knits by sachi

Tamagoyaki

This is another casual sushi I make at home; sushi with tamago, egg omelette.

I often make them with Inari zushi. They are both savory sweet and my son’s favorites. I made them for his birthday three weeks ago but again this week, to celebrate his success in driving theory test. I know it is only a half way, so it is a petit celebration.

When I serve these egg sushi to my non-Japanese friends, I often get nice compliments. They are not at all exotic, however, my friends all say that they have never had omelette served in this way.

The omelette is called Tamagoyaki which is made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg. These usually are prepared in a rectangular omelette pan.

There are several types of tamagoyaki. It is made by combining eggs, sugar, salt or soy sauce. Additionally, sake and mirin are used in some recipes. If you add Dashi, stock made from bonito flakes, it is called Dashimaki. Dashimaki is moister because of the extra liquid, and so it has a softer texture. The egg flavor is also a little milder.

Tamagoyaki is often served in the form of nigiri sushi, and also appears in many types of sushi rolls. In Japan, it is also served as a breakfast dish and in Bento box. It is children’s favorite, and we always serve it for New Years day.

This is what Mum made for this year’s celebration.

Tamagoyaki
Ingredients
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1-2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp soy sauce or 1/2 tsp salt.
1 tsp mirin, sake or white wine

If you do not want to darken the omelette at all, it is better to use plain salt. Alcohol will evaporate, but if children get put off by the smell of Sake, choose mirin or omit wine all together.

What you will need:
Frying pan (non-stick frying pan is easier to use)
spatula
paper towel

In Japan, you can get a square frying pan for Tamagoyaki, but I do not have one. I use common round frying pan.

Method
1. Heat the pan over medium heat and oil the pan. Wait until the pan is hot. You can test with a drop of egg mixture. If it sizzles, pour a thin layer of egg mixture in the pan, tilting to cover the bottom of the pan.

2. After the bottom of the egg has set but still soft on top, start rolling into a log shape from one side to the other.

3.Move the rolled omelette to the side where you started to roll, and apply a drop of oil to the pan. Pour the egg mixture to cover the bottom of the pan again.


4.When the new layer of egg has set and still soft on top, start rolling from one side to the other.

5. Repeat this process until the mixture is all used.

Remove from the pan and wrap it with a paper towel. Shape the egg when it is still hot. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

There is another version of Tamagoyaki with Dashi stock added. It is called Dashi-maki. Dashi is stock comes from bonito flakes (kombu seaweed stock if you are vegetarian).Dashi-maki has more flavour, however, it is a bit more difficult to roll because of the extra liquid. It is best to practice without Dashi until you get the hang of the rolling technique.
If you would like to try, add 1 tbsp of rice wine and 3 tbsp of Dashi stock to egg mixture.

When my boys were young, parents were always asked to blow eggs before Easter. Children would take egg shells to school to paint and decorate them. Each child needed to bring three egg shells so that I needed to blow six eggs! I ended up feeling light headed and dizzy in the end. It is amazing that the whole egg content comes out from such a tiny hole.

With six eggs, I always made, you guessed right, Tamagoyaki.

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Amezaiku, Japanese candy craft

My sugar bunny for Easter;

I had heard of this craft, Amezaiku, but I had never seen it made in person. During the last trip to Japan, we had an opportunity to watch this amazing work or art.

Amezaiku is a Japanese candy craft. An artist creates a scultpture, using their hands and other tools such as tweezers and scissors. Some are painted with edible dyes.

Animals and insects are common shapes created to appeal to children. Intricate designs are created with expert speed.

This is a very old art created over 1000 years ago. It originates in temples in Kyoto as offerings. The art spread beyond temple in 17-18 th centry and flourished as street performance.

The candy base is prepared beforehand with a starchy syrup. The mixture is kneaded and pulled by hand, and formed into a large ball to be stored until ready to use. At the stall, the candy ball is heated to make it pliable again.

