own home for seven years now and it’s time to take stock of things, reorganize our living spaces, and shake up the dust, before we get too comfortable, old and crusty. It feels like the nesting instinct and no, I’m not pregnant.

A periodic shakeup in any area of our life is healthy…even if it’s only in the form of the re-organization of the household.

Research shows student academic performance and worker productivity and general well-being can improve measurably with a redesign of our living, working and studying spaces, so this is an experiment towards the same end.

Japanese “Super Housewives” recommend beginning in the kitchen, the Stomach-Gut of the Home being sort of a Fountain or Dispenser of Well-being of the Home.

So here goes, a photo essay of my re-organization efforts, as it goes.

1. Beginning with the fridge, gave it a good wash, inside and out, removing shelves, drawers and ice-box too.

2. Instituted a Golden Zone, where all soon-to-expire items are placed.

3. Use see-through receptacles for like items like jam jars and mustard. Just pull-down and remove.


Dispenser of well-being, the Fridge

Dispenser of well-being, the Fridge

Wipe up spills on the handle-bar, organize dressing and condiments bottles, milk, etc.

The handle-bar niche is always caked with dried up spilt milk, juices or soy sauce.

The handle-bar niche is always caked with dried up spilt milk, juices or soy sauce.

Freezers need cleanouts too. Resealable ziplocks make light work of cleaning

Freezers need cleanouts too. Resealable ziplocks make light work of cleaning

Don’t forget the top of the fridge too. Eeek, layers of dust. Learnt years ago what a pain it is to wipe off oily surfaces in the kitchen, so I now layer the roof of the fridge with newspaper (nobody looks there anyway) and just chuck the papers out and replace them with fresh sheets.


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NHK ASAICHI stain removal tips

These tips by the Super Housewives’ Tomokai Friendship Circle were featured on NHK TV this morning. Decade-old yellowed shirts looked impressively newer than new shirts after treatment in the show.

Taking notes for myself, and for posterity:


Getting rid of food stains – use dish detergent

Gum – put ice on top to stiffen gum, then peel off

Blood stained items (and stains by organic fluids) – use grated daikon (daikon oroshi) rub directly onto the stain or spot.

Foundation, makeup – wet a rolled-up and tied with a rubber band handtowel, hit the stain/spot, pound the stained area


Dull blackened socks and other yellowed clothing items

White shirt – make a paste of purin sekkin 50g with 500 ml water, roll up microfiber cloth and pound on the neck or othee stains, then wipe off, use also on white socks. And use also on gas stove stains

Fill a Spray bottle of PVA purinjo senzai. Treat spots by spraying directly onto the spot. From 100 yen shop purinjo solution. Coat stained section, wash in the washing machine as usual

Additional effective washing tips

Use a large net for each person’s clothes, clothes that get entangled leave stained spots in trapped clothes untreated.

Yellowed underwear

“Te-iron” (hand iron) method:
(After washing as above) – fold wet yellowed shitagi undershirts and other underwear- fold sleeves and shirt into quarter and slap and pound to remove wrinkles, then hang to dry

Pillow-covers “otou no niyoyi” can be classified into four thpes of smells – sweaty, oily, dusty, green usui-ame (slightly sickly sweet)
Kareishu occurs in men in their forties onwards.
Method: Use sekisui soda (it contains natrium) For stubborn smells, use quensan (citric acid) after first sekisui soda wash. Quensan is most powerful there is for oil and smells.

Coffee and tea stains
Fill a basin with 40 degree C. water. Place stained clothing item in the lukewarm water, pour sekisui soda directly all over the water, the warm water will remove about half of stains, and the soda the rest. This works for textile color that washed off from colored clothing items.

For the most effective treatment of stubborn stains, use:

Katansan natrium. Add katansan natrium to a basin of lukewarm water water, and dilute with water in a basin with the clothing item in it, wash gently.

Washing the washing machine

In warm water with katan-san natrium soda, wash the washing machine in one cycle, the dirt that has been stuck in the washer will surface with the washwater.

Washing white shirts

Items needed: Nylon net and wooden scrubbing washboard.
Scrub the collar using the “nylon net” wool stocking cloth.
Turn the shirt pocket inside out, use a toothbrush and scrub out the lint
In a washing machine wash white shirt for 3 minutes before other other load. Remove while soaking wet and hang to dry immediately. This is called daraboshi method.

Frequent daily household work clothes, and summer “one-piece” dresses:

Hang sweaty daily-use one-piece clothes on shower rails and shower sweat off the clothes, then quickly hang to drio dry.

Missed the suggested treatment for ballpen stains ….
Ballpen – will have to get back to this one later.

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Recipe for Eggs Benedict

In a pot of boiling water with a pinch of salt, on medium heat crack and drop an egg from a ladle gently into the pot of boiling water.

Do the same for another egg, drop it in gently wihout touching other egg.

Lower heat and cook eggs for 4- 5 mins. Lift eggs and pkace on paper towels to drain eggs.

