🎄 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 🎄

If you’re reading this now it means you’ve been kind enough to take time out of your day to visit my Cherry Blossom Stories Blog and I really appreciate that. It doesn’t matter to me whether this is the first time you’re visiting my blog or you’re a regular visitor. I’d like to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year! Thank you so much for your support in 2018 and I wish you all the very best in 2019!

Please enjoy this festive video. It’s a funny one this year!!

Review of Etude House Cosmetics: The Good, the Bad and the Kawaii

Beneath the makeup and behind the smile I am just a girl who wishes for the world.” — Marilyn Monroe

If you live in Japan or South Korea and you’re a fan of cosmetics and makeup you may have been hiding under a rock if you haven’t heard of Etude House. This famous South Korean brand with its pretty packaging and adorable bright pink window displays has been going from strength to strength all over Asia and it’s now hugely popular in Japan. If you haven’t bought at least one of their products I highly recommend you plan a visit to one of their stores or order online asap and I can assure you you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the price and the quality of these cosmetics.

Etude House the set

If you live in Japan, there are stores all over the country from Hokkaido in the north to Fukuoka in the south and of course you can find Etude House shops all over Tokyo with a total of 12 stores in nearly all of the major shopping areas. I bought the above products from the Takeshita Dori Head Office store in Harajuku where you can find a wide range of products, but there are also branches outside of Japan in South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait! If you live in the U.S. you can buy directly from etudehouse.com. If you live in Australia, nudieglow.com stocks Etude House. If you’re in the UK you can buy Etude House products from YesStyle.com and if you live in Europe you can get these cosmetics on Amazon.

Everything in the Etude House range is reasonably priced and I truly believe the products are of very high quality. Okay, a couple of products were recalled this year in March 2018 for containing excessive traces of metal (the AC Clean-Up Mild Concealer and the Drawing Eyebrow Duo No 3 Gray Brown) but c’mon guys, they sell hundreds of different products and they have 231 stores worldwide so it’s not surprising they’ve come across a few minor glitches.

Even though I’ve only known about this makeup colour and cosmetics brand for about five years, this South Korean company was actually established in 1966. Etude House Seoul was launched in 2005 and they opened their first store in Japan in 2011.

Now, let’s get on to the most interesting part of this blog post — the Etude House cosmetics — and I’m going to be completely honest here as I weigh up the pros and cons.

◆ Face Blur ◆

Face Blur

Let’s start with the Face Blur primer. A primer is a cream or lotion used to create an extra layer between your skin and your makeup. These base products have been around for some time now and I love them. Your foundation goes on a lot better when you use a primer and they can definitely minimize pores. Face Blur by Etude House does all of this and a little bit more. When you apply it, you’ll notice it gives you a base but it also acts a little bit like a skin whitener. If you’re Caucasian like me you may be wondering why you’d want to do this but if you’re Asian you’re going to know exactly what I’m talking about and you’re going to love this Face Blur because it illuminates the skin and lightens yellowish skin tones. This is something nearly every Asian woman I’ve met wants to achieve. I do like the pearly sheen it leaves on my skin but my skin doesn’t need whitening so I prefer The Porefessional Face Primer by Benefit Cosmetics. I think it does a better job of minimizing my pores.

◆ Double Lasting Foundation ◆

double lasting foundation

Next up is the Double Lasting Foundation by Etude House with SPF 34. Just the fact it has a high SPF factor is a real bonus but I love this product for so many other reasons. It’s low in price, it gives great coverage, my skin never looks oily, it doesn’t run off my face, and it lasts all day. What more could you ask for in a foundation? I live in the UK and I know the rest of the world thinks England is always dull, cold and dreary but we’ve had some really warm and humid summer months over the past few years and this is the best foundation for that. It feels light but it covers my face really well and it doesn’t slip off my face at all so I always wear this particular foundation in every month of the year. The only problem you may encounter when you’re thinking about buying this product is if you’re looking for darker colours you won’t find any darker than tan. However, after speaking to a customer service representative in Dubai I was told this is something Etude House might introduced in the future.

