Winter seasonal yoga treat

Winter Seasonal Yoga Retreat at Shizuka Ryokan

6pm, Friday 13 July – 2pm, Sunday 15 July, 2018

Find resolve and a tranquil inner space this winter.  The Winter Seasonal Yoga Retreat combines the ancient oriental wisdom of seasonal living, yoga practice, macrobiotic cooking and Japanese shiatsu massage.

Winter is the time to focus inwards and consolidate the body’s energy. With a focus on the kidney and bladder meridians, this is the season to build strength and stability, as well as a time to rest and regenerate the body.

This seasonal Winter retreat builds a full picture of Yin Yang Go Gyo, the guiding principles of Japanese Yoga, and explains how you can best work with the winter seasonal flow, and eat according to the seasons.

You will learn:

  • yoga poses to strengthen your winter reserves
  • to use food as your medicine and to create delicious and healthy winter meals
  • techniques and practices to take your health into your own hands
  • Japanese massage techniques and acupressure points.

You will enjoy:

  • a shiatsu massage treatment designed to suit your individual conditions
  • moving deep into asana practice, and discovering what Japanese yoga is all about
  • hands-on macrobiotic Japanese cooking demonstrations and dietary therapeutics discussions; take home seasonal recipes and nutritional guidance
  • discovering a variety of meditation techniques, breath, mudras and asanas to allow you to work towards true vibrant physical and mental health
  • the tranquillity of a traditional Japanese ryokan with hospitality of honour, Zen design, aromatic tatami flooring, sliding shoji paper screens, and comfortable futon bedding
  • soaking in a Japanese style deep bath overlooking your private courtyard garden
  • guided walks in the historic Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve with a traditional Japanese bento picnic
  • four-course banquet Japanese dinner and traditional Japanese breakfasts
  • Japanese tea service.

Arrive at 6pm, Friday 13 July – 2pm, Sunday 15 July, 2018

  • Twin share $850 (Early Bird) / $950
  • Private room $1,350 (Early Bird) / $1,450
  • Daytrippers (sat only) $250 (Early Bird) / $270

*Early Bird ends 31st May

Book here

About the instructors

Lars Skalman worked in top end restaurants in Sweden and Sydney for
 20 years until he became interested in macrobiotic and wholefood cooking. He has extensive experience cooking on yoga retreats, where his somewhat unorthodox approach to macrobiotics has made it easier for people to alter their attitudes toward healthy eating. He is also a yoga teacher and shiatsu therapist.

Cate Peterson has over three decades’ 
experience as a Japanese yoga teacher, meditation teacher, occupational therapist and masseuse. Her work with individuals and organisations through United Nations World Yoga Day, YogaHive and Get Off Your Asana is all about bringing yoga practice to full fruition in Australia, so that it can take its place in addressing our communal health.

Riki Edelsten integrates Meridian and Five Element theory into yoga classes, along with Vipassana Meditation, and her love of dance and music.  Riki is passionate about sustaining natural ecosystems and sees yoga and food as a pathway to create healthy people, communities and environments.

Hanami festival. Cherry blossom forecast.

Hanami Festival: Japanese Traditions

The sakura, or cherry blossom, is revered in Japan for its beauty and transience. Hanami is the spring tradition of admiring blossoms—usually cherry, and less frequently, plum. People gather under the blossoms for food, drink and song.

The emergence of the first cherry blossoms is known as kaika. The peak when the most trees are in full bloom is known as mankai.

It is difficult to predict exactly when a cherry blossom tree will bloom, so the Japan Meteorological Corporation releases cherry blossom forecasts. The forecasts try to predict when the blossoms will reach full bloom. (In 2007 the meteorologists got it wrong and issued an official apology: “We have disturbed those who relied on our information.”)

Blooming times vary across Japan—areas with milder winter climates produce earlier blooms. Blooms usually begin in Okinawa in the south. Weather can cause the blossoms to appear earlier or later than average and can lengthen or shorten the blooming period. Blooming typically starts in late March, although some areas may produce blooms as early as January. Sometimes the season extends to May.

This year, Tokyo is predicted to reach peak bloom three days from now, on March 28. Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, is predicted to hit full bloom on May 6; Kyoto on April 4; and Osaka on April 13.

People choose cherry blossom viewing locations for different reasons: some have the oldest trees, others the highest number of blooms, and some are close to historic sites. The proverb, hana yori dango—dumplings rather than flowers—hints that most people are more interested in the festivities than the flowers themselves.