Toast two halves of muffin bread and serve eggs benedict on top of bread and with or bacon and washed and torn into bite-size lettuce leaves on the side.

Alternative recipe


Bring a deep saucepan of water to the boil (at least 2 litres) and add the vinegar. Break the eggs into 4 separate coffee cups or ramekins. Split the muffins, toast them and warm some plates.
Swirl the vinegared water briskly to form a vortex and slide in an egg. It will curl round and set to a neat round shape. Cook for 2-3 mins, then remove with a slotted spoon.
Repeat with the other eggs, one at a time, re-swirling the water as you slide in the eggs. Spread some sauce on each muffin, scrunch a slice of ham on top, then top with an egg. Spoon over the remaining hollandaise and serve at once.
Recipe from Good Food magazine, September 2005

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Quickie breakfasts

Sprinkle pork well with Roasted panko add salt, garlic, egg

Wrap pork around Avocado and tomato and fry

Alternatively, use Takenoko bamboo shoots ingen French peas

Onion soup

Sliced carrots, lettuce, boiled snappeas, strawberries, parmesan

Sliced cabbage beside pork cutlets.

580 cal


German breakfast

White wine over chicken to remove semll. Salt and peopper the chicken

Slice potato, maitake, carrots, red and green bell peppers into chunks

Heat olive oil, garlic in a pan, add bacon chopped slices, when fragrant, add chicken then add green bell piman peppers, next other veggies.
Lastly, salt and pepper again
240 cal.

Fry in olive oil, eggplant and lotus root, salt pepper.

Boil Eggplant or zucchini.
Mix Canned tuna, add chopped onions, mayonnaise, miso, salt and pepper and aoijiso mint chopped finely. *** secret umami ingredient aoijiso. Combine all
Pop zucchini mixture in oven toaster

















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Recipe for homemade Chinese breakfast






















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Preventing MCI and early onset of dementia – start prevention in your forties

Today’s Asaichi NHK TV programme highlighted the topic of MCI and suggested strategies for its prevention. According to the doctors, MCI starts manifesting from age forties, and we should take steps to be aware of the symptoms and to prevent MCI decline and descent into dementia. Japan has the largest (one of the largest) numbers of seniors and centenarians in the world, and this area of research is in a relatively advanced stage compared to the rest of the world.

What is MCI?


Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills. A person with MCI is at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

Experts classify mild cognitive impairment based on the thinking skills affected:

MCI that primarily affects memory is known as “amnestic MCI.” A person may start to forget important information that he or she would previously have recalled easily, such as appointments, conversations or recent events.

MCI that affects thinking skills other than memory is known as “nonamnestic MCI.” Thinking skills that may be affected include the ability to make sound decisions, judge the time or sequence of steps needed to complete a complex task, or visual perception.

MCI increases the risk of later developing dementia, but with preventative measures taken early enough, some people may never develop dementia or Alzheimer’s.

In diagnosing MCI, the first 6 items are your top clues of the onset of MCI, according to the Asaichi programme:

  • However many times someone repeats an instruction or something to you, you seem to forget it (no.1)
  • Forgetting your promises made to someone, and insisting otherwise when reminded (no. 2)
  • Inability to recall recent events (no. 3)
  • Forgetting to relay phone messages to family members or other people (no. 4)
  • Forgetting umbrellas, glasses, keys, but an important clue is losing especially large or important items ( no. 5)
  • Not being able to remember how to take your medicine (no. 6)
  • Forgetting where commonly placed things are in your home
  • Forgetting faces and places introduced
  • Confusion over time and spatial locational challenges
  • Verbal confusion in mid-sentence

If you manifest one of more of the above symptoms, you probably have nothing to worry about, beyond that, you should start exercising preventative measures to avoid further decline of your cognitive faculties. If you are manifesting all of the above symptoms, you should have yourself checked at a specialist clinic and possibly have a brain scan.

I’ve found more info at the Alzheimer’s website:


One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over, Increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g. remider notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.


Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.


People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.


People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.


For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Vision changes related to cataracts.


People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

A Typical Age-Related Change

Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.


A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.


People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Making a bad decision once in a while.


A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.


The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

According to Asaichi, the key impact areas upon our lives are:

Loss of key “kuku-kaka” (mnemonic aid) areas show up  dangers, esp. :

Ku-suri – MEDICINE admin. dangers
Ku-ruma – CAR control dangers…need to stop driving altogether
Kane – Money control, administration)
Kaji (disaster causation … Forgetting to turn off the firestove, gas heaters, etc., and to lock the door)

(can you recall all the 4 Ks ???)

