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10 gift ideas for Mother’s Day: Japan edition

Apron

It’s almost Mother’s Day! And if, like us, you want to celebrate this special person in your life, here is a list of 10 Japanese gift ideas for Mother’s Day that will certainly make them very happy.

Traditionally woven Apron – 100% cotton

To start this 10 gift ideas for Mother’s Day is this really nice apron. Do you miss your mom’s cuisine? Is she the queen of the kitchen? If so, why not gift her this comfortable and elegant apron. The fabric is very light, and even when spending hours in the kitchen, she will forget that she is wearing it.

Traditionally woven Japanese Pajamas

Is your mom elegant in all circumstances? Then this pajama set is perfect for her. The lightweight, breezy fabric is perfect on a hot, humid night. With its very chic silhouette, it can also be worn as everyday clothing. When being used, the fibers of each thread spread and the softness of cotton comes out. It can be safely used by people with sensitive skin.

Lantern hand-painted by Tokyo artisan

Why not give your mum’s living room a Japanese touch with this traditional lantern? This gift will be even more special as you can personalize it with your mom’s name. We will translate her name in Japanese, and our craftsman in Asakusa, Tokyo, will execute the calligraphy on the lantern. A gift that could not be more unique.

Hanging scroll with personalized calligraphy

Hanging scrolls are often found in Japanese houses. It is used as a decoration and can be changed depending on the season. We offer you the opportunity to give your mom her own personalized hanging roll. Made with traditional Japanese washi paper, her name will be translated in Japanese and handwritten by our calligraphy master. You can also choose a symbol to write: 愛 – Love, 金 – Money, 福 – Luck, 力 – Strength.

Japanese tableware essentials set

If your mom is a fan of Japanese food, here is an essential set to have in her kitchen. Included is a small bear plate used for soy sauce, a wooden owl spoon, enju wood (wood that has the power to repel evil spirits) chopsticks, and a blue glass cup.

Woven linen slippers

Make your mom’s life a little more comfortable with these stylish Japanese slippers to wear around the house. The motifs express the beauty of nature. Winds and waves, blooming flowers and leaves, those designs express the joy nature brings. The slippers are made with machine-woven linen.

Celebratory Manekineko

This statuette in the shape of a cat called Manekineko, attracts good fortune in the house. Its red and white colors are also synonymous with happiness and celebration. It’s the perfect gift to wish your mom lots of joy.

Tea set with carps design

Very nice tea set from Uragu, a tiny shop hidden in the back streets of Miyagawacho, one of Kyoto’s geisha districts. On this set are carps. In Japanese, carp is called koi. Koi also means “love”. As a result, carps are seen as a symbol of love. But not only. Being a fish that swims against the river flow, it also represents tenacity, perseverance in adversity, and the ability to achieve one’s goal.

Wooden bento box with sakura designs

If your mom is used to preparing her lunches to go, this wooden bento box will be perfect for her. With its cherry blossom designs, it will brighten her days.

Traditional linen bag with bamboo handle

On the last position on this 10 gift ideas for Mother’s Day list is this beautiful handbag. If your mum is busy from morning to night, this Japanese-style handbag will be perfect for carrying her belongings throughout the day. With its hand-woven linen fabric and  bamboo handle, it is perfect with any outfit.

We hope you found the perfect gift in this list, and that your mum will have the perfect day!

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Happy Cherry Blossoms Season!

Cherry blossoms

This is one of the favorite seasons of Japan lovers: the cherry blossom season. Versatile, it generally begins at the end of March and ends at the beginning of April. Cherry blossoms are not only beautiful and magical. They also represent the brevity of life and the passage of time. Indeed, the lifespan of these flowers being very short, they remind us that we are only on this earth for a short time, and that we must therefore appreciate every moment.

Hanami: let’s watch cherry blossoms with friends and family

花見 (Hanami) literally means “looking at the flowers”. Thus, cherry blossoms are synonyms of great picnics, with friends or family. People prepare their bento (lunch box) at home, with drinks, and go settle in a park, spreading big blue sheets under the trees, to spend the day eating, chatting and enjoying the beautiful colors of the beginning of spring. Feel free to do the same near your home.

On instagram, you can look for #hanamivirtuel, an initiative of the French-speaking community in Japan since 2020, which consists of sharing photos of sakura for people unable to visit Japan at this time.

Sakura tea

In your box is included Sakura flower tea. Although it is called “tea”, it does not include any tea, only sakura flowers, lightly salted. We recommend you to prepare it in a transparent glass, to admire the flowers as well as possible. Below are our recommendations on how to enjoy it:

  1. By itself: Simply pour 120 ml of hot water on the flowers. The clarity of pure water in which the flowers are floating is magical. The water will only taste a little salty.
  2. With tea: You can put these flowers in 120 ml of tea. We recommend green tea.
  3. With sake: With its salty taste, these flowers go very well with sake. As sake is also transparent, it makes it beautiful to look at.
  4. As a jelly: For two jelly, you will need 250 ml of water, 15 g of agar, 2 sakura flowers (for this recipe we advise you to wash them to remove the salty taste), and 2 teaspoons of sugar . Mix the water, sugar and agar and bring to boil. Heat for another 1 minute after reaching boiling point. Then pour the mixture into two containers. Place the flower in each of them. Cool it down at room temperature before placing the containers in the refrigerator until the jelly has solidified.

If you don’t want to miss any of our next boxes, subscribe to Peko Peko Box now!

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The industry of mosquito nets in Nara

Nara deer

In the article, we will introduce to you the history of the mosquito nets industry in Nara, as well as a nice shop that uses those woven techniques to create beautiful everyday life items.

The history of mosquito nets in Nara

Nara was a center of linen and mosquito nets production from the 1880s. Mosquito nets were introduced from China during the 8th century. They were initially used by aristocrats. During the Edo period, they became popular with the general public.

While visiting Nara, you can make a stop at the Yoshidakaya shop. It is one of the oldest mosquito net factories in Nara. The production of these has declined since the mid-1950s.The company now uses weaving techniques to produce light and airy linens.

The fabric is woven to leave spaces between the threads allowing air to pass through. It makes it extremely lightweight and flexible.

Mosquito net Nara

Ban Inoue 

In the next box of our subscription, is included a bag from Ban Inoue, a company created in 1988. It is inspired by the traditions and Japanese culture born during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. In particular the concepts around 華 (hana) and 侘び(wabi).

華 praises a majestic, dynamic and colorful beauty. 侘び represents a simple beauty in harmony with nature.

Ban Inoue took on the challenge of creating products balancing between these two concepts, transcribing the delicate and complex Japanese aesthetic. Items for everyday life, taking roots in Japanese traditions but designed to meet the needs of modern life.

How to use your reusable woven bag

The bag included in the spring box is made using the mosquito nets weaving techniques. Those techniques make it very light and resistant. Its main use is as a bento bag, or lunch box bag. You can pack it, for example, to go picnicking in a park near your home and admire the spring flowers.

You can also use it as a “bag in the bag”, to create a separation inside your handbag, making it easier to find your belongings.

More products from Ban Inoue, using Nara mosquito nets weaving techniques

Pajamas, apron, slippers, find more products from Ban Inoue on our shop.

Don’t hesitate to check it out!

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Winter in Japan

Winter in Japan

In this article, we will introduce some traditions perpetuated during winter in Japan.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice in Japan

Winter solstice (called Toji in Japanese), is the shortest day of the year. In ancient times, Japanese people would see this day as a time when the sun’s power is getting weak and bad luck will rise. To reverse it, they developed traditions to bring good luck back.

It is said that taking a yuzu scented bath on this day brings good health. Indeed, Yuzu is packed with Vitamin C, which will make you stronger against cold weather. Rubbing yuzu against your skin in the bath would also heal it from the cold. Finally, it is said that the scent of yuzu keeps devil forces away.

Kagami Mochi

Eating Mochi with Oshiruko: Kagami Biraki celebration

It literally means “Breaking the mirror”. This event usually takes place on the 11 of January, and consists of breaking the Kagami Mochi.

From New Year’s Day to January 7th, it is believed that Toshigami visit people’s homes. Toshigami (年神, 年 meaning year and 神 deity) are considered as spirits of the ancestors.

It is said that the souls of Toshigami live inside the Kagami mochi. By eating it, you will be endowed with their power. Eating Kagami-mochi will bring good health for the coming year.

After breaking the Kagami-mochi, it is often eaten with shiruko. This is because the azuki beans (red beans) represent talismans to dispel evil spirits.

Oshiruko

It is a tradition that was introduced to Japan from China, during the samurai era. It is believed that the red color of azuki beans has the power of dispelling evil.

In other words, eating oshiruko and kagami mochi together will protect you from evil spirits and give you strength and good health for the new year.

Hatsuyumei

The first dream of the year: Hatsuyume

Hatsuyume (初夢) is the first dream you have after the beginning of the year. It is said that it is auspicious to have a dream of “Ichi Fuji Ni Taka San Nasu” (一富士二鷹三茄子), or first Mt Fuji, second a hawk and third eggplants (this is why you can see those represented on the Kagami mochi included in the box)

This is the so-called best 3 good dreams. Here, we will explain what each dream is about.
■ Ichi Fuji – First, Mt Fuji
Mt. Fuji sounds like 無事 “buji” meaning “safe”. Dreaming of the high and beautiful Mt. Fuji will give you luck and strength to achieve your goals.
■ Ni Taka – Second, a hawk
A hawk catching its prey with its sharp claws is a suggestion to seize your chance. It is a year that will lead to the realization of your dreams.
■ San Nasu – Thirst, eggplants
In the past, eggplants were an expensive vegetable that only rich people could eat on New Year’s Day. It represents savings and prosperity of descendants.

Included in the Peko Peko Box

Included in the Peko Peko Box will be a Kagami Mochi, oshiruko paste as well as some yuzu syrup to make a hot drink. Dont forget to subscribe to receive your box.

Winter in shop drink: Yuzu sirop
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The year of the Tiger

Year of the Tiger

2022 is coming, led by none other than the Tiger! Are you ready for this new year?
This article will introduce everything you need to know about the year of the tiger: why it became the 3rd sign of the Zodiac, the personality of the people born that year, what to expect for your goals.

Why did the Tiger only got 3rd place?

One day, Buddha told all the animals: “The first 12 of you who will come to me on the New Year, will in turn become king of the year”.

The ox, who knew it was slow, departed during the night. It would have finished first place if the rat, who was on its back, didn’t jump in front of him at the last minute. Therefore, the rat became the 1st animal of the zodiac and the ox second.

The tiger was the fastest of all, but having left only at dawn (when the cow had already left since the beginning of the night), he could not catch up and find himself in 3rd place.

A second legend says that at the beginning, it was the lion who held 3rd place. But as he was acting badly, Buddha decided to punish him by removing him from the zodiac. And chose the tiger instead.

What to expect from people born in the year of the Tiger?

People born during the year of the tiger have positive personalities and a strong spirit: they don’t avoid challenges and even tend to go towards them. They are not afraid to make mistakes and to fail. They prefer to have a try at something rather than just avoid difficult situations.

People born during the Year of the Tiger are good in society and have entertaining personalities. They have a strong leadership spirit and bring people together.

What to expect during this new year?

The year of the tiger can be a challenging year. But have confidence in yourself to accomplish your goals. The year of the ox was a period to get prepared, take our time to reflect. During the year of the tiger, it is time to take action.

Be careful, however, not to be too impulsive and be sure to listen to the advice of those around you.

In a word, 2022 will be synonymous with novelty, growth and changes. It is a time to give the best of ourselves.
We hope that you will have a great year 2022, and that the spirit of the Tiger will guide you to accomplish great things!

Chogosonshi-ji Temple

Chogosonshi-ji Temple

Located on Mount Shigi in Nara, Chogosonshi-ji is often overlooked. But it is a great place to visit if you have some time in the area.

It is said that 1400 years ago, during his war with the Mononobe clan, on the year of the tiger, on the day and the hour of the tiger, Prince Shotoku went to pray Bishamonten on the mountains of Nara. Bishamonten is one of the 7 Gods of Luck. He is depicted as a warrior, wearing armor and is considered as the god of war. After winning the war, Shotoku established the temple in gratitude. 

The temple is known for its gigantic tiger papier mache statue (the world biggest one). It makes it a great place to visit during 2022, the year of the tiger.

Included in the January box

This ceramic tiger statuette will be included in your New Year Box. Subscribe now to Peko Peko Box so you dont miss it.

Year of the Tiger
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Camellia Oil from Tokyo Islands

Camellia flower

Among Tokyo Islands, 2 are well known all around Japan for their camellia flowers: Oshima and Toshima. In our upcoming Peko Peko Box, you will find 2 camelia flowers items, so don’t forget to subscribe before october 31st.

Camellia Oil

Camellia Oil

In Japanese, Camellia is called Tsubaki. The island of Toshima is known for its camellia trees. It is said that 80% of the trees on the island are camellias. 60% of camellia oil in Japan is produced on Toshima Island.

Oshima island is also known for its numerous camellia trees. You can find numerous camellia oil products there: pure oil, shampoo, soap. In our Peko Peko Box, we have decided to include camellia oil.

The oil is made by pressing gently on the camellia seeds. It contains Oleic acid, an oil naturally secreted by our skin. Applied all over the body, camellia oil helps prevent dry skin.

It has also been used by Japanese women since the Heian period (794 to 1185) on hair, to make them smooth and shiny.

Finally, it can be used as a healthy oil for cooking. It is, for example, very good with fish or on salads. Its high percentage of oleic acid reduces blood pressure and makes it a good alternative to normal oil. 

Camellia Paper soap

Camellia Paper soap & Aburatorigami

As camellia flowers are a must see on Tokyo Islands, we have decided to include another tsubaki product. In this set, you will find paper soap that you can use to wash your hands at any place: very convenient when on the go. Also included, some aburatorigami or face blotting paper, very popular in Japan, for women, and men. Press it onto your face to remove the excess oil on your skin.

If you want to try all these items, subscribe to Peko Peko Box before October 31st and receive your Tokyo Islands Box.

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Tokyo Islands: best food to try

Hachijojima

In this article, we will introduce to you 4 food items that you can find on the Tokyo Islands. They will be included in our upcoming Peko Peko Box, so don’t forget to subscribe before October 31st.

Ashitaba powder

Ashitaba from Miyakejima

First off, we have Ashitaba from Miyakejima. The island was left inhabited for 5 years after the eruption of its volcan in 2000 and it is a majestic place to admire the beauty of nature. There, you can find a lot of Ashitaba. But what is it?

Ashitaba literally means tomorrow’s leaf. Indeed, it is said that this plant grows so fast that even if you pull it out of the ground, there will be a new one the next day. Ashitaba has been used for a long time on the archipelago for its great effect on health and longevity. It is the only plant known that contains vitamin B12. It has been recognized as preventing arteriosclerosis and cancer.

The leaves can be used to make tempura, noodles or crushed to make tea. Included in the Peko Peko Box will be Ashitaba powder to make healthy drinks or smoothies.

Kusaya Senbei

Kusaya senbei from Hachijojima

Kusaya means… stinky! Kusaya senbei is a very popular snack among the Tokyo Islands. Mister Osada Takahiro from Kusayaya makes the secret broth in which the senbei (japanese traditional rice crackers) are dipped. The broth gives the senbei their flavor (and smell).

The broth is really famous as it is also used to make for kusaya, a horse mackerel dipped in salt water and dried in the sun.

Even if the smell is strong, the taste of kusaya senbei is quite mild. With this senbei, you may better grasp the concept of Umami, the fifth Japanese taste, usually described as a deep savory flavor.

Hingya Salt

Hingya Salt from Aogashima Island

Aogashima is a small island with a population of only 160. It is known for its double caldera volcano. Such a structure only exists in a few places in the world. Inside of the volcano, you can feel the geothermal heat.

From the heat of the volcano, an incredible condiment is made: Hingya Salt. Hingya, in local dialect, means fumarole. Sea water is heated with the geothermal heat. It takes around 13 days for the salt to crystallize. After crystallization, the excess water is removed and the salt is set to dry using only, once again, geothermal heat. Hingya salt is known for its high amount of calcium and magnesium.

Gyunyu Senbei

Gyunyu Senbei from Hachijojima

Gyunyu Senbei, or milk cookies, are a very popular snack on the Tokyo Islands. Each of the Island has their own recipe. But we have chosen the Gyunyu Senbei from Hachijojima.

Hachijojima was formed by two volcanoes. There, you can enjoy palm trees, coral and tropical fishes. A great activity to do is scuba diving, to admire the lava formations in the ocean and maybe meet with a few turtles. You can also go hiking and enjoy forests, mountains and waterfalls.

If you want to taste all these items, subscribe to Peko Peko Box before October 31st and receive your Tokyo Islands Box.

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Halloween in Japan

Kokeshi

Spooky season is just around the corner, and you may be wondering, how does Japan celebrate Halloween? We will answer your question in this article. And don’t forget to check out Peko Peko shop or to subscribe to Peko Peko Box. For Halloween, enjoy our 9% OFF discount on everything! Use code HALLOWEEN2021 at checkout.

Halloween in Japan

Halloween grew in popularity after Disneyland Tokyo held a Halloween event in 2000. Soon, it became quite popular among young people all over the country.
In Japan, people don’t trick or treat, but mainly enjoy creating their own costumes and showing it off on the streets. For many cosplay (costume play) amators, Halloween is the perfect opportunity to show off their creativity. There are a few places in Japan where people parade, the most known one being at Shibuya crossing.

Shibuya crossing attracts around 60,000 to 80,000 people every year, coming to enjoy a crazy night. After some accidents caused by the drunk mob, drinking on the streets of Shibuya during Halloween became forbidden in the past years.

Around Halloween, attraction parks such as Disneyland in Tokyo and Universal Studio in Osaka hold Halloween events, and it is a good place to enjoy the spooky season.

Fuurin Red - Halloween in Japan

4 and 9, bad luck numbers

In Japan, 4 and 9 are two unlucky numbers. Why? Because of how they sound. 4 in Japanese can be pronounced “shi”, which is the same sound as the word for “death”.
9 is pronounced “kyu” or “ku” which sound just like the word for “agony” or “suffering”.
Some hospitals don’t have rooms numbered 4 or 9 as it is considered bad luck. It is also said that yakuza put 444 on their license plate to show that they are not afraid of dying.

For our Halloween sales, we offer you a 9% discount on all Peko Peko website… will you dare using our promo code HALLOWEEN2021 ?

Other bad luck superstitions in Japan

There are a lot of superstitions in Japan, as in any other countries. Here are some of our favorites.

Hearse are, quite obviously, a symbol of death. In Japan, if you see a hearse, you should hide your thumb in your palm. Indeed, in Japanese, the thumb is called “oya yubi” which means the “parents finger”. By hiding it, you protect your parents from passing away too soon.

As breaking a mirror in the west is seen as a bad omen, breaking a comb in Japan is said to bring bad luck. Some explain this superstition as comb were in the past quite expensive and it would have been a loss to break one.

Everyone knows tatami, Japan’s traditional floor mats. It is said that stepping on the sides of the tatamis can bring bad luck to one’s family.

Finally, you should pay attention to how you sleep. Indeed, in Japan, sleeping facing north is considered bad luck and brings death, as during funerals, dead bodys are placed facing the north.

