Leanne O'Sullivan from Kimono House will be teaching a boro workshop at Shizuka Ryokan in early 2020

Boro: Japanese traditions

At Shizuka Ryokan, we value Japanese traditions. Whether it be Japanese cookery, sumi-e painting, calligraphy, ikebana, sake tasting, furoshiki, wagashi, origami, mizuhiki, temari, Japanese book binding, Japanese tea ceremony, kokedama or kimono wearing — you will always find a Japanese cultural workshop here in Hepburn Springs.

Last year, Shizuka Ryokan was delighted to host Leanne O’Sullivan for a sashiko Japanese embroidery workshop. Leanne runs Kimono House Japanese Textiles & Craft—where she trades Japanese textiles and crafts kits, exhibits her collection of Japanese textiles, and teaches workshops. Leanne will be returning to Shizuka Ryokan in early 2020 to teach a 2-day boro workshop.

Boro are a type of Japanese textiles that have been mended or patched. The name comes from boroboro—meaning something tattered or repaired. Boro encapsulates the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. The hemp fabric reflects the beauty of daily wear-and-tear.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), hemp was more available in Japan than cotton. (Fabrics made from silk and cotton were reserved for the upper classes.) Boro came to mean clothing worn by the peasant farming classes, who mended their clothing out of necessity.

Boro clothing was handed down from generation to generation, and over time would resemble  patchwork due to the many mended layers. The boro hemp was often dyed using the plant Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctorium). Most boro pieces are a rich deep blue colour.

After the Meiji period (1868-1912), living standards in Japan increased, and most boro were discarded. Many of the boro artifacts that remain are thanks to the foresight of Chuzaburo Tanaka, who collected over 20,000 pieces.

These days, as interest in sustainability and slow fashion grows, people are rediscovering the art of boro repair.

Dates for the 2020 Boro Workshop to be announced.

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.

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

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 on winter solstice, an auspicious day in Japan. On the shortest day of the year people in Japan take yuzu baths and eat pumpkin for good luck. You can read the latest newsletter here. And if you like what you see, please subscribe. The Spring Equinox is just around the corner!

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.


Matcha shortbread on Japanese plate.

Green tea shortbread

People have been known to fall in love with Shizuka Ryokan when they taste the matcha shortbread that we serve upon arrival.


250g butter (room temperature)
¼ cup caster sugar
⅓ cup cornflour
⅓ cup icing sugar
Rind from one grated lemon
1-2 teaspoons of matcha green tea powder
2⅓ cups of gluten-free plain flour


Heat oven (fan forced) to 160°C
Cream butter and sugar. 
Add vanilla essence, lemon rind, cornflour, icing sugar and matcha.
Beat until well combined and creamed. 
Fold in flour and mix well. 
Roll out on floured surface until required thickness. 
Use cookie cutter to cut biscuit shapes. 
Place on baking paper on tray. 
Keep rolling and cutting until finished.
Cook in oven for approximately 30 minutes.  Cool on tray