◆ Lash Perm Proof Mascara and Volume Mascara ◆

proof mascara
volume mascara

Okay ladies (and maybe a few gentlemen out there!), how many different mascaras have you tried in your lifetime? I’ve tried a lot so I’m pretty selective about my mascara now and I know what I like and that’s Estée Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Lash Multiplying Volume Mascara but I’m always willing to try cheaper mascaras and that’s one of the reasons I bought the Etude House Lash Perm Proof Mascara as well as their Volume Mascara. The Proof Mascara makes your lashes longer and the Volume mascara makes them appear thicker. Used together you can achieve really dramatic full fat lashes but there’s just one problem that I encounter every time I use these mascaras: my eyelashes curl naturally and these mascaras have brushes that are made to curl your lashes as you darken them but that means I get quite a lot of product on my eyelids that I need to wipe off after using them. If you’re Asian there’s a good chance your lashes are dead straight so you probably use a lash curler and if this is you then you’re in luck with these Etude House mascaras. You could probably ditch the curlers and just use these mascaras to create really long, thick lashes that curl up with a flick of the wand. I think these mascaras are the perfect choice for Asian lashes but for me, not so much.

◆ Bling Bling Eye Stick ◆

Bling Bling

Bling Bling colour

I like a more natural look when it comes to eyeshadows and Charlotte Tilbury’s face palettes help me achieve that look but I bought the Etude House Bling Bling Eye Stick #9 in Gold Meteor to apply just near my tear ducts to give my eyes a wider look when I go somewhere nice with my husband in the evening. This product goes on well and stays on for hours so I wish I’d picked up so many more of these in Harajuku. I’ll definitely buy some more Bling Bling Eye Sticks in the future because they’re cheap and as you can see in the chart above they have some great colours that would work in the day and the night to give your eyes a lovely velvety effect with a subtle sheen.

◆ Oh M’Eye Line ◆


The final product I want to talk about is the Etude House Oh M’Eye Line eyeliner and what an eyeliner it is! I adore this eyeliner although I tend to use it more when I’m going out in the evening. I have bought so many crayon eyeliners in the past that look so good when you put them on but they fade away in a matter of minutes. In contrast, this eyeliner from Etude House gives a fantastic jet-black finish that stays on for hours. If you’re not used to liquid eyeliners it might take you a couple of tries to get the perfect straight line but when you do, you’ll be really happy with the result. You can also make that black line as thick or as thin as you like and this eyeliner is the perfect product to get that winged eyeliner flick that’s trending right now.

There are quite a few other bloggers out there who have reviewed Etude House products and we all like different items in the range so don’t be afraid to try some of the products I haven’t mentioned in this blog post. I’d love to hear what you think of Etude House and whether you’d recommend their cosmetics and skincare to others in the future.

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu Review: Authentic Homespun Recipes Handed Down from One Generation to the Next

I’m not a food critic, a restaurateur, a professional chef nor a food blogger but I love Japanese food and I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen from a very young age so those are my credentials for reviewing this wonderful cookbook.

Japan cookbook

I’ve purchased several Japanese cookbooks in the past or I’ve printed recipes off the internet but they’re always the same type of popular Japanese recipes and I’ve often thought they were more suited to the type of dishes served up in Japanese restaurants outside of Japan rather than the good old Japanese cooking that grandmothers in Japan lovingly put on the table for their families to enjoy.

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu is everything I expected and more. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been creating the kind of Japanese dishes I’ve always wanted to make and that’s regional dishes and home-style cooking that have never been translated into English until now. Food you could only expect to eat if you were travelling the length and breadth of Japan, staying with families along the way who really know how to cook healthy, delicious and wholesome Japanese food that’s been passed on from one generation to the next.

This cookbook is substantial. It includes over 400 recipes by Hachisu, you can easily find your favourite recipes because it’s broken into sections dedicated to each style of cooking, and there’s a fascinating section on the history of Japanese food towards the beginning. There are also over 50 recipes by famous chefs in the blue section at the back and several full-page photographs, but the lovely introduction at the very beginning by Nancy Singleton Hachisu is definitely well-worth reading before you start cooking.

In the intro, you’ll discover Hachisu has been living in Japan since 1988 as a Japanese farmer’s wife. Her husband Tadaaki is also an excellent cook but after they married Hachisu became the “resident bride” and enthusiastically took over the task of making tempura and the New Year’s soup. Hachisu has been developing her cooking skills for decades so she’s the perfect person to put a cookbook like this together.

You’ll also discover this author went to a lot of trouble to meet as many grandmothers as possible in her favourite regions in Japan so she could record a great number of recipes for this cookbook and then adapt these recipes to include her own individual twists. It’s this energy and authenticity which makes this cookbook so great. It was also interesting to discover a lot of the recipes in this book came from the writings of Harumi Kawaguchi, a Zen nun and a close friend of Hachisu. This has definitely influenced many of the simpler dishes and I certainly felt a degree of mindfulness when I prepared some of these meals. Although a lot of the dishes are natural, wholesome and modest in their presentation there are also many other dishes that do require some degree of skill in the kitchen and quite a bit of preparation and this includes several dishes that are full of rich ingredients that perfectly complement lighter dishes when served on the table.