Last year we planted rows of cherry trees at Shizuka Ryokan, and we look forward to holding our own Hanami festival here one day.

Best spots to see the cherry blossoms.

Hina-matsuri: Japanese Traditions

Hinamatsuri (雛祭), also known as Doll’s day or Girls’ Day, is celebrated on March 3. On this day, platforms—hinadan—are covered with red material and used to display ornamental dolls. The dolls represent the Emperor, Empress, attendants and musicians, in the traditional court dress of the Heian period.


Doll’s Day is known as a girls’ celebration, but this wasn’t always the case. Hinamatsuri was originally for all children, but girls’ love of playing with dolls shaped how the day is celebrated today.

Hinamatsuri originated in the Heian period (794 to 1185), a time in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their peak. The Kojiki, or ‘An Account of Ancient Matters’, is a collection of myths published during the Heian period about the origins of Japan, and the kami, or spirits. The myths form part of the origin of many spiritual practices such as the purification ritual. The Kojiki tells a story where one of the mythical founders of Japan purifies himself in the river. This became the Shinto purification rite known as harae.

Harae was practiced by the imperial court. The Tale of Genji, a Japanese novel from the Heian period, mentions the third day of the third month as an auspicious time to perform purification rituals by throwing dolls into the river or ocean. The Onin War (1467-1477) spelled an end to harae at the imperial palace, but it was still practiced by the people and was popular at Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto and at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Osaka. People practiced hina-nagashi, a custom in which straw hina dolls were set afloat on a boat and sent down a river and out to sea, the idea being that they carried away bad spirits.

The earliest record of displaying the dolls in March comes from 1625, when Emperor Go-Mizunoo’s daughter played with dolls. She succeeded her father as Empress Meisho and Hinamatsuri became the official name for the holiday in 1687.

Doll-makers made elaborate dolls for the festival. As the dolls became more expensive, levels were added to the hinadan so that the expensive ones could be placed out of the reach of young children.

Families start to display Hinamatsuri dolls in February and take them down immediately after the festival. Superstition says that leaving the dolls on display past March 4 will result in a late marriage for the daughter.

The levels

The attention to detail that is visible in a Hinamatsuri display is impressive. Different regions of Japan place the dolls in different orders from left to right, but the type of dolls displayed on each level are always the same.

The top level always displays the Emperor and the Empress. There might be extra details on this level, such as silk lanterns decorated with cherry blossoms. Hinamatsuri purists would place two vases of artificial peach branches between the two dolls. The traditional Kansai arrangement had the male on the right, while modern Kanto arrangements place him on the left.

The second level holds three court ladies, each holds sake equipment. The lady on the right is the long-handled sake-bearer Nagae no chōshi, the on the left is the backup sake-bearer Kuwae no chōshi, and the lady in the middle is the seated sake bearer Sanpō. Accessories between the ladies include stands with round tabletops for seasonal sweets.

The third level has a musical theme—it holds five male musicians holding instruments including a small drum, a large drum, a hand drum and a flute, and a singer holding a fan. There are ancient Hinamatsuri sets with up to ten musicians, with at least one with female.

Two ministers may be displayed on the fourth level. These may be the Emperor’s bodyguards, or administrators. They are sometimes carrying a bow and arrow. When they represent ministers, the Minister of the Right is depicted as a young person and the Minister of the Left is older. Between the two figures are covered bowl tables as well as diamond-shaped stands bearing hishi mochi, a Japanese sweet made specially for Hinamatsuri. Just below the ministers on the right is a mandarin tree, and on the left, a cherry blossom.

The fifth level displays three protectors of the Emperor and Empress. They are all having a different experience of being drunk—one is crying, one is angry, and one is laughing. The sixth and seventh levels are less psychologically charged. These levels display a variety of miniature furniture, tools and carriages. The furniture depicts items used in the palace including a chest of drawers, a chest for kimono storage, a sewing kit and utensils for a tea ceremony. The seventh layer displays items used away from the palace such as an ox-drawn carriage and a picnic hamper.

A modern twist

Last year an 81-year-old woman called Masako Wakamiya developed a game app called Hinadan App. The game challenges players to sort all of the hina dolls into their rightful place on a hinadan. You can watch a TED talk of Masako Wakamiya here.