The artist has to pinch up the hot candy mass and quickly roll and mounted on a stick. Our artist used white candy and knead a drop of food colouring. He then pulled, twisted and clipped into form an animal. Speed is essential to the art since the sculpture must be completed before the candy cools and hardens again.

My friend kindly bought my boys one each, my older son chose an elephant, my younger one, a rabbit.
I recorded a video, but the artist did not want it to be shared, so that I will post something similar just to give you the idea.

We were told that the Amezaiku would keep a month without melting. It has been over three months, but the rabbit still looks nice. I do not know what happened to the elephant since my older son took it with him. May be, it has been eaten.

This rabbit is just too precious to eat.

My friend also gave us these sweets. They are for celebrating arrival of New Year with the Chinese zodiac animal motif. This year is the year of rooster.

Rabbit and chicken? Aren’t they perfect for Easter?

Talking about Easter, I have some knitting patterns coming up for this season, and one of them is this; Chicken and chicks in Knit Now magazine.

I have another Easter project coming up in the following issue, too.

Days are getting longer and we are having more sunny days. We have a summer to look forward to. It is utterly fantastic.

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Cooking with seaweed

One of my friends called me the other day and asked how she could cook Kombu seaweed. I often get these questions relating to Japanese food ingredients.

She said she tried boiling but it turned out like a huge sheet of rubber. She is a foodie and a health nut and knows all the health benefits from eating sea vegetables, however, she does not quite know how to cook them.

We eat seaweed or sea vegetables very often in Japan. You can get them fresh, but dried seaweed may be more popular. It keeps very long in your larder and is very convenient.

Unfortunately, you cannot get too many varieties in the UK, but you can get wakame and Kombu from local supermarkets.

Wakame may be more familiar, but Kombu is not too well known. It usually comes as a hard dried sheet and looks quite inedible. When it is rehydrated, it becomes like a rubber and again, it looks inedible, so what do we do with it?

It is often used to make stock. It is used to make a light broth for Asian soups like miso, noodle soup, and tofu soup. To make one quart of broth, fill a pot with 4 cups of water and a 20cm strip of kombu.

As I wrote in a post in the past, I use Kombu to make the broth for Oden. I also use for miso soup, Udon noodle soup. Kombu is packed with Umami, or savory taste and it gives depth to the flavour of your dish. Should you through away after you make the stock? No, of course not. You can cut them into smaller strips and cook with bit of soy sauce, mirin sweet wine until the liquid is all gone. It is called Tsukudani and often eaten with steamed rice.

I also use Kombu to make this dish: Gomoku soy beans.

It is stewed soy beans with quite often, root vegetables. Simple cooking with not a lot of ingredients, but it is nutty and delicious and nice for a snack as well. Gomoku means a few things mixed. ‘Go’ is the number five, but you can have more than five thing when you use the word.

I make quite a lot in one go since it takes some time to cook soy beans. We used to be able to buy cooked soy beans in a tin, but it has been disappeared from supermarket shelves, so, we have to start from soaking dried beans.

I recommend to use at least 1 cup or 160 g dried beans.

Recipe
Ingredients
160g dried soy beans
30g carrot, diced
5 slices of dried shiitake mushrooms if you have
Kombu sheet, 3 x 10cm, cut to about 1 x 1cm
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine or white wine

This is just a guidance. You can be quite relaxed about measuring seasoning for this recipe. Add more soy sauce or sugar if you would like. You can also add Dashi stock granules if you have some. Add green beans cut to small pieces or diced potatoes. I would choose salad potatoes in that case so that potatoes will not get too soft and mushy.

1. Soak soy beans over night.
2. Cook soy beans in lots of water for 1-2 hours until soft. Drain cooking water.
3. Add water to soy beans just to cover the top. Add all ingredients and simmer for further 20 minutes.