I also really liked the way Hachisu shared an interesting fact in her introduction on page 13 about the Japanese “s” row of the phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) and how this applies to cooking in Japan:

Sa-shi-su-se-so is a mnemonic for the main flavouring ingredients of Japanese cuisine. Sa=sato [sugar or mirin], shi=shio [salt], su=su [vinegar], se=seu the archaic reading of shoyu [soy sauce], and so=miso. These are the only essential ingredients.”

I’ve already made seven meals from this cookbook, including sushi, rice and noodle dishes, and I was so impressed by how well everything turned out. I’ll definitely buy Hachisu’s other cookbook “Japanese Farm Food” in the near future because all these recipes were fabulous.

So, let’s get on to the recipes I’ve been making from this cookbook over the last few weeks. I really hope my review of each recipe will show you just how much my husband Roy and I enjoyed each and every dish.


crab and nori

This looks like a simple dish that’s easy to prepare but it was actually quite difficult for me to make. Reason being, I don’t own the recommended tamagoyaki nabe (Japanese omelette pan) so I had to make do with my small round frying pan and cut the rounded edges off into a square. You have to keep an eye on the egg omelette when you’re making it so you don’t overcook the egg and create brown patches. You want a nice pale yellow colour on all sides. Hachisu recommended six eggs and just 3oz (90g) of crabmeat but I would use quite a bit more crabmeat next time because I think the taste of the egg in this masked the flavour of the crabmeat. It did look really good in the end and you’ll definitely love this nori roll if you’re a big fan of tamago nigiri sushi.




spinach gratin

Roy loved this dish! He really liked the combination of spinach, bacon, scalloped potatoes, béchamel sauce, tomatoes and bread crumbs. I’ve already made it several times and I’m sure I’ll continue to make it again and again in the future. If you’ve never been to Japan you might be wondering why a gratin has been included in a Japanese cookbook but this is actually a very popular dish that is often made at home in modern Japan and it’s also included on menus at a lot of family restaurants. Hachisu says you should make a home-made béchamel sauce and I completely agree with her. It really is a lot better for you and a lot more scrumptious than the store-bought variety. Don’t overcook the bacon because this could easily affect the taste (and not in a good way) and be generous with the panko breadcrumbs.



One-pot seafood udon 1

“A cross between nabe (one-pot dish) and udon, unusually, this dish is baked in the oven.”

If you’re tired of eating kitsune udon all the time and you’re looking for a really tasty, healthy and low-calorie meal then this seafood udon dish is a great alternative and it only takes 25 minutes to prepare and cook! This recipe certainly has some delicious ingredients — prawns, crabmeat, maitake mushrooms (I used shiitake mushrooms because I couldn’t get the maitake variety), negi, spinach, and udon!

I did cheat a little bit. I used pre-cooked udon noodles, three sachets of udon soup stock powder which made about 1.3 litres of hot noodle broth and canned shredded crabmeat to save myself time and money. I wouldn’t use shredded crabmeat again. Instead, I’d add fresh crabmeat or canned chunks of crabmeat. Hachisu recommends fresh crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage.

I boiled the broth on the stove first before adding the noodles. I let them cook for five minutes which allowed the noodles to separate before adding the other ingredients. I cooked this all in my Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish which was perfect for cooking this on the stove and transferring it to the oven. Hachisu recommends adding a splash of ponzu at the end and we really thought the soup needed this. After we’d added this, the meal was absolutely delicious. In fact, Roy liked it so much, he finished all of the leftover soup at the bottom of the pot!



mince bowl

Hachisu recommends leftover rice for this dish as well as ground pork or chicken as well as egg threads, shiitake mushrooms and green beans but as she mentioned in the introduction you could use any leftover vegetables you have in the fridge. I replaced the beans with garden peas. This isn’t the fanciest dish and you certainly wouldn’t serve this to important guests but it’s a quick, easy and cheap meal to make and children would really love the easy-to-eat mince and the way you serve each topping in its own section. I had fun making the egg threads (the recipe for this is on page 222) but I’d definitely cut them finer next time.



