Mountains, Sacred Myths, and Respect for Nature

Japanese affinity for awe-inspiring beauty of their mountains is deep-rooted in a curious mix of sacred myths, love of outdoors and respect for nature.

Nearly 70 per cent of the Japanese archipelago is covered in breathtaking mountain ranges and majestic peaks.

According to the living traditions of Sangaku Shinkō, which blends beliefs from Shinto and Buddhist teachings, all mountains are sacred.

Numerous mountain tops have dedicated shrines and temples. Since time immemorial to this day, worshippers in large numbers have been embarking on religious mountain pilgrimages to seek salvation and express their thanks.

Seiganto-ji (Temple of the Blue Waves) in Wakayama Prefecture

Seiganto-ji (Temple of the Blue Waves) in Wakayama Prefecture

Off the beaten track

If you come to Japan, choosing which breathtaking mountainside to visit will be a daunting task. Their numbers runs into thousands.

There is hardly a corner of the world which does not know about Mount Fuji. You can add the majestic peaks of the Nagano range, home of 1989 Winter Olympics, to the list. However, every single prefecture in Japan offers a unique experience.

Below are a few wondrous mountainside spots in Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost major island. Though they are popular destinations for the Japanese, many (if not most) foreign visitors don’t ever get to see them.

Takachiho, Japan’s Birthplace

Mysterious, dramatic and awe-inspiring. This mountainous region in central Kyushu is a place of profound religious importance and unparalleled natural beauty.

The region is steeped in Japanese creation mythology. According to legend, it is sacred ground where gods descended to earth and Japan came into existence.

The ancient town of Takachiho is home to the legend of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, who came out from hiding and brought sunlight to the world. The magnificent Ama-no-Iwato shrine is thought to be where she made her appearance.

A must-see place is the Takachiho Gorge, a deep ravine cut through volcanic basalt rocks by the Gokase River (where you can also do whitewater rafting). Pristine waterfalls juxtapose sheer cliffs which resemble imposing dragons.

Takachiho Gorge in central Kyushu

To access, take a 90 minute flight from Tokyo to Kumamoto. In Kumamoto airport, there are direct buses to Takachiho. The bus ride takes about 2 hours, and the scenery along the way will not disappoint you!

Volcanic Tapestries of Kirishima

This is a volcanically active region in Southern Kyushu, home to breathtaking panoramas, beautiful shrines and some of Japan’s most renowned hot springs such as Ibusuki Onsen and the Kirishima Onsen village.

The area includes the ecologically important Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, a volcanic wonderland which boasts numerous peaks and crater lakes.

The scenic mount Sakurajima is located near downtown Kagoshima. It is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and minor eruptions often take place multiple times per day!

The ecologically important Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park is home to numerous peaks and crater lakes.

Crater lake in Kirishima-Kinkowan national park

Access is through the city of Kagoshima, about a 100 minute flight from Tokyo.

Whimsical, Mystical Yakushima

Yakushima is a pristine, small mountainous island located about 60 km south of Kagoshima bay. It is a moss-covered place of otherworldly beauty and home of giant Yaku cedars, some of which are over 1,000 years old.

The island has 6 major mountain peaks including Miyanoura-dake, the tallest mountain in Kyushu.

The central part of Yakushima island was officially declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1993.

A pristine, small mountainous island located about 60 km south of Kagoshima bay. It is a moss-covered place of heavenly beauty and home of giant Yaku cedars

Yakushima island

You can reach Yakushima via a four hour ferry ride from downtown Kagoshima harbor. There is also a high-speed jetfoil ferry which takes about 75 minutes.

This is a rugged land of timeless beauty. If you go there, you will be venturing into the unknown. But, your hotel can help book a safe, guided trek.

Mountain Day National Holiday

Starting in 2016, August 11 is the official Mountain Day national holiday. The legislation was approved with overwhelming support from legislators, the public and the business community.

In busy-busy Japan, it is not easy to enact legislation for yet another public holiday. The fact that Mountain Day has made the list is a testament to the important role natural resources play in this nation’s, and perhaps our world’s, continued viability.

Mountain Day complements the list of days dedicated to appreciating nature, which include Greenery Day (May 4) and Marine Day (July 17) national holidays.

What they are, I don’t even know

Mountains are a source of life. Besides their awesome beauty, they are home to multitudes of plants and creatures we share this world with, most of which we know so little about. But that matters little for appreciating them.

