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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Memoirs of a Geisha

Beautiful. Elegant. Mysterious. Enchanting. Mesmerising.

All synonyms used to describe the wonderful Japanese Geisha, and all synonyms to describe how I felt today.

If you’ve read my birthday post, you’ll remember that my amazing Rich organised for me to have a Geisha makeover as part of his birthday present to me. And I got to do that today :)

I arrived at Katsura Studio at 11am sharp today, warmly greeted by five attentive staff. After establishing that I could speak a little Japanese, they got me to select the style of makeover: Maiko or Geisha. Maiko are apprentice Geisha, and wear slightly different kimonos and headdresses. I selected a black Geisha kimono, and the three poses I wanted to do, and was ushered to the changing room to undress and put on the undergarments and yukata so they could proceed with applying the makeup.

They started with a coat of wax to prime my skin, then smoothed on a white base all over my face, neck, and some of my shoulders. After that, they put a hint of pink foundation over my eyes and cheeks, and the sides of my nose. Next, they put red both on my lips, and as the outline of my new eyebrows. After applying layers of black eyeliner and mascara, they put a layer of black over the red of my eyebrows. Red was also applied to the corner of my eyes, then some false eyelashes were glued in place, and finished off with more liquid eyeliner.

Following the makeup application, it was time to get dressed. The kimono is a very intricate garment with many layers. But all the pulling, squeezing, tightening, and not being able to breathe, is worth the end result :) The makeover package gives you three photos to take home, but they also allow you to take your own camera in with you and they will happily take as many photos as you like! The photographer also took extra shots which they asked if they could use on their website and for advertising.

I am so pleased with how it turned out, and ecstatic that I’ll have these amazing photos from my time in Japan! Here are some of the wonderful images captured today. The rest can be found on Flickr.

Geisha Makeover

Geisha Makeover

Geisha Makeover

Geisha Makeover

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Homeward Bound

Yes, that’s right; I’m coming home. And I’m so excited about it :D

I thought long and hard about the decision to return home to Perth, and after weighing up all my options, this was the best time for me to return. My working-holiday visa expires on June 4th, and given there are several events back in Perth I’d rather not miss (there’ve been too many missed already!), I decided not to renew it. My flight has been booked, and I will arrive back in Perth on May 21st. Exactly two weeks short of 6 months living here.

Rich has set up a convenient counter that you can use to keep track, if you so desire :)

I came to Japan for many reasons; I had goals I set out to achieve, and I can proudly say that I’ve achieved them all. It was something I’d been wanting to do for many years, and with the support and encouragement of my friends and family, I was able to do that. The biggest support coming from my amazing Rich; he’s been my rock this entire trip. That voice of encouragement and reason when I needed it most. And all I did was leave him behind in Perth.

Rich, thank you for letting me live my dream <3

(more…)

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Birthdays

It was my 31st birthday on April 23rd, and, being alone in Japan, I was preparing for a rather solemn occasion devoid of the usual fanfare and celebration associated with my birthday.

But that was not to be.

My wonderful Rich surprised me with a huge parcel from home filled with presents and cards from my closest friends and family! I was definitely not expecting that the box, which arrived a week before my birthday (to which I was under strict instructions not to read the posting label), contained cards and presents from so many people. And all the gifts were absolutely perfect – jewellery, scarves, a game, a watch, a hat, thongs, Amazon gift card, and a clip-on light for my Kindle. I was moved to tears on more than one occasion. They were not tears of sadness, but tears of sheer joy and happiness.

Box of Presents

Box of Presents

Cards

Cards

And not only did he organise a wondrous gift bonanza, he also arranged for me to undertake a Geisha makeover here in Japan. I mentioned it to him ages ago, and had dismissed the idea for whatever reason. So, again, I was thrilled when I opened the gift voucher the company had sent me on his behalf. I have booked in to get it done next week :)

It was also quite fortunate that, of the friends I’ve made in Japan, there were another 4 birthdays within two weeks of mine, and friends had already planned for a house party on the night of my birthday :)

Birthday Party

Birthday Party

And to top it all off, my sister sent me the following poem via text which was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read:

XO MY LUIS XO Last dream, I realised, in my waking moments, were of you, young woman of courage & conviction, a spring day that says hooray, with all the earthly gorgeousness of a sweet scented blooming garden, double delights & freesias. Blue skies, dark skies, dark nights, bright days, seamless clouds drifting away, fun filled hot summers. Sangrias in Spain. The place to be, on the scene, enjoying this earthly dream! Stubborn, immovable, up for a no risk thrill, voice infrequently shrill, I can, have & will stand on top of the hill! Home is where the heart is, smart, sassy, sharp as a tack, dignified, has pride. A friend that says no need to run or hide, I’ll hold your hand, nurture you and stand by you every step of the way. Funny, quirky, cute, a slight computer nerd to boot! Loves eating fruit, healthy, strong, got her vegetarian reins on. Elegant, pretty, don’t mess with me ‘tude’ she’s certainly no dude. Likes to keep with the trend but definitely stylin in her own right! Loves her friends, family & lover with compassion & our joy is to love her right back! Today is your Birthday the only blue you should feel is the great sky above you! This is my great random thinking & RANDOM gift to you! Luis it’s your Birthday, Happy Birthday Luis xoxo

Then a few days later I received another birthday card in the post. The beautiful Kitta had organised for the Perth Twitter peeps to sign the card for me. It was lovely to get that card filled with such wonderful messages from my friends!

Card from the Perth Twits

I am so very lucky.

The luckiest, in fact.

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Sometimes, Homer’s wrong.

Tofu Burger

Tofu Burger

I’ve been a vegetarian for around 18 years. I made the change during my first year of high school, when, at the impressionable age of 13, I thought that my new friend (Jane) was wise and knowledgeable when she went on about the ethical and moral treatment of animals. And much to the dismay of my meat-loving parents, I decided to give up animal flesh. Not eating seafood was never an issue given I’ve always found the taste of fish, and other sea creatures, disgusting. And despite a momentary lapse during ages of 17 – 21 when I ate chicken again, I still don’t include meat in my diet.

Now that I’m older, and know a lot more about nutrition, I’m happy to say that my reasons for sticking with this diet/lifestyle are more to do with my health. And although I’ve been a vegetarian for so long, for the most part I’ve been a very bad vegetarian. I used to eat way too many carbs, and would rarely replace the protein with non-meat alternatives; I have always hated mushrooms (they’re for dirty people), and I have a serious dislike for tofu. But I knew that the Japanese ate a lot of tofu, so a few months ago, I thought I’d try to see if I could make tofu palatable.

After being inspired by a co-worker’s tofu patty lunch, and researching a few recipes online, this is what I came up with:

Tofu Burgers

Ingredients

Patties (recipe makes 6-8 patties)

  • 300g firm tofu, well drained (‘momen’ in Japan)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C dried breadcrumbs (fresh breadcrumbs don’t soak up as much moisture)
  • 1/2 C grated cheese
  • 4 T tomato sauce
  • 1 T BBQ sauce
  • 1 t soy sauce
  • 1 t dried herbs (I use basil, oregano, & parsley – choose your own adventure!)
  • oil, for frying

Burgers

  • bread, buns, or rolls of your choosing
  • lettuce
  • sliced tomato
  • beetroot
  • cheese
  • tomato sauce
  • mayonnaise
  • wasabi
  • whatever filling you like to put in your burgers
  • etc.

Method

  1. Combine patty ingredients (aside from oil) in a mixing bowl. Seriously. It’s that easy. If the mixture appears wet, add a few more breadcrumbs. Wet mixture will not hold its shape when cooking.
  2. Heat the oil in a frypan on a low heat, and form the mixture into balls, in between golf and tennis ball-size. Squish into a flat shape (approx. 8cm diameter, 1cm thick), and place into the pan. I usually get 4 patties in a regular-sized frypan.
  3. Fry over a low heat for about 4 mins on each side. You don’t want them to burn, but a little colour is visually appealing, as well as helping them stay together. I find it easier to use two spatulas to turn them.
  4. Once cooked, remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  5. Prepare you bread – fresh, toasted, buttered etc. – and assemble the burger to your liking.
  6. Enjoy!

I also modified the recipe (omitting cheese) and made it into a mince-like dish. Perfect for making tofu tacos!

Note: It is essential that the tofu has been well drained. A hint I picked up from one of my Japanese students is to heat it in the microwave for around 30 seconds. It helps remove some extra moisture. Also, I originally added a grated carrot to the mixture, but found it was too watery, so have not included it since.

Do you have a favourite tofu recipe to share?

Tofu Burger Ingredients

Tofu Burger Ingredients

Tofu Patties Cooking

Tofu Patties Cooking

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Vegemite <3When you ask non-Australians what they think of when you mention Australia, they usually say one of the following things: kangaroos, koalas, Crocodile Dundee, or Vegemite.

And this has been no different for me during my time in Japan. So after much discussion on the controversial topic of our nation’s most famous food, I decided to bring some Vegemite with me to work last week. And after stopping by the shop to get bread and butter (in a tube, no less), I warned the staff their taste buds were about to be tested. (more…)

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