According to Japanese research, some effective strategies to prevent MCI deterioration of cognitive faculties and dementia include the following:

  • Keep a 2-day diary recording all events up till 2 days ago without aids or others’ assistance. Record mistakes made too.
  • Walking strategies, increase stride and pick up heels by 5cm – This is expected to increase substances that promote the growth of nerve cells due to slightly challenging aerobics exercise. Increase walking activities or take up vigorous aerobic heart-pumping exercise for at least 5 min daily (exercise increases blood pumped to your heart but the blood also nourishes the brain)
  • Step aerobics, dance or other exercise all the while thinking, introducing new elements just before consolidating old memories
  • Practise Memory Recall Games – try to recall 10 items (average proper functioning capability, you should be able to recall around 8-10 items). At one experimental centre, an effective strategy with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients was to have patients look at and repeat and recall the random sequence of color-coded color charts. (This is very similar to Dr Shichida’s method of training children in perfect recall and retrieval and especially their Mandala colour-coded geometric charts)


Mild cognitive impairment causes cognitive changes that are serious enough to be noticed by the individuals experiencing them or to other people, but the changes are not severe enough to interfere with daily life or independent function. Because the changes caused by MCI are not severe enough to affect daily life, a person with MCI does not meet diagnostic guidelines for dementia.

Learn more:


Mild cognitive impairment is a “clinical” diagnosis representing a doctor’s best professional judgment about the reason for a person’s symptoms.

Early diagnosis is essential according to the TV programme, it is best to prepare yourself as well as family members for the eventuality that one descends into dementia or Alzheimer’s. See:
A medical workup for MCI includes the following core elements:

Thorough medical history, where the physician documents current symptoms, previous illnesses and medical conditions, and any family history of significant memory problems or dementia

Assessment of independent function and daily activities, which focuses on any changes from a person’s usual level of function

Input from a family member or trusted friend to provide additional perspective on how function may have changed

Assessment of mental status using brief tests designed to evaluate memory, planning, judgment, ability to understand visual information and other key thinking skills

In-office neurological examination to assess the function of nerves and reflexes, movement, coordination, balance and senses

Evaluation of mood to detect depression; symptoms may include problems with memory or feeling “foggy”

Laboratory tests including blood tests and imaging of the brain’s structure

If the workup doesn’t create a clear clinical picture, the doctor may recommend neuropsychological testing, which involves a series of written or computerized tests to evaluate specific thinking skills.


The causes of mild cognitive impairment are not yet completely understood. Experts believe that many cases result from brain changes occurring in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. The risk factors most strongly linked to MCI are the same as those for dementia: advancing age, family history of Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and conditions that raise risk for cardiovascular disease.


No medications are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat mild cognitive impairment. Drugs approved to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease have not shown any lasting benefit in delaying or preventing progression of MCI to dementia. See above…plus:

Coping Strategies:

  • Exercise on a regular basis to benefit your heart and blood vessels, including those that nourish your brain
  • Control cardiovascular risk factors to protect your heart and blood vessels, including those that support brain function
  • Participate in mentally stimulating and socially engaging activities

MCI increases the risk of later developing dementia, but some people with MCI never get worse. Others with MCI later have test results that return to normal for their age and education. Experts recommend that a person disgnosed with MCI be re-evaluated every six months to determine if symptoms are staying the same, improving or growing worse.

Researchers hope to increase the power to predict MCI outcomes by developing new diagnostic tools to identify and measure underlying brain changes linked to specific types of dementia.

The above information is based on today’s broadcast NHK TV Asaichi programme    <“もの忘れ”が気になるあなたへ 最新!認知症対策> URL: as well as the Alzheimer Association Alz.Org. Webpages URLs: and

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Try the easiest no-fuss roast potatoes today


Balsamic-glazed potatoes

All you need to is combine the following ingredients in an ovenproof dish and pop it in the oven!

1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, halved or quartered if large
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
8 garlic cloves, smashed
5 sprigs thyme
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking dish, combine potatoes, broth, vinegar, garlic, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Bake until potatoes are tender and liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 1 1/4 hours, tossing twice.

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How to adapt to hot bath temperatures, and how hot should baths really be?

Guidebook to Hakone from 1811

Onsen, Guidebook to Hakone from 1811

The onsen baths in Japan are usually between 38 degrees to 42 degrees Celsius, adults here like temperatures in the forties, with usually only one or two with temperatures around 38 to 39 for children or those with weaker constitutions. Our home bath is automatically set to run at the press of a button at forty-two degrees Celsius. These hotbaths used to be excruciatingly painful for me initially when I first settled in Japan. Onsens were not relaxing affairs at all. Eventually, I learnt a way to cope and adapt. I found that by thinking and being preoccupied in thought about something other than the bath as I plopped inside the bath fullon, My body would get used to the water temperature in something like 5 seconds. Sort of like the reverse of plunging into a cold swimming pool. More than a decade after living in Japan, I am today totally at home with a forty-two degree bath, and look forward to onsen spas as relaxing social events with my daughter or mother-in-law.


Research, however, while showing numerous benefits of hot baths, has also shown though that hotbaths can be dangerous for those with heart conditions. Well, I can testify to that. My mother-in-law found her mother-in-law dead of a heart attack in her tub with a forty-two degree bathwater. She was a few days shy of her eighty-eighth birthday.

