SAORI weaving on a loom at Shizuka Ryokan

SAORI: Japanese traditions

At Shizuka Ryokan, we host retreats and workshops with a focus on Japanese tradition. One such retreat is the SAORI weaving workshop. Several times each year, Prue Simmons arrives fresh from her llama farm and dyeing studio, to teach people the art of SAORI weaving.

In Japanese the word SAORI comes from sai–individuality, and ori–weaving.

The philosophy of SAORI is an interesting one. In traditional hand weaving an irregular thread is considered a mistake. In SAORI things are very different; the weaver is encouraged to make mistakes. 

SAORI weavers follow four slogans:
1) Consider the differences between a machine and a human being
2) Be bold and adventurous
3) Let’s look out through eyes that shine
4) Inspire one another, and everyone in the group

Japan is renowned for the wabi-sabi philosophy, loosely defined as a world view centered on the acceptance of imperfection. The wabi-sabi aesthetic is in evidence at Shizuka Ryokan. For example, upon arrival guests receive green tea in an irregularly shaped Japanese cup. The style of the Japanese pottery is called hagi ware; the cup is rustic and simple looking, with unrefined textures and is beautiful because it is flawed. The philosophy of SAORI weaving is the same. SAORI weavers celebrate accidents, unexpected colours and textures.

Misao Jo invented SAORI in the late sixties. She was weaving an obi, a Japanese belt, and found that one of the threads was missing. Looking at the belt she realised that the mistake was pleasing to behold. She showed it to a person running a weaving factory who dismissed it as flawed and worthless but this did not deter Misao who had an inherent sense of the value of the handmade object. She deliberately made a belt with many flaws and showed it to the owner on an obi shop in Osaka who thought it was wonderful.

Misao thought that the aesthetic quality of the flawed obi must be the result of something hidden within herself. She realised that the obi’s beauty was a result of escaping conventional thinking in order to express herself. The philosophy of SAORI was born.

To learn more about the SAORI workshop, or other workshops on offer at Shizuka Ryokan, please visit out Retreats and Workshops page.

Founder of Japanese yoga, Yakamura Tempu. There is a yoga workshop coming up at Shizuka Ryokan in spa country, Hepburn Springs

Shinshin-tōitsu-dō: Japanese yoga at Shizuka Ryokan

Shizuka Ryokan is hosting a Japanese yoga retreat in early 2020. The focus of the 3-day retreat is Japanese yoga and macrobiotics.

Japanese culture honours seasonal change. Japan has five seasons: summer, autumn, winter, spring and tsuyu—the rainy season. The Japanese pay close attention to the blessings of each season, and Japanese yoga poses change according to the time of year.

Japanese yoga is underpinned by the theory of the five elements, and the idea that different energy channels, or meridians, in the body correspond with certain organs.

In the early 1900s, Nakamura Tempu spent time in Nepal and India studying traditional yogic practices. He combined traditional yoga with five element theory to create shinshin-toitsu-do—Japanese yoga.

Japanese yoga teaches four basic principles to unify the mind and body:

  • use the mind in a positive way
  • use the mind with full concentration
  • use the body naturally
  • train the body gradually, systematically and continuously.

Join Cate Peterson and Lars Skalman at Shizuka Ryokan this November on a journey of five element yoga. Visit their Seasonal Yoga website to learn more.

Macrobiotic salad of pomegranate, radish and carrot prepared by Lars Skalman

Macrobiotics: Japanese traditions

At Shizuka Ryokan, we host many retreats and workshops throughout the year. One that we are very excited about is the 2019 Seasonal Summer Yoga Retreat. Over three days in November, Cate Peterson and Lars Skalman will be at Shizuka Ryokan teaching Japanese yoga and macrobiotic cooking. (The beautiful photograph accompanying this post is from a collection of macrobiotic recipes by Lars Skalman.)

Many people are familiar with yoga (learn more about Japanese yoga here), but they may not know what macrobiotics is. Here is a brief introduction.

George Oshawa, is seen as the father of macrobiotics. Ohsawa recovered from tuberculosis in 1911 using a seasonal wholefoods diet recommended to him by Dr Ishizuka. Dr Ishizuka had a theory that good health was the result of the correct balance of potassium, sodium, acid and alkaline in the diet.

The macrobiotic diet was popularised by Oshawa in the 1930s. Ohsawa trained students, including Michio and Aveline Kushi, who spread the ideas of macrobiotics throughout the West.