ginger soy

This is my favourite dish so far. As you can see in the photo, the chicken had a lovely sticky ginger-soy coating. One great fact about this cookbook is that Hachisu has given you exact quantities for each ingredient to be used in all her recipes and if you follow these instructions to a tee then you can’t go wrong. One exception I made was to add carrots because I had a packet of mixed vegetables in the freezer I wanted to use. If you love soy-glazed yakitori then you’ll love this dish.



shrimp pea rice

Hachisu says “A vehicle to use leftovers, hayashi rice is said to have developed in the southern island of Kita Kyushu. The owner of a small casual eatery needed to feed his customers quickly before they boarded the ship, so he put together this flavorful ketchup-based rice dish. While chicken is commonly used in this dish, here the shrimp reflects the seaside roots. Feel free to swap out diced leftover chicken or pork. In the same vein, any chopped vegetables such as carrot, green beans, or turnips can be substituted for the green peas.”

I followed Hachisu’s recipe and used green peas. Again, it might surprise you that Japanese people use quite a bit of ketchup in this dish and in their cooking but I assure you this is another popular dish, especially with children. You’ll really love this dish if you’re a fan of the filling in omurice (a Japanese omelette rice dish).



egg and butter dish

I mentioned above there are over 50 recipes from well-known Japanese and Western chefs at the back of the book in the blue section. I decided to make this particular recipe and I’m so glad I did!

Martin Benn is the chef/owner of Sepia Restaurant in Sydney. He started his career in London before relocating to Australia in 1996 where he gained a position at Tetsuya’s under the famous Chef Tetsuya Wakuda. He was made head chef at this restaurant at just 25 years old!

I knew this dish was going to be full on but I still wanted to try it even though I thought it looked a bit risky and I was worried I wouldn’t get it right. I thought, at first, I was setting myself up for a challenge and it might be a bit sickly because it included 14 tablespoons of butter and 16 egg yolks!! Yes, you read that right. That’s a hell of a lot of butter and I thought our cholesterol levels would skyrocket with all those eggs.

Boy, was I wrong about the taste! I can now see why Benn is such a respected and accomplished chef. This dish was an absolute delight to the taste buds. It reminded me of the rich and creamy dishes you pay through the nose for at fine French restaurants. I’d still warn anyone over the age of 65 to go easy on this dish but both my husband and I really enjoyed it and we were able to eat a full bowl each. I didn’t have any kinome sprigs to place on top of the dish at the end as recommended but the aonori salt (a combination of sea salt crystals and powdered green nori) was a great addition.

To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t serve it as a rice bowl again. I think it’s just too much. I’d serve up just three tablespoons of this next to a pan-fried or poached piece of salmon with some green beans sautéed with a little garlic and grated ginger and a dash of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.


I’d like to thank Phaidon for sending me a copy of this cookbook and I’d also like to send out a huge thank you to Nancy Singleton Hachisu for putting together this culinary masterpiece.

I’ll definitely be making a lot more recipes from this cookbook in the future and posting photos of these recipes on my favourite social media platform Twitter so please follow me @RenaeLucasHall for these updates.

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
470 pp, Phaidon. £29.95.

Get your copy on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Kyoto Journal – An Elegant Appreciation of Culture and Creativity

I’ve read quite a few Japan-related magazines and I’ve always learned a little bit more about the Land of the Rising Sun from each one of Kyoto Journalthem but Kyoto Journal is the most insightful and beautifully presented magazine I’ve read so far. The stylish front cover, the glossy pages with stunning photographs and the thought-provoking essays, projects and reviews from a selection of writers, poets, artists, photographers, and designers from Japan and the Pan-Asian region will leave you spellbound. Each page really does give you pause for thought and contemplation.

It was very nice to see how every part of the journal had been brought together to make you feel like you’re making a personal connection with each one of the contributing creative individuals. There’s definitely a focus on Japan, and especially Kyoto, but the editors have also included works from all over Asia and this creates an even balance. After you’ve finished reading each page you feel like you’ve cultivated your mind, heart, spirit and soul. You’re left with a feeling of completeness, inclusion, and a better understanding of Kyoto and the wider world.

I’ve only ever lived in Tokyo and I’ve visited Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and Osaka several times in the past but now I regret the fact I’ve never had the opportunity to live in the Kansai region, especially Kyoto. Frankly, I’ve always thought this ancient capital was a bit too mysterious and esoteric for my Western mind and nature. An enchanting place with a history I could never fully understand or appreciate because I wasn’t born in Japan. However, I now feel Kyoto is much more accessible after reading just one edition of Kyoto Journal.