According to this news article posted below, around thirty-five degrees is optimum for health, so I am going to bear this in mind as we age…


The good bath guide
by PAT HAGAN, Evening Standard

It’s been a long, hard day at the office and your feet are killing you.

As soon as you get home, the first thing you want to do is run yourself a soothing, hot bath.

Now, the latest research shows that baths are not only great for unwinding and soaking away the stresses of the day, they can also play an important role in boosting your immune system, help skin conditions like eczema and even alleviate serious medical disorders.

One study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that diabetics who spent just half an hour in a hot tub could reduce their blood sugar levels by around 13 per cent – as the heat dilated their blood vessels, blood-flow improved and the body made better use of its insulin, the hormone that converts blood sugar into energy.

A separate Japanese study showed that 10 minutes in a warm bath improved cardiovascular health in elderly men and women, helping them to cope better in exercise tests and reducing pain.

Previous research had suggested that hot baths could be dangerous for heart disease patients, because they temporarily increase blood pressure.

Now a new book, 48 Hours to a Healthier Life, claims baths can be used as a simple-form of hydrotherapy to keep the body in mint condition and reduce the risk of illness.

‘I heartily recommend bathing,’ says the book’s author, Suzi Grant, a member of the British Association of Nutritional Therapists.

‘It can prevent colds and viruses, reduce stress, improve sleep, strengthen blood circulation, boost the immune system and detoxify the body.’

So what’s the best bath for you and how long should you spend in it? Find out with our guide below.


Warm baths – 90-95F or 32-35C – open the pores and encourage sweating, which helps to release toxins. They are good for mild detoxing and slight colds. Warm baths can also help lower blood sugar levels, relieve painful joints and muscles, and help to keep your bowels working properly.
Soak time: 10-20 minutes.


If you’re really stressed out, a cold bath can be the perfect answer – but they’re only for the very brave and those in robust health. The temperature needs to be 55-65F, or 12-18C, says Grant. ‘Cold baths are fantastic if you’re full of tension. They do the opposite of hot baths as they thin the blood and increase blood sugar levels.’
Soak time: a quick dip – between six and 30 seconds at the most.


For skin conditions such as eczema, hives or rashes, adding some baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to your bath can make a big difference. It acts as a mild antiseptic, {3}opens the pores and relieves itching and skin irritation. Fill the bath with lukewarm water, add about a pound of baking soda and mix well.
Soak time: 10-20 minutes.


Yeast infections such as thrush can be helped by adding three or four cups of cider vinegar, preferably organic, to your bath. It’s also very good for detoxifying the body, according to Grant, as the vinegar helps to restore its acid/alkaline balance. Add to a full bath of warm water.
Soak time: 15-20 minutes.


Sprinkle 3-5lb of sea salt into the water and mix in well for a thoroughly relaxing bath. The cooler the water and the shorter the time spent in the bath, the more it acts as a tonic, says Grant.
Soak time: 10-20 minutes.

Colds and headaches

Hot foot baths can help with colds and headaches as well as refreshing tired feet. Pour enough hot water into the bath or a bowl to cover your feet and ankles and add a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender, peppermint, thyme or lemon. Finish by rinsing your feet with cold water.
Soak time: 10-20 minutes.


“A cold foot bath is absolutely brilliant if you’re insomniac or just sometimes have trouble sleeping,” says Grant. Soak your feet until they start to feel uncomfortably cold. This treatment is also useful for constipation, nose bleeds, tired feet and colds.
Soak time: as long as you can bear.


Try alternating between hot and cold foot baths if you suffer from circulatory problems or varicose veins. Start by soaking your feet for one to two minutes in hot water, followed by 30 seconds in cold. Keep alternating between the two for 15 minutes, finishing with cold water.
Soak time: 15 minutes.

48 Hours to a Healthier Life is published by Penguin, price £6.99.

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Megaquake more likely now than ever? Oh dear

Slow-motion tremors make Tokyo megaquake more likely

14:00 16 April 2014 by Jeff Hecht
The people of Tokyo have long lived in fear of another great earthquake, and those fears are increasingly justified. Slow-motion earthquakes have become more common beneath the city in the last few years, causing tectonic stresses to build up. The after-effects of the 2011 Tōhoku megaquake are also prodding the area in the direction of a big quake, but seismologists cannot predict when it might occur, nor which part of the region’s complex fault system will break.

Shinzaburo Ozawa of the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan in Tsukuba used GPS sensors to track the surface motion of the Bōsō peninsula, the eastern side of Tokyo Bay. Between 28 December 2013 and 10 January 2014, he detected centimetre-scale shifts. These were caused by two tectonic plates, kilometres below the surface, slipping by about 10 centimetres. The motion released as much energy as a magnitude-6.5 earthquake, but it caused no damage because it was spread over two weeks.