Hinamatsuri at Shizuka Ryokan

Emperor and Empress dolls


Japanese diet. Vegetables From The Sea: to help you look and feel better.

The Health Benefits of a Japanese Diet

The Traditional Japanese breakfast served at Shizuka Ryokan exemplifies Japanese cuisine. Grilled salmon, hijiki seaweed, miso, pickled daikon radish, umeboshi plum and furikake seasoning are regular features around here. Not only are these foods delicious, they are beneficial to health.

The Japanese Diet


Japan consists of 6,852 islands, so it is no surprise that a large part of the Japanese diet is fish. The nutrients and minerals found in pelagic fish—such as tuna, salmon and sardines—include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium. The oily fish found in the Japanese meals served at Shizuka Ryokan is good for the brain and the heart. The Japanese also eat a lot of squid and octopus, foods high in an amino acid called taurine, that can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Most chronic diseases—for example diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and Alzheimer’s—are marked by high levels of inflammation. Studies show the omega-3 fatty acids present in oily fish reduce inflammation and can even help in cases of mild depression. Fish is rich in selenium, which plays a vital role in immunity, and Vitamin B12, which is great for the brain.

please note: At Shizuka Ryokan we cater for a wide range of dietary requirements, including veganism, vegetarianism, and coeliac disease. Our kitchen staff are trained in the preparation of delicious Japanese food within the parameters of special diets.

Fermented Foods

Many Japanese foods are fermented—think pickles, sake, miso and soy sauce. During fermentation foods go through a process of lacto-fermentation, in which bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food. Fermentation produces beneficial enzymes, B Vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics. The digestive benefits of fermented foods are well known. Miso, the paste made from fermented soybeans and grains, contains millions of beneficial bacteria, minerals, vitamins B, E and K, and folic acid. One tablespoon of natto contains billions of Bacillus subtilis, a soil bacteria that can survive the high-acid environment of the stomach and go on to colonise the intestine. Scientists are interested in nattokinase, an enzyme formed during natto production, which has been shown to have blood-thinning actions. Also, natto contains high levels of Vitamin K2, which may help prevent osteoporosis.

In Japan, the rate of breast cancer is low. Japanese women consume a high amount of fermented soy foods including miso paste, tempeh and natto. Fermented soy foods are high in isoflavones—compounds that act as phyto-estrogens (plant substances that have a weak oestrogen-like effect in the body). Isoflavones are also known to increase bone density, and thus reduce the risk of osteoporosis. For this reason, a Japanese diet is useful during menopause.


The Japanese eat more seaweed than any other culture. Seaweed is rich in trace minerals that may be low in our everyday diet, such as iodine, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Green tea

The Japanese drink a lot of green tea. Green tea—especially a type called matcha—is high in polyphenols. Polyphenols are thought to have anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory effects. Green tea is high in catechins, a type of polyphenol. Catechins can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, preventing cell damage. Also, Japanese vegetables and herbs such as purple sweet potatoes, pumpkins and shiso contain large amounts of beneficial antioxidants.

Shizuka Ryokan

Of course, the idea behind a healthy diet is to eat more protective foods and fewer damaging ones. And if you want to live to 100 there are other factors to consider such as: genetics, upbringing, how much exercise you get, how many friends you have, the climate where you live, the standard of healthcare you receive, whether you take onsen and naps and so on. But booking a holiday at Shizuka Ryokan, and eating Japanese food while you are here, is a good place to start!


Around the world, five blue zones—places where people tend to live longer, healthier lives—have been identified: the Italian island of Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; the Greek island of Ikaria, and Okinawa, Japan.

Okinawa, a group of 161 islands in southern Japan, is said to include the largest proportion of people over 100 years of age anywhere in the world (about 33 per 100,000). In Okinawa rates of heart disease and stroke rate are very low, and breast and prostate cancer is extremely rare.

Researchers studied the people of Okinawa’s diet for 25 years to figure out if it was good genetics or diet that accounted for their health. Experiments showed that when people from Okinawa grew up in another country or abandoned the traditional diet they developed the same chronic disease risks as everyone else1. So, it is worth asking: what is the traditional Okinawan diet? Each day Okinawan elders eat seven serves of fruit and vegetables, seven serves of grain and two serves of soy. They also eat fish several times a week and their consumption of dairy and meat is minimal. Their mantra hara hachi bu means eat until you are 8/10ths full.

