TOFU was discovered about 2,000years ago by a Chinese cook who accidently curdled soy milk when he added ‘nigari seaweed’.
It contains all eight essential amino acids and lots of protein  It is also an excellent source of iron and calcium and minerals  ——- manganese, selenium and phosphorous.
The soy protein in tofu may be beneficial for heart health, menopause, and is also known to fight breast cancer.  Like cheese, there is more than one variation available of tofu.  There is ‘silken tofu’, extra soft, firm, medium and extra firm too.  Also, owing to its generally neutral taste, tofu is culinary chameleon, lending itself to an infinite number of food preparations ——- it can be pickled, fermented, stir-fried or even used in miso soup.
Tofu is packed with water, then it is packed in water.  We need to get that water out and replace it with flavour.  Not pressing the water out of the tofu is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.  Open the package and drain the water.
In Japan, a common lunch in the summer months is HIYAYAKKO  —— silken or firm Asian tofu served with freshly-grated ginger, green onions with soy sauce.  In winter, tofu is frequently eaten as YUDOFU, which is simmered in a clay pot with some vegetables.
In China, tofu is traditionally used as an offering when visiting the graves of deceased relatives.  It is claimed that since the spirits (or ghosts) have long lost their chins and jaws, only tofu is soft enough for them to eat.
Tofu soaks up all the flavours you cook it with.  You can quickly toss it with a sauce just before cooking, or let it soak up all the flavours of the dish you are using it in.
One of the founding fathers of the US, Benjamin Franklin, was the first American to mention tofu in a letter dated January 11, 1770.
Not much is known about the art of pairing tofu with wine, probably because of its versatility.  When soft and silky, it pairs well with light white wines, while the firmer versions cooked with spicy ingredients call for more robust whites or reds.
Silken tofu is very creamy, almost like custard.  It is used to make delicious desserts  ———- from chocolate pudding and pumpkin pie to cheesecake.  —————–

Yonaguni monument

Yonaguni monument

YONAGUNI MONUMENT ( submerged site in Japan), also known as YONAGUNI (Island) SUBMARINE RUINS, refers to one of the largest features within a submerged rock formation off the coast of YONAGUNI, the southernmost of the RYUKYU Islands in Japan.

Masaaki Kimura. Professor Emeritus from the Faculty of Science at the University of the Ryukyu claim that the formations are man-made stepped monoliths.  His ideas are disputed and there is debate about whether the site is completely natural, a natural site that has been modified or a man-made artefact.

Yonaguni monument

The sea of YONAGUNI is a popular diving location during the winter months, due to its large population of hammerhead sharks.  In `1987, while looking for a good place to observe the sharks, Kihachiro Aratake, a Director of the YONAGUNI – CHO Tourism Association, noticed some singular seabed formations resembling Architectonic Structures.  Shortly thereafter, a group of scientists, directed by Masaaki Kimura, visited the formations.

The formation has since become a relatively popular attraction for divers and instructors, despite the strong currents.  In 1997, Japanese Industrialist, YASUO WATANABE sponsored an informal expedition comprising writers John Anthony West and Graham Hancock, photographer Santa Faiia, geologist Robert Schoch, a few sport divers and instructors and a film crew for Channel – 4 and Discovery Channel.  Another notable visitor was free diver Jacques Mayol, who wrote a book on his dives at YONAGUNI.

Yonaguni monument

The Monument consists of medium to very fine sandstones and mudstones of the Lower Miocene Yaeyama Group believed to have been deposited about 20million years ago.  Most of the formations are connected to the underlying “rock mass” as opposed to being assembled out of free-standing rocks.