Manekineko Red and White
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Tokyo Islands

Tokyo Islands

Not many foreigners know about the 9 islands of Tokyo. Indeed, Tokyo prefecture does not only include the big megalopolis that we all love, but also 9 small islands, located in the Pacific Ocean. We want to take you with us there, through our next Peko Peko Box: Tokyo Islands Box. Subscribe to Peko Peko Box before October 31st, 2021 to receive it.

An introduction to Tokyo Islands

Aogashima

Aogashima is a small island with a population of only 160. Its double caldera volcano is particularly remarkable. Such a structure only exists in a few places in the world. Inside of the volcano, you can feel the geothermal heat. It is a renown place for stargazing. The island specialty is salt, made inside the crater.

Salt Aogashima

Kozushima

Around Kozushima, the sea is particularly blue and becomes more and more clear as we approach the coast. It is a great place to go snorkeling and observe colorful fishes. You can also go on a hike, for example at Urasabaku, a desert of snow white sands.

Mikurashima

Mikurashima is a small island with a population of only 300. Visitors mostly come here to swim with wild dolphins. There are around 150 dolphins living around the island. The other main attraction is the giant trees growing all over the island. The trees give to the island a magical atmosphere.

Miyakejima

Miyakejima was uninhabited for 5 years after the eruption of its volcano in 2000. It is a majestic place to admire the beauty of nature. You can have a walk among lands covered with lava or admire Nippana Shinza, a mountain created in one night due to a pile up of lava and volcanic ash after the eruption of 1983.

Hachijojima

Hachijojima was formed by two volcanoes. There, you can enjoy palm trees, coral and tropical fishes. A great activity to do is scuba diving, to admire the lava formations in the ocean and maybe meet with a few turtles. You can also go hiking and enjoy forests, mountains and waterfalls.

Hachijojima

Niijima

Surfers come to Niijima for the strong weaves. Among the best surfing spots in Japan are Niijima beaches. The water, pastel blue, is beautiful.

Oshima

Oshima has numerous camellia trees and produces camellia oil. You can find numerous camellia oil products there: pure oil, shampoo, soap. It is also famous for its black desert (made of charcoal sand), the only one in Japan. The landscape makes you feel like you are on the moon.

Shikinejima

The main attraction of Shikinejima is Jinata onsen, a unique onsen in Japan. Indeed, located in front of the sea, it reaches its perfect temperature when onsen water is naturally mixed with sea water. You can only go to the onsen twice a day, when the sea reaches the onsen. Otherwise, the water temperature of 80 degrees is way too hot to enjoy.

Toshima

As in Oshima, camellia trees are very abundant in Toshima. 80% of the trees on the island are camellias. Toshima Island produced 60% of Japan camellia oil. The best season to visit the island is between January and March, when camellia flowers bloom.

If you want to receive souvenirs from those islands, subscribe to Peko Peko Box before October 31st, 2021 to receive our Tokyo Islands box.

Tokyo Islands
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Travel to Hokkaido

Hokkaido Box

Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan, after the main island of Honshu. It is located in the north of the archipelago. In winter, it is a popular destination for winter sports. In summer, it is the perfect place to go hiking in its magnificent national parks with flourishing flora and fauna. With this box, travel to Hokkaido, to the city of Abashiri, the Shiretoko peninsula and around Lake Akan, in the heart of the Ainu territory.

If you want to travel to Hokkaido with us, order your Hokkaido gift box now for 49$.

Travel to Hokkaido box – what is included:

Bear Plate

Shiretoko peninsula is one of the most beautiful places you could visit in the north of Hokkaido. It was added in 2005 to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. From Utoro port, you can embark on a local fisherman’s boat in hope to spot bears in their natural habitat. It is estimated that you have a 90% chance to see them! This small bear plate can be used for example as a plate for sauces, condiments, confectioneries.

Bear Plate
Travel to Hokkaido

Ainu Pouch

One of the Ainu crafts that immediately caught our attention were embroideries and their particular shapes. For example the “moreu”, the spirals, and the “aiushi”, the thorns pattern. These patterns may differ from region to region and from family to family, as they are traditionally being passed down from mother to daughter. These designs are known to ward off evil spirits.
In your Peko Peko Box, you will find a pouch with designs inspired by Ainu embroidery. Part of the profits for this item go to an association that promotes the preservation of Ainu culture. To know more, there is an interview at the end of the magazine included.

Ainu Culture
Travel to Hokkaido: Ainu culture

Owl Spoon

In Ainu culture, Chikap Kamuy is a great owl that watches over the land, its villages and its inhabitants. This spoon is made using Yew wood. Yew trees are enshrined in many shrines and temples as sacred trees. Yew is said to have the power to purify its surroundings and bring happiness.

Owl tea spoon
Travel to Hokkaido: Ainu village

Wood Chopsticks

Those handcrafted chopsticks are made in Enju wood. In Ainu culture, it is thought that enju wood’s unique odor has the power to ward off evil spirits. It is used to make pillars of houses to prevent the spirit of sickness from coming in.

Bayu oil balm

Bayu (馬油) means horse oil. It is said that it was first brought to Japan from China 1000 years ago. It became really popular in Hokkaido to protect the skin from the harsh winters with cold and dry air. In addition, as Hokkaido has a lot of empty and vast lands, horse farms were easily implemented. Horse oil is made using horse fat. Horse meat is quite common in Japan and is often eaten raw. Horses are farmed for food and horse oil production is rather a side product. For this oil, no coloring agents, preservatives, fragrances, additives for hardening horse oil were used. Horse oil prevents dry skin and gives it a nice gloss. It can be used on the whole body (skin and hair).

Hakka Mint Candy

Kitami is a city located in the north of Hokkaido, in the Okhotsk Subprefecture. There was a time when 70% of the world share of mint was produced in Kitami. However, the increasing use of synthetic mint flavor led to a decline in this industry. Kitami Hakka Tsusho aims to perpetuate this industry and keep the Mint Kingdom of Kitami’s glorious history alive.
Mint is a herb that is grown all around the world. Its major characteristic is the cooling sensation produced by menthol, the most abundant component in the leaves. Mint candies are one of the most beloved Kitami Hakka Tsusho products.

Mint Candy

Hokkaido Miso Ramen

On the package of this ramen, you can see a bear and big balck kanjis. This bear drawing with the sentence “熊出没注意” (kuma shutsubotsu chui), “be careful of the bears” can be seen everywhere in Hokkaido. Indeed, during our trip to Hokkaido, we visited the Shiretoko peninsula, which has one of the densest populations of brown bears in the world and concentrates 80% of the brown bear population of the island of Hokkaido.
Noodles are dried for 2 days to create a nice texture and the soup has a rich miso flavor. It is the perfect soul warming meal.

Travel to Hokkaido: Hokkaido ramen

Yubari Melon Caramel

Yubari Melon is a well known melon in Japan. It is considered as a luxurious delicacy. Only melons from Yubari city that have been inspected by the Yubari City Agricultural Cooperative can receive the label of Yubari Melon. Its price can range from 20$ to 60$.
Unfortunately, we can’t send you a piece of those melons , but we found those caramels for you to enjoy.

Melon caramel

If you want to travel to Hokkaido with us, order your Hokkaido gift box now for 49$.

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Best Food to bring back from Hokkaido

Melon caramel

In this article, we will introduce you to some delicacies that we brought back from Hokkaido and that will be included in our next Peko Peko Box. If you don’t want to miss it, subscribe now to Peko Peko box.

Did you know that Hokkaido is very famous for its mint?

Kitami is a city located in the north of Hokkaido, in the Okhotsk Subprefecture. There was a time when 70% of the world share of mint was produced in Kitami. However, the increasing use of synthetic mint flavor led to a decline in Kitami’s flourishing industry, and in the 1980s the once world-renowned Kitami Mint Factory closed. But, shortly after the closure of the factory, the Kitami Hakka Tsusho company opened its doors to perpetuate this industry and keep the Mint Kingdom of Kitami’s glorious history alive. 

Mint is a herb that is grown all around the world. Its major characteristic is the cooling sensation produced by menthol, the most abundant component in the leaves. Mint candies are one of the most beloved Kitami Hakka Tsusho products. 

Mint Candy

Hokkaido ramen: Be careful of the bears

On the package of this ramen, you can see a bear and big black kanjis. The bear drawing with the sentence “熊出没注意” (kuma shutsubotsu chuui), “be careful of the bears” can be seen everywhere in Hokkaido. Indeed, during our trip to Hokkaido, we visited the Shiretoko peninsula, which has one of the densest populations of brown bears in the world and concentrates 80% of the brown bear population of the island of Hokkaido.

Noodles are dried for 2 days to create a nice texture and the soup has a rich miso flavor. It is the perfect soul warming meal.

Miso ramen

The King of Melon

Yubari Melon is a well known melon in Japan. It is considered as a luxurious delicacy. Only melons from Yubari city that have been inspected by the Yubari City Agricultural Cooperative can receive the label of Yubari Melon. Its price can range from 20$ to 60$.

Unfortunately, we can’t send you a piece of those melons , but we found those caramels for you to enjoy in our Peko Peko Box.

Hokkaido melon caramel

If you want to taste all of those delicacies and learn more about Hokkaido, don’t forget to subscribe to Peko Peko Box before August 31th to receive your Hokkaido box.

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Hokkaido Safari

Hokkaido safari: fox

This summer, we want to take you on a Hokkaido safari to discover all the beautiful animals that you might be able to see when travelling to the northern island of Japan. 

If you want to know more about Hokkaido, don’t forget to subscribe to Peko Peko Box before August 30th to receive your Hokkaido box: subscribe here.

Bears

Shiretoko peninsula is one of the most beautiful places you could visit in the north of Hokkaido. It was added in 2005 to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. From Utoro port, you can embark on a local fisherman’s boat in hope to spot brown bears in their natural habitat. Shiretoko has one of the densest populations of brown bears in the world and concentrates 80% of the brown bear population of the island of Hokkaido.

It is estimated that you have a 90% chance to see them! Unfortunately for us, the weather wasn’t great this day and we felt into the 10%, as we weren’t able to see brown bears, even after a 2 hours cruise. But our guide, Fred, provided us with those photos.

Hokkaido safari: bears

Fox

Hokkaido foxes are as famous as the brown bears. It is one of the mascots of the land. Also known as Ezo Red Foxes, they can be seens quite easily, walking around. They are usually bigger than the fox that you may see on the mainland of Honshu.

Hokkaido safari: fox

Salmon

In the Shiretoko National Park is Sakura no taki, a small waterfall where we can see cherry salmon jumping upstream during the summer months. Cherry salmon go down to the sea to grow bigger and come back up in July and August to lay their eggs. It is so impressive to watch them try to jump and go up this waterfall.

Hokkaido salmon

White tailed eagles

These beautiful raptors can be found all year long in Hokkaido. White-tailed eagles can have a wingspan of more than 2 meters and they are known as the fourth largest eagle in the world. They are quite aggressive birds and children are watched closely when being out in areas where those birds are seen. Indeed, when fishing is not going well, white tailed eagles can attack small deers, pet animals, or, more rarely, children.

Hokkaido white-tailed eagles

Red-crowned crane

They are one of the most majestic and elegant birds you could watch. Living exclusively in Hokkaido, they can be distinguished by the red spot on their heads. It is a loved bird in Japanese culture as you can see many of its representations on paintings and prints. It also became a symbol of peace after the bombing of Hiroshima.

If you want to enjoy this Hokkaido safari longer, don’t forget to subscribe to Peko Peko Box before August 30th.

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Peko Peko Box 1st Anniversary

Peko Peko Customers

We started the Peko Peko Box adventure one year ago, in August 2020! It is crazy to think about everything we have accomplished in one year and most of it is thanks to your support. Thank you!

How did Peko Peko Box started?

We are a travel agency based in Japan. For many years, we helped thousands of people enjoy the country we love. In early 2020, the Covid-19 crisis gave globetrotters a hard time. Visiting Japan became impossible! To keep the travel spirit alive and help local economies we decided to help you travel to Japan from home by creating our Peko Peko Box.

Peko Peko Box values

Care

Peko Peko box items are carefully selected by us before being packed and shipped with love.

Authenticity

Peko Peko items are 100% made and/or designed in Japan. We won’t send you mass-produced products from convience stores.

Support

Peko Peko supports small businesses and local regions all across Japan.

Experience

You don’t just receive awesome items with our box, you also come with us on a journey through Japan.  We include our meet the locals magazine and videos on our YouTube channel.

Our community

Anniversary Deals

To celebrate our 1st anniversary, we have got a special discount on the Spirit of Japan box, the first box we created, a year ago! Get it for 42$ instead of 49$ ! Offer available only during the month of August

For all purchase on the Peko Peko Shop (Spirit of Japan purchase is not included in this offer) and for all new subscription during the month of August, receive as a gift this beautiful tenugui. Tenugui is a staple to have. It is found in every japanese household. It can be used as a light towel, dishcloth, as a decoration to display on the wall or can be suspended to cover open shelves

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Immerse yourself in the Ainu culture in Hokkaido

Ainu Culture

During our stay in Hokkaido, we wanted to know more about Ainu culture. So we went to an Ainu village on the shores of Lake Akan. With 36 houses and around 120 residents, the village aims to perpetuate the traditions and culture of Ainu and to present its handicrafts. Some of these products will be included in the September 2021 Hokkaido-themed Peko Peko box. Subscribe before August 31st to get it!

Ainu Culture

Who are the Ainu?

The Ainu are the indigenous population of the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost of the Japanese archipelago. Ainu means “human”. Ainu culture is very different from Japanese culture, with its own legends, beliefs, dances and rituals, languages ​​and songs.

The Ainu used to live in close relationship with nature, usrviving by fishing, hunting and farming. Thus, they developed beliefs that gods and spirits visit our world in various forms and therefore are found all around us, in the natural world. They can be found in mountains, wind, animals or plants. The Ainu have a great respect for nature and it reflects in their crafts, songs and dances.

Dances and songs are very important in Ainu’s daily life. Whether it is joy or sadness, they express their emotions through dances and songs, which can be found at any time in all parts of society, whether for family celebrations, with friends or even at work.

Ainu people

Ainu embroidery

One of the Ainu crafts that immediately caught our attention is embroidery. Indeed, we can see very particular shapes. For example the “moreu” (the spirals) and the “aiushi”, the thorns pattern. These patterns may differ from region to region and from family to family, as they are traditionally being passed down from mother to daughter. These designs are known to ward off evil spirits.

In your Peko Peko Box, you will find a pouch with designs inspired by Ainu embroidery. Part of the profits for this item go to an association that promotes the preservation of Ainu culture.

Ainu Culture

Interview of Ayano Maeda, Representative Director of Hokkaido Potluck

Where and by whom is this pouch made?

Given their reduced numbers, Ainu people are unfortunately unable to produce enough pouches at scale. Therefore we ask a dyeing workshop in Kyoto where craftsmen print on the pattern on fabric before sewing the pouches one by one.

We heard that some of the profit made from the sales of your products goes to the Ainu people?

Ainu crafts were originally used in daily life, they weren’t for sale. Therefore, they have never been mass-produced. Even if they can be considered as works of art, the price at which they are sold is not worth the producer’s time. Currently, the number of Ainu people who have inherited Ainu know-how for crafts such as woodworking, weaving, and sewing is decreasing, and in order to preserve the traditional techniques, they need to teach their crafts to future generations. Therefore, a part of the profit made from the sales of the Ainu pouch included in the Peko Peko Box is given to the Nibutani Folk Art Association.

Subscribe to Peko Peko Box to read the full interview and get your Hokkaido box to know more about Ainu culture.

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Japanese summer

Kakigori towel

With this box, we recreate the atmosphere of a Japanese summer. Without leaving your home the clear sound of the “fuurin” bell will transport you to Mount Fuji. There, you will enjoy some cold “somen” noodles for lunch and a “yokan” with some tea for your afternoon break. Imagine yourself eating kakigori (shaved ice) and playing with paper balloons with children at a matsuri (festival), before lighting your incense, the scent of which will teleport you to Ueno Park where lotus flowers are in full bloom. Have a nice trip!

Paper Balloons

Isono Kamifusen is a traditional Japanese paper balloon maker. It has been located in Izumozaki City, in Niigata Prefecture, since 1919. Izumozaki is a coastal town that flourished as a fishing port in the Sea of ​​Japan and as a trading center with Sado Island. The founder of the company Isono developed the production of paper balloons as a winter job, when fishing was impossible. 

Paper balloons were valued as children’s toys throughout the Taisho (1912-1926) and Showa (1926-1989) eras. Toys for children have changed a lot lately, but paper balloons remain popular as simple and nostalgic toys, especially during Japanese summer when nice weather calls for outdoor play. We recommend to hang them with a string and tape from the ceiling close to a window where they can swing with the breeze.

Japanese summer paper balloon
Japanese Paper Baloon

Japanese summer Fuji Fuurin

When we think about Japanese summer, we think about Mt Fuji. Indeed, it is possible to climb Mt Fuji only during the summer season, from early July to mid September. The peak season for climbing Mt Fuji is during Obon Week in mid August. This fuurin, japanese bell, is made from ceramic of the Aichi prefecture. Nothing feels more like Japanese summer than its clear sound when it sways in the breeze.

Fuji fuurin

Kakigori Towel

The Yokohama Nassen dyeing method and printing technique were developed when the ports of Yokohama opened to foreign trade in 1859, incorporating superior woodblock printing techniques of the East and West. It was during this era that Hamamonyo was founded as a textile printing factory in 1948. Nowadays, Hamamonyo continues to produce original handkerchiefs, tenugui, towels, using the Yokohama Nassen know-how.
Japanese people often carry a small towel in their bag, which they use to dry their hands after washing them, or, in the summer, to wipe the sweat off their faces. This small towel has a kakigori pattern (the shape of which also reminds us of Mount Fuji). Kakigori is a shaved ice dessert, covered with syrup and different toppings. It is a popular and refreshing dessert during Japanese summer.

Kakigori towel

Lotus Incense

Those incense sticks can be used for two purposes: prayer and healing. In August, Obon festivities take place all over Japan: a time to honor and pray for the spirits of the ancestors. During this period, spirits are said to come back to earth to visit their relatives. Incense is used to pray for those spirits.
We have chosen a lotus scent incense as lotus flowers bloom during summer, in July and August. The best places to enjoy them are Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park, Mimurotoji Temple in Kyoto or Tozenji Temple in Nagano. Enjoy this refreshing scent of lotus flowers as part of your summer daily routine.