Seismographs do not record such slow slips, so they went unnoticed until GPS came along, says Heidi Houston of the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the research.

The concern is that the slow-slip quakes seem to be coming more frequently, a sign of increasing tectonic stress in the region. The latest slip came only 2.2 years after the previous one, a month-long slip in October and November 2011. The first slips detected, beginning in 1996, were 6.4 years apart.

The earlier-than-expected Bōsō slip is a reminder that “it is essential to keep a close eye on the deformation and seismicity in this region,” says Roland Burgmann of the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study.

Shifting plates

Ozawa’s research adds to the evidence that a big Tokyo quake is on the way. After the 2011 Tōhoku quake, seismicity in the Tokyo area initially jumped tenfold, then levelled off at three times the earlier rate.

Based on that increase, a study last year estimated a 17 per cent probability of a large shock under Tokyo between March 2013 and March 2018. That is two-and-a-half-times higher than if the Tōhoku quake had not happened (Geophysical Research Letters,

The events after the Tōhoku quake have “completely rearranged the whole system in north-east Japan”, says Burgmann. “They definitely point to the very complicated area around Tokyo becoming a zone of greater hazard.”

Four tectonic plates meet in the Tokyo area, and as a result it has suffered several quakes above magnitude 7 in the past four centuries. The largest in the past 1000 years was the Genroku quake, estimated to have been magnitude 8.2, that killed 2300 people on 31 December 1703 and produced a tsunami that killed several thousand more.

However, the deadliest was the magnitude-7.9 Great Kantō earthquake of 1 September 1923 (pictured, above right), which killed 100,000 people – with some help from a typhoon. Since 1960, 1 September has been Disaster Prevention Day across Japan.

Journal reference: Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/2014GL060072
If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.


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Day one – kitchen clearout bootcamp

Goal: To achieve the luxurious feeling of being served by a butler, and/ having breakfast at a resort!

BEFORE photos

I had to make room, so started by throwing stuff out of four cutlery and bento drawers, and two utensil drawers, followed by shelves of a steel rack.


Because I had my cutlery in so many different places, to re-organize them I ended up clearing out and throwing out the contents of eight drawers, and two cupboards. Here are the AFTER PHOTOS Below…


imageimageimageimageimageMoved the mugs from the window sill to the bottom shelf where the cutlery had been formerly.imageimageBreadmaker, tea caddies, coffee on shelves 1-3 and cleaning sheets kitchen roll and bento bags on the lowest shelf.

FINALLY, I bought a “butler wagon” for under 3000 yen, got rid of cutlery drawers altogether, they will now be wheeled out by the “butler” at every meal to the table! I have wanted one for a very long time…tadaaaa….


Do you like the arrangement A above or B below? Cutlery on top of trolley, in the middle basket are jam, honey, parmesan, and in the bottom basket are nori and furikake toppings for Japanese dishes.


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My winter mums







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A surprising corner of Machida city, Tokyo



Swear for the moment there I thought I had walked through a travel portal transporting me to Rome or Florence

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Winter potting options





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Was really glad today that I ‘d brought in my kitchen garden this winter, so I had some cilantro on hand for the chawanmushi I made for dinner.

passed the taste test,  but failed on the “looks” end, as egg custard did not come out totally smooth. I have made this many times,  and by now I have figured that a number of  points are to be noted if you want a beautiful chawanmushi dish..

a. Remember the 3:1 DashI stock to 1 egg proportion

b. Remember to strain, for smooth mixture

c. Remember to mix egg into dashi stock, NOT whip because you don’t want to introduce bubble air

d. Remember to wrap each receptacle you use

e. Remember to steam on medium low heat NOT high heat

f. Don’t over cook!

NOT as easy as it looks …is it?

Miss these points, and you’ll likely end up with pock-marked “eggy” looking mixture, that will fail the custard  appearance test.

Chawan Mushi Recipe adapted from

2 cups of dashi
3 large eggs
8 large cooked prawns (I shelled, de-viened and boiled them gently until cooked)
4 small shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and very thinly sliced
1 green onion cut into matchsticks

In a medium bowl, using chopsticks, very gently stir the eggs until blended, without incorporating too much air. Stir in the dashi, then strain the mixture into a measuring cup.

Divide the egg mixture between 4 shallow 1-cup bowls and wrap each bowl in plastic. Preheat a steamer. Add the bowls to the steamer and turn the heat down to medium low. The water should be at a gentle simmer. Steam for 15-20 minutes or until the eggs are set.

Immediately transfer the bowls to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Unwrap the custards. Top with the prawns, shiitakes and green onions and serve.


Source of recipe: momofor site


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Easy natural lipcare and repair

Apply Vaseline first thing in the morning and at night

Before applying a layer of Vaseline, apply with brush lipcolor or lipstick mixing well onto VaseLine layer

To remove lipstick, apply olive oil.