KJ logo

Founded in 1986, Kyoto Journal (KJ) is a Kyoto-based non-profit, volunteer-driven quarterly magazine and the longest-established independent English publication in Japan. Every part of this journal is well-worth reading, even the advertisements and promotions are beautifully composed with stunning photos and images. Do take your time to appreciate each paragraph as you read each one. There’s a lot to take in and you’re bound to have more than one naruhodo moment!

I read the winter/summer 2018 edition with the theme “Old roads, revisited”. There’s a wonderful introduction to this issue on their website:

KJ’s 90th issue celebrates those roads that, since prehistory, have carried not only travelers and trade, but also the seeds of new cultural flowerings. Passing through both time and terrain, roads lead to that ongoing reinvention, the future—and back into the past.
Climb aboard; let’s make tracks…

I’d like to share with you some of the highlights of this journal. . .

I enjoyed reading the interview with the professional Noh actor, teacher and Noh mask carver Udaka Michishige (pictured below performing “Nonomiya” at Kyoto Kanze Kaikan Noh Theater wearing his Magojirō mask). He’s the only performer still making Noh masks in Japan. I now know the word Sarugaku is the ancient name for Noh (yes, even if you’re an expert on Japan you’re still going to learn all sorts of cultural titbits from this journal) and it was wonderful to read about the ways Mr Udaka is trying to transform the educational system in Japan. He believes in teaching children the importance of spirituality and philosophy. He says we should all question why we were born, live and die just as one does in Noh theatre. He insists these subjects should be taught alongside factual knowledge in order to create more well-rounded individuals and I agree with him.


There are also extracts in the journal from Unbeaten Tracks in Japan by Isabella Bird as well as a very well-written review of Pachinko by the author Min Jin Lee. I’ve read these two books and I recommend both of them but I thought Bird’s non-fiction account of Japan in 1878 was a bit tedious to read at times and sometimes it felt like the text was too heavy in its descriptions (I’m talking about the complete book, not these excerpts).

Back to the journal, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the extract from the travel journal The Kaidōki which was written by a 12th-century monk (name unknown) and translated by Meredith McKinney. The inclusion of tanka poetry and the photo (see below) of this monk in an area not far from Kamakura makes these pages a delight to read.

Yamabushi01 copy

The narrative of a Zen monk called Fukume on a mission from the Shogun in 1832 to deliver a white horse to the Emperor in Kyoto will also make you smile. What amused me the most was how Fukume and Hayashi were repeatedly trying but failing to recite a poem on their journey in just one breath because it was said if you could do this “while giving proper attention to its sense you would have happiness and success in love for the rest of your life”!

Hiroshige print

Andrew Thomas moved to Kyoto after spending 15 years in Setagaya, Tokyo. Interestingly enough, I lived in Yōga in Setagaya when I was teaching English in Japan. If I’d continued my life in Japan I probably would have followed suit and moved to Kyoto myself. Don’t you think his photo below of the Shimenawa torii gate at Hibara Jinja, featured in Kyoto Journal, is absolutely mesmerising?

Haibara Shrine, Yamanobe Road by Andrew Thjomas

I very much enjoyed reading about how Yamada Akihiro developed the Kamo River Promenade in Kyoto. He embraced the concepts of continuity and unity in his designs because he wanted everyone in the area to enjoy the promenade. Now people can walk, stand, sit and lie down along the river bank and take time for contemplation thanks to Yamada’s well thought out designs. His philosophy in life is “kindness must be the basis for all human activity”.

If Yamada Akihiro happens to meet the photographer Yoshida Shigeru, whose ethereal photos also feature in this journal (see photo below), I’m sure they’ll get along. Yoshida began his photographic project ‘Border’ after visiting the area stricken by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. When he saw the people praying towards the sea he knew exactly what he wanted to capture in his photos and he remembered these words the Dalai Lama once said: “This place doesn’t need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” Inspirational words from both gentlemen, don’t you think?

Yoshida Shigeru

If you’re interested in Japan it’s more than likely you’ve heard of Matsuo Bashō, considered the most famous poet of the Edo period, but have you ever seen a picture of the man himself? You’ll have to order a copy of this edition of Kyoto Journal if you’re interested in seeing what is said to be the most authentic portrait of Bashō to date.