Lotus flower incense

Japanese summer meal: Somen noodles, cup and broth

Summer meals in Japan are often synonymous with cold noodles. Udon and soba noodles are famous but do you know somen? These noodles, thin and white, are made from wheat flour, water and salt. In summer, these noodles are eaten at room temperature, dipped in a cold broth made with soy sauce and dashi (bonito broth). It is said that the preparation of somen was revealed by the gods in Sakurai City, in Nara Prefecture, as the population was suffering from hunger.
We have also included a somen cup used for the broth. Pour the tsuyu (broth) in the cup and dip your noodles in it. This beautiful glass cup comes from the Toyo Sasaki glass company, one of Japan’s top glassware manufacturers with its founder having studied under European craftsmen back in the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Summer meals in Japan are often synonymous with cold noodles. Udon and soba noodles are famous but do you know somen? These noodles, thin and white, are made from wheat flour, water and salt. In summer, these noodles are eaten at room temperature, dipped in a cold broth made with soy sauce and dashi (bonito broth). It is said that the preparation of somen was revealed by the gods in Sakurai City, in Nara Prefecture, as the population was suffering from hunger.
We have also included a somen cup used for the broth. Pour the tsuyu (broth) in the cup and dip your noodles in it. This beautiful glass cup comes from the Toyo Sasaki glass company, one of Japan’s top glassware manufacturers with its founder having studied under European craftsmen back in the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Japanese summer meal: somen
Japanese summer meal: somen

Japanese summer sweet: Yuzu Yokan

The Toshoan shop in Kyoto has been promoting the benefits of anko, the Japanese red bean, since 1950. There, you can find products made of this ingredient, some traditional such as yokan, and others more modern, such as cheese-cakes or chocolate cakes.
Yokan are a traditional Japanese confectionery dating from the Muromachi period (1185-1573). The word yokan is written with the Chinese character for “sheep”. Back in the days, this word referred to a mutton-based soup. As Japanese monks could not eat this soup because it was meat-based, a vegetarian version based on red beans was created.
Over the years, yokan evolved into a sweet confection, which is traditionally enjoyed with tea. It is the perfect sweet for a summer break. We have included a yuzu, japanese citrus, flavored yokan.

yuzu yokan

Hojicha tea

Hojicha is surprisingly brown for a green tea. Harvested in June, it consists mostly of the stems of the tea, roasted over a high flame. Hojicha has a delicious roasted and smoky flavor. By bringing the tea to a high temperature almost all of the tea’s caffeine is extracted from the leaves. This makes Hojicha a wonderful drink throughout the day and especially suitable for the evening. During hot summer days, it is often enjoyed cooled with ice.
This Hojicha comes from Obubu tea farm, located in the Uji area, and was recommended to us by Matsumoto-san and his French wife Marie-san.

Subscribe to Peko Peko Box if you dont want to miss any new boxes. Or check out our shop.

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Kakigori: Japanese shaved ice

Kakigori Melon

Kakigori are shaved ice, covered with syrup and different toppings. It is a very popular and very refreshing dessert during Japanese summer.

What is it?

Kakigori is a particularly popular Japanese dessert during summer time. It consists of shaved ice covered with syrup. The flavor of the syrup varies, from strawberry, soda, orange, melon or lemon flavor. Stands selling this dessert can be found at every matsuri, festivals that take place all over Japan during the summer. It is a refreshing dessert enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Kakigori matsuri

Today, there are tea rooms and cafes specializing in kakigori. They are then embellished with toppings, each more delicious than the other. There are Japanese-inspired kakigori with dango (sticky rice balls), azuki (sweet red beans) or even matcha cream. Or fruity ones with seasonal fruits toppings such as melon or more exotic ones such as mango or pineapple. Finally, some kakigori are inspired by Western desserts as for example Mont Blanc kaigori, covered with chestnut cream.

Kakigori Matcha

Which kakigori would you like to try? Please let us know in the comments.

Kakigori towel

Included in ou Peko Peko Box of July 2021 is a small towel with kakigori design from Hamamo. The Yokohama Nassen dyeing method and printing technique were developed when the ports of Yokohama opened to foreign trade in 1859, incorporating superior woodblock printing techniques of the East and West. It was during this era that Hamamo was founded as a textile printing factory in 1948. Nowadays, Hamamo continues to produce original handkerchiefs, tenugui, towels, using the Yokohama Nassen know-how.

Kakigori towel

Japanese people always have a small towel in their bag, which they use to dry their hands after washing them, or, in the summer, to wipe the sweat off their faces. This small towel has a kakigori pattern (the shape of which also reminds us of Mount Fuji). 

Don’t miss our next Peko Peko Box, subscribe now

Hamamonyo
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Obon Matsuri

Obon

In August, Obon festivities take place all over Japan. It is a time to honor and pray for the spirits of one’s ancestors. During this period, spirits come back to earth to visit their relatives. 

During Obon festival, incense is used to pray for ancestors’ spirits. In the Peko Peko Box of July 2021, we have included lotus incense, so don’t forget to subscribe before June 30th, 2021.

Obon

How to celebrate Obon?

Obon is a Buddhist festival that has been celebrated in Japan for over 500 years. It is held on the 15th day of the 7th month of the solar calendar, which corresponds to mid-August of the lunar calendar. The Obon festivities take place over three days, generally from August 13th to 16th. During Obon festivities, everything stops. Many stores are closed and Japanese people usually take time off to visit their families. Trains are therefore generally crowded, as are hotels. It is not the best season to travel to Japan.

During those festivities, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the spirits of the ancestors, dances are organized to welcome the spirits (dances styles varies depending on the region of Japan), families gather and make offerings on the tombs of the ancestors. Offerings usually consists of flowers, sake, and snacks and drinks that they used to enjoy. At the end of the festivities, lanterns are put in rivers and lakes to guide the spirits back to their world.

In Kyoto, on the last day of Obon is held Gozan no Okuribi. Giant firewoods are arranged in the shape of kanji characters and set on fire, on top of the mountains around Kyoto.

Obon dance

Lotus incense

In the Peko Peko Box of July 2021, we have included lotus incense. During Obon festival, incense is used to pray for ancestors’ spirits. We have selected a lotus scent incense as lotus flowers bloom during summer, in July and August. The best places to enjoy them are Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park, Mimurotoji Temple in Kyoto or Tozenji Temple in Nagano. Enjoy this refreshing scent of lotus flowers as part of your summer daily routine. 

Subscribe now to Peko Peko Box so you don’t miss our next box!

Lotus flower incense
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Somen: Japanese summer lunch

Onimaru restaurant

Have you ever been to Japan during summer time? If so, you know that feeling of heat and humidity that sticks to your skin. Then, all you want is to settle down in a cool place and enjoy a light, cold meal. Somen noodles is the perfect meal during those hot days.

The perfect meal to try during summer in Japan

In the West, summer rhythms with salads. In Japan, summer meals are characterized by cold noodles. Udon and soba, enjoyed at room temperature and dipped in a cold broth, are the most famous ones, and not to be missed during sunny days in Japan.

Somen

But do you know somen? These noodles, very thin and white, are made from wheat flour, water and salt. In summer, the noodles are cooked in boiling water for 1 minute, then run under cold water to cool them. You eat them by dipping them in tsuyu (a broth) made with soy sauce and dashi (bonito broth)

Osaka somen
Cold somen noodles

What are the Nagashi Somen?

A fun way to eat somen in the summer is nagashi somen. But what is it?

Bamboo cut in half lengthwise are installed in the restaurant. The noodles are sent into these bamboo and flow down to you, like on a slide. You have to catch them with your chopsticks. Be careful not to miss your meal, you have to be quick to catch the noodles. The last noodles are usually in a pink color. This marks the end of the meal.

Nagashi somen can be tasted for example in the city of Kifune, north of Kyoto.

Onimaru, a small restaurant specializing in somen in the heart of Osaka

At Peko Peko, our favorite place to enjoy somen is undoubtedly the Onimaru Restaurant, located in the heart of Osaka, not far from Nakanoshima Island. Opened in early 2021, the restaurant is run by a couple from Nara Prefecture.

Onimaru Osaka
Mister Akutagawa in the kitchen

In Sakurai City, in Nara Prefecture, is Oomiwa Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Japan, with a history dating back over 1,200 years ago. As the population suffered from hunger, the gods answered their prayer by revealing the preparation of the somen. The wheat was spread over the land, harvested, grounded and the flour kneaded with thermal water to form the noodles.

Since then, somen have often been given to the imperial family as a gift as a traditional food representing Japan.

Onimaru Osaka
Ethnic pho soup inspired somen

Every week, Mr. Akutagawa thinks about a new way to prepare these delicious noodles. Of course, the traditional way, especially in summer, is to eat them cold. But Mr. Akutagawa likes to get creative and prepares ethnic pho soup inspired somen, or Italian pasta inspired somen with tomatoes and basil.

The restaurant also specializes in rice and offers recipes that showcase this very important ingredient of Japanese food culture. You can taste different onigiri (rice ball) or donburi, the most popular of which is undoubtedly roast beef donburi (rice covered with roast beef).

Onimaru Osaka

If you’re in Osaka, don’t hesitate to stop by Onimaru and in the meantime, prepare your own somen (perhaps inspired by Mr. Akutagawa’s recipes) with the noodles that you will receive in your July 2021 Peko Peko Box. Also included in the box, a beautiful glass somen bowl.

Somen glass bowl
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Yokan: have a break Japanese style

Toshoan yokan

The Toshoan shop in Kyoto has been promoting the benefits of anko, the Japanese red bean, since 1950. You can find there products based on this ingredient, some traditional such as yokan, and others more modern, such as cheese-cakes or chocolate cakes.

Toshoan yokan

Yokan, a traditional confectionery with a long history

Yokan are a traditional Japanese confectionery dating from the Muromachi period (1185-1573). The word yokan is written with the Chinese character for “sheep”. Indeed, at the time, this word referred to a mutton-based soup. When it solidified, it formed a kind of jelly, now reminiscent of the texture of the yokan. However, the Japanese monks could not eat this soup because it was meat-based and a vegetarian version based on red beans was created.

Toshoan Kyoto

It was therefore a dish served to monks, but over the years, it evolved into a sweet confection, which is traditionally enjoyed with tea.

Yokan were also very popular because they can be stored easily and for a long time. However, there are no added chemical additives for preservation. So why do they keep for so long?
The first reason is that it contains a lot of sugar. The concentration of sugar improves the preservation of food. The second is that the red bean paste is cooked at a high temperature for a long time.

Yokan may seem unhealthy because of its high sugar level, but the Toshoan store reminds us that sugar is essential to keep you active all day. So why not have a little yokan break when you’re feeling tired? Included in our July 2021 Peko Peko Box, a yuzu flavored Toshoan yokan. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.

Gluten-free red bean desserts?

Toshoan does not only offer yokan, but also desserts and cakes made without wheat flour, but with anko, red beans, to replace it. The use of anko in these desserts makes it possible to offer gluten-free and healthier sweets.

At Toshoan, you can find gluten-free chocolate cakes, matcha cakes, cheesecakes and even gluten-free pancakes. Surprisingly, the texture is not at all dry as you might expect, but very creamy.

So, on your next visit to Kyoto, why not take a break in the boutique tea room and try one of their delicious gluten-free pancakes, made with anko?

Toshoan Pancakes
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Community Spotlight: Jean-Paul, co-founder of Atelier Sensei

Atelier Sensei

In this week community spotlight, we have interviewed Jean-Paul, who has a very special bound with Japan. Indeed, Japan inspired him to create his own fashion brand for men, Atelier Sensei.

Can you briefly introduce yourself? Any social media we can visit to know more about you?

Hello everyone, my name is Jean-Paul, I am 35 years old, I am from Paris. I have two full-time jobs, Consultant Project Manager and Co-Founder of the fashion brand ATELIER SENSEI. I am passionate about art, in all its forms (cooking, music, cinema, painting, sculpture, clothing…), Japanese culture (its history, its values ​​and traditions) and travel. You can find me on my personal Instagram account @jp_loa_, where I mostly post photos related to my own passions, and on my professional Instagram account @ateliersensei, where you can find all the latest news from my clothing brand.

Atelier Sensei

Have you ever been to Japan? If yes, what was the highlight of your trip? If not, where would you like to visit?

I was in Japan in April-May 2017 with two friends. It was the best trip of my life. I have always dreamed of going to this land where respect, tradition and modernity coexist in perfect harmony. I only visited two cities on this trip (Tokyo and Kyoto) because I wanted to take the time to contemplate each neighborhood and try not to miss a thing. What struck me the most during this trip, I think, was the Asakusa district in Tokyo. We were staying in this neighborhood and every morning we passed in front of the local shops, the artisans workshops and finally the Senso-Ji temple. It is a relaxing and lively place at the same time.

What do you like the most about Japan?

Difficult to answer this question. I will say the Japanese mentality. This constant search for perfection, the respect they have for the simple things in life. They strive to perpetuate their know-how and pass it on to the next generation. That’s what really excites me about them. Japan is full of history and secrets.

Atelier Sensei

What do you like the most about our boxes?

I discovered Peko Peko Box through instagram. What I find very original and fascinating at the same time is the fact that they highlight the craftsmen with their videos on their YouTube channel Peko Peko Box. The videos are shot so that the viewer is immersed in the scene. As for the box, the products are so well wrapped that that is it almost heartbreaking to open the package. Personally, everyone time I open a box, I let myself be carried away by the emotions they give me.

Which item has been your favorite so far?

I will say the Asakusa box by its theme and the memories they gave me. The color red immediately reminded me of Senso-Ji Temple, the first temple I visited. I had been there the morning after I arrived in Japan to purify my mind. What immediately reminded me of that moment was the red uchiha. This one is now placed next to my torii that I brought back from the Fushimini inari taisha shrine.

Tell us about ATELIER SENSEI?

ATELIER SENSEI is a men’s clothing brand created in 2017 and launched in 2020 by three fashion, Japan and crafts enthusiasts: Johann, Kodjo and myself.
We aim to highlight quality, elegance, comfort, modernity and the people who work with us on the project. Our clothes are all made in Europe from fabrics exclusively from Japan. Indeed, Japan is known around the world for its textile know-how: weaving, texture, dyeing, color and patterns. You should know that Japan has been working with cotton since the 18th century and silk since the 4th century BC.
ATELIER SENSEI is also a place of sharing and support for men. We want to help men feel good and stylish in their everyday outfit. Also, we aim to pass on to them our passion for Japanese culture, its events and its history.

You can find us on:
Our online store: www.ateliersensei.com/boutique
Our Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/ateliersensei/
Our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ateliersensei
Our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTplSEGvS-L3Yea5uzUgUyw
Our LinkedIn page: https://fr.linkedin.com/company/atelier-sensei

Atelier Sensei

Can you tell us more about one or two pieces of ATELIER SENSEI?

On May 17, 2021, we released, in pre-order until June 17, 2021, our signature piece, the Kimono Hanabi 花火 shirt in Japanese indigo chambray slub, entirely handcrafted in Paris by our stylist. We wanted to bring out this traditional Japanese piece, the Kimono, by giving it a touch of modernity. Indeed, we wanted to combine the elegance of a Kimono jacket with the modernity of a sartorial shirt. Thus, it can adapt to our everyday outfits, in an elegant and relaxed way.

You can find all the information about our Kimono Hanabi shirt 花火 here: https://www.ateliersensei.com/page-d-articles/chemise-hanabi-precommande

What are the future projects for ATELIER SENSEI?

We have launched the prototyping of our “Nishihama” T-Shirts planned for this summer, made in Paris with Japanese cotton. Other pieces are also in the study phase. Watch our page https://www.ateliersensei.com/a-venir so you don’t miss out on our new products.

Atelier Sensei
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Traditional Japanese Paper Balloons

Japanese Paper Baloon

A Traditional Japanese Paper Balloons maker since 1919

How beautiful are those paper balloons? 2 will be included in our July Peko Peko Box so dont forget to subscribe!

Isono Kamifusen is a traditional Japanese paper balloon maker. It has been located in Izumozaki City, in Niigata Prefecture, since 1919. Izumozaki is a coastal town that flourished as a fishing port in the Sea of ​​Japan and as a trading center with Sado Island. The founder of the company Isono developed the production of paper balloons as a winter job, when fishing was impossible, as well as as an occupation for fishermen’s wives. Making paper fusen (balloon in Japanese) was a valuable source of income during the winter season, in which many locals participated. Until the beginning of the Showa period (1926-1989), paper balloon production increased throughout the region, but little by little, makers disappeared and Izumozaki is one of the last city where paper balloons are still produced.

Japanese Paper Balloons

A very popular toy

Paper balloons appeared during the Meiji era, around 1891, and for a time replaced rubber balloons. They were valued as children’s toys throughout the Taisho (1912-1926) and Showa (1926-1989) eras. Toys for children have changed a lot today, but paper balloons remain popular as simple and nostalgic toys, especially during Japanese summer when nice weather calls for outdoor activities. These paper balloons can also be found at matsuri, summer festivals held all over Japan. Paper fusens can also be placed as a decorative object in the house for a nice Japanese vibe. Blow into the balloon to inflate it and find out what shape it takes.

Japanese Paper Balloons

Help us choose what will be in our next box

Which one of the balloon would you like to see in our Peko Peko Box?
– Kingyo: Japanese gold fish
– Fugu: Japanese blowfish
– Tako: Japanese octopus

Give us your vote in the comments 😊

Japanese Paper Baloon
Japanese Paper Baloon
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Travel to Asakusa

For this box, we take you to Asakusa: a part of Tokyo called Shitamachi, where the atmosphere of the old city still lingers. The symbol of Asakusa is the Senso-ji temple and its huge red paper lantern at Kaminarimon gate. Around the temple grounds, craftsmen and traditional shops still thrive. Popular locations include the Nakamise shopping street, for snacks and souvenirs, and Kappabashi street, for tableware and other cooking utensils. Immerse yourself in the Tokyo of the Edo era with us!

Kanaya tooth brush

Kanaya Brush was founded in 1914, when Mr. Ouchi’s grandfather came from Kyoto to the capital, and opened his first brushes shop. The star item of the company are the toothbrushes made from horse hair. Thanks to the hair elasticity, the brush will clean the teeth while gently massaging the gum tissues. Upon entering the store, our attention was drawn to a large banner that reads: “Toothbrushes for a million people”. It was Mr. Ouchi’s grandfather’s wish: for a million people to use his toothbrushes. Today, this goal has been achieved but Mr. Ouchi set a new one: to introduce his toothbrushes not only to Japanese people, but to the whole world. And we are proud to be able to help him get closer to his dream, by introducing his toothbrushes to you.

Kanaya Brush
Kanaya Brush

Washi Manekineko 

This cat-shaped statuette called manekineko is made of washi paper. They are handmade so each is unique. The Imado shrine in Asakusa is believed to be the birthplace of the Manekineko statue. It is said that, a long time ago, an old lady had to part with her cat because she was too poor to take care of it. The next day of the separation, the cat appareaded in her dream, asking her to make cat statuettes to recomfort his soul from having been abandoned. And so the old lady did her best. The statuettes became so popular that she was able to get out of poverty with the sales. This manekineko will bring you good fortune.

Washi Manekineko
Washi Manekineko

Soy sauce dish

Kappabashi in Asakusa is a one kilometers long street lined up with shops selling tableware and cuisine ustensiles for restaurants and bars. From there, we selected a white porcelain soy sauce plate from the Mino region. It is ideal for your next sushi meal : pour the soy sauce in the place and the carved fish (sea bream) appears. In Japanese, sea bream is “tai”. The sound “tai” is found in the word “omedetai” which means celebration. As such, sea bream is seen as a good fortune animal.

Soy sauce dish
Soy sauce dish

Asakusa Paper fan

The Japanese traditional fan called uchiwa come from a shop called Takahisa that specializes in selling Hagoita: wooden paddles decorated with various traditional images and used for decoration. The manager, Mister Masanori Tsuchiya, aims to pass down the spirit and traditions of the Edo period. The Uchiwa is the best tool for kimono clad ladies who come to enjoy the famous Sumida river fireworks during summer. You can see the letters for Asakusa: 浅草.