The main feature (the Monument Proper) is a rectangular formation measuring about 490 x 130ft, and about 90ft tall, and the top is about 16ft below sea level. Some of its details are said to be :
* 2 closely-spaced pillars which rise to within 8ft of the surface.
* A 16ft-wide ledge that encircles the base of the formation on 3 sides.
* A stone column about 23ft tall.
* A straight wall, 33ft long.
* An isolated boulder resting on a low platform.
* A low star-shaped platform.
* A triangular depression with 2 large holes at its edge.
* A L-shaped rock.
YONAGUNI lies in as earthquake-prone region and such earthquakes tend to fracture the rocks in a regular manner.  On the northeast coast of YONAGUNI, there are regular formations, similar to those seen at the Monument.  John Anthony West suggests the  “walls” are simply natural horizontal platforms that fell into a vertical position, when rock below them eroded and the alleged roads are simply channels in the rock.
The existence of an ancient stone-working tradition at YONAGUNI & other RYUKYU Islands is demonstrated by some old tombs, and several stone vessels of uncertain age.  Small camps, pottery, stone tools and large fireplaces, were found on YONAGUNI, possibly dating back to 250 BCE.  However, Archaeologist Richard J. Pearson notes that these were small communities, adding, “They are not likely to have had extra energy for building stone monuments.

Yonaguni momument

The flat parallel faces, sharp edges and mostly right-angles of the formation have led some to conclude that the features are man-made.  These features include a “trench”, that has two internal 90degree angles, as well as the twin megaliths that, according to Kimura, appear to have been placed there.  These megaliths have straight edges and square corners, however, sea currents have been known to move large rocks on a regular basis.  Some of those who see the formations as being largely natural, claim that they may have been modified by human hands.

Other evidence, presented by those who favour an artificial origin, include the two round holes (about 2ft wide) on the edge of the Triangle Pool feature, and a straight row of smaller holes that have been interpreted as an abandoned attempt to split off a section of the rock by means of wedges, found in ancient quarries.  Kimura believes, he had identified traces of animal drawing and people engraved into the rocks, including a “horse-like” sign, he believes resembles a character from the KAIDA SCRIPT.  Some have also interpreted a formation, on the side of one of the monuments, as a crude mole-like face.

Yonaguni monument

Kimura first estimated that the monument must be at least 8,000BCE, dating it to a  period when it would have been “above water”.  In a report given to the Pacific Science Congress in 2007, he revised the estimate to 2,000 or 3,000 years ago, because the sea level then was close to current levels.  He suggests, that after construction, Tectonic Activity caused it to be submerged below sea level.  He believes he can identify a pyramid, castles, roads, monuments and a stadium.  Kimura also surmised that the site may be a remnant of the MYTHICAL LOST CONTINENT of MU.


Iriomote island trip

IRIOMOTEJIMA is a remote island located approximately 31km (40mins. by regular ferry) from ISHIGAKIJIMA, and is the 2nd largest island in OKINAWA Prefecture, after the main island of Okinawa.

About 90% of the island is covered with sub-tropical, highly primeval forests that exude an atmosphere of unspoiled wilderness.  Endemic species of animals, including the IRIOMOTE WILDCAT and Crested Serpent Eagle inhabit this island.


Visitors are invited to participate in one of many eco-tours that are organized here, in order to savour the natural environment of IRIOMOTEJIMA.  Traffic accidents are one of the main factors behind the threat posed to the survival of the IRIOMOTE WILDCAT and other examples of valuable wildlife on the island.  Please observe posted speed limits and drive carefully I consideration of the welfare of wild animals on IRIOMOTEJIMA.

Iriomote Jima

The URAUCHI RIVER : The region in which the headwaters of the URAUCHI River, the largest river in Okinawa Prefecture, is located remains one of the finest, unspoiled, sub-tropical, broad-leaved evergreen forests in Japan, and the views to be obtained here are some of the best IRIOMOTEJIMA — ISHIGAKI National Park has to offer.  The forest zone largely consists of CASTANOPSIS SIEBOLDII trees.  QUERCUS MIYAGII KOIDZ trees grow along low-lying river valley areas, while FICUS BENGUTENSIS & MACHILUS JAPONICA trees inhabit river valley areas further upstream.