Here is a haiku by Taneda Santōka (Dec 1882 – Oct 1940) who loved to trek mountains. His style might be uniquely Japanese, but the thoughts he evokes are simply human and transcend culture.

What they are,
I don’t even know.
Yet they are all blooming!

(In Japanese 何が何やらみんな咲いてゐる, nani ga nani yara min-na saite iru.)

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The Humble Rice Paddy Holds Secrets of Japan’s Soul

For the Japanese, rice farming is more than just agriculture; it is the essence of culture, community and indeed life itself.

It is hard to exaggerate the reverence Japanese have for rice farming. Organized rice cultivation in Japan began about 2,000 years ago, during the iron-age “Yayoi” period. Since then, it has permeated every aspect of Japanese culture and daily life.

Of course, the rice plant has many practical uses; it is hard to think of a Japanese dish without cooked rice. But this is only where the story begins.

Japanese also use rice to make vinegar, flour, and alcohol. They process it to make rice bran oil and fine “shiro nuka” powder for skincare and for making rice bran soap.

Rice straw (“wara”) is woven to make rope, stylish fabrics and beautiful sandals ("waraji").

Japanese rice straw sandals (“waraji”)

The core of tatami mats is made of multilayered rice straw (“wara”) which is also hand-woven to make rope, stylish fabrics, baskets and practical sandals (“waraji”).

The Japanese word for cooked rice (“gohan”) is synonymous with the word for meal. When lunch is ready, mother’s emphatically announce it to their children by calling out “gohan desuyo!” Similarly, friends commonly ask each other “gohan mo tabeta?” to inquire if he/she has already had a meal.

However, and perhaps even more importantly, Japanese consider rice farming as a central pillar of their communities — living and working together in harmony, caring for the land and being grateful to the heavens for its gifts.

The "ta" kanji — like the ideals of a Japanese rice paddy — represents planning, sharing communal resources, fairness and equality.

Japanese kanji for rice paddy (“ta”)

The Japanese character for rice paddy is “ta”. It is a simple yet stylish character which depicts a group of neatly organized rice paddies.

It is not hard to imagine that the kanji for “ta” — like the ideals of a Japanese rice paddy — represents planning, sharing communal resources, fairness and equality.

Otaue Matsuri (rice planting festival)

Rice planting normally gets underway throughout Japan in the month of May. This is the time for lively ritual rice planting festivals (“Otaue Matsuri”) in countless town and villages.

here is a small rice paddy on the imperial palace grounds in Tokyo, which is tended to personally by the current emperor himself.

Emperor Akihito

Performing the Otaue rituals is also an important imperial event. For over two thousand years, almost every one of 125 Japanese emperors have performed it publicly.

There is a small rice paddy on the imperial palace grounds in Tokyo, which is tended to personally by the current emperor himself.

Pictures below are from this year’s (2017) Otaue Matsuri in the magnificent Miyazaki shrine in our town, with a rich history going back to when it was erected in the year 1197 AD.

After ritual purification, planting gets underway by participants dressed in colorful traditional outfits donning rice-straw hats. They wade into the mud singing in unison and begin to plant the seedlings. They continue to sing as they plant, until the entire paddy is covered with bright-green plantings.

Young girls in colorful outfits line up to enter the paddy to begin planting

Youn girls in colorful outfits enter the rice paddy to begin planting

young girl and a rice seedling ready to be planted

young girls sing while they plant the rice seedlings

young girls keep singing till the paddy is covered with bright-green seedlings

How do you put a price on a nation’s soul?

In this age of globalism, Japan is under heavy pressure to open its domestic rice market to foreign imports. Global agribusiness lobbies claim buying their rice is a good bargain since it means lower prices for Japanese consumers.

Rice farming is an integral weave in the tapestry of Japanese cultural identity. There are thousands of haiku poems about rice. The kanji for rice paddy (“ta”) is common in people’s surnames (such as Tanaka, Fujita, …) In short, it’s in the nation’s collective DNA.

Multinational corporations produce rice for making a profit. But the price they ask for is not just in dollars or yens; it includes a piece of the nation’s soul.

Should everything be for sale?

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A Bold, Beautiful Lady

Tōkō Shinoda is an avant-garde Japanese painter who keeps creating masterpieces. She just turned 104.

Toko Shinoda is a leading Japanese avant-garde painter who just turned 104. For over seventy years she has kept on creating bold, evocative art which speak from her heart.

