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.
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
Momijigari–maple viewing–is the tradition of visiting areas where the maple trees have turned red. The Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) at Shizuka Ryokan are exploding with colour this month. There are a variety of maple species growing at Shizuka Ryokan, in a range of colours—from blood red through to subtle bronze.
At Shizuka, we have come to realise that the Japanese maple tree is a wonder across all seasons. In winter, the trees have no leaves and the branches are framed against the Hepburn sky. In spring, new growth, flowers and colours appear. In summer, the leaves provide shade for guests (and birds) and in autumn, the fall of the leaves marks the ephemeral nature of existence.
Shizuka Ryokan’s gardens are a place to reflect. Shizuka Ryokan features a tsubo-niwa, or courtyard garden, an essential part of traditional ryokans. The architecture of Shizuka Ryokan is organised around a raked gravel garden that has a maple tree growing out of it. (In Japan, raking gravel took on a symbolic significance for the Buddhist monks–more on that in a future blog post!)
The Japanese maple is native to Japan, China, Korea, Mongolia and Russia, where it grows in mixed and understorey forests. There are hundreds of varieties, with a wide variation in leaf colour and texture. Maples are prized for their 7-palmed leaves and colours. There are generally two types of tree shape: upright and horizontal.
Botanists have a field day identifying Japanese maples. There are so many different cultivars a system of categorisation has developed. They are divided into 7 groups. 5 of the groups depend on their leaf forms:
- Amoenum Group: Each leaf is divided up to two-thirds to the leaf base
- Palmatum Group: Each leaf is divided two-thirds to three-fourths to the leaf base
- Matsumurae Group: Each leaf is divide more than three-fourths to the leaf base
- Dissectum Group: Each lead is divided into lobes, which are dissected into sub-lobes
- Linearilobum Group: Each leaf is divided from the tip to the base into narrow, straplike lobes
(The final 2 groups are dwarf cultivars and cultivars that don’t fit the other groups)
The ancient art of gardening is alive and well at Shizuka Ryokan. Our gardens display a beautiful selection of traditional Japanese plants such as bamboo, ginkgo, persimmon, sakura (cherry blossom), maple, shiso (a herb used in our kitchen), magnolia, Japanese quince and hibiscus. At dusk, the pine trees fill with sulphur-crested cockatoos, and the fruit trees attract fast moving parrots, leaving streaks of the brightest greens and reds. Kangaroos feed on the grass. A kookaburra sits on the wooden bridge at the ryokan entrance, waiting for chef Akiko-san to appear with sashimi. It is this fusion–of Japanese tradition in an Australian setting–that makes a visit to Shizuka Ryokan potent and unique.
This month, the Irises are in bloom. In Japan, Iris cultivation is considered a high art, and the Japanese have developed more than 2000 cultivated varieties. These cultivars display large, beautifully coloured and patterned flowers, with exceptional wide falls (the petals that hang down) and narrow standards (the upright petals).
The name Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow, an apt name for a species that blooms in a wide range of colours. There are around 300 species of Iris. They are treasured for their large flowers—in colours of blue, purple, maroon or white—and their contrasting pattterns of dots, stripes, veins and edges. Many Iris have ruffled flowers, with multiple floral parts.
There are three species of Iris commonly grown in Japan—hanashobu (Iris ensata), kakitsubata (Iris laevigata) and ayame (Iris sanguinea). Outside of Japan, Iris ensata is referred to as ‘Japanese iris’. It has a bluish purple colour and references to it in Japanese art and literature date back to the 12th century. Iris ensata is native to Japan, China, Korea and Siberia. It is believed that farmers would plant irises in or near their rice fields because their blooming coincided with the start of the rainy season—the time for transplanting rice plants from seed beds to the fields.
To learn more we recommend The Japanese Garden, a fantastic book written by Sophie Walker.
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. Read more
ph: +61 3 5348 2030