In the late 1970s, there was an explosion of interest in traditional medicine around the world (perhaps helped along by the handsome Bruce Lee). Westerners studied traditional eastern philosophies and practices such as shiatsu, martial arts, nine-ki astrology, reiki, meditation, the I Ching, Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, ta’i chi and macrobiotics.

Macrobiotics is based on the idea that each of us is responsible for our own health. A macrobiotic diet is a pescatarian (or sometimes vegetarian or vegan) diet. It is based upon Zen Buddhist concepts about food. The macrobiotic diet attempts to balance the yin and yang elements of food and cookware.

The macrobiotic diet aims to reduce animal products, eat locally grown foods which are in season, and eat in moderation. Macrobiotics favours locally grown wholegrain cereals, pulses, vegetables, seaweeds, fermented soy products and fruit. For example, soba noodles (buckwheat flour), umeboshi plum and bancha tea are recommended.

Members of the nightshade family such as tomatoes, capsicums, potatoes and eggplant are used sparingly as they are considered to be extremely yin. Cooking utensils should be made from wood or glass, non-stick coating and plastics are avoided.

If you are keen to learn more about macrobiotics, and to see it is a modern-day context, why not come along to the Summer Seasonal Yoga Retreat. You’ll learn from the experts how to prepare seasonal macrobiotic dishes such as beetroot and arame pickles, salt and pepper tofu with black bean sauce, sweet rice pudding and vegetable pakoras. YUM!

About Us – Seasonal Yoga Treats

Collage of yoga teacher Lard Skalman combining phorograph of Lars with images of red summer flowers

2020 Summer Seasonal Yoga Retreat at Shizuka Ryokan

The Summer Seasonal Yoga Treat combines the ancient oriental wisdom of seasonal living, yoga practice, macrobiotic cooking and Japanese shiatsu massage. Join Lars Skalman and Cate Peterson for a weekend retreat at Shizuka Ryokan.

“According to the Oriental view of the cosmos everything, including the seasons, are governed or described by what are known as the five elements. These are: fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Summer is governed by fire which is associated with expansion.”

Join us at Shizuka Ryokan for a delicious weekend of summer yoga, delicious vegetarian food and fun. Shizuka Ryokan is one of Victoria’s premier wellness retreats. Located in Daylesford spa country, simply being surrounded by the manicured gardens and the quiet of a traditional ryokan is a grounding treat. Shiatsu, a type of traditional Japanese bodywork, is on offer.

From Friday until Sunday afternoon we practice yoga, mindfulness and technique to fully embody the summer season. We have chosen practices that suit beginners and the experienced alike. Along with the carefully curated menu, our intention is that you experience a joyful and energetic start to the season.

Summer is a time for eating light foods that assist with cooling our bodies. You will learn the principles that guide food preparation in this season and techniques and practices to take your health into your own hands. Learn and work on your heart and small intestine meridians to help you unblock and clear your pathway to pristine health and the excitement of the new.


  • Twin share $890 (Early Bird) / $990
  • Private room $1,150 (Early Bird) / $1,350

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.

Dates to be announced.

Shizuka Ryokan has many cherry blossoms

Flower walks through Tokyo

Spring is just around the corner at Shizuka Ryokan, the blossoms are budding, and excitement is building.

Japanese tradition honours the seasons and the natural world. In the book A Flower Lover’s Guide to Tokyo, Sumiko Enbutsu explores fifteen iconic flowering plants. Enbutsu writes, ‘Of all the natural phenomena, nothing marks the seasons more than flowers.’

The author explains the historical and cultural background of each species, and outlines walking routes of Japan’s capital that take in the best spots and seasons to enjoy the blooms.

A Flower Lover’s Guide opens with the sakura—the cherry blossom, revered in Japan for its beauty and transience. Hanami is the Japanese tradition of admiring the blossoms in spring—usually cherry, and sometimes plum.

If you can’t make it to Japan in spring 2020 don’t despair—of the fifteen flowers in A Flower Lover’s Guide, eleven are growing at Shizuka Ryokan: cherry blossom, azalea, tree peony, wisteria, iris, morning glory, maple, pine, narcissus, plum blossom and camellia.

ryokan Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenzoviolone/

Shizuka Ryokan newsletter

As well as a Japanese culture blog, Shizuka Ryokan publishes a newsletter four times per year. The latest newsletter was published in late November, 2019. You can read the latest newsletter here. And if you like what you see, please subscribe.