Reminiscence – 2005

Picture above is of a 2005 painting by Toko-san. Black strokes and audacious reds juxtapose against graceful, subtle hues. The brushwork seems quick, yet full of purpose and resolve. Like all her works, it is vivid and daring.

Born in 1913, Toko-san studied Japanese traditional calligraphy and waka poetry at a young age. Her classical sumi-ink paintings were on exhibition by the time she was in her mid twenties.

Toko Shinoda circa mid 1940’s

By mid-1940’s Toko-san had discovered the power and freedom of modern art and began producing avant-garde works with a new-found fusion of Japanese traditional brushwork and abstract expressionism.

This remarkable lady is considered equivalent to such painters as Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso, and her works are exhibited in leading museums and galleries all over the world.

At 104, her mind is as sharp as ever and her hands keep on creating masterpieces. This year, she will be exhibiting about fifty of her works in Musee Tomo in downtown Tokyo till May 29th.

Toko-san has always said her works are from her heart. The raw, confident beauty of her bold strokes say if it comes from the heart, it has to be right.

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Place Where There Are No Strangers

The place where there are no strangers is not a place at all; it is in our hearts. To me, the pretty cherry blossoms show the way how.under cherry blossoms’ shade
even those whom we don’t know
are not strangers

                               – Issa Kobayashi (1819)

When we can share feelings with others, they are no longer strangers. If we have empathy, “others” become “we”. Where there can never be any strangers is not a spot, town or a country. It is in our hearts.

It’s early March. Starting from Okinawa islands to the south, Japanese cherry blossoms have begun their glorious annual march towards northern latitudes.

They will be in full bloom here in south Kyushu in about two weeks, grace Tokyo a few days later and blanket Tohoku in early April.

There are volumes written about beauty and cultural significance of Japan’s cherry blossoms, or “sakura” in Japanese. Undoubtedly, there is an ethereal quality about them which transcends culture and place.

You don’t have to be Japanese to be awestruck by their beauty, to be uplifted by their liveliness or sense their impermanence and fragility. All you have to be is human.

About Issa and This Haiku

Issa Kobayashi (1763 – 1828) is one of the great Japanese masters of haiku poetry. Issa’s haikus are notable for their deep insights into human psyche and his affinity for small creatures such as butterflies.

The above is a classic haiku in three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively:

hana no kage / aka no tanin wa / nakari keri

花の陰 赤の他人は なかりけり

(Literally: blossom’s shade / utter strangers / do not exist)

Issa uses the word hana (blossom, flower) instead of sakura (cherry blossom). In Japanese, hana has a soft nuance and leaves a lot to imagination, as opposed to the word sakura which is exact, almost to the point of being technical.

He further extends the nuance by using the phrase no kage (shade of), meaning “thankfully to” or “by the grace of”.

In the second line, Issa describes stranger (the word tanin) by qualifying it with aka no, meaning utter or complete. He is limiting his thought not to just a casual stranger, but to one who could be a stranger in every sense of the word.

Humanity of Shared Emotions

Viewing cherry blossoms is a joyful light-hearted affair. At the same time, their impermanence, the feel that they will be gone soon, is deeply moving and evocative.

If we can share these feelings together, if we have empathy for one another, we are no longer strangers — whether we greet each other by saying hello, konnichiwa or salam.

This beautiful haiku was written 200 years ago. It is just as fresh today, and perhaps more relevant in a world where divisions and misunderstandings amongst peoples and nations can imperil us all.

Issa’s haiku suits the season, of course. It is also about a timeless human quality: Empathy.

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Reflections and Hopes

thank-you-for-2016December is time for traditions, celebrations and expressing gratitude. It is also time for reflections, hopes and positive thoughts.

We have had a busy year, thanks to every single one of you. Additionally, your suggestions, reviews and survey responses have guided us through our growth. We are grateful and hope that you continue to support and guide us.

Year of Challenges and Growth

The challenges we faced in 2016 were not new. Since our humble beginning is 2010 we have steadily been growing, and this year has been no exception. We doubled our office size, launched six new products and deployed a new server in the US to better serve our North American customers.

Our rapid growth has in large part been due to the word-of-mouth of esteemed customers such as yourself, who kindly recommend us to friends and family. We get many inquiries from wholesalers and distributers, which we respectfully turn down in order to control our growth and maintain our quality and service standards.