Asakusa Paper fan
Paper fan

Post Card from Sukeroku

Mister Yoshitaka Kimura in Sukeroku shop

Founded in 1866, Sukeroku is the last remaining shop selling Japanese miniature Edo-style toys. Now run by 84 years old Yoshitaka Kimura, his family has passed-on this tradition, introducing the skills of craftsmen for 5 generations. During the Edo period, artisans developed the skills to make smaller and smaller items. The reason? The sumptuary laws issued during this time to control outward signs of wealth. This is how miniature toys gained in popularity. As each toy is completely unique and rare, we cannot include any in our box. However we included one of the postcards from the shop to convey the spirit of the Edo period.

Edo Postcards
Edo Postcards

Asakusa Cloth Bag

From Nakamise street we selected a good fortune cloth bag made in Japan. You can use it to store your pens or as a beauty case. There are different japanese masks represented on it. For example, the Otafuku, a mask representing a smiling woman, which can literally be translated as “a lot of good fortune”. Or the Hyottoko, a comical character with his mouth skewed to one side, which also brings good luck into one’s house.

Asakusa cloth bag
Cloth Bag

Kaminari Okoshi

Kamanari okoshi is the most famous snack of Asakusa. It consists of crispy rice mixed with syrup. Some also have peanuts and sesame seeds thrown into the mix. If you go to Asakusa, you cannot miss the big Kaminarimon Gate at the entrance of Sensoji temple, with its big red paper lantern. It is said that those snacks were sold for the first time in front of this gate and it is from there that the name comes from (okoshi means to come). We have included a selection of flavors so you can have fun trying to guess which one is which.

Kamanari okoshi
Kamanari okoshi

Ningyo-yako

Bairindo shop
Bairindo shop owner

From the Bairindo shop we have included 8 ningyo-yaki, one of Asakusa’s specialties and most popular sweet. Ningyo means “doll” and yaki means “baked”. Ningyo-yaki are cakes filled with a sweet red bean paste and baked in molds in the shapes of Asakusa symbols. For example, you will find in your box a cake shaped like the famous Senso-ji temple pagoda or like the big lantern of the Kaminarimon. Share this sweet red azuki beans delicacy with all your friends and have fun admiring the shapes.

Ningyo-yaki
Ningyo-yaki

Senbei

From Ichibanya store on the Nakamise shopping street, we have included a handmade rice cracker with black pepper flavor to go along with beer. In Asakusa, 5 minutes away from the Sensoji temple, is the Sumida river. From the beginning of spring and through summer, locals enjoy the nice weather on the riverbank, while having a cool drink and some snacks. It also where the famous beer company Asahi is located.

Senbei
Senbei

Asakusa Tea

Masudaen Sohonten
Masudaen Sohonten shop owner

As you alight from Asakusa metro station the first thing that strikes you is the pleasant smell of tea being roasted right on the streets. This fragrance comes from Masudaen Sohonten shop located in front of the Sumida river. Founded in 1867, the shop offers not only a variety of tea selection but also tea ceremony utensils. The staff is friendly and always ready to recommend you the best.

We selected a tasting of different powdered teas: pickled plum and kombu seaweed tea and pure matcha green tea. It will go very well with your ningyo-yaki for a well deserved break during the day.

Pickled plum and kombu seaweed tea
Pickled plum and kombu seaweed tea

Travel to Asakusa

If you want to discover Asakusa and other parts of Japan, you can either check out our gift boxes, or subscribe to Peko Peko Box to get a new box every 2 months!

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Community Spotlight: Marc

Community Spotlight Marc

For this article, we asked Marc, one of our first subscriber, to review our Peko Peko Box and to talk more about why he likes Japan so much.

Can you briefly introduce yourself? Any social media we can visit to know more about you?

Hello, my name is Marc and I am passionate about travel and history. I like to discover new cultures and to learn more about them.

Have you ever been to Japan? If yes, what was the highlight of your trip? If not, where would you like to visit?

Yes, two one-month trips in 2015 and 2017. The third trip was more or less planned for 2021 and will be postponed to 2022. I have so much to say about my trips to Japan, especially as the culture is so different with ours while still quite close on so many aspects.
An example of what I hadn’t expected: stumbling across three monks walking around the neighborhood where I was staying in Kyoto. I could hear them reciting sutras in the street and when I approached they called me out. From this meeting remains a memorable photo in which I am surrounded by two monks from Shokoku-ji. I also met a really nice Japanese couple in the countryside. I believe that meeting with locals is what makes a trip unique and memorable. I would like to visit Kyushu and Shikoku during my next trip to Japan.

Community Spotlight Marc
Senbei from the Kamakura box and little plate from the Joge box

What do you like the most about Japan?

I am a child of the 80s, I discovered Japanese culture through anime and manga. They also led me to take an interest in elements of my own culture (adaptations of European novels, European mythology, etc.) as well as to open up to Far Eastern culture. As a history enthusiast, Japan attracted me by its complexity. Japan has developed some unique characteristics through its history.

As a traveler, what a change of scenery! Like many, I am intrigued by the country’s successful past-modern mix. And if you love nature there are some great hikes to do too.

Community Spotlight Marc
Daruma and Goshuin from the Spirit of Japan box, Ox statuette from the New Year Box, Dove statuette from the Kamakura box, kimono fabric bowl from the Joge box

How did you first hear about Peko Peko?

With the pandemic, I escaped by following Instagram accounts about Japan, especially those of expatriates. And the algorithm did its job and showed me the Peko Peko account. So I waited a few months before the project came to fruition and became one of the first subscribers of the box.

What do you like the most about our boxes?

I had been looking for a Japan box to subscribe to for years. However, until then I had only found boxes on two major themes: anime / video games and snack / food.
These boxes are probably nice too but they didn’t suit me. So I waited patiently. And one day came Peko Peko Box! In these boxes, I found several things that interested me and none that displeased me!
At the beginning, I would have answered that what I appreciate the most are the more traditional items. Today, I would say that it is the connection with Japanese artisans, the fact that I can help them a little by getting the boxes.

Peko Peko Box review
Coffee cup and drip coffee from the Kamakura box. Tatami coaster from the Spirit of Japan box

Which item has been your favorite so far?

It is very difficult to answer, there is always such a nice selection in each box. If I have to choose one, I will choose the New Year box because the booklet had really improved. This is also what I like about the Peko Peko Box team, this desire to improve the concept by listening to their subscribers.

What future theme would you like us to do?

There are so many places that I would like to see in the boxes. I will choose Kanazawa because this city is twinned with mine. It is still pretty close from Tokyo while not yet a must-see tourist spot. I was able to visit it in 2017 and I think that this region (Ishikawa) and in particular this city deserves a little more visibility. Outside the cities, a box on the theme of Shintoism could allow people to discover this unique religion.

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Asakusa’s Best Shops: Kanaya Brush

Kanaya Brush

Let me introduce you to one of Asakusa’s best shops. Not far from Nakamise Dori Shopping Street and Senso-ji Temple, is a brush shop unlike any other called Kanaya Brush. They only work with natural hair from animals. This family owned business is now run by Mr. Hideo Ouchi. We met with him to learn more about this unique craft.

Asakusa's best shops
Kanaya Brush

Asakusa’s best shops: Kanaya Brush

The Kanaya Brush company was founded, in 1914, when Mr. Ouchi’s grandfather came from Kyoto to the capital, and opened a shop selling animal hair toothbrushes. Little by little, the company grew and started offering brushes of all kinds: for hair, for body, for clothes…

Unfortunately, our modern world soon saw the boom of nylon brushes, and the sales of animal hair brushes declined. But Mr. Ouchi’s family did not give up and bet on the return in fashion of products made from more natural materials. Thus, 25 years ago, their efforts finally paid off. Sales of animal hair brushes are growing again as our society is looking for more eco-friendly options. Mr. Ouchi tells us that, when you start using one of his brushes, you can no longer go back to nylon ones, the difference in quality being unforgettable.

Asakusa's best shops: Kanaya Brush
Kanaya Brush

Why use an animal hair toothbrush?

Kanaya Brush toothbrushes can be used for 3 months. While nylon toothbrushes will lose their hair, Mr. Ouchi ones will remain just as full, the hair will only shorten over time. Thanks to the hair elasticity, the brush will clean the teeth while gently massaging the gum tissues.

Depending on the hair used, brushes will be more or less hard. There is one for everyone. Harder brushes are made with pig hair. Horses hair is used for intermediate brushes, the mane hair being softer than the tail hair. Finally, the softer brushes are made from a mixture of horse and goat hair.

Asakusa's best shops: Kanaya Brush
Included in the Asakusa box: toothbrush made with horse hair

A million toothbrushes sold?

Upon entering the store, our attention is immediately drawn to a large banner that reads: “Toothbrushes for a million people”. It was Mr. Ouchi’s grandfather himself who made this banner. Indeed, his wish was for a million people to use his toothbrushes.

Today, we can say that this goal has been achieved since more than a million toothbrushes have been sold. But Mr. Ouchi keeps the banner hanging in memory of his grandfather and to remember the new goal he set for himself: to introduce his toothbrushes not only to Japan people, but to the whole world.

We are very proud to be able to help him get a little closer to his dream, by introducing to you his toothbrushes in the Peko Peko Box Asakusa!Subscribe to Peko Peko Box so you don’t miss it as well as the other items from Asakusa’s Best Shops featured in the box.

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The secrets of Asakusa lantern

Yamazaki-ya Genshichi Chōchin Store

When visiting Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, one cannot miss the Kaminarimon Gate and its huge red paper lantern. But who is behind the creation of this beautiful craft? We set off to meet Norio Yamada, who hand-draws on lanterns.

Asakusa lanterns workshop: Yamazaki-ya Genshichi Chōchin

In Asakusa, it takes two craftsmen to make a lantern. The first one makes the structure of the lantern. The second one paints on it. The Yamazaki-ya Genshichi Chōchin workshop makes Edo hand drawing lamps. It has been in operation for nearly 300 years. This particular skill of writing on lanterns has been passed down there for 8 generations. Today, it is Mr. Norio Yamada who perpetuates the tradition.

The workshop’s main customers are restaurants, bars and boutiques, who have their establishment’s name inscribed on lanterns to hang on their storefronts. But lanterns are also in Japanese culture an object attracting good fortune and luck. This is why Mr. Yamada also receives orders for gifts for children’s birthdays, weddings or festivals.

Yamazaki-ya Genshichi Chōchin Store
Yamazaki-ya Genshichi Chōchin Store

Writing on the lantern is a delicate process. The style used is called Edo Moji or the Edo Signs, referring to the historical period in which it was created. Since the lanterns are not smooth, the signs cannot be drawn in one stroke. You must first trace the outline of each letter before filling them.

It takes 40 minutes to write a name on a very small lantern and 5 to 6 hours for a larger lantern that requires an inscription on two sides or the design of a coat of arms.

When we ask Mr. Yamada why he dedicated his life to lantern painting, he explained that it came naturally to him, having bathed in this environment since his childhood.

However, this is not the case for all members of the family, since his own father decided not to indulge in it. So, after starting to learn lantern writing for a few months, he decided to switch to a more modern profession.

Mr. Yamada therefore took over after his grandfather. When we ask him who will carry on this know-how after him, he tells us that he does not know yet. Few people want to learn this tough job. However, he hopes that his son, now 6, will develop an interest in this art.

Asakusa Lantern
Kaminarimon Lantern

The secret behind the Kaminarimon Asakusa lantern

Kaminarimon and its red lantern are the symbol of the Asakusa district. When visiting Tokyo, one cannot fail to take the iconic souvenir photo. On the front of the lantern are written the characters Kaminarimon 雷 門 and on the back Furaijinmon 風雷 神 門. These symbols refer to the two statues framing the door which represent the god of wind and the god of thunder. Also inscribed on the lantern is the date it was replaced, currently April 2020. A new lantern is usually hanged once every ten years.

But have you ever noticed the little plaque on the back of the lantern? In 1960, the head of the Matsushita Electronics company fell ill and decided to go to Sensoji Temple to pray for his health back. Once he felt better, he decided to donate this lantern. Today you know Matsushita Electronics by its new name, Panasonic. But the name inscribed on the plaque remains the original one to commemorate the roots of the company.

Yamazaki-ya Genshichi Chōchin Store
Yamazaki-ya Genshichi Chōchin Store

Your own lantern with your name: is it possible?

What could be better than a lantern to decorate your home and give a room a Japanese atmosphere? And what could be better if this lantern is personalized with your first name? If you are interested in your own lantern with your name handwritten by Mr. Yamada, let us know in the comments below this article.

Yamazaki-ya Genshichi Chōchin Store

Website: here
Address: 2 Chome-9-9 Kaminarimon, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0034

Get to know more about Asakusa with our Asakusa box. You can purchase it now.

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Nakamise dori: Miniature Edo-style toys

Asakusa, miniature Edo style toys shop

On Nakamise dori, the shopping street going from the Kaminarimon gate to the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa, is a small store that you might not notice. A small shop for small toys. Indeed, the shop sells traditional miniature Edo-style toys. There, we met with Mister Yoshitaka Kimura, the owner. He introduced us to this delicate and little-known craft.

Miniature Edo-style toys shop on Nakamise dori
Mister Yoshitaka Kimura in his miniature Edo-style toys shop on Nakamise dori

The Edo period and sumptuary laws

During the Edo period, artisans developed the skills to make smaller and smaller items. The reason? The sumptuary laws issued during this time.

With the establishment of the Edo period (1615-1868), the shogunate was determined to strengthen its control and maintain peace by creating a stable society. To do so, the class system was tightened with strong social and economic rules.

At the top of society, the samurai, followed by farmers, artisans and, at the bottom of the pyramid, merchants. Nobility, shinto priests and Buddhist monks were exempt from this class system.

To maintain this hierarchy, the shogunate issued sumptuary laws. They aimed to control outward signs of wealth, by regulating how to dress or how to decorate one’s house. For example, merchants couldn’t wear clothes with gold and silver trimming. While farmers could only wear hemp and cotton clothing. Even the upper classes were constrained by certain rules. Thus, women couldn’t bring along more than one maid.

In opposition to those laws, the Edo period was full of creativity and innovation. The merchants, stucked at the bottom of the hierarchy but getting very prosperous at that time, did not fail to find ingenious ways to expose their new wealth.

For example, one can still find today houses which, from the street, appear to have only one storey, when in fact have two, but only visible once inside. These creative architectures made it possible to circumvent the laws on housing constructions. This is also why artisans developed the skills to make miniature toys. Less ostentatious than large and luxurious items, the smaller the toy, the finer the details, and the higher the price.

Miniature Edo-style toys

Sukeroku shop on Nakamisa dori, Asakusa

Founded in 1866, Sukeroku, on Nakamise dori, is the last remaining shop selling Japanese miniature Edo-style toys. Now run by 84 years old Yoshitaka Kimura, his family has passed-on this tradition, introducing the skills of craftsmen for 5 generations.

Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer craftsmen capable of such precision. And they are scattered throughout Japan. Mr. Kimura made it his mission to promote this unique know-how by continuing to showcase their work in his shop.

Our time has seen a return to fashion for ostentatious objects, on the principle “the bigger it is, the more expensive”. But for Mr. Kimura, anyone can create a big item. While only a few specialists can have the patience, the delicacy and the skills to make such precise miniatures.

If you find yourself in the Nakamise dori shopping street, do not hesitate to go visit Mr. Kimura and admire the delicate work of the artisans.

Edo style toy

Nakamise dori – Sukeroku

Website: www.asakusa-nakamise.jp/store/pop.php?sid=95
Address: 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032

Learn more about Asakusa by getting our Asakusa box

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Community Spotlight: Lucie

Community Spotlight Lucie

In this week community spotlight, Lucie talks about her travels to Japan, why she likes Japan so much and review our Peko Peko Box.

Can you briefly introduce yourself? Any social media we can visit to know more about you?

Hello, I’m Lucie from a coastal village of France. I’m a lover of music, literature and Asia. You can know more about me on Instagram @lousbooks 

Have you ever been to Japan? If yes, what was the highlight of your trip? If not, where would you like to visit?

I’ve been to Japan thrice already. My first time was back in 2009 during Christmas time and it was magical. Then, I worked for a year in Okinawa five years ago. Last time I traveled in Japan was last year right before the pandemic forced the countries to close their borders. Every time I went to Japan I visited a different part of the country. Every experience has been different and magical in their own ways. Next time, I would like to visit Hokkaido or Kumamoto, and to discover more of Japan countryside. There’s still so much I would like to visit. 

Peko Peko Box review
Coffee from from the Kamakura Box

What do you like the most about Japan?

Its culture, the way they incorporate the past in the future if I may say. They have a deep respect for everything past and it’s something I’ve been drawn to. Actually, I cannot put into words what I like the most about Japan because it’s a whole. It just feels like home to me. 

Its culture, the way they incorporate the past in the future if I may say. They have a deep respect for everything past and it’s something I’ve been drawn to. Actually, I cannot put into words what I like the most about Japan because it’s a whole. It just feels like home to me. 

How did you first hear about Peko Peko?

I like to peruse Instagram for more Japan related accounts and I stumbled upon Peko Peko during the time just before the launch of their first box back in August. I started following them and I am so happy to have found them. 

How could you review Peko Peko Box?

The care they put in every box and their contents makes it for a beautiful experience. This is something I really appreciate with these boxes.

Which item has been your favorite so far?

The card with the Kanji 夢 (yume). It has a special meaning to me. But really, I love all the items. The cup from the Kamakura box is a close second.

Peko Peko Box item
Yume card from the New Year Box

What future theme would you like us to do?

I would love to see a box about Okinawa, or one centered around the micro-seasons in Japan.

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Community Spotlight: Roxane

Roxane devant le Mont Fuji

In this Peko Peko Box Community Spotlight, you will meet Roxane. She has been writing her blog about Japan since 2017. She will tell you more about her 3 months trip to Japan in a camper van, as well as her experience with Peko Peko Box.

Can you briefly introduce yourself? Do you have any social media you want to share?

My name is Roxane and I have been the author of the blog Rokusan since 2017. I am 27 years old and I am a freelance ergonomist / UX designer. I have an Instagram @_rokusan and a Facebook page Rokusan – Japan, but I am mainly active on my blog where I regularly post new articles.

Peko Peko Kamakura Box
Peko Peko Kamakura Box

Have you ever been to Japan? If so, what was the highlight of your trip? If not, what places would you like to visit?

I have been twice to Japan, the first time as part of a road trip in a converted van for 3 months, and a second time just in Tokyo for 10 days. My first trip was very special and I had the opportunity to visit many places:  from Tokyo the Iriomote in the south, I had the chance to visit most of the south of Honshu, north of Shikoku and some islands of Okinawa. The trip was hard at times, because living in a campervan is not easy every day, but it was a wonderful experience that I will never forget and that changed me. It’s hard to say what struck me the most as I did so many incredible things … but I have excellent memories of the villages in Hiroshima prefecture, of the wild nature in Iriomote, of the tranquility on the Izu Peninsula and Kotohira-gu Shrine in Kagawa Prefecture.

What do you like about Japan and Japanese culture?

My love for Japan started through anime  like Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Sakura. I was barely 6 years old when I discovered Japanese animation, and at that time I didn’t know what Japan was. Over time, my interest for Japan grew, and I ended up loving its culture and its gastronomy, then its history and its art. Today, I would say that I am particularly interested in  Japanese folklore, including everything related to legends, yokai and deities.