As this region is one in which wild animals and plants endemic to the YAEYAMA ISLANDS live and breed, it is also very valuable in an academic sense.  Persons wishing to pass through the headwaters region to traverse IRIOMOTEJIMA will need to submit a notification of forest entry in advance to the forestry office and to the police.  In recent years, there have been a number of cases involving mishaps attributed to rashly formulated and executed mountaineering plans. There is a mangrove forest by the mouth of the river that can be explored from a pleasure boat or a canoe.  Trek for one hour to reach MARIYUDU FALLS, the only waterfall in Okinawa Prefecture to be selected one of the 100 finest waterfalls in Japan.

Iriomote Island

Walk for a further 5mins. to come to KANPIRE FALLS, a sacred site on the island.  This course will allow you to survey the fauna and flora inhabiting the various environments extending from the mangrove forest to the mountain streams upriver with ease.

Nakama river

NAKAMA RIVER :  In the upstream section of the NAKAMA River, the source of which can be traced back to Mount GOZA-DAKE, visitors can see a sub-tropical, broad-leaved evergreen forest, as well as groves of UBUNDORU YAEYAMA palm trees,, which have been collectively designated a protected natural monument by the National Government.  Japan’s largest mangrove forest consisting primarily of lack mangroves and Yaeyama mangroves, extends along the riverbank from the mouth to the middle reaches of the river and can be explored by boat or canoe..  Travel up to a disembarkation point upstream to see Japan’s largest DRYAND tree, said to be 4 centuries old.  Of particular interest is the fact the “plate-like buttress roots” have been produced to support the trunk of this tree.  The NAKAMAGAWA Observatory has been built along a “walking trail” to afford a fantastic panoramic view of the meandering flow of the NAKAMA River and the mangrove forest that grows here.

Urauchi river

PINAISARA FALLS is situated along the upper reaches of the HINAI River, and is the largest waterfall in the Okinawa Prefecture.  The growing popularity of canoeing and trekking in recent years has led to concerns over the impact that such activities will have on the natural environment.  Visitors are encouraged to conduct themselves appropriately in this area, such as being accompanied by a tour guide.


Aokigahara forest

AOKIGAHARA is a forest that lies at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan.  It is a forest and it contains a number of rocky, icy caverns, a few of which are popular tourist destinations.  AOKIGAHARA is also known as JUKAI (Sea of Trees) or SUICIDE FOREST.

The forest has an historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and is a popular place for “suicides” (57 in 2010), despite the signs posted in Japanese and English at the head of the main trail.  One of them, at the entrance reads: ” Your life is something precious, that was given to you by your parents.”, while another one states :”Meditate on your parents, siblings and your children once more.  Do not be troubled alone.”


The forest floor consists primarily of volcanic rock and is difficult to penetrate with hand tools such as picks and shovels.  The forest, itself, is very dense and one can get lost easily if leaving the official trails.  Because of this, hikers and tourists trekking through AOKIGAHARA, in recent years, have begun to use plastic tapes to mark their paths, so as to avoid getting lost.
Past the designated trails leading to tourist attractions such as the NARUSAWA ICE CAVE, which is concentric-vertical and 201m long and FUGAKU WIND CAVE (also called LAVA CAVE) which is horizontal and 153m long.  These caves are designated as Japan’s natural monuments and even during mid-summers, visitors can see blocks of ice in them.

Aokigahara creepy

The forest is a popular place for “suicides”, reportedly the most popular in Japan.  Statistics vary, but what is documented is that during the period leading up to 1988, about 100 suicides occurred there every year.  In 2003, 105 bodies were found in the forest, exceeding the previous record of 78 in 2002.  In recent years, the local government has stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay AOKIGAHARA’S association with suicides.  In 2014, 108 people killed themselves in the forest.  In 2010, it is estimated that more than 200 people had attempted suicide, 54 of whom completed the act..  Suicides are said to increase in March —– that is the end of the ‘fiscal year’ in Japan.

Aokigahara forest Japan

It is baffling why there is such a high rate in the country, but it has something to do with the Japanese “psyche”, and that many Japanese men feel rejected when retrenched.  Some of them had held important positions in their respective companies, including that of CEOs.  Unable to face their families and loved ones, they perhaps, in the manner of Samurai Warriors of the past, felt that suicide is one way to atone for their failures.