The supply base for genuine Japanese traditional products is limited, and demand can easily outstrip our supplies. We produce our products in small batches using labor-intensive Japanese traditional setups, which are not scalable as in factory-made products.

The skilled craft-makers who produce our products are few in number. Many are also mature in age. Their work is a labor of experience, patience and love. It is not easy to transfer their hard-earned skills to the younger generation.

From comb maker to washcloth weaver, camellia oil presser, rice bran powderer, herbal tea farmer, pearl grinder and incense maker, we owe every single one a huge debt of gratitude. We support and encourage them in any which way we can, in light of the fact that many of their crafts are threatened by imitation mass-producers.

The Road Ahead

In 2017, we will introduce a few new offerings, but very carefully and selectively.

Our guiding principles will remain to be our Japanese traditions. We will stay true to products which are time-tested and natural as well as additive and cruelty-free.

We wish to help you use fewer products. This statement might sound counterintuitive coming from a business. We plan to grow and make a profit. This is a fact, of course. Nevertheless, for growth to be responsible and sustainable, it has to have ethical bounds.

We do not advocate mindless consumerism. Our growth will continue to come from attracting thoughtful customers — who are tired of marketing gimmicks and want to use few but genuine products, be it for their beauty, health or for both.

We believe that true beauty and health is never a project, but a fulfilling lifestyle. Along with products, we will continue to provide you with cultural perspectives, how-to pages and blogs, based on practical Japanese traditions.

The real soul of Japan lies within its ordinary life. This is the information we wish to convey in our publications. We do not aim to entice you with commercialized clichés of heavily made-up performers and geishas. Our goal is to enable you to make informed product choices suited to your own needs and lifestyle.

From all of us, and on behalf of our suppliers, thank you for letting us be of service. We hope to remain worthy of your expectations in 2017.



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How to Take a Japanese Style Bath at Home

you can incorporate the essential elements of the Japanese bath ritual into your routineIf you live outside Japan, chances are your home is not equipped with a Japanese style bath. Even so, you can still incorporate the essential elements of the Japanese bath ritual into your routine.

Cleanse, Bathe, Power Down

The Japanese traditional bathing is an tranquil ritual perfected through centuries. It is typically taken in the evening to scrub and cleanse — and just as importantly, to relax and let the day’s troubles melt away.

There are three basic activities in the Japanese bath ritual:

  • First, you scrub and wash yourself thoroughly.
  • Then, you soak in a tub of hot, clean water and relax.
  • Last, after you get out, you make yourself comfortable and continue to deepen your relaxation.

Tips for Proper Bathing

If you have a separate shower, fill up your tub ahead of time. This way, you can step right into your tub when you are done cleansing yourself.

If your shower is inside your tub, clean your tub after taking shower and then fill it up with hot water for your soak.

Drop in an herbal bath pack if you wish. Otherwise, hot clear water is fine.

The water temperature should be comfortable to the skin. Most prefer a temperature between 38 and 40° C (100 to 104 °F).

feel the water envelope your skin and relax. Slowly splash some on your neck and shoulders. Listen to the sounds and feel the tiny streams run their way down.Step slowly in your tub, feel the water envelope your skin and relax. Slowly splash some on your neck and shoulders. Listen to the sounds and feel the tiny streams run their way down.

If taking an herbal bath, breathe in the aroma calmly and deeply. Unwind and let your mind go of everything except the moment.

Typical soak time is 10 to 15 minutes.

After Taking a Bath

Japanese bathing ritual does not end in the tub. You continue to deepen your relaxation after your soak. Japanese call this yu-agari Japanese bathing ritual does not end in the tub. You continue to deepen your relaxation after your soak. Japanese call this yu-agari (湯上がり, after bathing).

Put on your favorite comfortable clothes, set your worries aside and relax in any which way you please. Have savories, take a nap, curl up with a book, listen to music, sip tea, play, groom yourself, or… do nothing at all.

This is your personal time. Let the world wait.

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Flower From Another World

Autumn has arrived in Japan and like in every year around this time, mysterious, other-worldly Higanbana flowers (Red Spider Lily) are in bloom

Autumn has arrived in Japan and like in every year around this time, the mystical, other-worldly Higanbana flowers (Red Spider Lily) are in bloom. And like in every year, it’s time for people to visit the family cemetery to clean it and pay respect to their ancestors.