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Make sure your soy beans are fully cooked and soft enough before you add seasonings. If you add them too soon, beans will not get any softer no matter how much more you cook. If you find cooking liquid evaporating too fast, you can add water a bit more.
After cooking for 20 minutes, let it cool. Flavours will soak in as the dish cools down. Adjust the taste with soy sauce, salt and sugar afterwards if necessary.

This recipe works with other beans. When I don’t have time to cook dried beans, I use tinned chickpeas or kidney beans.

I found some beans in tins are a little too soft, but if you shorten the cooking time, it should be fine.

When I have ‘Hijiki’ which is another kind of seaweed, I use it instead of Kombu.

It looks like this dried.

You need to soak in water about 10 minutes before cooking. Cut them shorter if necessary. Be careful, it increases in volume by 10 times when it becomes rehydrated. 15-20g dried Hijiki is good enough to cook with soy beans.

Seaweed is full of vitamins and minerals and has no calories. Isn’t it too good to be true?

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CHSI Stitches show

The cool guy I saw at the show:
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I traveled to NEC Birmingham to visit CHSI Stitches show recently.

It is the Europe’s largest trade show in craft industry. If you are in craft business, there may be lots of seminars useful for you to learn business strategies. It is a good place to see craft trends and new products.

Because I had to travel quite a distance, I did not have time to sit down for workshops or seminars, but it was still a lot of fun.

What I notice the most was craft kits; sewing, knitting, crocheting, felting, it seems that everyone is making kits. I guess kits are very handy. You do not need to shop for each material or invest too much money. They give you exactly how much you need for the project.

Some kits come in nice packages and make very attractive gifts. I like the ones come in small tins.

Some authors have their designs put into kits and selling them. It is a lot of effort and investment. Hats off to them.

I like this brand: Edward’s Menagerie by Kerry Lord.

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Her designs are quirky and unique. They are certainly different from typical Japanese amigurumi and I like that a lot. She has a online shop of course.

As for the new product, I found this one: interchangeable straight needles.

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I have seen interchangeable circular needles, but not straight needles. You can adjust the length of needles by adding parts. It is cleverly thought and the finish is nice and smooth. You do not need to worry about your knitted piece getting caught at the joints. It seems they have received good reviews so far. I know I will not need long needles since I only knit small items, but it is still tempting.

If you find it troublesome to carry long needles, these may be good for you. I have a long knitting bag I bought some time ago. I truly love it and I like showing it off, so maybe, those needles are not for me at this moment.

My knitting bag: from Cath Kidston

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I like the retro look.

My publisher, Search Press had their stand as usual. I stopped by to say hello.
It is so nice to see my books on display.

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It seems that they had fantastic visitors.

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Arne and Carlos! I was gutted when I found out that I just missed them! Maybe next time.

Search Press won the best craft publisher of the year again. No surprise there.

I also spotted my Alice at the Practical Publishing stand.

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This is a cover-mount knitting kit which is coming out soon from Knit Now magazine. I got a special permission to share this image here. With the kit, you can make Alice, Rabbit and Cat. They are not tiny and easy to make. I hope many knitters will enjoy it.

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A little about Sake

When I go to Japan, I enjoy Japanese Sake rice wine.
I don’t drink much, but I truly love Sake. Its smell and the taste, how it is served, the occasions associated with, I just love everything about it.

As a child, I thought my dad was strict and a bit scary. I always felt distance between us, but when he had a few Sake on a New Year’s Day, he became talkative and looked truly happy. I loved to see my dad happy.

Being Japanese, I grew up with Sake just like French grow up with wine. I sniffed it and even had a drop or two before I reached to the drinking age. I also loved Sake kasu or Sake lees, the by-product of Sake rice wine.

Sake kasu is what is left after the sake has been pressed out of the mash. It is used in home cooking in many ways to create wonderfully complex flavored dishes. It is used as a pickling agent, to stew fish and vegetables, to make Amazake which is a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol drink. Many traditional Japanese confection and snack companies use a lot of kasu to flavor some of their products. You can find ice cream, chocolate, sweets, cakes and bread flavored with Sake kasu these days.