Peko Peko Kamakura Box
Peko Peko Kamakura Box

How did you hear about our Peko Peko Box?

In addition to my personal blog about Japan, I am also the editorial manager of the Journal du Japon site. Last summer, we wanted to offer our readers a selection of boxes, and it was while looking for interesting boxes that I came across the Peko Peko Box. I don’t remember very well, but I think I just searched for “Box Japan” on Google. I was immediately drawn to the “local” and “human” side of the box.

What do you like the most about our Peko Peko Box?

I like the diversity of the products. I am happy to know that my purchase helps support local producers and artisans. The videos make it possible to have proximity both with the Peko Peko Box team and with its partners. I really like this side that is more human than a simple booklet. As for the products, I am never disappointed.

So far, which box has been your favorite?

I would say it’s the last one, the Kamakura box! I love everything we have received, especially the dove amulet and the coffee.

What kind of boxes would you like to see in the future?

I would very much like a box about the Tohoku region, and more particularly on Aomori prefecture! It is a region that we rarely talk about but surely has beautiful things to show us. This is one of the destinations that I would love to visit when we can travel again. I would love to go on Mount Osore and walk around Aoike Pond, among others. I like the themes by city or by prefecture because I find that it gives an additional “travel” dimension to the box.

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Community Spotlight: Margherita

Community Spotlight - Margherita

For this community spotlight, you will meet Margherita, a Japan enthousiaste from Italy. Discover in this article why she loves Japan and her experience with Peko Peko Box.

Can you briefly introduce yourself? Any social media we can visit to know more about you?

My name’s Margherita, I’m a Japan lover since I was born, now I live in Sardinia, a beautiful island in Italy. I’m a creative person who loves nature, I love painting and drawing, music and literature. On my Instagram you can find so much about Japan, from my books until my handpainted creations (often inspired right form Japan).

Have you ever been to Japan? If yes, what was the highlight of your trip? If not, where would you like to visit?

Unluckily I have not yet realized my dream to visit Japan but I hope I’ll do it soon, maybe this year would be the right one! I would like to visit Japan from North to South, exploring the main cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka but also getting lost in beautiful historical villages like Shirakawa-go!

Ox statuette from the New Year Box

What do you like the most about Japan?

Japan fascinates me for every aspect of its culture! I love art, I love food, I love the bright colors of kimono and temples, I love people’s kindness and quietness but also the busy streets and their contrast with the peacefull country side and of course the world of mythology, legends and traditional characters. 

How did you first hear about Peko Peko?

I first hear about Peko Peko from a friend who showed one of your boxes.

What do you like the most about our boxes?

I love your boxes because they allow us to do a full immersion in Japanese culture even if comfortably from our home!

Which item has been your favorite so far?

My favorite item is the Daruma from Takasaki city I found on Spirit of Japan box

Daruma from the Spirit of Japan Box

What future theme would you like us to do?

I would really love a box all focused on Ukiyo-e! ♥️

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Gyoza Recipe (Japanese dumplings)

Gyoza recipe

In the video below, you will learn with Mayuko and Aline the best gyoza recipe. Very easy to make at home, you will for sure be able to find all the ingredients in your local supermarket.

Do you know gyoza?

Gyoza are Japanese pan-fried dumplings. They originally came from China, where they were called jiaozi. Jiaozi are steamed dumplings, but Japanese started to pan-fried them. It is said that jiaozi recipe was brought back from Chine by Japanese soldiers during World War II. It soon became popular all over Japan.

The traditional filling for gyoza is made with pork, cabbage, and chives. But you can get creative by adding other ingredients like cheese, kimchi, coriander, or even make a vegan option with tofu. If you have leftover skins, you can even make dessert gyoza. Just add some banana, chocolate, or apple jam inside and deep fry them. It is delicious.

Gyoza can be found in any izawakaya around Japan. It is also a very popular side dish with ramen. Japanese used to often make them at home. But you can also now find delicious pre-made frozen versions.

How to make gyoza? The best recipe by a Japanese chef

Gyoza recipe ingredients

Filling:
Pork 300g
Cabbage 1/4
Chives
Gyoza skin x20

Seasoning:
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp oyster sauce
a pinch of white pepper
1 tbsp of grated garlic
1 tbsp of grated ginger

Sauce:
Soy sauce
Rice vinegar
Chili oil

Gyoza recipe

Book an online class with Mayuko

If you want to have a chat around Japanese food, get to know more about gyoza, and have someone guide you step by step, or even maybe make the gyoza skin yourself? You can book an online cooking class with Mayuko.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mayukoslitt…
Website: https://www.mayukoslittlekitchen.com

Mayuko runs cooking classes in Tokyo
Mayuko runs cooking classes in Tokyo
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Community Spotlight: Kelly

Spotlight

Can you briefly introduce yourself? Any social media we can visit to know more about you?

Hello friends, my name is Kelly. I am a lifelong Japanophile from the Midwest in the United States. I’ve always had a deep interest and appreciation for Japanese culture. I decided about 2 years ago that I wanted to use YouTube as a platform to share that with others. It’s my creative way of expressing my love of Japan.
The social media you can get to know me more on are Instagram @itskellykawaii and my YouTube channel Kelly Kawaii.

Spotlight - Kelly
On Kelly`s desk: daruma and notepad from Peko Peko Spirit of Japan Box

Have you ever been to Japan? If yes, what was the highlight of your trip? If not, where would you like to visit?

I have not been to Japan yet. I did, however, plan my first trip for April 2020. Unfortunately, our vacation to Japan was canceled due to the pandemic. I spent about a year planning every detail of that trip. There were many places and activities we had planned for our stay.
Some of the activities I looked forward to the most were visiting the Pokemon Centers + The Pokemon Cafe, exploring Akihabara, and really, just getting lost in Tokyo. I also looked forward to visiting Arashiyama, temples, tea houses and onsen around Kyoto. I even had a hotel booked for us right in the heart of Gion. We had planned to stay in Tokyo and Kyoto, while also visiting Osaka and Nara. It was honestly a very detailed trip.
The only silver lining I can see from this delay is that it will allow me to prepare even more for when we will get to visit. The delay will allow us to save more money for the trip and give us more time to continue learning Japanese.

Spotlight - Kelly
On Kelly`s shelves: ox statuette from Peko Peko New Year Box

What do you like the most about Japan?

It’s not one specific thing that I love about Japan, but the country as a whole. I love the uniqueness and complexity of the culture. It spans from Japan’s zen all the way to its otaku culture. I love how Japan celebrates and incorporates the past along with always innovating for the future. I also love how the people of Japan work together as a whole for the greater good. There are so many things to love about Japan, but I think that sums up my feelings in short.

How did you first hear about Peko Peko?

I feel like this is a funny answer, but honestly, I happened to come across Peko Peko while scrolling through my Instagram feed. From there I followed their journey leading up to their first box. I’m so glad I came across Peko Peko box, because it’s honestly my favorite Japanese subscription box.

Spotlight - Kelly
Peko Peko Box Spirit of Japan box tatamis coaster perfect for Kelly`s morning coffee

What do you like the most about our boxes?

My favorite part about the boxes are the stories behind the items. I love that with the combination of story and video, I feel like part of me really got to visit Japan and obtain these wonderful omiyage. It really is the next best thing to being in Japan!
The other great thing is that these boxes help support small and local businesses throughout Japan. Tourism is such a huge part of the Japanese economy, and it saddens me that a lot of these businesses rely on the income from tourism to stay afloat. I’m glad these boxes help give back

Which box has been your favorite so far?

Honestly, I have loved every box so far. They are all so unique and give me a new experience each time. But if I had to pick one, I would say their very first box “Senses of Japan“. I say this because it was the first subscription box to ever give me an experience. Everything was so authentic and I could tell this was a labor of love. That first box made me want to subscribe to Peko Peko regularly. No Japanese subscription box has made me feel that way before.

Spotlight - Kelly
Kelly hung on her wall tenugui included in the Peko Peko Spirit of Japan box

What future theme would you like to do?

I have been thinking about this even before being asked this question. I know the March box includes coffee. But, one theme I’d love to see that I’ve never seen in another box is perhaps a coffee-themed box exploring Japan’s coffee culture. Many people do not think Japan has a coffee culture, so I think this could be a fun and educational box for coffee lovers.
I think other fun themes would be a matsuri box which could cover a specific festival, or give the feel of Japan’s festivals in general. Another could be an onsen and ryokan theme.
And also, I think, would be having boxes that cover the current season. Japan really celebrates its seasons, unlike most other countries. I feel like they really go all out to celebrate Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. I think that would be an enjoyable theme to cover.

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Travel to Kamakura

Peko Peko Box - Kamakura gift box

With this box, travel to Kamakura. Located less than an hour south of Tokyo, Kamakura is a coastal city in Kanagawa Prefecture. It became the political center of Japan at the end of the 12th century and until the 14th century after the shogunate settled there to rule the archipelago. Sometimes referred to as the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura is known for its many temples and shrines, surfing beaches and chill vibes.

Watch our video about Kamakura on Youtube, meet the people of Kamakura that made this box possible: here

Hate Shirube

Hato shirube is a dove-shaped amulet from the shop Kamakura Hachiza. Inside the cute statue you will find a small paper with an inspirational quote about life. Why a dove? It is said that the deity enshrined in Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū shrine (the most important shrine in Kamakura) was guided by doves. 

Kamakura Hachiza
Kamakura Hachiza

Incense sheets

Kôdô (香 道) is a japanese classical form of art. It literally means the “way of perfume”. To give you a taste of Kôdô, we have included incense-scented paper from the Kito Tenkundo store. These do not burn! You slip them into your wallet, for example, to diffuse a delicious scent around you.

Peko Peko Box - Incense Sheets
Sandalwood scented fragrance envelops

Washi Postcard

Shatoh was established in 1969 and handles high-quality Japanese paper goods from all over the country. They partnered with mister Saito to keep his traditional printing technique alive in our rapidly modernizing world. For each batch, mister Saito gets the ink mixture ready to his liking. The postcard you hold in your hands represents the buddhist statue of Yakushinyorai from Kakuonji temple in kamakura and is a perfect example of the collaboration between an artist, carver and printer. 

Peko Peko Box - Help the locals
Mister Saito

Heart Sutra Eco Bag

During your travel to Kamakura, we recommend that you give shakyo a try. Shakyo (写 経) literally means “to copy the sutras”. By hand you write entire Buddhist scriptures. This way you can  better reflect on their meanings Hoping that it brings you peace and joy we include a tote bag illustrated with the Heart Sutra.

Peko Peko Box - Heart Sutra Eco Bag
Heart Sutra Eco Bag

Drip Coffee and Coffee Cup

Bell Time Coffee is a coffee shop located in Kita-Kamakura. Suzuki-san, the owner uses a low temperature roasting technique. Ordinary coffee beans are roasted at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, but these ones are roasted at a maximum temperature of 173 degrees for 40 minutes. Mr. Suzuki prepared 3 blends for the Pekopeko box. Belltime blend, the signature blend, uses beans from Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala. The second is Ogane Coffee, named after the famous Engakuji  temple located next to the shop. The last blend is the Pekopeko blend, a deep roasted blend.

Peko Peko Box - Bell Time Coffee
Bell Time Coffee

Enoshima Octopus Senbei

When visiting Kamakura, we recommend we make a stop at the beach and the Enoshima island. From there, you can have a gorgeous view on Mont Fuji! We hope you can somehow imagine you are enjoying the sunset on the beach while eating those octopus senbei from the famous shop Chigasakiya located on Enoshima Island.

Peko Peko Box - Octopus Senbei
Octopus flavored rice crackers

Kinako Candy Bar

Matsuya no Ame is a candy shop owned for 4 generations by the same family. With their knives, they have been playing the same tune for 150 years as they cut the candy (watch our video to see how this candy is cut, it is such a show!). What makes this candy special is the kinako powder around it. Kinako is roasted soybean flour. A popular japanese delicacy. After you eat the candy, you can sprinkle the powder left in yaourt or top a vanilla ice cream or even on a toast. Delicious!

Matsuya no Ame
Matsuya no Ame

Travel to Kamakura: Get your box!

If you want to experience all these items, you can get the box right now on our shop. To not miss any futur boxes, subscribe with our 2 months, 6 months or 1 year plan.

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Japanese cooking class with Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Stuck at home? Always wanted to learn how to cook Japanese cuisine? Well, Mayuko, a young Japanese chef from Tokyo, might have the answer for you. She offers fun online Japanese cooking class so you can feel like you too are in Tokyo! We have asked her a few questions.

Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Mayuko. I grew up in Choshi city, which has one of the biggest harvests of fresh fish in Japan. I has been strongly influenced by my mother, who was a professional cooking teacher.

Why did you start your own Japanese cooking class?

I used to work in a cosmetics company called LUSH. I was a sub manager at that time and I was hoping to become a manager. When I was working at a retail shop, a Finnish couple came in to buy some products and we chatted for a while. It was in 2011.

The next year, the same couple came to our shop again. And the year after that too! They said they came to Japan again since they fell in love with Japan. That made me very happy.

As they were staying in Japan for one month, I guided them all around Tokyo, introducing to them good restaurants and inviting them to my home for dinner. We met almost every other day. I really enjoyed telling them about Japanese culture through food.

After they left, the idea suddenly popped into my mind: Why not offer my own Japanese cooking classes? I love talking and teaching about Japanese culture through food. Besides, my Mom used to be a cooking teacher, and I love meeting new people.

So, I decided to offer my own Japanese cooking classes. My mission would be to introduce Japanese culture though authentic food to foreign visitors. To prepare, I went to cooking courses, and, in January 2015, I opened Mayuko’s Little Kitchen. Since then I have been teaching visitors to Japan from all over the world (more than 2,500 people from 35 different countries) about Japanese culture through the preparation of authentic Japanese home cuisine.

Japanese cooking class: gyozas
Delicious home-made gyozas

What kind of experience do you offer?

I started offering in-person class in my home. Then from last May I started online classes so that even if my guests cannot come to Japan, Japan can come to them even during the pandemic. Besides, I teach “cooking survival series in Japan”. It is a four classes series of cooking class, especially made for expats using local ingredients. The online class is 1.5 to 2 hours. You can learn how to make gyoza wrapper and gyoza, sushi roll, miso soup etc.

Why do you think Japanese cuisine is so special?

Since Japan was closed until the Edo period, a unique food culture was cultivated in Japan. What I especially think is special is that the food is not considered just by its flavor but “five senses”: flavor, texture, smell, presentation and the sound of cooking. Also, I love and never miss to say the words “itadakimasu (the phrase before eating)” and “gochisousama (the phrase after eating)” even when I eat solo. Those words meaning includes the appreciation for the things (nature, ingredients, chefs, carrier) which lead the food in front of us.

What is your favorite Japanese food?

Definitely raw fish! I love tuna, sardine, yellow tail…since I grew up in a city which has the biggest harvest of the fish.The city is called Choshi and it takes 2 hours from Tokyo by train to go there. I also have there a cooking class in the traditional wooden house of my grandparents’ once a month.

What is your Japanese food guilty pleasure?

It is tonkotsu ramen of Jyangara Ramen in Harajuku.The soup smell is strong, rich, powerful and high in calorie. I order the noodles as “konaotoshi (super hard)”. You will still have a full tummy even 5 hours after enjoying this dish.

Want to join Mayuko for a Japanese cooking class?

Even if your are not an experimented cook, we highly recommend joining one of Mayuko’s class. She is super fun and easy to talk to and you will for sure spend a nice time and learn a lot about Japanese culture! Her explanations are really simple and clear so you will be sure to eat a delicious meal at the end of the class. You will also for sure be able to cook it again all by yourself to impress your friends and family.

Join now Japanese cooking class on her website: Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Her instagram to follow her culinary journey : here

You can also gift a class to one of your love ones! If you are looking for other Japan lovers gift ideas, check out our gifts ideas in our article: 4 best gift ideas for someone who loves Japan.

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What is Kamakura bori?

Kamakura Bori are made by carving patterns in wood, then lacquering it with layers of color. You can admire the details of the engravings in bowls, plates, chopsticks … We will tell you more in this article about the techniques and the origin of this traditional Kamakura art.

Kamakura bori

The origins of Kamakura Bori

Busshi (sculptors of Buddhist statues) invented Kamakura bori techniques around 700-800 years ago. At that time, Buddhism had just been introduced to Japan and many temples were being built in Kamakura. As a result, artisans of the city developed this technique to produce the items necessary for the decoration of these new temples. During the Edo period, Kamakura Bori artisans diversified their craft to also produce everyday objects. In the Meiji era, anti-Buddhist movements led to a decrease in the number of artisans practicing this art. Today, a few craftsmen remain and continue to perpetuate this tradition of lacquer engraving.

Kamakura bori

The techniques: carving and lacquering

Items are made by carving into the wood and then lacquering it with layers of color. The wood used varies but we often find Ginkgo or Katsura wood. The designs (often animals, flowers, or arabesques) are first carved into the wood. Then, the lacquer process begins. It can take one month to finish one item. Indeed, it takes time for lacquer layers to dry. Kamakura Bori are very resistant. And they can be passed down from generation to generation.

Craftsmen often left the marks of the tools as-is on the design. They do so to accentuate the patterns. They also use a black powder in curves to accentuate the relief of the design. Craftsmen often collaborate to create pieces, as each of them has their specialty: engraving or lacquering.

Sansuido shop in Kamakura

Where to buy Kamakura Bori items in Kamakura?

If you want to bring back a beautiful carved lacquered item with you, we recommend the Sansuido store. It is a shop located between Komachi Dori shopping street and Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū shrine. There, Goro Koizumi, the owner, will greet you. He will introduce his shop to you with pleasure, in English!

You will find very beautiful pieces from very affordable prices like chopsticks or small plates or bowls. As well as more substantial objects as plates with more elaborate designs. You will undoubtedly find your happiness there!

If you want to discover more about Kamakura, you can purchase our Travel to Kamakura box. It will transport you to this beautiful destination through carefully selected local shop items.

Sansuido shop in Kamakura
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Kamakura Hokokuji Temple

If you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy some quiet time, why not visit Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura? Located slightly out of the way, in a residential area, this is probably one of the most beautiful places in the city.

Hokokuji and its bamboo forest

It is said that Hokokuji Temple was founded in 1334 by Tengan Eko or Uesugi Shigekane, under the patronage of Ashikaga Ietoki. It belongs to the Rinzai Buddhist sect.

Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura

The main building dates from 1920, having been rebuilt after being destroyed in a large earthquake. But, you don’t go to Hokokuji to admire its buildings. Indeed, the temple nickname is the “Bamboos Temple”, because of its magnificent bamboo groove located in its center.

Kamakura Hokokuji Temple
Bamboos forest

Many of you might know the Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto. But, we can assure you that this one is much prettier. The dancing light between the green stems soaring towards the sky creates a magical atmosphere.

To reinforce this mystical atmosphere, you may notice the caves that can be seen in the rocks overlooking the temple. It is said that this is where the ashes of the lords of the Ashikaga clan have been scattered.

Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura
Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura

Enjoy a cup of matcha

In the bamboo forest, there is a small tea house. There, you can enjoy a cup of matcha tea, hot or cold depending on the season. The tea is served with Japanese sugar confections which counterbalances the bitterness of the matcha very well.