Japanese visit the family cemetery during Higan to clean it and pay respect to their ancestors.Higanbana flowers are symbols of the solemn tradition of Higan, a seven-day period centered around September 22, the Autumn Equinox. Night and day are equal, and Japanese believe that the world of the living and world of departed are at their closest around this time.

For me, Higanbana flowers (especially the red ones) bring back my childhood memories. When I was a child, they grew wild mostly in cemeteries, but also around rice paddies and along common passages. These days, they are also planted in beautiful parks and gardens.

Higanbana flowers (especially the red ones) bring back my childhood memories.Back then, I was scared of touching them. Elders used to warn children not to touch them lest they get sick. But children are curious, and once in a while we would pick them by breaking their stems… Oh, my! They smelled so pungent. I thought they smelled like something dead.

Japanese believe that the world of the living and the world of the departed are separated by the mythical Sanzu river. The Kanji for Higan (彼岸)means the “other shore”.

Higan is not the world of the “dead”. Rather, it is where our departed ancestors “live” albeit in a different form. We, mortals, live in Shigan (此岸), the “near shore”.

The word Higanbana (彼岸花) means the “flower from the other shore”. Higanbana flowers are believed to be temporary embodiments of our ancestors who come for a brief visit when our two worlds are at their closest during the autumn equinox (we also observe a seven-day Higan period during the spring equinox).

I’m not scared of Higanbana flowers anymore. Now, I respect them and adore their beauty.

I hope one day, if I come back as one, others feel the same.

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Pearl Powder for Skin Care: Facts, Benefits and How to Use

Safe, Therapeutic, Cosmetic: To use a good, pure pearl powder for skincare is to get a rare gift of nature which can boast all three benefits at the same time.

Pearl powders from Japanese Akoya oysters are among the finest anywhere, renowned for their quality, nutrition content and iridescent hues (also called orient)It’s common knowledge that royal ladies were using pearl powder to keep their skin looking young and beautiful as far back as 2,000 years ago.

Although this is a historical fact, modern pearl powders come in a wide range of variety, quality and performance — which these ladies never knew.

The powder from nacre of Akoya pearl oysters is among the finest anywhere, renowned for its quality, nutrition content and iridescent hues (also called orient). Akoya oysters are rare and exceedingly sensitive to pollution. The Japanese variety accounts for less than 2% of the market.


Pearl powder promotes bouncier skin, reduces pore size, lightens skin’s tone and improves texture. It can also be used as a subtle, yet sophisticated mineral makeup.

Pearl powder’s powerful benefits mainly come from its abundance of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron plus a complex protein called conchiolin. 

Conchiolin lightens skin. It has been scientifically proven to reduce skin’s pigmentation by inhibiting an enzyme (called Tyrosinase) which is responsible for melanin production.

It also hydrates skin, helps rebuild its natural collagen and increases skin’s barrier action for retaining moisture.

How to Use

Pearl powder is versatile. It mixes well with almost all powders, oils and other common cosmetics.

You can use it in many different ways by mixing it with your cleanser, moisturizer, liquid or other powders.

You can also use it to prepare a facial mask, or as a subtle highlighter or even as mineral translucent setting / finish powder.

Mix Pearl Powder with Cleanser, Moisturizer, Sunscreen and Cosmetics

  1. Take 0.1 grams of pearl powder. Place onto your palm. Add your favorite cosmetic. Mix well and apply to face, neck, hands or body as you wishTake 0.1 grams of pearl powder
  2. Place onto your palm
  3. Add your favorite cosmetic to the powder
  4. Mix well and apply to face, neck, hands or body as you wish

If using with soap or cleanser, wash and rinse as normal.

Make a Nutrient-rich Pearl Powder Mask

You can mix pearl powder into your own favorite recipe or use the sample recipe below.

  1. Take 2 g pearl powder. Add 2 tsp of wheat powder. Add 3 tsp of water. Add ingredients such as honey or a moisturizing oil as you prefer. Mix well. Apply to face for 10 min. Rinse.Take 2 grams of pearl powder
  2. Add 2 tsp of wheat powder (or Shiro Nuka Rice Bran if you like gluten-free)
  3. Add 2 to 3 tsp of water, milk or soy milk
  4. Add other ingredients such as honey or a good moisturizing oil as you prefer
  5. Mix well. Apply to face for 10 minutes
  6. Rinse with lukewarm water

Apply Pearl Powder as Mineral Highlighter

Pearl powder, though it looks white, is not just white-colored powder. Its crystalline structure imparts unique iridescence and hues which shift subtly from direct to side views.