This is one of them: Sake KitKat.

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When you open the package inside the box, you can smell the familiar smell of Sake. The alcohol content is less than 1% so that anyone can enjoy it.

I like this sweets: Amazake chews. This has somewhat stronger taste of Sake than KitKat but has no alcohol.

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Sake Kasu comes in either hand pressed cheese like texture or mechanically pressed firm sheets.
My mum and I used to enjoy cooking Sake kasu sheets on top of a stove. After roasting, we dip it into sugar and eat it. I was still a teenager then, but Mum allowed me to have some secretly.

Sake kasu sheets contains 8% alcohol, so that you will get drunk if you have too much of it.

Doing something naughty with Mum without telling Dad was a lot of fun! I don’t think I really liked the taste and my pieces had more sugar than Sake kasu itself, but I remember loving the smell of Sake.

During the recent stay in Japan, my older son seemed to start developing the taste for Sake. We tried several different kinds and brands together, hot and cold in small quantities. What I love about Sake is that you can enjoy it at different temperatures. I like it warm.

Sake contains ‘Umami’ which became enhanced when it is heated. It is the same kind of Umami in shell fish as clams. Try steaming clams or mussels with Sake. It is a perfect match.

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I like Sake warm because you can really appreciate the aroma before you take a sip. It is also a safe way to drink alcohol since it is absorbed into your body the same pace as you drink it.

To heat Sake, we use porcelain bottle called ‘Tokkuri’. Tokkuri refers to the shape narrowing at the top.
We use the same word for turtleneck. Tokkuri jumper means a jumper with turtleneck.

My Tokkuri is this one my mum bought for me before I got married. It is nicely hand crafted.

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It is certainly another fun element of being a Sake drinker. You can visit shops and craft fairs to look for a Tokkuri and cups for your Sake.

Dad gave my son a set before we left. My son was very happy to receive his first Tokkuri. He will treasure it.

I have this small bottle of Sake in my cupboard now. You can find Sake at Japanese food shop as Japan Centre in London. You can also buy online. I love the cool looking bottle as well as its content.

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I am very interested this one: Sachi

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And this one: Sachi hime (literally meaning Princess Sachi!!)

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Nothing can be any better than this.

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Omurice

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I did not knit these thinking of the Valentine’s day, but when I made the second mouse, I thought the couple was perfect for today.

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They look cute together.

We don’t do much to celebrate the occasion, but I may be cooking this dish tonight, Omurice. I saw this photo online and it inspired me.

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Omurice is Japanese home style dish consisting of an omelette made with ketchup flavoured fried rice. It is a Western-influenced Japanese food which is developed in early 1900. You may find it a bit odd to use ketchup for cooking, but we often do in our country. Omurice is one of the most popular dish among children and for some reason, grown-up men, too.

My husband and my boys are not exception. My son in London called me up the other day asked for the recipe.
What is great about it is that my younger son eats all minced veggies in the rice without complaining. You can use up left-over rice, a bit of cooked or uncooked meat. You do not need any exotic ingredients. It is versatile and wallet friendly.

Recipe for one
Ingredients
1/4 medium onion
small amounts of chopped bell pepper, carrot
40g chopped chicken meat
1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 bowl of Japanese rice
1 Tbsp. ketchup and more for decoration

For 1 omelette
1 large egg
pinch salt, sugar and pepper

1.Chop the onion finely.
2.Cut the chicken into ½” (1 cm) pieces.
3.Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and sauté the onion until softened.
4,Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink.
5.Add the mixed vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
6.Add the rice and stir fry.
7.Add seasoning and ketchup.
Set aside.

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Make a thin egg pancake in another pan, place cooked rice on top and roll the rice with the pancake. I used a square pan but you may find it easy to use a round frying pan.

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If you cannot roll too well, don’t worry. Take a sheet of paper towel and shape.

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Many put more ketchup on top to garnish.