Kamakura Hokokuji Temple
Enjoy a Matcha drink

Entrance to the temple costs 300 yen. And you will need to add another 500 yen to enjoy this cup of matcha.

While waiting to be able to visit Kamakura Hokokuji Temple…

If you cannot travel to Japan and Kamakura at the moment, we suggest you discover this magnificent city through our Kamakura Box. It contains a selection of objects and snacks that will transport you there, without leaving your home! A magazine is also included in the box. We can learn more about the contents of the box and the craftsmen who participated in it.

Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura
Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura
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What is Kôdô?

We often hear about sadô (茶道), the tea ceremony, or even kadô (華 道), the floral art. But have you ever heard of Kôdô (香 道), the third major classical art that all fine Japanese women should learn? It literally means the “way of perfume” and in this article, we will tell you more about this unknown art.

The history of Kôdô

Incense is said to have been brought back from China to Japan for the first time in the 6th century. It was used at first in Buddhist rituals. Little by little, incense became essential in the imperial court life. During the Heian period, dresses and fans were scented with incense, and poems were written about these bewitching scents. Before battles, samurai cleansed their body and mind with incense.

Kodo was created with the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1443-1490), when he asked the scholar Sanjonishi Sanetaka to classify all the incense that was used at the time. It is for this reason that Sanjonishi is considered the “father” of kodo.

How to practice Kôdô?

When practicing kodo, a plate is placed on coals and the incense or scented wood is placed on the plate. Thus, the wood is not really burnt, and gives off its fragrance in a subtle way.

Kodo, incense burner
A more modern way to do Kodo with an electric burner

In Japanese, when you practice Kôdô, you don’t use the verb to “feel” but the verb to “listen”. Thus, the participants “listen” to the incense, not only with their sense of smell but also with their hearts and minds. It is said that smelling a nice scent is like having a good meal. We feel happy and relaxed.

Kodo scents are divided into rikkoku gomi (lit. six countries and five tastes). Rikkoku correspond to the six types of scented wood: kyara, rakoku, manaka, manaban, sumatora and sasora. The gomi represents the 5 tastes: amai (sweet), nigai (bitter), karai (spicy), suppai (sour), shio karai (salty). To break down a given scent using these elements, it takes years of experience.

Practicing Kodo
You have to “listen” to the smell

As for tea ceremony, Kôdô is practiced in groups. Participants pass the incense to each other and take turns trying to guess the scent prepared by the komoto, the person who burns the incense. Participants hold the incense burner in one hand and form a dome over it with the other hand. Having to guess what composes the scent makes the ceremony look like a game.

Until you are able to practice it …

While waiting to be able to practice Kôdô, we have included in our Kamakura Peko Peko Box, sandalwood-scented sheets, with beautiful hydrangea flowers, from Tenkundo store. These do not burn, but slip into your wallet or your jacket pocket, for example, to diffuse a delicious scent around you.

Sandalwood has a deep relaxing effect and is said to be effective in alleviating symptoms such as mild headaches and insomnia. It is effective in suppressing unpleasant and frustrating feelings by calming the mind.

Tenkudo shop in Kamakura has a long history. In the Meiji era, the genius perfumer Yujiro Kito, the founder of Tenkudo, created the perfume incense “Hana no Hana” and the incense stick “Daily incense” (Meiji 42), and became the No. 1 share in Japan. Then, in 1985, the Kito Tenkudo was restored with the flag of inheriting the “samurai incense culture” in the ancient city of Kamakura.

Scented sheets
Scented sheets
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4 best gift ideas for someone who loves Japan

Your sister, brother, friend, or maybe significant other love Japan but you don’t know what to give them? This article is made for you! Here, we are going to give you the best gift ideas for someone who loves Japan!

A daruma doll

A daruma is a traditional hand-painted papier maché doll. It usually comes with blank eyes. The first eye is filled in when making a wish and the second one once the wish has come true. Why the eyes? Legend has it that Bodhidharma was prone to snoozing in the middle of this zen meditations. He then decided to cut his eyelids in order to keep his eyes open. So… yeah!

But isn’t it a beautiful gift to get your loved one so their wish come true? And it is the cutest decor for any room!

Gift from Japan
Daruma doll

Yuzu soap

In addition to having a great smell, yuzu is rich in vitamin C which makes the skin smooth and bright. Why not get this yuzu soap by Kyoto Natural Factory? Kyoto Natural Factory is a human-sized company located in the heart of Kyoto. They are very proud to deliver 100% Natural and 100% Made in Kyoto cosmetic products.The yuzu used for this beautiful soap are harvested from Taizo-in temple, a bouddhiste temple located in Myoshinji temple complex. A very spiritual soap indeed.

Gift from Japan
Yuzu soap

Genmaicha tea

In the olden days, genmaicha (or brown rice tea) was a drink for those who couldn’t afford pure tea blends. Genmaicha was also drunk by fasting monks or rationed warriors, as the mix between green tea and roasted rice made it a more filling drink. Nowadays, genmaicha has become one of the most popular teas in Japan.

Uji area (south of Kyoto) produces some of the finest tea blends of Japan. There is the small village of Wazuka-cho with over 800 years of history producing teas. At Obubu tea farm they make the perfect genmaicha tea. A perfect way to offer to your loved one a relaxing time, drinking a freshly brewed cup of tea!

best gift ideas for someone who loves Japan
Genmaicha tea

Plum Incense

Less known among foreigners than the sakura blossoms season, plum blossoms season, happening from mid February through March, is also a charming time to visit Japan. Plum blossoms are the sign that winter is ending and spring is around the corner. As such, it is seen as a symbol of perseverance and hope, as well as vitality, beauty, purity, and the transitoriness of life. Plum blossoms are loved by many Japanese, just as much as sakura blossoms.  

Plum incense translates this emotion with a subtle and sweet scent. It is perfect for a relaxing time and is one of the best gift ideas for someone who loves Japan!

best gift ideas for someone who loves Japan
Plum Incense

Where to get those gift ideas for someone who loves Japan?

Well, lucky for you, all those items (and more!) are included in the Spirit of Japan box by Peko Peko box! For $49, get the perfect gift box for someone who loves Japan.

Are included:

  • Items magazine
  • Tsujiri Matcha rolls (x3)
  • Genmaicha tea bags (x5)
  • Ogurasanso rice crackers (x1)
  • Daruma doll (9cm tall x1)
  • Japanese hand towel (89cm x 32cm / x1)
  • Organic yuzu soap (30g x1)
  • Incense plum scent (x15 sticks)
  • Goshuin calligraphy (x1)
  • Tatami coaster (x1)

Get it NOW!

best gift ideas for someone who loves Japan
Best gift for someone who loves Japan
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The year of the Ox

Akemashite Omedetou!! Since the ox is the slowest of animals in the traditional Chinese zodiac, it is said that the Year of the Ox is a year that goes by slowly. It’s an important year to get things done steadily, without rushing. It is a year to build the foundations for a bright future.

So that 2021 be full of good surprises, we have included in this box items that will bring you luck and good fortune. You can get your Year of the Ox box in our shop.

Fude Pen

Akashiya is a true institution in Nara City, with over 380 years of history. Today, of course, the company manufactures traditional brushes for sumi (ink) calligraphy. But also more modern tools such as fude pens which are a mix between calligraphy brush and pencil. A traditional custom in Japan for the New Year is kaki zome. It is the first calligraphy of the year, the first kanji that the Japanese compose after the New Year. Your challenge? Write a character and send us a photo!

Calligraphy brush pen decorated with washi paper

Monaka Miso

Monaka are thin crispy wafers made of glutinous rice. In this box you will find a miso monaka, a sea bream shaped monaka filled with a delicious dry miso. Sea bream is a symbol of luck and good fortune in Japanese culture. First of all, its color, red, is a symbol of luck and good auspices. Also, in Japanese, this fish is called tai. In Japanese, tai sound is found in the word omedetai meaning “auspicious” or “celebration”. It is also found in arigatai, a word for expressing gratitude. 

Miso soup “Monaka” (color and flavor is a surprise)

Washi Postcard

Nengajo are the New Year cards that Japanese people send to each other to celebrate the New Year. These New Year’s cards are used to show your gratitude to all the people who have supported you during the year that is ending. In this box, you will find our take on nengajo: a beautiful handmade washi postcard with calligraphy on it. The Japanese character on the card is yume and it means dream! 

This beautiful item was created only for Peko Peko Box. It is the result of a collaboration between 2 friends: Kayo, a calligraphy master who wrote one by one the characters, and Miwako, from the Kami to Wa shop, who made the washi cards.

Hand written calligraphy (dream) by master on handmade washi paper postcard

Ushi Okimono

To celebrate the year of the ox, we have included a ceramic statuette from Aichi Prefecture. The ox is numbered second among the twelve signs of the zodiac. When Buddha organized a race to choose the twelve animals, the ox, knowing that it was slow to walk, decided to start into the darkness of the previous night. The rat, clever, climbed onto the ox’s back and jumped in front of it as it crossed the finish line, becoming the first animal in the zodiac. As a result, the ox came in second.

Ceramic Cow for Year of the Ox (comes with a folding screen & a stand size 6cm tall and 8cm width)

Uragu notepad

Uragu is a tiny shop, hidden in the back streets of Miyagawacho, one of Kyoto’s geisha districts. There, you can find beautiful stationery with clean designs carefully thought out by the designer of the store.  Carp fish is one of the main Japanese symbols of luck and good fortune. In Japanese, carp is called koi. Koi also means “love”. As a result, carp fish is seen as a romantic symbol. But not only.  Being a fish that swims against the river flow, it also represents tenacity, perseverance in adversity, and the ability to achieve one’s goal.

Uragu designer notepad x1 (19cm x 7.5cm 50 sheets)

Matcha Peanuts

For New Year in Japan, every household prepares Osechi Ryori, a traditional meal including various delicious food. One of the most popular one is black beans or kuromame. Mame means beans but also hard work. Kuromame are served to wish for a hardworking year filled with accomplishment. We could not include kuromame in our box, but we tried to keep the same spirit by including those matcha flavored peanuts. This snack comes from the shop Itohkyuemon, a famous tea maker from the city of Uji, founded in 1832.

Macha flavored peanuts from Uji (70gr)

New Year Furoshiki

On this fabric is a large number of symbols related to the Japanese New Year. First, in the foreground is the Shishi, the lion-dog, a legendary animal with the ability to scare away evil spirits. In the background you can see a pine tree, a symbol of longevity, vigor and courage. In front of the house is a kadomatsu, a typical New Year decoration, made with pine branches and bamboo. Indeed, bamboos are also a symbol of longevity and strength. Kadomatsu are found in front of houses to welcome the spirit of the ancestors that will bring happiness to the family for the New Year.

New Year themed Furosiki (size 50cm x 50cm 100% Cotton)

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What is shakyo?

Are you looking for a relaxing experience to do during your stay in Japan? Do you want to reconnect with yourself? Look no further, we have the perfect activity for you: shakyo.

What is shakyo?

Shakyo (写 経) literally means “to copy the sutras”. It is thus an activity practiced to copy by hand the Buddhist scriptures.

The practice of shakyo appears in Japan in the 7th century and quickly became very popular. It was originally practiced to disseminate Buddhist scriptures and spread this religion. But, little by little, it started to be practiced out of religious beliefs to become an activity allowing anyone to find its inner peace. We now practice it to purify ourselves both physically and mentally.

Experience shakyo
Experience shakyo

How to practice shakyo?

The sutra most used in the practice of shakyo is called the “Hannya Shinkyo” or in English the Heart Sutra. It is often chosen because it is one of the simplest and shortest sutra.

If you’ve never practiced Japanese, don’t worry. You don’t need to read or understand it to enjoy this activity. You will be given a thin piece of paper under which you will place the sutra. Then, you will only have to draw the lines, following the sutra under your paper. Take advantage of this moment to relax, take your time. More than copying the scriptures nicely, it is the reflection on yourself that is the most important.

Experience shakyo
Axel practicing shakyo

After you have copied the sutra, write on your sheet a wish you want to come true, along with your name and the date. Then, you should go lay your work in front of the Buddha altar.

Where to practice in Kamakura?

If you are in Kamakura, you can experience shakyo at Hokaiji Temple. Built in 1335, this beautiful little temple belongs to the Tendai Buddist sect. It is not far from the famous Hachimangu Shrine and the shopping street, making it a very convenient stopover. So you should definitely add it to the places to visit in Kamakura. There, you can ask to practice shakyo.

Inside Hokaiji Temple

To assist you in your daily life, hoping that it brings you peace and joy, we have included in our Kamakura Box a tote bag illustrated with a sutra.

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Japan coffee culture

Coffee was introduced in Japan by the Dutch in the 16th century. However, it didn’t get popular among the Japanese population until the beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays, you can find many coffee shops from big chains such as Starbucks, which opened its first store in 1996 in Ginza, but also a lot of small independent coffee shops competing with creativity.

Coffee Beans at Bell Time Coffee in Kamakura

Where to drink your coffee in Japan?

The first place where you could have a coffee break is a combini (convenience store) such as Seven Eleven or Family Mart. These establishments sell coffee in bottles or cans and also have coffee machines for a fresh drink at only 100 yen. A great option if you are short on time.

You will also find during your time in Japan many coffee shops chains. We, of course, no longer need to introduce Starbucks, the American giant. But did you know that Japan also has its own coffee chains? You can for example have a try at Doutor Coffee, the first Japanese coffee company to open on the archipelago, in Harajuku in 1980.

Bell Time coffee
Coffee at Bell Time Coffee in Kamakura

Finally, you will find in Japan many small independent coffee shops, some of which roast and grind themselves their coffee beans. The way to prepare coffee is quite different from Western countries. Some coffee shops use espresso machines of course, but the most popular way to brew coffee in Japan is drip coffee. The freshly ground coffee is placed in a filter over a cup, into which simmering water is slowly poured. Rarer and rarer now, siphon coffee was also quite popular. This method consists of heating a lower vessel in which there is water. The water will go up to an upper vessel where the coffee is. Once brewed, the coffee will drop back down into the lower vessel.

At home, coffee is also gradually winning over tea, especially at breakfast. Nowadays, before going to work or to school, Japanese people will have coffee with toast, which now often replaces the traditional bowl of rice and miso soup.

Bell Time Coffee
Grounding the beans at Bell Time Coffee in Kamakura


Bell Time Coffee in Kamakura

Bell Time Coffee is a coffee shop located in Kita-Kamakura. It was at first a sake shop, but with the increasing numbers of tourists in the city, the owners decided to convert themselves into a coffee shop and make it a place for visitors to have a break between two visits. Passionate, Suzuki-san, the owner, roasts his coffee beans himself, while his mum greets customers, ground coffee beans to order, and skillfully brews delicious drip coffees.

Ordinary coffee beans are roasted at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, but Bell time roasts at a maximum temperature of 173 degrees for 40 minutes. With a low-temperature approach, you don’t have to worry about burning the beans, so you can spend more time roasting them to bring out the flavor of your coffee beans. Also, because the temperature is low, you will be amazed at the range of flavors that cannot be felt by high-temperature roasting.

Mr. Suzuki prepared 3 kinds of blends for Pekopeko box. Belltime blend, the signature blend, uses beans from Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala. The second is Ogane Coffee, named after the famous Engakuji Ogane (a big temple bell), which is right next to the Belltime coffee shop. The last blend is Pekopeko blend, a deep roasted blend.

Bell Time coffee owners
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What is omikuji?

Omikuji

If you don’t know yet what an omikuji is, this is definitely something to add to your list of things to do while traveling in Japan. It’s a fun and traditional Japanese experience. Keep reading if you want to know more!

Draw an Omikuji Fortune Slip

They are found in all shrines and temples in Japan. They are Japanese fortune-telling paper strips that detail what awaits you in matters of work, love, fortune, health, study, travel, motherhood. You can of course experience it throughout the year, but Japanese people traditionally go to the temple or shrine at the beginning of the year to draw their omikuji.

The fees vary between 100 or 200 yen. To draw yours, there are usually boxes, which you shake to bring out a stick on which a number is written. Your omikuji corresponds to this number. A little more on the modern side, there are also vending machines that are selling those fortune telling papers.

The fortune granted is divided into several ranks: high luck, general luck, medium luck, low luck, and bad luck. It is customary to take your omikuji home if it is of great luck or general luck. If your luck is not up to par, you can tie the fortune-telling paper in designated spots to thwart bad luck by leaving it behind.

Ushi Tenjin, Tokyo
On the right, you can tie your omikuji, Ushi Tenjin, Tokyo

Omikuji are often written in Japanese, but in some temples and shrines, they can be found in English too.

The cutest souvenir

Omikuji can also be found in small ceramic statuettes. The paper is hidden inside and you can retrieve it by pulling on a red string. You can then keep the small statuette which makes a nice souvenir.

For the Kamakura themed Peko Peko Box, we have selected this magnificent dove-shaped omikuji. Why a dove? It is said that the deity enshrined in Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū shrine was guided by doves.

Omikuji shaped like a dove from Kamakura
Omikuji shaped like a dove from Kamakura

They are also very special in that they do not contain good or bad fortunes but rather life teachings. And they are in Japanese and English!

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Best things to do in Kamakura

For our March Peko Peko Box, we are taking you to discover Kamakura. Located less than an hour south of Tokyo, Kamakura is a coastal city in Kanagawa Prefecture. It became the political center of Japan at the end of the 12th century and until the 14th century after the shogunate settled there to rule the archipelago. Sometimes referred to as the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura is known for its many temples and shrines.

Best thing to do: Enjoy Mt Fuji view from the beach

Kamakura’s sandy beaches draw crowds during the summer months, with many Tokyoites coming to spend their weekends there. In winter, when the horizon is clear, you can enjoy a magnificent view of Mount Fuji from the beach.

Mont Fuji at sunset
Mont Fuji at sunset from the Kamakura beach

To access the beaches, we recommend that you take the charming, scenic Enoden train from Kamakura Station to Enoshima Station.

Enoden train
Enoden train at Kamakura Koko Mae station

Best temple to visit: The great Buddha of Kamakura

One of Kamakura’s must-sees is its bronze statue of Buddha Amida, which stands at Kotokuin temple. Built in 1252, it is 11.5 meters high and weighs over 120 tons. It is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, surpassed only by the Todaiji temple statue in Nara.

The statue was originally located inside a large hall. However, after it was destroyed, the monks decided to leave the statue in the open air.

The great Buddha of Kamakura
The great Buddha

Best shrine to visit: Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

In the center of the city, from Kamakura Station, you can follow the dankazura, a 450-meter-long pedestrian path lined with 177 sakura, and leading to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Shrine.

Founded by Minamoto Yoriyoshi in 1063, it is the most important shrine in Kamakura.

It was enlarged and moved to its present site in 1180 by its descendant, Minamoto Yoritomo, founder and first shogun of the Kamakura government.

Best shrine to visit in Kamakura: Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū
Entrance to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the protective god of the Minamoto family and of the samurai in general. Indeed, Hachiman was considered the protective kami of the warrior class.