You can enhance your favorite features by applying a small amount of powder with a highlighter brush or a Q-tip. Go slow and keep layering till you get the effect you like.

How to Apply Pearl Powder as Translucent Setting/Finish Powder

The fine size of Akoya pearl powder (2.3 microns) gives you the ability to apply it translucent to match the tint of your makeup.

Brush on a small amount over foundation as setting powder, or over makeup as a finish powder to subtly blur fine lines and control oil and shine.

Pearl Facts

Nacre is the inner layer of the shell (called mother-of-pearl) and the outer coating of the pearl itselfWhen you look at a pearl, the shiny beautiful object you see is called nacre (pronounced neikər).

Nacre is the inner layer of the shell (called mother-of-pearl) and the outer coating of the pearl itself. It is made of layers of calcium carbonate crystals and minerals plus a protein called conchiolin.

Inside of pearls is a non-nacre core (sometimes called a seed). This core is typically an implant and has no nutritional benefits.

Nacre’s conchiolin is a complex protein of 17 types of amino acids. It heals blemishes, repairs skin and promotes new cell generation. The net result is a bouncier, smoother and lighter skin with better tone and texture.

Akoya's nacre produces a finer quality pearl powder with sophisticated deep luster and hues (a quality called orient).Freshwater and saltwater nacre crystals look different under a microscope. Akoya nacre crystals have a much flatter and more organized microstructure.

It is a well-known fact to gemologists and jewelers that nacre of Japanese Akoya has deeper luster and iridescence compared to other kinds (for jewelers’ perspective, see Japanese Akoya Pearls Luster)

It Matters Where Your Pearl Powder Comes From

You want to make sure the powder you choose is sourced from clean waters. Oysters and mussels do not move around and are highly dependent on the purity of water they live in. When they are bred in polluted waters, heavy metals and pollutants seep into their nacre, and end up in the powder.

Saltwater oysters in general, and Akoyas in particular, are exceedingly sensitive to water quality. They need to be bred and cared for in pristine waters and do not survive in polluted environments.

In contrast, freshwater mussels are hardy and easier to breed than Akoyas (that’s one reason why they are more abundant). Powders from freshwater cultured pearls are mainly from China, which dominates an estimated 90% of the world pearl market.

The UN has published an informative paper on the environmental problems faced by the Chinese pearl industry entitled China’s Pearl Industry: an Indicator of Ecological Stress.

Not Hydrolyzed or Chemically Treated

A top quality pearl powder such as from Akoya’s nacre is not treated with chemicals at all.

The so-called “pearl” you find on the label of many cosmetics is a processed ingredient. You will see it next to words such as activated, hydrolyzed or hydrolyzed conchiolin, often times next to preservatives such as Phenoxyethanol (warned by FDA as toxic).

Hydrolyzed pearl powders are typically processed by using Hydrochloric acid (HCl) to make them water-soluble and ingestible.

Nano-particle Risks

It is important that the particles in your pearl powder have the optimal size for your skin. Of course you don’t want you powder to be coarse. Perhaps even more importantly, you don’t want them to be too small.

2 to 3 micron powders are as fine as some of the highest quality cosmetic powders you can get. This is an optimal size for a refined look and skin’s pore texture.

Many pearl powders today are processed into extremely small nano-size particles, ostensibly for faster absorption into the body. One nano is about 1/80,000 of the thickness of human hair.

Numerous studies have shown that nano-sizing even safe ingredients can cause DNA damage and a range of serious health consequences. You can read more on the topic in the informative paper published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014 called Tiny particles may pose big risk.

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Traditional Japanese Beauty Tips

Traditional Japanese women's tips on beauty, skin, body and hair care

Below are summaries of informative posts and how-to’s on our site about Japanese women and their traditional beauty routines.

