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Sushi making class at Buddha Bellies

One of the best experiences we had was sushi making at Buddha Bellies. Before we left for Japan we visited a local sushi train and tried a place in Tokyo so by the time we got to Buddha Bellies we thought we knew a bit about Japan's original street food. We were wrong.

Our host was expert sushi chef and sake sommelier Ayuko Akiyama who starts the class with an overview of sushi's history and the huge variety of sushi. We were familiar with nigiri (rice with topping and a belt of nori) and sliced nori rolls but she also showed us a family style that was wrapped into a cone of seaweed and other kooky types. Our class was a basic one with nigiri and nori rolls that was great for kids though we were tempted to come back and do the mosaic sushi which was presented in a colourful square of deliciousness.

We make sushi at home so the advanced techniques Ayuko showed us were really helpful. Turns out we've been using the wrong side of the nori and avoiding vinegar (for taste) when…
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Visiting Ghibli Museum

At the other end of the technology spectrum to the Digital Art Museum, the Ghibli Museum is a no-photos shrine to the films of Hayao Miyazaki. Refreshingly low tech and hands on, it brings the films to life and gives you insights into the animation process. Even if you've never seen films like Kiki's Delivery Service or Princess Mononoke, you'd recognise figures like Totoro and the distinctive animation style. Approaching the building, you are met at a ticket booth staffed by Totoro himself though you have to wander around the corner to a long line to get in. 
The Museum has been here since 2001 with a series of permanent exhibitions refreshed by newer displays and a short film usually only seen in the museum's theatre. Ours was Boro the Caterpillar, a 14-minute peek into the birth and early life of a cute critter. There's great walks through the studios that showcase the animation process from pencil sketching, inking, colouring and filming each frame. It's l…

Visiting Tokyo's new Digital Art Museum

As a stunning visual spectacular, Tokyo's Digital Art Museum has become the must-Instagram experience for visitors to the city. Its full name - Building Digital Art Museum Epsom teamLab Borderless - suggests just how big the collaboration must have been to get this 100,000sqm exhibition space happening. It took the Mori Building Group and Epsom to make it work and nothing about it feels like this was a cheap exercise.

The collaborative art group teamLab are known for works in Singapore and London but with this permanent space they paint across a big canvas. Rendering butterflies, flowers and charging rhinos onto walls, floors, mirrors and a series of cutomised surfaces, the canvas is truly vast and visitors are warned in advance that this is about discovery - non-sequential, likely to get lost and maddening to visitors wanting linear narrative. This means you can jump in anywhere and experience the exhibition any way you want. The Borderless part of the title is about the shifting…

Get Set for Japan with kids

We're about to take off to Japan with our daughter. Before we went we wanted to get her excited about the trip so here's a few things that worked for us.
Culture vulturingTo get set for our trip we tried to see as much Japanese culture before we left. With kids sometimes being fussy eaters we kicked off a program of Adventurous Eating. This meant trying something new (ideally from Japan) once a week. To make this easier we went to a Japanese restaurant that had a good range. In Japan a lot of places specialise in one type of food (like sushi trains or okonomiyaki) so we looked for a place that offered a good range. Sure our kiddo went with her favoured sushi (avocado with not much else) but with a bit of nudging we got into tempura, plus you can move mountains with the promise of fried ice cream after the mountain has shifted.

Our kid has always enjoyed the films of Hayao Miyazaki, but if you've never seen them they provide a great introduction to a Japan that never was - t…

Passive Packing

People sometimes ask if I have a packing strategy/plan/jedi mind trick for getting ready to go away. In truth I love the end of packing - the feeling that you've essentialised yourself into a bag and that's it for the next little while - but I hate the process. It always seems stressful and full of doubt. Will that be enough undies to get you through? Can I buy obscure brand of toothpaste when I get there or should I stock up? Or worse buy a travel size which won't even get me out of the airport?

So I practice passive packing. About a month or so before I go, I put out a bag in a place that isn't used (spare room, shed or Donald Trump Museum of Sensitivity) and begin to fill it. Without any real urgency. Over the next couple of weeks you just throw things in as you go - if you're getting those undies off the clothesline throw them in. Side thought on undies: pack enough to equal the days you're away plus two. The daily chore of getting the laundry in starts to …