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Close up detail of SAORI weaving on loom.

SAORI: Japanese Traditions

When you get to explore your own creativity you tap into your inner spirit, and what makes you unique. Prue Simmons There is something downright mythological about Prue Simmons—one senses that if you spent enough time in her company you would rise like a phoenix from the ashes of your boring office job. Prue is […]

SAORI weaving on a loom.

SAORI retreat at Shizuka Ryokan

Thursday 24th – Sunday 27th October 2019

Shizuka Ryokan will be rife with creativity and sustainability this October during a three day SAORI Japanese weaving workshop.

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

The philosophy of SAORI is an interesting one. In traditional hand weaving regularity is the law, and 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, which can be 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.

The SAORI workshop at Shizuka will be taught by Prue Simmons, founder of the Dyeing To Weave SAORI Studio. Prue is one of only three SAORI teachers in Australia. She learned traditional Japanese weaving and natural dye techniques from Toyomi Harada in the mountains of Honshu, Japan. Prue is interested in sustainability, natural dyes, upcycling and environmentally friendly textiles. Prue and her partner run White Stone Farm in Central Victoria. On the farm Prue raises llamas and uses their fleece to weave beautiful pieces.

The workshop runs Thursday 24th – Sunday 27th October 2019


 

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.


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.


Lars Skalman in a yoga pose

Spring Seasonal Yoga Retreat at Shizuka Ryokan

5pm Friday, 6th September—2pm Sunday, 8th September

Book here

The Spring 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.

“Envisage the growth from seed to sapling after the dormancy of winter; this is the time of rejuvenation and growing in previously unexplored directions. In yoga classes, we capture this pervasive feeling of new beginnings. The healthy expression of wood funnels and controls energy in its upward, twisting, movements of release.

Join us at Shizuka Ryokan for a delicious weekend of Spring yoga, delicious vegetarian food and fun. Shizuka Ryokan is in itself an experience of the peace and grounding of Japanese culture. Simply being surrounded by the manicured gardens and permeating quiet is a true treat. Shiatsu is on offer.

From Friday until Sunday afternoon we practice yoga, mindfulness and technique to fully embody the Spring Season. We have chosen practices that suit beginners and the experienced alike. Along with the carefully curated menu , our intention is that you leave bubbling with Spring energy for a refreshing, detoxing, energetic start to the season.

You will learn the principles that guide food preparation in this season of fresh green growth and techniques and practices to take your health into your own hands. Learn and work on your liver and gall bladder 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
  • Early Bird ends 21st July

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.

Image: pinterest.com.au/MOONABEANS/ Yuzu bath Japan Japanese culture onsen

The five seasons: Japanese traditions

Japanese culture honours the seasons. Japan is a mountainous country of islands stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China and Phillipine Seas in the south. Japan experiences five distinct seasons due to the wide variation in geography and climate: summer, autumn, winter, spring and tsuyu—the rainy season. The Japanese pay close attention to the blessings of each season, and practices have evolved to honour seasonal change.

Starting around Shogatsu—the New Year—icy winds bring snowfall to a large area of Japan stretching from Hokkaido Island in the north to the Hokuriku region of Honshu, the main island of Japan. (It does not snow in Okinawa Island in the south.) Heavy snowfall does not start until later in the year, sometimes in February. On the north island up to four metres of snow may fall in a season.

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.

Next comes tsuyu—the fifth season. It pours rain. The start and end of the rainy season varies, but people usually avoid travelling to Japan during the last two weeks of June.

After tsuyu—the rainy season—ends the whole of Japan, with the exception of the northern island Hokkaido, enters a season of high humidity and temperature. Summer runs from July to September. Miyazaki mangoes and Kyushu papayas appear at the market. Typhoon season ravages Okinawa in the south.

In autumn, leaves change colour to gold and red, and people forage for mushrooms and harvest rice, apples, nashi and persimmons. Momijigarimaple viewing—is the tradition of visiting areas where maple trees have turned red. The days gradually grow darker and colder and autumn turns to winter once more.

At Shizuka Ryokan we have adopted the Japanese practice of honouring the seasons, with a southern hemisphere twist. In the guestrooms, flowers are changed in accordance with the seasons. Two seasons ago, our gardener planted cherry blossoms, with the aim of celebrating hanami—the cherry blossom festival—at Shizuka in the spring.

We have a seasonal yin yang go gyo yoga retreat with Lars Skalman and Cate Peterson planned for spring that ties in perfectly with the five seasons of Japan. Shizuka’s shiatsu practitioners are trained in five element shiatsu—a philosophy that encapsulates the Japanese concept of the five seasons.

At the time of writing, our menu reflects the seasons, with delicious edible pine mushrooms gleaned from the pine grove just outside the kitchen. 

In Japan during Touji–winter solstice–people take yuzu baths. Winter solstice falls on June 22 in Australia this year. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit. Yuzu baths are believed to purify the body and soul. Here at Shizuka, we foster the Japanese yuzu bathing tradition by providing yuzu & hinoki bath salts with each overnight booking.

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