Beauty Tips of Japanese Women

Japanese beauty tipsIf there is no beauty gene, then why are Japanese women regarded as so beautiful by so many around the world? Read about skincare, body and hair care, diet, poise and femininity… Go to post →

How to Use Seaweed For Hair Care

Japanese seaweed for cleansing hairLearn how to use as hair cleanser and conditioner and as deep treatment pack. Information on how seaweed cleanses hair, how to go shampoo-free and importance or regular grooming (preening) hair… Go to post →

How to Use Japanese Camellia Oil

Japanese camellia oil for body and hair careCamellia oil is best when obtained by cold pressing wild-harvested seeds of the Camellia japonica flower (called Tsubaki). Learn how to use for hair, body and skin care, its benefits how it’s made…

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How to Use Japanese Rice Bran to Tone, Brighten and Hydrate skin

how to use Japanese rice bran for skincareShiro Nuka rice bran brightens and evens skin’s tone. It also buffs skin and helps diminish blemishes, wrinkles and fine lines. How to apply the traditional way, facial mask or use as face wash… Go to post →

Nightingale Droppings Facial: Myths, Facts and How to Use

Nightingale dropping for facial careGeishas and Kabuki actors have used Uguisu-no-Fun since mid-Edo period (1603-1868) to brighten and lighten their skin and to remove make up, and for maintaining their much admired pale, porcelain complexion… Go to post →

Soothe Skin and Puffy Eyes with Used Tea Bags

After enjoying your cup sooth-skin-with-tea-bagof tea, there are many things you can do before throwing the little bag of goodness away. Keep it for healing minor burns and cuts, soothing itchy and tired eyes and reducing puffiness… Go to post → 

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Green Tea Over Rice (Ochazuke) Recipe Ideas

Green Tea Over Rice (Ochazuke) Recipe Ideas

Ochazuke is a quick-to-prepare traditional Japanese dish made by pouring green tea over cooked rice and topping it with a sprinkle of savories. It has been been around in one form or another since at least the 8th century Heian era.

The toppings and green tea instantly transform a humble bowl of rice into a culinary delight.

Nori seaweed, umeboshi and arareTraditional toppings include savories such as nori (dried seasoned seaweed), arare (crushed rice crackers), umeboshi (pickled plums), katsuo-bushi (bonito flakes) and iri-goma (toasted sesame seeds).

Below is a typical recipe with nori, arare and umeboshi.

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  • One bowl of cooked rice. White rice is fine, though I prefer brown.
  • One cup green tea
  • One sheet of nori (about 5×5 cm). Cut into strips
  • Japanese rice crackers (any kind). The small, bite-sized ones are called arare
  • One or two umeboshi pickled plums

Hint: You can choose any green tea you like. I like konacha because it is fast to prepare and economical (it’s what most sushi bars serve). Sencha is great, but it’s such a high-end tea that I prefer to have it by itself. Teas like hojicha will add a distinct raosty flavor to your dish.


  1. Brew your green tea (you can read about how-to-brew how-to-brew)
  2. Put the rice crackers in a small plastic bag and crush (a roll pin will help)
  3. Cut the nori in thin strips and dice the umeboshi plums
  4. Sprinkle the crushed rice crackers, nori strips and umeboshi (whole or minced) on top of the rice
  5. Pour green tea over the rice.

Be Creative

There are no hard-and-fast rules for how to make Ochazuke. All you need is cooked rice (even leftovers from takeouts), some green tea and toppings you like.

Be bold and experiment! If you are in a hurry, you don’t even need to warm the rice up.

Pre-made toppings

You can buy Ochazuke pre-made topping mixes from a Japanese grocer. They come in small sealed packs and are relatively inexpensive. Just make sure the product label does not include ingredients you don’t like (such as excessive salt or MSG).

Western-style toppings

You can also make your own topping with western ingredients you like. Smoked salmon, bacon bits, chopped green onions, dried tomatoes, diced pickles, anchovies or similar savories will work just fine.

Typical Japanese Toppings for Ochazuke


Arare is small Japanese rice crackers, typically flavored with soy sauce.Arare: Small rice crackers, typically flavored with soy sauce. Crush before mixing.

Umeboshi Japanese pickled plums

Umeboshi: Pickled plums

Japane dried seaweed sheets (nori)

Nori: Dried seaweed sheets

Katsuo-bushi is Japanese dried bonito flakes

Katsuo-bushi: Dried bonito flakes. Add a few drops of soy sauce.

Irigoma is roasted Japanese sesame seeds. Use whole or ground.

Irigoma: Roasted sesame seeds. Use whole or ground.

Shiokara is Japanese fermented squid and innards. This is an acquired taste!

Shiokara: Fermented squid and innards. This is an acquired taste!

Mentaiko is marinated Japanese cod roe

Mentaiko: Marinated cod roe. This is also an acquired taste!

Tsukemono is Japanese pickled vegetables

Tsukemono: Japanese pickled vegetables

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