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If you want to cut down on sugar and salt, you can use tomato paste to cook rice instead of ketchup. Some like to top with Demi-glace sauce or curry sauce. There are plenty of room to improvise and make your very own Omurice.

I have also found these cute ones.

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Kids will love these.

I am very curious how my son’s Omurice turned out. He said it went well. He has to take a photo and send it to me next time.

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Penguin workshop

I have been writing for Let’s Get Crafting magazine for sometime now.

The first time when I was commissioned to make multi-coloured pandas, I was not so sure if I was doing the right thing going along with the editor. It was not at all the kind of toy making I used to do, and I was feeling a little anxious using such vivid coloured synthetic yarn. However, I enjoy the monthly challenges now. I am glad that I went out of my comfort zone.

The latest issue is this one; it has my ostriches.

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I was asked to make sitting ostriches. I tried to express ostrich’s character with meaty legs, thin neck and long eyelashes. I could not rely on the colours since the set does not contain black. I also had to be careful not to make the neck too thin so that it can support the weight of the head. I hope they look like ostriches.

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They have heart shaped feet which may go well for the Valentine’s Day.

Back in December, this patchwork teddy came out.

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This design is one of my favorites and it seems quite popular among the readers, too.

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I originally added a ribbon as in the photo above, and I was pleased with how it looked with it, but I guess it had to go because the kit did not contain the ribbon. You can make flowers into brooches as well.

I brought these issues to my local spinners’ group when I ran a workshop last Wednesday. My fellow spinners are such lovely people and they have been very supportive. I know them over fifteen years now.

I offered three projects to try: Rabbit 1 with arms and legs, Rabbit 2 with simple round shape and penguin from Safari book.

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My spinners all wanted to try the penguin! There seems to be something about that penguin.

It was a perfect project to do in two hours and everyone went home with their own little creation. We had so much fun together!

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Love these quirky penguins!

I came home with a pot of Flamingo flower, homemade apple jelly and marmalade. How thoughtful my spinners are!

I have to do this more often.

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All British Yarn

In February every year, Knit Now magazine publishes the all British issue.

It is to offer readers a chance to get to know yarn produced in the UK. Many designs are also related to something British.

Last year, I did this one: St. George and the Dragon.

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This is from the issue last February. I am very fond of this photograph. It came out very nicely.

This year, I decided to submit our Queen’s favorite corgis, which I have posted some photos previously. The pattern includes two cushions and the rug. The cushions can be used to keep your pins and sewing needles.

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I suggested some yarn to the editor, but the ones I believed British all turned out to be non-British. That told me how little I knew about British yarn! The editor’s choice was this yarn; Jamieson’s.

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I did not know this wool at all. You don’t see them in high street shops or online yarn retailers very often. However, I was so excited when I opened the link the editor sent me.

So many colours! They also sell as little as 25g. It is perfect for mini toy knitter like myself.

The yarn is 100% wool produced in Shetland.

It is not silky, baby soft wool like Merino, it is more robust. I found that it gives firmness and clean finish to knitted toys. It is lovely.

When I went to Tokyo recently, I visited the yarn shop owned and managed by Nihon Vobue-sha, one of the leading craft book publisher.

The shop is called Keito, literally meaning yarn.

And in the shop, I found these.

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And these.

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I cannot tell you how excited I was to see these displayed! So far away in Japan, the Shetland wool is loved very much.

The shop was full of beautiful coloured yarns and knitted samples. Knitters or non-knitters, you would want to pick up yarn and try to think what you can create with it.

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I am currently working on another project using Jamieson’s. I would love to run a workshop at Keito shop one day. Surrounded with all these lovely colours, that would be fantastic.

Keito shop: http://www.keito-shop.com/english/

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Mizuko statues and the Tokyo tower

My younger son is very fond of observatories. He wanted to go up on both the Skytree and the Tokyo tower. I said to him ‘Could we just do with either one? maybe the Skytree since that is much taller?’ and he said no. He wanted to take photos of the Skytree form the Tokyo Tower as well.