It is a “unique” forest in many ways —- there is barely any wildlife in here, thus it is very quiet, making it a popular destination among locals.  However, this quietness hides a more “macabre” side of it, in that it is the No.1 suicide spot for the Japanese.  Its quietness has attracted people to consider it a “haunted place”, and there are plenty of Japanese who would not dare enter the forest.  This resulted in even more myths surrounding AOKIGAHARA.  But,even if you are not attracted to ghost stories, the truth is, the place has a “special feeling” to it.

The AOKIGAHARA has not always attracted 100s of people wishing to end their lives.  While there is some evidence that suggests that as far as the 19th century, it was a place where the Japanese carried their elders to die of starvation ( a practice called UBASUTE).  The forest became popular after the 1960s when a novel called TOWER OF WAVES by a famed author SEICHO MATSUMOTO was published.  Another book, from 1993 THE COMPLETE MANUAL OF SUICIDE by WATARU TSURUMI added fuel and increased suicide rates.  The author described the AOKIGAHARA as the perfect place to commit suicide and even described which parts of the forest are less circulated so the bodies cannot be found later on.  UBASUTE may have been practised in the forest which is reportedly haunted by the YUREI (angry spirits) of those left to die. AOKIGAHARA FOREST is dense, shutting out all but the natural sounds of the forest itself.

World’s stunning volcanoes

With fiery molten channels that stretch far below the surface, volcanoes connect us to the very core of the Earth.  Active or dormant —— they resonate with an energy and beauty beyond that of mere mountains.  Their violent origins also tend to create “stunning natural landscapes” that attract sightseers from around the world.


SANTORINI, Greece :  Best known for the stark white-painted buildings that cling to is multi-coloured cliffs, this Greek island is the remnant of a VOLCANIC CALDERA, formed around 1600BC, when one of the largest eruptions, in recorded history, wiped out most of the island, including some of the original settlements.. Today, Santorini attracts visitors who are eager to admire what’s left.  To feel how majestic it is, you have to sail inside (the CALDERA) and stand at a balcony on the edge of the cliffs at sunset.  In particular, visitors should seek out the “uninhabited” NEA KAMENI which lies within the flooded SANTORINI CALDERA.  The Caldera is itself a kind of ugly black-brown blob in the centre of a picturesque, truly gorgeous caldera.

Mount Mayon

MOUNT MAYON’S steep cone is built from many layers of lava flows.  The “perfect hyperbolic shape underlines (its) threatening posture.  The ash and lave flows are just the “cherry on the top”.


MOUNT KILIMANJARO & NGORON CRATER, Tanzania :  MOUNT KILIMANJARO, at its dizzying height of 5,895m, is Africa’s tallest mountain, an also the Continent’s tallest volcano.  It is unique in the fact that it has 3 “volcanic cones”


MAMENZI & SHIRA (both extinct) and the highest one KIBO which is still active and lets off occasional steam and gases.  NGORON CRATER, the world’s largest crater used to be a towering peak (4,500-4,800m tall) until it collapsed on itself. Today it is 22.5km in diameter and 610m deep —— a unique environment for local wildlife.  Waterfalls coming down the caldera irrigate green pastures and fill a lake, at the bottom, full of flamingos and a huge fauna on its shores : lion, hippos, buffalos, zebra, gnus and rhinos.

Mount Kelimutu

MOUNT KELIMUTU, Indonesia :  It’s 3 “mysterious crater lakes” attract both scientists and visitors to the island of FLORES in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province.  One lake is “emerald green”, another “dark red” and the third “pitch black.”  Scientists say the colours come from the chemical reaction that occurs when the “volcanic gases” meet the “lake’s minerals.”  The eeriness, surrounding the lakes, which according to lore is a “reservoir of souls” remains, despite the scientific explanation of the colours.

