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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Daruma wooden bookmark

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