Chapped lips will recover after three days

For a natural cheap lipspa:

Apply a layer of Vaseline, and then a liberal application of honey over it, and saranwrap over and take a nap or  remove after 5 to 10 minutes

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For the love of a golden pear …

Our pears are now almost ripe for the picking …

photo (59)

When I was a little girl, one of my favourite nursery rhymes was “I had a Little Nut Tree” which bore “a silver nutmeg and a golden pear” and so I now grow pear trees in my garden. The rhyme, in case you’ve forgotten, goes like this (for origin and history, see this page):

I had a Little Nut Tree
Nursery Rhyme lyrics, origins and history

I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg,
And a golden pear;
The King of Spain’s daughter
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.

This is, by the way, what the pear trees looked like in spring, they are quite lovely, though not colourful… I grow both the Asian and the European pear espaliered against our fence. So you see …you never know the kind of fruit, the kind of nursery rhymes you read your kids will bear …

Pears in flower

Pear trees in flower

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Omotesando offers up architectural delights

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Model models – designs by students of architecture






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Living vicariously…


Both my hubby and I wanted to be architects when we grew up. My husband actually got into the architecture program at Tokyo Universi, but eventually went in another direction (that paid his school tuition fully so…). So once DS got into the architecture program at a local university, we were naturally delighted, and now enjoy hanging around Open Days at his uni, and have lots of fun looking at his projects, designing and making model architecture.


Today, I took some photos on a small tour of his school and looking at a few student exhibits.



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Planning a trip from Tokyo to Izu peninsula?

First of all, know your terrain around Izu peninsula, what are your interests, and then decide what are your “must-see spots”.  Izu peninsula is essentially about volcanic geology and coastal formations(Jogasaki  cliffs below).

Needless to say, the whole peninsula is also dotted with hot spring areas each with an original, distinctive character.

Atami Spa and Beach bustles with tourists and families. Atami is characterized by the laidback atmosphere of its beach resort (Atami Sun Beach), with its rows of palm trees.

It is particularly famous for the “Moon Light Beach”, where the illuminations make it the perfect spot for couples, and the Hydrophile Park with its many decks and terraces, gives it a Northern Italy and Cote d’Azur atmosphere.

Atami Sun BeachHydrophile Park

Atami’s reputation is built upon the its hotsprings as the shoguns are known to have ‘taken the waters’ here and the hotsprings are said to have originally been discovered about 1,500 years ago. Atami literally means ‘hot sea’, the resort was so-named by locals who observed the hot water flowing into the surrounding sea. Atami rises out of the sea and then extends into rather imposing hills that overlook the town – reminiscent of Naples. The hillsides form one side of a volcano, and the town is built in the remnants of the crater. For accommodation, check out: Atami Seaside Spa & Resort (See access info); Hotel New Akao resort or alternatively, check out Atami Furuya Ryokan or this Ryokan listing by price.

At Atami, some of the historical attractions are:

Atami Castle

Thumbnail for version as of 15:46, 15 September 2012

The Atami Castle along the Nishiki-ga-ura coast, one of the best sightseeing spots in Atami, inside you can visit the exhibitions of Buke ( Samurai ) Cultures and Japanese Castles. The 360-dgree panoramic view from the top of Atami Castle’s observatory is of note. Atami Castle is a stop on the Yuyu Sightseeing Loop Bus (about 15 minutes from Atami Station, 250 yen per ride or 700 yen for a 1-day pass). Alternatively, the castle is a short walk away from the top station of the Atami Ropeway (400 yen one way, 600 yen round trip) which connects the castle to the port area below. The lower station of the Atami Ropeway can be reached by a ten minute taxi ride from Atami Station or a two minute walk from the Marine Spa Atami bus stop on the Yuyu sightseeing loop bus route. 

MOA Museum Visit the MOA’s tea garden where the Maple Festival is being held between 14 Nov – 6th Dec. The MOA Museum has more than 3,500 ancient works of art from Japan, China and other Asian countries – 3 of which are designated as National Treasures, and 65 as Important Cultural Property. Don’t miss the Golden Tea Room.


A villa residence founded in the Taisho Showa era is on view to the public. It provides a tangible link to Atami city’s cultural heritage.


Other sightseeing spots include the Izusan Shrine and Kinomiya Shrine which boasts its “god”-tree – a giant camphor tree, which dates back over 2000 years and stands 26 metres high. And then there is the Akao Herb and Rose Garden. This is a terraced valley featuring 12 differently themed gardens and boasting a total of approximately 100,000 herb plants and 5,000 rose bushes

Access to all of Atami’s sightseeing bus via the Yu-Yu bus

Ryokan map


Next stop, Ito.