1 Since the Okinawa study, the life expectancy of men in Okinawa has plummeted from No. 1 in the world to No. 26. Older Okinawans who are eating the traditional diet still rank No. 1, but the younger generation are turning to Big Macs.

Learn more

Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art

Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art

How Umami Works

Okinawa Diet

Wild Fermentation

Vegetables From The Sea


Valentine's Day. Pink coloured kitkat with decorative box. A new addition to Japanese tradition.

Valentine’s Day and White Day: Japanese Traditions

Did you forget to buy your lovely lady some flowers last Valentine’s Day? Shizuka Ryokan forgives you; you were probably just following Japanese tradition.

In Japan men don’t have to worry about shopping for jewellery or flowers in February because Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently there; for the Japanese, Valentine’s is a day when women shower men with chocolates.

There are two types of chocolates. Giri-choco (義理チョコ, ‘courtesy chocolate’) is intended for friends, colleagues, bosses, and close male friends. Giri translates as ‘obligation’, and has no romantic connotation. On the other hand, honmei-choco (本命チョコ, ‘chocolate of love’) is given to a boyfriend, lover, or husband. Japanese women often hand make the honmei-choco in the belief that shop-bought chocolate doesn’t cut it when it comes to true love.

White Day (ホワイトデー) is celebrated one month later on March 14. On White Day the men who received chocolates on February 14 are expected to return the favour threefold  (sanbai gaeshi (三倍返し, ‘triple the return’) by giving gifts. Traditional White Day gifts include cookies, jewellery, white chocolate, white lingerie, and… marshmallows!

How did this White Day tradition happen? Well, in 1977, a candy company in Fukuoka declared March 14 Marshmallow Day (マシュマロデー Mashumaro Dē). This evolved into White Day in 1978 when the National Confectionary Industry Association came up with a genius marketing ploy: an ‘answer day’ to Valentine’s. The slogan was: ‘Answer her love on White Day.’

White Day spread to South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau and China. (Interestingly in South Korea Chupa Chup lollypops are the most popular White Day candy). These days, men give both white and dark chocolate, as well as cookies, jewellery, white lingerie, flowers and marshmallows.

Last week Nestlé Japan Ltd. launched the Sublime Ruby Kitkat, a naturally pink chocolate, created by pâtissier Yasumasa Takagi. The Sublime Ruby Kitkat was created after Swiss cacao processor Barry Callebaut invented ‘ruby’ chocolate late last year. Ruby chocolate is the first new natural colour, following dark, milk, and white, for chocolate since white chocolate was invented in the 1930s. The new ruby chocolate is being marketed as the ideal romantic gift in the lead up to Valentine’s Day.

You might be asking: What about gay relationships? It seems that some couples have a tradition where one person gives chocolates on Valentine’s Day and the other returns the favour on White Day. And if you are single don’t fret: In South Korea there is a day for that. Black Day on April 14 is a day where people who didn’t receive any marshmallows can eat a steaming bowl of jjajyangmyeon, or ‘black noodles’.

Shizuka Ryokan serves a traditional omakase banquet dinner every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday. This year Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday so we are opening the kitchen on February 14 to celebrate. Visit here to book your stay.

Cartoon depiction of the many fruit and vegetables available at the farmers' market.

Farmers’ Markets near Shizuka Ryokan

You might be in for a treat—your visit to Shizuka Ryokan might coincide with a local farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets enable personal connections between growers and consumers. By cutting out the middlemen, local growers receive more food dollars and shoppers receive fresh, in season produce which supports the local community. To learn more visit the Australian Farmers’ Markets Association.

Here is a plan: start the day at Shizuka with a traditional Japanese breakfast then go to a farmers’ market, buy some delicious local cheese, wine and bread and have yourself a picnic. The following is a list of farmers’ markets near Shizuka:


Daylesford Farmers Market

Daylesford Primary School, Vincent Street

9am – 1pm

Woodend Farmers Market

High Street Woodend

9am – 1pm


Castlemaine Farmers Market

Mostyn St, Castlemaine

9am – 1pm


Ballan Farmers Market

96 Inglis St, Ballan

9am – 1pm

Kyneton Farmers Market

St Pauls Park, Piper St, Kyneton

8am – 1pm


Clunes Farmers Market

Collins Place & Fraser St

9am – 2pm


Trentham Farmers Market

Trentham Town Square, Trentham

9am – 1pm