It is said that Hachiman was guided to the shrine by doves. This is why you will find many representations of this bird. As for example: on the plaque at the top of the main building, the “hachi” character is drawn with representations of doves.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū
Hachi character is drawn with representations of doves

Best place to relax: Hokoku-ji temple and its bamboo forest

One magnificent temple that should not be missed while visiting Kamakura is Hokoku-ji. Slightly out of the way, it stands in the middle of a residential area. It is often called the bamboo temple. Indeed, its main attraction is the magnificent bamboo forest hidden behind its walls. No less than 2000 bamboos stand there. A magical place.

Best place to relax in Kamakura: the bamboo temple
Best place to relax in Kamakura: the bamboo temple

In the center of the forest, a tea house where you can enjoy a matcha drink and some sweets for 500 yen, while admiring the light playing hide and seek between the bamboos. A great place to relax for a few minutes.

Matcha tea at Hokoku-ji
Matcha tea at Hokoku-ji

Want to know more about Kamakura?

To find out more about Kamakura, subscribe to Peko Peko Box.

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Kumade Market: Celebrate the New Year in Tokyo

Kumade

The kumade market is a Japanese New Year tradition taking place during the month of November. Kumade are beautiful Japanese handicrafts. They are mostly found hanging in shops and businesses. But these are not just decorative items. In this article, you will get to know more about kumade.

What is a Kumade?

A kumade is a bamboo rake. But then, what has it to do with the New Year? Well, kumade is said to “rake good fortune” for the coming year. To do so, kumade are decorated with many symbols to attract prosperity, happiness, and luck to their owner. It is mainly business owners that buy kumade before the end of the New Year, to make their business successful for the coming year. The size and price of kumade varies, the smallest cost 2000 or 3000 yen (19 to 28 dollars), and the larger ones 50,000 yen (480 dollars) or more and can weigh up to 150kg.

Kumade Market
Kumade Market

The meaning behind Kumade

You will find many lucky symbols on the kumade. For example, koban coins, the currency used during the Edo period, or rice barrels, symbols of abundant harvests and therefore prosperity. There are also often small statuettes of turtles or cranes. It is in fact said in Japanese culture that these two animals live 10,000 and 1,000 years respectively. They are therefore a symbol of good omen and longevity. Two other animals are also often represented. First, sea bream. Pronounced “tai” in Japanese, the sound of its name resonates with the word “omodetai” meaning “to celebrate”. Finally, the owl, pronounced in Japanese “fukuro”. And “fuku” in Japanese means “happiness”.

At the end of the year, people bring back to the shrine their old kumade. Old kumade are burned. Large boxes are thus installed in front of the kumade market to collect them. Being a talisman, it is indeed a bad omen to simply throw your old kumade in the trash. Each New Year, therefore, you have to buy a new kumade, preferably bigger than the one you had the previous year because it is a sign that your business is prospering. On the contrary, if the acquired kumade is smaller, it is not a good omen.

Kumade Market
Kumade Market

Kumade Market: Ootori Shrine in Asakusa

Several kumade markets take place in Tokyo during the month of November. We went to Ootori Shrine in the Asakusa district as it is where this tradition started. Two or 3 markets take place during the month. The first one is called Tori no Ichi. It takes place on the first rooster day of November, according to the lunar calendar. The second market, Ni no Tori, takes place on the second rooster day of the month, 11 days later. Depending on the year, there may be a third market (called San no Tori). The market is open all day, 24 hours non-stop. During each market, more than 100 stalls line up. Each stand tries to be the most creative one by selling the most nicely decorated kumade. All around the shrine, there are also food stalls, in the spirit of the Japanese matsuri.

A special ritual follows the biggest sales. To signify that the deal is closed, the seller and the buyer clap their hands several times following the rhythm of 3,3,3 and 1. This ritual is tejime.

If you are in Tokyo during the month of November, the kumade market is definitely somewhere to go. And why not buy a little one to bring back home?

Kumade Market
Kumade Market
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Nara Crafts: Calligraphy Brushes

Nara Crafts

If you are interested in Japanese traditional crafts, why not check out Nara calligraphy brushes? Kukai is a famous monk who introduced Buddhism to Nara from China in the 9th century. He also brought back with him the techniques of making calligraphy brushes. Nara brushes are known for their flexibility. Using them, anyone can draw beautiful characters like no other. These brushes are made from a mix of up to ten different types of animal hair.

Nara Crafts: Calligraphy Brushes

The history of brushes in Nara dates back to around 1,200 years ago. Kobo Daishi – also known as Kukai – returned from China, after studying the teachings of Buddhism, and founded the Shingo sect of Japanese Buddhism. The monk brought back with him Chinese brush-making techniques. The production of brushes spread throughout the country. However, it was not until school education became compulsory, during the Meiji period (1868-1912), that Japanese people began to use writing brushes on a daily basis.

Nara Crafts: calligraphy brushes
Nara calligraphy brushes

The raw material is very important for Nara brushes. Craftsmen use only animal hair. They select the hair for its hardness, softness, elasticity, and flexibility. They also choose hair that can absorb a large amount of ink. Brushes hair come from animals such as sheep, goat, horse, deer, tanuki, weasel, rabbit, or even squirrel.

The manufacturing process involves a traditional technique unique to Nara’s brushes, called nerimaze-ho, or the blending method. Craftsmen dip the hair in water to harden it and decide which hair should be used and in what quantity. They can then obtain the perfect mix that will correspond to the desired characteristics (hard or soft brush for example).

Nara Crafts: mixing the hair to make the brush

This time-consuming method, craftsmen can only make a few brushes per day, however, allows producing some of the most famous brushes in Japan. Thus, for centuries, writers and calligraphy masters have come to choose their brushes in the city of Nara. Each line drawn with one of these brushes gives a unique feeling, both to the person drawing it and to the one who admires it.

Nara Crafts: mixing the hair to make the brush
Nara Crafts: mixing the hair to make the brush

Akashiya, a brushes manufacturer well established

Akashiya, in the city of Nara, is an institution with more than 380 years of history. The company opened in the middle of the Edo period. It produces approximately 2 million brushes per year. It aims to transmit the tradition and elegance of Japanese calligraphy to the world.

Akashiya brushes
Akashiya brushes

Today, the company manufactures of course traditional brushes for sumi (ink) calligraphy. But also more modern tools such as fude pen which are a mix between brush and pen. In Peko Peko’s New Year’s box you will find a fude pen, wrapped in a beautiful origami paper with traditional patterns. Perfect for practicing calligraphy without needing all the materials.

A traditional custom in Japan for the New Year is kaki zome. This is the first calligraphy of the year, the first kanji that the Japanese compose after the New Year. Our challenge? Write a character (eg yume as on your washi card included in the box) and send us a photo!

calligraphy brush
Calligraphy brush pen decorated with washi paper
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Nengajo: a Guide to Japanese New Year Cards

Japanese Calligraphy

Nengajo: Japanese New Year Cards

Nengajo are the New Year cards that Japanese people send to each other to celebrate the New Year. In Western countries, it may seem a bit old-fashioned, but in Japan, it is still a beloved tradition, and the Post Office often gets overwhelmed at the end and beginning of the year. Japanese people send nengajo to their loved ones, but also to their business partners. These New Year’s cards are used to show your gratitude to all the people who have supported you during the year that is ending.

We will be able to find nengajo in stores from November. There are many designs. But the most common ones represent the zodiac sign of the coming year. For the year 2021 therefore, the ox. Some cards have a number written on them. It is a national lottery number. The winner is announced in mid-January. A great way to start the year.

Design your own Nengajo

You can also, of course, create your own nengajo design. For example, why not recreate these beautiful Japanese kanji? You will find this handmade washi postcard in the Peko Peko New Year box, with a brush pen. Perfect to practice Japanese calligraphy.

Nengajo: Japanese New Year Cards
Hand written calligraphy (dream) by master on handmade washi paper postcard

This Japanese character is yume, it means dream! What better way to start the New Year than wish for our loved ones to fulfill their dreams?

When getting the box, you will also access a tutorial video on how to write this yume character.

The story behind the creation of this beautiful washi postcard

This beautiful item was created only for Peko Peko Box. It is the result of a collaboration of two friends. The first one, Kayo, is a master of calligraphy. She offers calligraphy workshops in English for foreign visitors. The workshops are held in her husband’s restaurant, recommended in the Michelin guide. Included in the package, after learning about the art of calligraphy, you can enjoy a delicious traditional Japanese lunch.

Kayo-san, holding her Nengajo
Kayo-san, calligraphy master

Kayo chose this character, yume, in the hope that all Peko Peko’s clients will have their dream come true in 2021. Her dream is that visitors will soon come back to Japan so that she can continue teaching calligraphy, her passion.

One by one, Kayo wrote the character on washi paper postcards. These were also handcrafted, by Miwako, from the Kami to Wa shop, located just across from Kayo’s restaurant.

Kami to wa
Miwako-san from Kami to wa, with handmade washi paper

Kami to Wa is a boutique specializing in washi paper. The shop is filled with gorgeous items, all made using Japanese paper: notebook, notepad, bags, lamps… Miwako also organizes a really fun Japanese experience. She offers to visitors the possibility to make their own washi postcard. It was after remembering how popular this activity was among foreigners that she suggested that we create these washi cards for our Peko Peko Box.

We thank them for their work which made the creation of this gorgeous item possible!

Japanese Calligraphy Master
Japanese Calligraphy Master
Washi paper making
Making the washi post cards
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Celebrate Japanese New year: 2021, the Year of the Ox!

That you believe in it or not, it’s always fun to look into the New Year’s zodiac sign. And for this Japanese New year, the ox is in the spotlight. So, what to expect for 2021? We will try to decrypt all of this with you in this article.

The second of the zodiac signs

The ox is numbered second among the twelve signs of the zodiac. When Buddha organized a race to choose the twelve animals, the ox, knowing that it was slow to walk, decided to start into the darkness of the previous night. The rat, clever,  climbed onto the ox’s back and jumped in front of it as it crossed the finish line, becoming the first animal in the zodiac. As a result, the beef came in second.

Japanese New year: 2021, the Year of the Ox!
Ushi Tenjin shrine in Tokyo

A messenger of the gods?

Since ancient times, beef has been an essential animal in people’s lives, not only as food but also as a labor force for agriculture. As a diligent and hard-working figure, the ox is a symbol of honesty. He is thus seen as an auspicious animal, a messenger from God with the task to connect people. This is why ox statues are often found in Tenmangu shrines across the country. Tenmangu Shrines are dedicated to Michizane Sugawara, the god of learning. The ox, quiet and working in silence, echoes his teachings.

Ushi-Tenjin Kitano Shrine
Ushi-Tenjin Kitano Shrine

The personality traits of people born under the sign of the ox

People born under the sign of the Ox are hard workers, moving slowly but surely towards their goal and always finishing what they started. Serious, they take care of their family and friends and are always there to help those around them. They are often seen as the big brother (sister) figure. They can be quite stubborn, however, and it is best not to get in their way when they get angry.

What to expect for this 2021 Japanese New year?

Since the ox is the slowest of animals, it is said that the Year of the Ox is a year that goes by slowly. It’s an important year to get things done slowly but steadily, without rushing.

Since this is the second zodiac of the twelve, it is a year to build steady foundations for the future. Do not look for concrete results during the Year of the Ox, they will come later. The Year of the Ox is a year to work hard to start the path to future success.

For this Japanese New Year of 2021, Peko Peko will continue to make you travel to Japan, through our boxes. Hoping that the souvenirs we select and the videos we produce to keep you entertained for a long time to come.

Japanese New year: 2021, the Year of the Ox!
Japanese New year: 2021, the Year of the Ox
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Japanese Symbols of Luck and Good Fortune

Japanese Symbols of Luck and Good Fortune

1/ Japanese carp fish, symbol of tenacity and good fortune

Carp fish is one of the main Japanese symbols of luck and good fortune that immediately comes to mind when thinking about the archipelago. But do you really know what it means? In Japanese, carp is called koi. As many Japanese words can have the same pronunciation, koi also means “love”. As a result, carp fish is seen as a romantic symbol. But not only.  Being a fish that swims against the river flow, it also represents tenacity, perseverance in adversity, and the ability to achieve one’s goal.

Thereby, carp swimming down with the current would be a symbol of bad luck. A sign of failure in front of the fish that gave up and turned away from its goal of moving up the river. A carp never gives up !!

Thus, a Buddhist legend says that a carp, persevering for a hundred years, would have succeeded in going up against the current of the Yellow River and the waterfall leading to the “Dragon Gate”. Impressed by her courage and tenacity, the gods turned her into a dragon.

The colors of a carp are also full of meanings. A red and white carp represents success. A white and black or totally black carp represents change in one’s daily life. Finally, the silver color represents wealth.

Uragu designer will explain everything about the carp drawings

To celebrate the New Year, we have included in your New Year box a notepad with a magnificent carp design. This notepad comes from the Uragu boutique, in the Miyagawa-cho geisha district, in the heart of Kyoto. With your box, you will access the interview of the designer behind the creation of this notepad.

Uragu notepad: Carp fish is one of the main Japanese symbols of luck and good fortune

2/ Japanese symbols of luck and good auspices: sea breams

Japanese symbols of luck and good auspices: sea breams
Miso soup monaka in the shape of sea breams or tai

Sea bream is one of the Japanese symbols of luck and good fortune for many reasons. First of all, its color, red, is a symbol of luck and good auspices. For example, you may notice that the dominant color for the new year is often red.

Just like carp, the pronunciation of the word sea bream in Japanese has many meanings. This fish is called tai. In Japanese, tai sound is found in the word omedetai meaning “auspicious”. It is also found in arigatai, a word for expressing gratitude. It is thus not uncommon to see sumo or politicians portrayed holding a sea bream after a victory.

Japanese symbols of luck and good auspices: sea breams
Inside the monaka is the dry miso soup

Tai fish is often served at weddings, birthdays, or other ceremonies as a sign of good fortune. That’s why in your Peko Peko box for the New Year you will find a monaka (thin crisp wafers) of miso soup shaped like a sea bream. With your box, you will access a video presenting 2 recipes to prepare a full meal around this delicious miso soup.

Mayuko's little kitchen
Mayuko from Mayuko’s little kitchen will introduce to you 2 Japanese recipes
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Travel to Joge

For this box, we are taking you to the town of Joge. Nested in the heart of the Chugoku region of Japan, halfway on the hilly road between Matsue and Hiroshima, Joge is a quaint town with a glorious past that deserves to be better known. During the feudal period, Joge benefited from its central location on the silver road that connected the Iwami Ginzan mine to Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. The town thrived when given the right to collect tax from silver commerce on behalf of the Bakufu – the central government of the time.

Time has passed since the last samurai surrendered and the prominence of Joge faded away with them. Nevertheless, when traveling through the elegant white walls of the town center we could see the remnants of the heydays. We could feel the town’s inhabitants’ strong pride in their cultural heritage.

What will you found in our Travel to Joge box?

Chestnuts manju

We started our day in Joge early in the morning by visiting Ms Miyoko who makes the Tsuchinoko manju at Fugetsudo. We wanted to catch the making process of the local delicacy. Fugetsudo added a western twist to the traditional manju recipe. A buttery baked pie crust replaces the usual rice bun and a white bean paste surrounding a chestnut fills the bun where you’d usually find sweet Azuki red beans. We highly recommend a cup of dark roasted tea to pair with the manju.

Japan Subscription box
Tsuchinoko manju at Fugetsudo

Kimono fabric basket

Sayaka and her mother run the local Kimono shop. They give a new life to colorful pieces of kimonos fabric to craft useful objects. One of those items is a bamboo basket. You can use it for storing keys or other precious items. It takes them 30 minutes to make one piece.

Japan Subscription box
Sayaka’s kimono basket

Yoshu cake

Ask anyone what you should try when you come to Joge and they’ll surely tell you in unison the Yoshu cake. We had to include it in this Japan Subscription box about Joge. So we visited the cake factory: Kunihiroya. They got inspired by a French baked confectionery called “Savarin” using as a base one of Japan’s most famous sweets called castella: a soft sponge cake with a nice brown crust on top and at the bottom. They then soak it in syrup made from a secret recipe including brandy and rum.

Yoshu cake
Yoshu cake from Kunihiroya

Antique plates

Walking down the main street of Joge town made us feel like we were traveling back in time. When we reached the town center we found an establishment that perfectly encapsulates this mood: an antique shop called Joge Garo (上下画廊). There, Ms Shigemori greeted us. She is a charming lady born and raised in Shinjuku (Tokyo). But she decided to move to Joge after she married a local. She proudly showed us her collection of dolls coming from the entire country and the antiques she sells. From her shop, we chose items from two piles of antiques. First, we got small plates called “Torizara” in Japanese which are used for side dishes. We then settled on the cute “Ochoko” cups used to enjoy japanese sake.

Japanese antiques
Antique plates

Nioi Bukuro

We heard that, within 20 minutes drive from Joge, there is a shop that offers experiences where we can make our own Nioi Bukuro: scented bag. We got intrigued and made our way to Mr Takahashi’s Butsudan shop in Fuchu city. A butsudan is a wooden cabinet. It is often found in Japanese homes. Families use butsudan to pay respects to the Buddha, as well as to their ancestors. Butsudan are often made of fragrant cedar that last for a long time but locals add a Nioi Bukuro when the natural scent fades away. Mr Takahashi is a soft-spoken gentleman. He took his time to explain the intricacies of his trade and offered us to create our very own sachets. We got to learn about the different spices that go in the bags and their properties. You’ll be enjoying our own blend of sweet aroma.

Japan Subscription box
Nioibukuro

Ofuda lucky charm

Mr Sato is the Bingo Yano station master, just two stops away from Joge main station. There are only 12 regular trains a day passing through which gives Mr Sato plenty of time to try new ventures. With his wife they opened a tiny restaurant within the station building itself which quickly grew in popularity. We sat and ordered each a dish of udon noodles for lunch while Mr Sato offered us his Ofuda: a little lucky charm that you can hang on your keys, your bag or simply hang as a decoration.

Japan Subscription box
Ofuda, lucky charm

Good fortune senbei

Senbei are Japanese crackers that come either sweet or savory. You can enjoy senbei with a cup of tea, coffee or even a beer. The ones included in the box are savory and garnished with roasted soy beans. Mr Stato, station master at Bingo Yano, recommended them to us. He specifically asked a senbei manufacturer in the region to create these senbei for him to sell in his station.

Bingo Yano station
Mr Stato, station master at Bingo Yano with ofuda and senbei

Daruma bookmark

In this Japan Subscription box about Joge you will find a daruma bookmark. Darumas are a symbol of luck and perseverance. Two things we all need. Unfortunately, we were unable to film a documentary about its maker, but it seemed interesting to include the object as the technique used seemed to us very novel and modern compared to what we had seen so far in Joge. This small company specializes in laser engraving on wood. The desired design is sent into a computer software which then sends the instructions to the laser machine which will come and cut the wood. In addition, the wood used is the famous Hinoki, the Japanese cypress.

Japan Subscription box
Daruma wooden bookmark

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Must-try sweet in Hiroshima prefecture: Joge Yoshu cake

Yoshu cake factory

Located in Hiroshima prefecture, Joge is a nice historical village that has seen the birth of an innovative cake: Kunihiroya’s yoshu cake. Definitely a must-try sweet during your stay in Hiroshima area.

Yoshu 洋酒 is composed of 2 kanjis. Yo 洋 meaning western and shu 酒 meaning alcohol. Yoshu cake (洋酒ケーキ) is then a “western liquor cake”.