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From Ito, visit Mt Omuro. Access info: Take a Shaboten Koen-bound bus … about 40 minutes by bus from JR Ito station. Accommodation at Ito: see Yamatokan Ryokan

Mt. Omuro is a gently-sloped volcano on the Amagi mountain side. A crater of 300m in diameter and 70m deep is located at the summit. A tourist climbing lift (Adults 420yen ・ Children 220yen) operates from the foot of the mountain and from the peak, walk around the small crater and view the panoramic view of the Izu seven islands, Mount Fuji, Hakone and the mountains of Amagi from the summit. You can do a little archery at the range inside the crater. Izu Shaboten Park and Sakura-no-Sato are located at the foot of the mountain. Every year on the 2nd Sunday of February, a famous event called Yamayaki (burning the mountain) is performed.

Walk the trails of the Jogasaki coast, and Kadowaki suspension bridge.

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The Jogasaki coast is a magnificent rias coast formed from the lava of the Amagi Volcano. The coast is cliff-lined and provides spectacular views along the 9 km trail extending along the sawtooth coastline from promontory to promontory, capped by the suspension bridge at Kadowakizaki Point (length 48 m and a height of 23 m).

From Shimoda city to Shirahama Beach. See Shimoda City guide and Tourist Board page on temples and museums in Shimoda. Go Nordic-walking on Shimoda’s beaches

Shimoda city is historic – because it is where Commodore Perry’s fleet of seven ships carrying a total of 1,265 Americans entered Shimoda Port on April 15, 1854.  Take a 20-min harbour cruise around Shimoda harbor in a lifesize replica of the Susquehanna: the “black ship” that brought Commodore Perry here in 1854. Called the Shimoda Konai Meguri “Shimoda Harbor Circuit” offered by Izu Cruise, it sets sail throughout the day between 9:10am and 4pm at intervals of between 40 minutes and an hour. Adults: 1,000 yen, children: 500 yen
Access: On foot (15 mins): Follow Route 135 (Higashi Izu Dohro Road) that runs eastwards past the station, cross the bridge, and, about 600m on, turn right at the first traffic lights.

Take the Izu Cruise offers another cruise around the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula, about 15km south of Shimoda. The Irozaki Meguri takes you around the majestic cliffs and small rocky islands of the peninsula in a funky-looking boat It departs throughout the day between 9:30am and 4pm at intervals of 30 minutes. The cruise itself lasts for about 25 minutes. Adults: 1,200 yen, children: 600 yen. Contact Izu Cruise, Kamori Kanko Co., Ltd. Add: 19 Sotogaoka, Shimoda-shi, Shizuoka-ken
Tel. 0558-22-1151 [Info source: Japan Visitor]

Shirahama Ohama Beach

「Shirahama beach Izu」の画像検索結果

This is one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Eastern Japan. Don’t miss the picturesque Shirahama shrine that gives Shirahama ohama Beach its character. Check out the Shirahama walking guide. However, Shimoda city has many glorious beaches – Shimoda’s Shirahama Chuo Beach and Sotoura Beach have been selected for inclusion in the “Top-100 List of Japan’s Most Pleasant Beaches” compiled by the Environment Agency. Accommodation: Pension Izu-Sakuraya or Prince Hotel (located on the Shirahama beach, Shimoda) [At Shimoda Bay, Rendaiji Spa Kurhaus Ishibashi Ryokan]

Southern Cape Irozaki — see Izu Travel and the Minami Izu Hiking Trail and Cape Tarai trail that ends at Toji, and Cape Irozaki

One usually runs out of time for a visit (unless you have at least 3 to 4 days to spare) to the remote southern cape Irozaki and there is only one bus a day bound for Toji (Touji). The sea cave and the sand ski ground in Toji are a five minute walk from Toji bus stop, about 20 minutes from Izukyu-Shimoda Station via a Toji (田牛) bound bus (20 minutes, 440 yen one way).  Go beach horseriding at Toji

Tokai Bus offers a 2-day Minami Izu Free Pass for 2790 yen for unlimited use of buses in the southern Izu Peninsula. The buses between Izukyu-Shimoda Station and Irozaki, including those to Cape Tarai and Toji, are fully covered by the pass.

One usually runs out of time for a visit to the remote southern cape Irozaki and there is only one bus a day bound for Toji (Touji). The sea cave and the sand ski ground in Toji are a five minute walk from Toji bus stop, about 20 minutes from Izukyu-Shimoda Station via a Toji (田牛) bound bus (20 minutes, 440 yen one way).  Go beach riding at Toji

From Shimoda to Cape Irozaki which is the southernmost promontory of Izu Peninsula. It is distinguished by tall perpendicular cliffs. Irozaki Lighthouse stands on the edge. The Seven Islands of Izu can be seen away in the distance from atop the cape.

Access: 40 min. by bus from Shimoda Sta. The Tokai Bus offers a 2-day Minami Izu Free Pass for 2790 yen for unlimited use of buses in the southern Izu Peninsula. The buses between Izukyu-Shimoda Station and Irozaki, including those to Cape Tarai and Toji, are fully covered by the pass.  Note: If you run out of time, you can take an Izu cruise from Shimoda city instead which will allow you to see Cape Irozaki from the sea. (See above – Shimoda)


Kawazu’s Seven Waterfalls (30 mins from Shuzenji stn)


The Kawazu Nanadaru (河津七滝) are seven waterfalls in the mountains above Kawazu Town in southeastern Izu. They range from the 30 meter tall Odaru (“large waterfall”) to the 2 meter tall Kanidaru (“crab waterfall”). A pleasant walking trail leads for about one kilometer through the forest, river gorges and past the waterfalls.

