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Shizuka Ryokan is hosting Leanne from Kimono House in 2020

Boro at Shizuka Ryokan

Sunday 9th February 2020

Shizuka Ryokan will celebrate Japanese textiles in February when Leanne O’Sullivan returns to teach a one-day boro workshop. Boro is a type of Japanese mending.

Spend a relaxed day with Leanne learning how to hand-stitch, mend & quilt layers of recycled cloth to give them new life in the traditional Japanese way.

Be inspired by Leanne’s personal collection of vintage Japanese boro textiles and discover how boro is being stitched by artisans in Tokyo today. All materials will be provided including vintage kimono cloth with Japanese threads, needles and thimble – everything you need to create your own textile treasures to wear or have in you home.

About the teacher

Leanne first visited Japan in the 1980s, where she lived and worked for 5 years. It was during this time that she became interested in Japanese textiles, and the kimono in particular.

“Whilst living in Japan I was constantly inspired by the extreme contrasts around me—everywhere I looked there seemed to be a mix of traditional and contemporary co-existing beautifully.”

This contrast is evident in Leanne’s pieces, which combine new and vintage fabric, and traditional and contemporary design. These days, Leanne runs Kimono House Japanese Textiles & Craft —where she trades Japanese textiles and craft kits, teaches workshops and exhibits her collection of Japanese textiles.

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

Shizuka Ryokan is hosting Rieko Hayashi this November

Food for healing workshop with Rieko Hayashi

10.30am – 3.30pm Thursday, 14th November, or
10.30am – 3.30pm Saturday, 16th November

Rieko Hayashi is coming to Shizuka Ryokan. Rieko is a nutritionist, chef and yoga teacher.


Rieko’s one-day workshop includes:

  • Welcome tea
  • Yoga and breath work
  • Healthy Japanese lunch–including fermented pickles, fish and bone broth, and biodynamic brown rice. *
  • Healthy eating tips from Rieko

* Please note the workshop recipes include common allergens such as soy, sesame and seafood.

Cost: $145 per person

Bookings: please email Rieko at rieko@riekohayashi.com

https://www.facebook.com/foodforhealingbyriekohayashi

Accommodation is available for workshop participants on Friday 15th and Saturday 17th. For accommodation enquiries please phone Catherine Defina at Shizuka Ryokan on 5348 2030.

Shizuka Ryokan's in-house ikebana practitioner, Trish Ward.

Ikebana : Japanese traditions

I’m at Shizuka Ryokan watching Trish Ward arrange plants in a Japanese ceramic vase destined for the coffee table. It is a Wednesday. Shizuka, closed for the day, is a hive of activity—there are deliveries for the kitchen, a Japanese yoga teacher meeting with the owner to plan a future workshop, a bearded artist up a ladder painting, a gardener, Cleo the dog, Hugo the horse, even a kookaburra on the deck. But despite the mayhem, Trish is calm and focused. She has entered the flow state.

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. It dates back to 7th century Japan, when floral tributes were made at Buddhist altars. Later ikebana was displayed in the home. Guests at Shizuka Ryokan are often delighted to discover an ikebana floral arrangement in the tokonoma—alcove—of their room.

Trish is Shizuka Ryokan’s in-house ikebana practitioner and the mother of Shizuka owner Catherine Defina. Trish has been creating ikebana arrangements for over 20 years. She is a member of the modern Sogetsu school, founded in 1927 by Teshigahara Sofu and based in Tokyo.  

Buddhist priests were the early ikebana masters and the art form was heavily influenced by tea masters. Trish says, ‘Samurai warriors used to do ikebana before and after battle to calm themselves. Women were not allowed to do it. It was a men-only thing.’

Plants play an important role in Trish’s life. Her home garden includes plenty of interesting flowers and foliage, ‘That is common among ikebana people. Whatever they grow, they think “ikebana”. The idea is to be able to go into your garden and just pick flowers and arrange them. It is as simple as that.’

Ikebana ties in beautifully with the awareness and appreciation of the seasons that underpins much of Japanese culture.

Norman Sparnon brought ikebana to Australia in the 1960s. Sparnon was born in Melbourne and as a youth became interested in Japanese culture. During World War II, he served in Japan under General Douglas Macarthur. After the war, he stayed in Japan for twelve years, studying ikebana under Kobayashi Sensei of the Einghin School and later with Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu School.

Sparnon returned to Australia, and dedicated the rest of his life to cultivating a cultural exchange between Australia and Japan. He lived in Sydney but would travel down to teach ikebana in Hawthorn Town Hall once a month.

Trish spent some time living in Indonesia, where she would see ikebana demonstrations at the American Embassy. ‘I quite liked it but with children I didn’t have time for such things.’ Years passed. Back in Australia, a friend took Trish to the American Embassy in Canberra for an ikebana demonstration and she was enchanted. Trish finally learned ikebana from a teacher called Teresa Feile in the Dandenong Ranges. Feile was a former student of Sparnon.

Today, there are over 1000 different schools of ikebana around the world and five schools of ikebana in Melbourne, under the umbrella of Ikebana International.

Trish is arranging a West Australian native as we speak. Trish has to select plants suited to the ryokan environment. ‘With the warmth in the guestrooms here, you need things to last.’ She points to a plant, ‘This is the Xanthorrhoea, the Grass Tree, commonly called Kangaroo Tail.’

Australian natives are a recent addition to the ikebana world, previously reliant upon European flowers. ‘There is a change in the whole culture. I think the Japanese use a lot of our natives so that has probably filtered through. But,’ Trish motions to the Grass Tree, ‘they are more difficult to use. There is lots of foliage on them. You’ve really got to thin it out because, in ikebana, less is more.’

Watching Trish thin out Australian native plants in a traditional Japanese way captures Shizuka Ryokan perfectly—a brilliant synergy of the Australian bush and Japanese tradition.

‘I just get lost in it. You fiddle around. And the next thing, an hour is gone. You gradually get an eye for it.’

The ikebana on display at Shizuka is free-style. Aside from Australian natives, Trish also incorporates fruit or vegetables. The spa treatment room at Shizuka is sometimes perfumed by a citrus fruit called a Buddha’s hand, or enlivened by the bright orange of a persimmon. (The weirdest thing that Trish has used in ikebana is the head gasket of an old car.)

Ikebana is very different to western floral art but like other traditional art forms, it is only after you have mastered the basics that you can let your creativity run wild. The old adage ‘You’ve got to know the rules to break them’ applies here. Trish did strict formal arrangements for the first five years. ‘Even though you are doing free-style, you’re still going back to the basics—the shin-soe-hikae.’

Shin-soe-hikae are the three elements of an ikebana arrangement. Shin tends to be the longest branch, soe is medium length and hikae is the shortest and closest to the base.

 We are very lucky to have Trish here at Shizuka Ryokan. She loves ikebana, ‘The colour, the shape, everything. It sort of all goes together.’

Ikebana International hosts annual exhibitions. The Sogetsu School exhibits at the Hawthorn Town Hall every year. You can also see Trish’s work every week at Seasons Restaurant at Cloudehill Gardens and every year at the Royal Melbourne Flower and Garden Show.

Shizuka Ryokan is hosting a boro workshop in 2020

Boro: Japanese traditions

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.

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.

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.