Nearly everyone who visits Japan is filled with awe by the beauty of the aesthetics which apply to design, physical objects or daily principles and they never forget the kindness they’ve received from the Japanese people. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the traditional culture is to stay at a ryokan inn or a hotel that prides itself on providing exemplary customer service. In ‘Going off road: a home away from home in Japan’ Lucinda Cowing introduces four hotels where omotenashi is a prerequisite for a restful stay. You’ll want to book at least one of these fine establishments after reading this and if you do I’m pretty sure you can look forward to being pampered and spoiled by their staff who all seem to understand the true meaning of omotenashi.

Although it’s a hotel rather than a ryokan, I’d love to stay at L’Hôtel du Lac which was highly recommended by Cowing. It’s situated on the shores of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. This retreat boasts both lake and mountain views, it sits in a forest thriving with birds and local wildlife, and in early April cherry trees stretch for 8km alongside the property (see photo below). The Director of L’Hôtel du Lac, Tanaka Hidekazu, explains why his hotel has so much to offer. “Our hotel’s location, together with its sumptuous cuisine, is the highlight of staying here. It is a special place, yet it is important to us to make guests feel that they are ‘coming home’ and to be an approachable and reliable presence for them.

L'hotel du Lac

There’s also a selection of poignant and very touching poetry throughout the magazine for you to read over and over again. One poem, in particular, really moved me from A House of Itself, Selected Haiku by Masaoka Shiki:

Autumn departs
for me
no gods no buddhas

yuku aki no ware ni kami nashi hotoke nashi
Masaoka Shiki

There was a lot to learn about Masaoka Shiki, pictured below (image via Wikipedia), in this journal. He was a traditionalist and an innovator in the Meiji period who wrote over 25,000 haiku poems in his short life. He used seasonal references as well as shasei (sketching from life) and makoto (poetic truthfulness) in his haiku but unfortunately he died at age of 35 from tuberculosis, a disease he contracted when he was just 13. As you can see above his poetry is deeply influenced by his sense of mortality.

I also want to draw your attention to the Hailstone Haiku Circle. I’d never heard of this club before but I discovered they have members all over the world. If you’re interested in joining this circle there’s no need to feel intimidated and you don’t need to be a haiku master to get involved. Their latest anthology Persimmon was reviewed by Susan Pavloska. The haiku below is a perfect example of what you can expect:

An orange colour
rises in the moonlight
ripe persimmons
Mayumi Kawaharada

The number of people who enjoy reading Japanese manga comics in the West, especially in Britain, has multiplied exponentially since the 1970s and now this art form has become a hugely lucrative export for Japan. Fumio Obata, a Japanese comic artist living in the UK, has been working on a 200-page graphic novel dedicated to comic reportages of the 2011 tsunami, earthquake, and the consequential nuclear accident in Fukushima. Kyoto Journal has dedicated four pages to her comics. Prepare yourself to be enthralled by Obata’s artistic accomplishments but also saddened by the subject matter.

Fumio Obata_cartoon_010

If you’re a foodie you’ll also enjoy ‘Gourmet Biking in Tohoku’ by Lianca Van Der Merwe, if you’re a fan of kimono you’ll be interested in the article explaining how the textile artist/kimono-maker/tonya (creative director) Tange Yusuke is exhibiting artwork alongside his stunning kimono dyed with the same imagery, and if you’ve ever lived in suburban Nara in Japan or Oxfordshire in England you’ll relate to Pico Iyer’s ‘The Gingkos along Park Dori’.

There’s also a heart-wrenching but life-affirming short story called ‘Mother beyond the border’ by Muhammad Nasrullah Khan (with wonderful artwork by Venantius J Pinto) that needs to be read to be believed. I can assure you it will leave you with eyes wide open.

Just as springtime is drawing to a close in Japan this edition of Kyoto Journal ends with a very sweet haiku:

High on the cherry tree—
one last blossom

I wasn’t brought up to be a Buddhist or a Shintoist (although I agree with some of the principles from both religions) so I tend to believe we only have one life and this life passes incredibly quickly. Following this train of thought, we only have a certain amount of time to do what we wish to do, absorb ourselves in our passions, and follow our dreams. I’m really looking forward to reading more editions of Kyoto Journal in the future. I feel that the content in this magazine will accelerate my understanding of this ancient capital and many other facets of the Japanese culture.

I now feel like I can enrich my knowledge of matters I once thought were incomprehensible and when I return to Kyoto I’ll have a much better understanding and appreciation of this captivating city and Japan as a whole. Reading personal accounts from both Japanese and Western people, past and present, who now live or have lived in Kyoto, I really feel drawn towards this area of Japan. You can certainly feel the warmth, kindness and compassion for others when you read the contributions from those who have a real connection with this charming city.