SAORI weaving on a loom at Shizuka Ryokan

SAORI retreats at Shizuka Ryokan


Thursday 31st March – Sunday 3rd April

Thursday 12th May – Sunday 15th May

Thursday 4th August – Sunday 7th August


Further 2022 dates to be announced

Shizuka Ryokan will be rife with creativity and sustainability in 2022 when Prue Simmons returns to teach three-day SAORI workshops. SAORI is a type of Japanese weaving.

Prue Simmons is the founder of the Dyeing to Weave Studio, and is one of just three SAORI teachers in Australia. She was taught traditional Japanese weaving and natural dye techniques by Toyomi Harada in the mountains on Honshu, Japan.

Prue is interested in sustainability, natural dyes, up-cycling and environmentally friendly textiles. Prue and her partner run White Stone Farm in Central Victoria. On the farm they raise llamas and use their fleece to weave beautiful pieces.

To learn more about SAORI you can read the blog post on Shizuka Ryokan’s Japanese culture blog.

To reserve your spot please visit the Dyeing To Weave Studio website here.

Scallops with soy sauce and yuzu made with a traditonal Japanese recipe

Seared scallops with soy and yuzu

Another traditional Japanese recipe from the Shizuka Ryokan kitchen.

Serves 2

scallop shells, for serving
1 tsp brown sugar
3 tsp organic soy sauce
2 tsp mirin
2 tsp drinking sake
2 tsp yuzu juice
10 scallops
10g fine quality butter (Danish)

wakame seaweed for garnish

Pour boiling water on wakame and set aside.

In a small jug, mix together brown sugar, soy sauce, mirin, sake and yuzu juice. Set aside.

Heat frypan until hot. Add butter.

Sear scallops for approximately 1 minute on first side, turn scallop, fry for 30 seconds. Pour sauce from jug into pan. After 30 seconds, remove scallops from pan and set aside.

Stir sauce until it thickens.

To serve: Place scallop shell on a plate of pebbles. Put one scallop in each scallop shell on a bed of wakame. Spoon 1 tsp of sauce over each scallop.

Vegan variation: Replace butter with Nutelex and scallops with the stems of king oyster mushrooms. Example in the recipe photograph at the rear.


Cherry blossoms in bloom at Shizuka Ryokan against a blue sky

Visiting Japan in Spring

Now is the perfect time to book a 2020 trip to Japan. Australia’s autumn corresponds with Japan’s spring. Spring is the most popular time of year for people to visit Japan, so be sure to book your flights and accommodation well in advance. (Golden Week is a national holiday in Japan that will run from April 29 to May 5 in 2020. This is a peak time for travel in Japan and may drive up hotel rates.)

In Japan, spring is sakura—cherry blossom—season. The blossoms start to flower in the south in Okinawa, and the blossom season travels northward. The cherry blossom season only lasts for a few weeks, but spring typically lasts from March to June.

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 in Japan take blankets to the park and hold blossom viewing parties while drinking sake. You can download apps to track the elusive blossoms.

Japanese cuisine takes its cues from the seasons. Spring menus feature takenoko—bamboo shoots, sansai—mountain vegetables such as warabi—fiddlehead fern. Asparagus, spring onions, mizuna and sato-nishiki—a prized type of cherry—are available in spring.

May is the beginning of matsuri—the festival season. Temples take their kami—gods—out on mikoshi—portable shrines—in decorative parades. One of Tokyo’s three annual sumo tournaments takes place in mid-May at Ryogoku Kokugikan—the national sumo stadium.

Japanese Cooking

Seasonal Eating: the Japanese way

The five element philosophy teaches that one fosters health by eating foods that correspond with the seasons. The five element theory originated in China and spread to Japan. The theory is based on five seasons. Each season corresponds with an element, environment, organ pair, flavour and emotion. (The five elements relate to each other in terms of cycles but we won’t go into that now.)

Foods to support the kidneys and bladder during winter

Winter is the season of the kidney and its partner organ, the bladder. Chinese Medicine considers that kidney deficiency is an underlying cause of many ailment, including frequent urination, lack of energy, memory loss, lower back and knee pain, heel and ankle pain, swollen ankles, low libido, impotence and severe menopausal symptoms.

The appropriate flavour for this season is salty. Try to incorporate foods that taste salty such as seafood, beans, bone broth, miso, tamari, and pickles.  Beneficial foods include flax, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, black sesame seeds, walnuts, chestnuts, barley, millet, and deep green vegetables. The herb Rehmannia is of benefit here.

At Shizuka Ryokan, in winter we serve yuzu scallops. Scallops are the perfect tonic for the kidneys.