But this turned out to be a rather interesting journey and I am glad that we made this extra effort.

On the way to the Tokyo tower, we came across this temple, Zojo-ji. It is a Buddhist temple built in the year 1393.

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In their premises, there is a Mizuko garden. Mizuko, literally “water child”, is a Japanese term for a dead fetus or a dead baby. There are rows of stone statues of children represent unborn children, including miscarried, aborted, and stillborn children. Parents can choose a statue in the garden and decorate it with small clothing and toys. Those statues are called Jizō, the guardian of unborn children. They are to ensure that Mizuko are brought to the afterlife.

I knew there are temples which specializes Mizuko kuyo or fetus memorial services, but hadn’t seen a garden like this before. I thought these statues are very sweet.

The little statues, Jizo, are often dressed in red. It is believed that the red has the power to expel evils. What I liked the most about this temple’s Jizo was the red crocheted hats of course.

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I wonder if they are made by local volunteers.

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And we found a rather unique one among them. We found it amusing.

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It was a nice sunny day and I felt such a peace looking at these little ones with toy pinwheels by their sides.

Zojo-ji is on the way to Tokyo tower if you take a subway.

We had visited The Skytree in the same morning so that the Tokyo tower was not too impressive for its height but it is still a famous landmark of Tokyo. I also found a funny sign at the entrance.

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I didn’t know you could walk up the Tower! I understand that you shouldn’t make an attempt under the influence of alcohol, but I don’t think anyone with right mind would even think of trying it.

The first time I visited the Tower was 30 years ago. I had just been accepted by a university. I was young and so excited about the prospect of living in a big city. This time, I was standing the same spot with my two sons who were the same age as I had been then. I felt extremely lucky.

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Visit to Keito dama

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had nice holidays.

We certainly did. We spent two weeks in Japan and it was just amazing.

Apart from the recent emergency trip in November, our last visit was in 2011. My mother was still well so that we traveled Kyoto and Osaka together. It is a shame that she is in hospital now and probably, she will never get to travel with us again.

However, I was determined to enjoy this trip and had planned many things to do during the stay. First, we visited Tokyo.

My in-laws live in Tokyo but hadn’t seen us for quite some time. Father-in-law had gotten us to stay in a nice hotel with a fantastic view of the Skytree.

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One of the exciting event in Tokyo was visiting Nihon Vogue-sha, one of the leading craft book and magazine publishers in Japan. I always wanted to get in contact with Japanese publishers. I was delighted when I received a message inviting me to visit them.

The office I visited was their knitting magazine, ‘Keito-dama’ (translated yarn ball) editorials. Interestingly, the editor I met was a man who is a keen knitter himself. I know there are many male knitters out there, but never had have seen one in person.

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I had brought all my book titles and many issues of knitting magazines. I also gave him one of my little knitted work.

This little cat.

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We talked about knitting and crochet extensively and that was such a joy. Time flew by very quickly.

He gave me a couple of knitting books and the latest copy of their magazine which is full of beautiful designs.

Among many interesting articles, I found this one. It features crochet beaded handbag.

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The article is about how these bags are made with many hours of effort and are treasured by many, quite often handed down from a generation to a generation. What a coincidence! I thought, because I was just given a crochet bag from my mother a few days previously.

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This bag was made especially for my mother as a wedding gift. It means it was made fifty odd years ago!

It is beaded and crocheted. I cannot fathom how many hours are spent to create this. It is a handbag to go with a Japanese Kimono. Although my mother is very well aware that I do not own a single set of Kimono, she thought I would appreciate it since I am a creator myself. I am very honoured.

Mum thinks her life is approaching toward the end. She has given me all her precious jewelries over the last few years. I used to get upset and became teary every time she did this, but somehow, I learned to accept them with a smile.

I will certainly treasure this beaded bag.

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