The history of the factory

Kunihiroya’s Western liquor cake takes roots back to 1958. Its founder is Toshiyuki Sone. His inspiration comes from the French baked confectionery “Savarin”. Savarin is a cake, soaked in a rum syrup. 

Hiroshima prefecture must-try sweet
Maehara-san head of Kunihiroya

He made the recipe his own by improving it to meet with the rural people’s taste. He used as a base a castella recipe. Castella is a western-inspired Japanese confectionery. Its name comes from Portuguese Pao de Castella, meaning the bread from Castille. It is a soft sponge cake with a nice brown crust on top and at the bottom. Yoshu cake consists of castella cut in slices and soaked in a brandy and rum liquor syrup.

For local people, it was quite an unusual and modern taste at that time, when western confectioneries were not as common. But the delicacy soon became a hit and is still loved by Joge people.

Kunihiroya’s Yoshu cake now

This must-try sweet of Hiroshima prefecture almost disappeared from the map, when his creator, Sone-san, decided to retire. It was without counting on Maehara Koichi, who was running a grocery store next door.

“I felt like it would have been a shame if such a delicious cake, loved by all around here, would have ceased to exist”

Maehara Koichi

In 2005, he heard the business was on the edge to close. He decided to take over. “I felt like it would have been a shame if such a delicious cake, loved by all around here, would have ceased to exist”.

Must-try sweet in Hiroshima prefecture: Joge Yoshu cake
Peko Peko team and Maehara-san from the Yoshu cake factory

Maehara-san had no experience in cake making. But, he was keen to learn. So before retiring, Sone-san taught him everything he needed to know to continue on making the delicious liquor cake while keeping the same taste.

Where to get this must-try Hiroshima prefecture sweet?

The best place to get it is, of course, directly at the factory, in Joge town. You can also get it at Joge station or Hiroshima station. And if you cannot wait to be in Japan to try it, get in now in our Travel to Joge box.

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What is Kagura?

Kagura masks

During our stay in Joge, we had the chance to assist to a Kagura performance. But what is Kagura?

Kagura (神楽) literally means the entertainment for the gods. It is told in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, the old chronicles relating the origins of Japan, that Amaterasu, the sun goddess, had hidden in a cave after a fight with her brother. In consequence, the world, deprived of its light, became dark. So the other gods decided to perform in front of the cave to get her attention and make her come back to the outside world. This story explains the meaning behind Kagura dance and its origin.

The particularity of Joge’s Kagura

The climax of the representation was when 2 snakes appeared on the stage. The snake’s bodies are 18m long and take inspiration from traditional lanterns. Each snake is controlled by only one man, which makes it quite impressive. Indeed, physical strength is necessary to control the snake body for about 30 minutes.

Okinaza : the old wooden theater

The kagura performance was held in the Okinawa. Erected in 1925, during the Taisho area, the Okinaza is a traditional playhouse where theater performances were taken place. There are very few of those original buildings remaining in Japan. On the ground floor are the stage and seating area. A balcony is going around the theater with more seating space. However, no seats are to be seen as people were used to sitting directly on the floor, on small cushions. 

The Okinaza is a witness of the prosperity Joge once had as a town on the Silver Road. As many people were going through the town, entertainment was a necessity, and the old wooden theater is here to remind us of this area. 

Okinaza
Okinaza lanterns

Where to watch a performance?

If you want to see a more complete Kagura performance, you can go to our Youtube channel. You can also purchase our Travel to Joge box, to discover the best of the local souvenirs of the town such as yoshu cake, tsuchinoko manju, lucky charm, senbei, antique plates, hand made bowls…

Kagura performer
On the stage
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Best Japanese sweets from Joge: Tsuchinoko Manju

Fugetsu-do Tsuchinoko Manju is an unmissable confection to try out if you are in Joge. I love its delicious pie crust and its sweet white beans paste filling. It is in my opinion one of the best Japanese sweets.

Why is Tsuchinoko manju one of the best Japanese sweets you will ever try?

First of all, we should answer the question: what is a manju? A manju is a traditional Japanese confection. It consists of a steamed bun filled with a sweet red or white beans paste. But, there can be variation in the filling. For example, with sweet potatoes or chestnuts paste.

Fugetsu-do took a very modern and innovative twist on this traditional pastry. A delicious pie crust perfectly baked replaced the traditional bun. The pie crust is deliciously buttery. And the sweetness of the white beans paste surrounding a whole chestnut balanced it very well. A cup of dark roasted tea is the perfect pairing.

What is tsuchinoko?

Tsuchinoko manju got its name from a legendary snake-shaped being. You can notice its drawing on the manju packaging. Tsuchinoko differs from a normal snake. It has a very large belly and makes a squeaking sound while moving around. It has yet to be confirmed, but some say that tsuchinoko have the ability to talk.

The year 1989 saw the boom of tsuchinoko hunting. Joge had its share of people coming to roam the mountains hoping to meet with the legendary creature. Fugetsu-do created Tsuchinoko manju this same year, in celebration of the travelers coming to hunt the fabulous animal.

Tsuchinoko manju should be on your list of the best Japanese sweets to try
Tsuchinoko is a legendary snake-shaped creature

The history of Fugetsu-do

In early 1968, Miyoko’s father founded Fugetsu-do. At first, the shop sold confectioneries broadly ranging from Western-style fresh cakes to traditional Japanese delicacies. However, Miyako and her father specialized over the years in refining the Tsuchinoko cake by blending Western and Japanese flavors.

Year after year, batch after batch, Miyoko kept helping her father. And this helpful hand was more than necessary during the busy seasons of New-Year and Obon. But, one day, the family routine dramatically came to an end. Miyoko’s father got severely ill and passed away. The shop was left unattended. Miyoko could not let the tradition her father created to die with him. She took it upon her herself to learn the secret recipe her father passed onto her. Helped by local elders, Miyoko is now the proud and busy owner of Fugestu-do, carrying on the tradition.

Tsuchinoko manju, one of the best Japanese sweets
Miyoko-san is perpetuating her father`s manju recipe

Most importantly, in order to keep the same taste for 30 years, Miyoko-san and her father before her, put in a lot of work. Depending on the season, the temperature and the humidity outside, the manju must be baked at different times of the morning. Often very early in summer. Then, Miyoko-san cleans the machines. And it takes more than 2 hours to do so.

Miyoko’s production remains human-sized. Along with her 2 part-time employees, they average 700 tsuchinoko manju on a regular day. Keeping it small ensures that we can enjoy the same delicious taste from the early days.

You will find tsuchinoko manju in our Travel to Joge box. The box is available to purchase right now. Don’t miss this chance to try out one of the best Japanese sweets!!

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Japan countryside getaway

Joge street

If you are looking for a Japan countryside getaway, not too far from Kyoto or Hiroshima, then, Joge town is perfect for you.

From Kyoto or Hiroshima, take the Shinkansen to Fukuyama station before renting a car that will bring you in a 1h drive to the village. You can also drive directly from Hiroshima to Joge. It will take you around 1h45.

Joge-machi was located on the “Ginzan Kaido” or “Silver Highway” which, during the feudal era, delivered silver from the continent to Kyoto and Osaka. In Joge-machi, you can take a walk to admire the historical buildings, see a Kagura performance, a Shinto ritual ceremonial dance, buy some antiques, experience Japanese budô and also meet local producers. In addition, while walking the streets of the village, you can still feel the spirit of the Edo area. A real time-travel.

Day 1 –  Traditional Japanese village

For the first day of this weekend away from the city, leave early in the morning to arrive near Joge just in time for lunch. Don’t go to the city center yet and aim for the mountains. A little road, stuck between a stream of water and the side of the mountain, will bring you to Shuroan, a delicious restaurant owned by a really nice couple. While the wife will show you around, the husband will cook for you a delicious lunch set with seasonal and local ingredients. The food is delicate, the seasoning subtitle. 

After lunch, you can ask to take your tea in a pavilion overhanging the river. Calm and serenity surround you. If you have time, why not take a nap?

Later on, after lunch, head to Tenryo Joge, a traditional Japanese inn where you will be spending the night. There, the friendly staff will welcome you as well as advise you on what to do in this picturesque town. Our recommendation: rent an antique kimono for the afternoon. While walking around town, take amazing pictures in kimono in front of the city white walls, in the Okinaza, the only wooden theater left in the Chugoku region, or in the antique shop. Also, discover the story behind the thousand of dolls displayed there and get a taste of the old Japan.

Day 2 –  Japan countryside getaway

For this second day of your Joge adventure, enjoy your morning in the machiya garden before heading to Bingo Yano station. This station is a veritable treasure and you will find there a lot of nicks-nacks, masks, figurines, and other unidentified objects. Also, on the platform, don’t miss the small jinja with the Hotei-san statue, the divinity of contentment and happiness, carved in a woodblock. In addition, if you are lucky enough, there are only 6 trains a day, you will see the one-car train passing through the station and on to the rice fields. An image that seems to be out of a Giblie movie.

Also, the station is themed around happiness and good fortune. Indeed, the train line name is Fukuensen 福塩線 and if you change the character in the middle while keeping the same pronunciation, Fukuensen becomes 福縁線 with means the good fortune line.

In addition, the station is taken care of by a really nice couple. And for lunch, they will make you a udon like no other: the fukuen udon (good fortune udon), named after the train line. In fact, the recipe has been carefully thought of by Sato-san, the station master. It consists of a udon soup with 3 mochi : a ume (plum) mochi, a kibi (millet) mochi and a yomogi (mugwort) mochi. In fact, the rond shape of the mochi symbolizes good fortune.

After lunch, have a drive in the rice fields around. The scenery are just breath taking!

What to bring as a souvenir?

Before leaving, what to get as a souvenir from Joge town? We recommend some Yoshu cake, Tsuchinoko Manju, Senbei, Fukuen lucky charm, antique plates,… Get all those souvenirs and exclusive interviews of Joge people by getting our Travel to Joge box.

Also, if you are interested in a Japan countryside getaway, you can contact Cocolo Travel for a personalized travel plan.

Senbei and ofuda, Satou-san
Sato-san introducing senbei and ofuda,
Takahashi-san introducing scented bags
Takahashi-san introducing scented bags
Sayaka-san
Sayaka-san introducing kimono fabric bowls
Miyoko-san introducing tsuchinoko manju
Miyoko-san introducing tsuchinoko manju
Yoshu cake factory
Maebara-san introducing yoshu cake
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Japanese bento in Joge: HOME Kitchen

Bento Home Kitchen

In the center of Joge town, among the white walls houses, one of the best places to have lunch is HOME Kitchen, a small shop that offers great Japanese bento. The homemade cuisine and the warm welcome will make you want to come back the next day!

What are Japanese bento?

In western countries, for a quick cheap lunch, we have sandwiches. In Japan, they have bento. A bento is a lunch box, a lunch plate. You can buy them at convenience stores, supermarkets, or specialized shops. It usually consists of some rice and several side dishes such as meat, fish, vegetables, pickles, eggs. Some Japanese bento can also consist of only one main dish.

A shop that makes you feel at home

Noai Ohata, Home Kitchen owner
Noai Ohata, Home Kitchen owner

Noai Ohata, the owner of HOME Kitchen, is an active young woman, mother of three. Every day is a busy day for her, dropping off her children at school before heading to the shop to start cooking. Through her cuisine, Ohata-san wants her customers to feel as they are eating their mum’s dishes. Opened in 2016, the shop is a real success. Bento are ready at 11:00 and often sold out a little after 12h.

During our stay in Joge, I could tried 3 of her bento. First, the Keema curry bento, delicious ground meat well seasoned but not spicy, topped with a fried egg and some local vegetables. Very flavorful. Then, the ebi chili omurice. Omurice consists of fried rice topped with an omelet, while ebi chili, a dish with Chinese influences, consists of stir-fried shrimp with chili sauce. A delicious combination.

Keema curry, japanese bento
Keema curry bento at Home Kitchen

Finally, one of my top recommendations at the shop, the karaage. Karaage is a side dish you will often find in Japanese bento. It is a Japanese-style fried chicken. At HOME Kitchen, I tasted one of the best karaage ever in my life. The chicken was crispy yet tender and it had a little twist unlike any other. On top of the karaage were some green flakes. At first, thought it could be herbs, but it was nori, Japanese dried seaweed. It was surprising but it gave to the karaage a delicious saltiness.  

Karaage, japanese bento
Karaage at Home Kitchen

Get to know more about Joge

If you want to get to know more about Joge town order our November box. Not only will you receive the best souvenirs that Joge city offers, you will also discover more about what to eat, what to see and who to meet when you go there (orders opened until October 31st, 2020).

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The making of tatami

Tatami

Meet Yamaki Taichi,  4th generation owner of this tatami shop located in Tokyo. His family has been making those traditional Japanese mats for more than a hundred years. Even if, nowadays, 80% of the juncus used to make the mats come from China, Yamaki-san takes pride in only using juncus from Kumamoto prefecture, in Kyushu.

Our Spirit of Japan box features 2 tatami coasters made by Yamaki Taichi. Get it now!

Click on CC to turn on English subtitles.

Juncus has many benefits. First, it will naturally refresh the air of a room. It has been found that juncus absorb and decompose harmful air. Then, some studies show that it is good for children’s concentration to study in a tatami room.

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Yuzu soap: the story behind a unique collaboration

Yuzu soap

Kyoto Natural Factory

The first actor in the creation of the yuzu soap you will find in your Spirit of Japan box is Kyoto Natural Factory. Kyoto Natural Factory is a human-sized company located in the shopping area in the heart of Kyoto. They are very proud to deliver 100% Natural and 100% Made in Kyoto cosmetic products. In their shop, you will find hand and face soaps, bath products, lip balms, cream, essential oils. All made with natural and organic ingredients, with no added chemicals such as preservatives and oxidants.

Taizo-in temple

Taizoin temple is located in Myoshinji temple complex, at a 30 minutes bus ride from the center of Kyoto. The temple was founded around 600 years ago by the third head priest of the Myoshinji zen school. The temple is run by reverend head priest Matsuyama.

Yuzu soap Taizo-in

Taizo-in yuzu soap : a unique collaboration

How come a soap maker and a zen monk decide to collaborate? Taizoin temple happened to have yuzu trees on its ground. But what to do with those fruits? This is how the collaboration started. Every year, Kyoto Natural Factory team comes to the temple to harvest the yuzu. Then, they distill the citrus to extract its natural oil. Et voila! You get a beautiful soap with a really nice scent perfect to wash your hand or your face. Indeed, yuzu is rich in vitamin C which will make your skin smooth and bright. Some studies also show that yuzu scent reduces stress and improves memory. So why not try it?

How to get your Kyoto Natural Factory x Taizoin temple yuzu soap?

We include this yuzu soap in our Spirit of Japan box! With your box, you will also get access to video interviews of Ishizaki-san from the factory as well as Matsuyama-san from Taizoin temple.

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Daruma doll – How to use the iconic Japanese doll.

Hand-painted daruma doll

One of the items featured in your box Spirit of Japan is a Daruma doll. I am sure you have a lot of questions about it! What is a Daruma? How can it make my wish come true? Where did the doll was made? What is the story behind it and what am I supposed to do with it? Don’t worry, we will answer all of your questions in this article.

Where was made the Daruma doll you will get in your box?

Nowadays you can find it in other part of Japan. However, the traditional doll is still mainly manufactured Takasaki city, in Gunma Prefecture. The city is the leading producer of daruma dolls in Japan. Made in papier mâché, the doll is then carefully hand-painted. Your Peko Peko Daruma doll comes from the Yoshida makers, a family with a long history of producing the red head.

What does the Daruma doll represent?

The round shape face is a representation of Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk founder of Zen Buddhism. Its round shape is a symbol of tenacity: even if you fell 7 times, you will get up 8 times. On his belly, you can see the characters for fukuiri, which here means happiness.

Two other main features of the Daruma are his eyebrows, represented as a crane and his beard represented as a turtle. Both of those animals are symbols of longevity.

You can find Daruma dolls in many colors but the traditional one is red. Red is the color for luck and good fortune.

How to Daruma?

You will get your doll with blank eyes. Fill in the left eye while making a wish. Once your wish comes true, fill in the other eye. Why the eyes? Legend has it that Bodhidharma was prone to snoozing in the middle of this zen meditations. He then decided to cut his eyelids in order to keep his eyes opens. So… yeah!

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Spirit of Japan

Japanese gifts box - Peko Peko Box

We are very proud to present to you our first box: Spirit of Japan. We wanted to offer you a selection of items that represent Japan at its best!

Spirit of Japan

When travelling for the first time to Japan, you may feel like a newborn as all your senses are stimulated by new experiences.

The smell of charcoal from a yakitori place, the sounds of sale assistants welcoming you to their shops, the feeling of tatamis under your feet at a ryokan, the flavor of wasabi revivifying your taste buds and the exciting lights of the cities bursting in front of your eyes…

We wanted you to feel all those sensations, while going on a journey with us through Japan!

Your journey begins in Tokyo

First stop on this adventure, Tokyo! In the beginning, you are a little lost. You have just arrived in Tokyo station and you are surrendered by salarymen going to work, students heading to school and other tourists as lost as you. In this continuous flood of people, you don’t know where to go. But isn’t it one of the beauties of traveling? Finally, you decide to hop on a train and see where it will take you… Miraculously, you arrive in Asukusa! Your confidence jumps in and one visit leading into the next, you discover the beauty of Senso-ji temple, take pictures of youngsters in Harajuku, have a walk in Meiji Shrine, relax at Ueno Park, make some Japanese friends in an izakaya in the Golden Gai, do some shopping in Shinjuku and Akihabara…

Tatami
Yamaki Taichi, tatami maker
Tenugui cat
Tenugui Cat

Let’s go to Takasaki

You want to take a break from the city. What about a small getaway in Gunma Prefecture, in Takasaki city? Less than one hour away from Tokyo, Takasaki is known for being the hometown of daruma dolls. First things first, you head to Shorinzan Darumaji Temple to admire its daruma collection. It is then time to have a look at how all those dolls are made. You visit one of the manufacturers and admire the hand-painted techniques.

Daruma doll getting it’s final touches

Kyoto awaits

Your stay in Tokyo is over. You jump on a shinkansen towards Kyoto! Put on some good walking shoes and don’t forget your camera, because Kyoto has so much to show you! Hear stories of the geishas at Miyagawa-cho, stroll through the little-known alleyways of the Gion district, try some tofu skin at Nishiki Market, enjoy some Japanese sake at a “Tachinomiya” (standing bar), explore 300-year-old temples in the Nanzen-ji complex,…

Yuzu Soap
Plum Incense
Shunkoin Temple Goshuin
Ogura Crackers

Little stroll in the countryside

You are not a tea specialist, but you have heard so much about Japanese tea that you feel like you have to get to know more. After renting a car, you head to Wazuka city and its endless tea plantations. The view is stunning. You have a walk along the plantation before joining a tea degustation at Obubu tea farm. Rumors were true, Japanese tea is delicious!

Gion Tsujiri Matcha Roll
Wazuka Genmaicha tea

To continue the adventure with our Spirit of Japan box…

… get your Spirit of Japan box now to enjoy the best souvenirs from Japan. You will also have access to private content like interviews of the people that made the products you will soon hold in your hands! Start the adventure, travel to Japan with us.

What they think about their box?