The Joren-no-taki Waterfall (photo featured above) is one of the largest falls of Izu Peninsula. One can see “columnar joints” (rocks shaped like columns that are formed when lava cools down and contracts). The cascading waters are seen against of the backdrop of the lava formation that once flowed from the Hachikuboyama Volcano. The lava created the Kayano plateau and today, a large road (Route No. 136) runs through the landscape. The flatlands were also ideal for farmlands, which prompted people to build villages around the area. At the Joren Fall, try the wasabi ice cream and other products. Wasabi can only be grown where waters are very clear and clean. Read more here and here.

“… near the Joren Waterfall — the largest of Izu’s many cascades — we allow ourselves to be sidetracked by signs for a wasabi farm. With a microclimate perfectly suited to the growth of this root some term Japanese horseradish, the Izu Peninsula is the source of nearly a quarter of all the wasabi consumed nationwide. Clear waters and cool temperatures are an absolute must for this notoriously difficult crop, something the shaded Kawazu River can deliver almost year-round.”– Mandy Bartok, “Beat the heat in the Hills of Izu


Read about Shuzenji ‘s many attractions here.

Izu’s oldest hot spring, Shuzenji Spa, is located in the central area. A famed spot for autumn colour, green bamboo groves and with its quiet, green and peaceful atmosphere, it is named ‘Little Kyoto’. Walk along the Chikurin no Komichi(Bamboo Forest Pass see photo above) path which meanders along Katura River for 400 meters from the Katsura Bridge past the Kaede Bridge to the Takishita Bridge.

At Shuzenji, visit the Niji-no-Sato which has a forest of approximately 1,000 maples, and which is therefore famous for its Maple Festival and fall colour as well as night light-up illumination. Access and more info about Niji-no-Sato. Lots of hands-on activities may be had at this amusement park.

Illuminated MapleMaple Forest

From Shuzenji, visit Toi Kinzan mines and go gold-panning. There is an interesting shrine of the mine gods within the tunnels. Read more info here.

DOGASHIMA, in Western Izu.

Dogashima’s cliffs and islands are one of the best-kept geological secrets of Japan. The coastline of Dogashima is an approximately 2-kilometer-long extending from Sebama to Cape Ajo and is famous for small islands, amazing rock and cliff formations, due to the past volcanic eruptions and the erosion by the sea. [Source: The Japan Travel Digest]

Much like France’s Mont St Michel, a “Tonboro Phenomenon,” induced by the ebb and flow of the tide, allows the visitors to walk from Sehama-kaigan Coast to Sanshirou-jima Island at low tide. Boat service is also available from the Dogashima-onsen, allowing visitors to enjoy a Dogashima Island Caves Tour that will take you around several islands, such as Sanshirou-jima and Zou-jima.

I recommend a visit, weather-permitting, to the Tenso-do Cave (see photo above) that was created by sea erosion. Dogashima Spa which boasts a beautiful sunset view from the hot spring. 1 hr. by bus from Shimoda Sta., or 2 hrs. by express bus from Mishima Sta., is noted for its cave, through the top of which the sky can be seen. A sightseeing boat going into this cave departs twice a day. Time required: 25 min. Fare: ¥1,600. See Dogashima Cave Tour

On the northern side of the Dogashima-kaigan Coast is the Golden Cape, named for its golden color at sunset. Created by volcanic lava that slid down into the sea, it is a cape, known for its rugged scenery, displaying powerful white capped waves that pound against the towering cliffs. Many tourists visit this spot.

The best way to see the coast is from constantly departing sightseeing boats, which briefly enter one of the large caves along the way. The cruise takes about 20 minutes and costs 920  — see Cruising Route Accommodation


For a shorter visit, visitors can by-pass Atami, and go straight on to start from Ito as a base for exploring the Izu peninsula.

Access to Ito and Minami-izu (Shimoda)

Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar” (Shinjuku-Odawara) / Approx. 70 minutes
JR / Izu Kyuko Limited Express Odoriko (Odawara-Ito) / Approx. 45 minutes
Shinjuku-Odawara-Izukyu Shimoda
Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar” (Shinjuku-Odawara) / Approx. 70 minutes
JR Line / Approx. 50 minutes
Izukyu Line / Approx. 60 minutes

Further reading:

Surviving Japan’s “Traveling the Izu Peninsula

Izu Peninsula: Follow Perry’s Black Ships to Japan’s best beaches

A perfect day on the Izu hanto

Western coast Ita and Osezaki (Diving off Izu Peninsula)






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