Mount Kilauea

KILAUEA & MAUNA KEA, Hawaii :  The youngest volcano, in Hawaii —— KILAUEA, has been erupting continuously since 1983, so much so that the lave falls straight into the sea, creating fantastic forms of lack rocks and insane smoke clouds.  At the other end of the spectrum, MAUNA KEA, is around 1 million years old.  It sits dormant, still impressing with its sheer size rising 4,205m from the sea.  It is both incredibly beautiful and home to secret treasures, including a “sacred frozen lake” near the summit, accessible only by a 6-mile, 10-hour round trip.  You can find snow in the winter and almost zero crowds.


MOUNT FUJI, Japan :  Perhaps the world’s most famous symmetrical strato-volcano is Japan’s MOUNT FUJI, which has served as a muse for many artistic creations through the centuries.  It is the “national symbol” of Japan —–snow-capped, looming in the distance, cherry blossoms in the forefront.  Not only is the mountain itself beautiful and mysterious, but the AOKIGAHARA forest on the north-west base of the mountain also inspires the imagination, as many local folk tales describe the demons and goblins that haunt within..  At least, the mountain itself remains a safe haven ——- the low-risk active volcano hasn’t erupted since 1707.  Its symmetrical cone serves as a dramatic backdrop to Tokyo.


AMIGURUMI, literally “crocheted or knitted stuffed toy” is the Japanese art of “knitting” or “crocheting” small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures.  The word is derived from a combination of the Japanese words ——- “AMI”, meaning “crocheted or knitted”, and “NUIGURUMI”, meaning “stuffed doll”.  AMIGURUMI are typically animals, but can include artistic renderings or inanimate objects endowed with anthropomorphic features, as is typical in Japanese culture.
amigurumi 1While AMIGURUMI have been popular in Japan for several decades, AMIGURUMI first started appealing to the masses in other countries, especially in the West, in 2003.  By 2006, AMIGURUMI were reported to be some of the most popular items on ETSY, an online craft marketplace, where they typically sold for $10 to $100.  Since then, popularity has continued to increase.
amigurumi tutorialThe pervading aesthetic of AMIGURUMI is “cuteness”.  To this end, typical AMIGURUMI animals have an “over-sized spherical head” on a cylindrical body with “undersized extremities” usually termed CHIBI style outside of Japan.  AMIGURUMI may be used as children’s toys, but are generally purchased or made solely for “aesthetic purposes”.
amigurumi_giraffeAMIGURUMI are usually “crocheted” out of yarn using the “single crochet stitch” (double crochet in UK crochet terminology).  They can also be “knit”.  AMIGURUMI are usually worked in sections and then joined, except for some AMIGURUMI which have no limbs, only a head and torso which are worked as one piece.  In crochet, AMIGURUMI is worked in “spiral rounds”, in order to prevent “striping”, a typical feature of joining crochet rounds in a project.
Crochet hooks or knitting needles that are slightly smaller than one would use in a typical project are used, in order to achieve a tight gauge that retains stuffing and does not allow the stuffing to show through the fabric.  Stuffing is usually standard polyester or cotton craft stuffing, but may be improvised from other materials.  Plastic pellets may be inserted beneath the stuffing in order to distribute weight at the bottom of the figure.


kenroku-en garden

Japan’s Ancient Samurai Town ———– Kanazawa ———- is located between the Sea of Japan and the Japanese Alps in western Japan and is considered one of the country’s best places to learn about SAMURAI HISTORY. 
Kanazawa’s historical Higashi Chaya district is a row of old latticed tea-houses in a town that’s convoluted in both its layout and history.  The town was spared from destruction during World War — 2 and remains one of the best-preserved castle towns of the EDO PERIOD.  It is one of the only cities in Japan to still have a SAMURAI DISTRICT.  Of course, Samurai were abolished in the late 19th century as Japan modernised, so you can’t find Samurai here today.  But, much of their world remains.

Kanazawa station Japan

Making the 473 km trip from Tokyo to Kanazawa used to take about 5hrs and required changing trains.  But the trip just got much easier.  Starting March 14, 2015, the new direct HOKURIKU SHINKANSEN (Bullet Train), run by West Japan Railway Company cut the travel time in half.  And like the slower trains, it arrives at KANAZAWA STATION, often listed as one of the “world’s most beautiful.”


Jenna Scatena writes, “I’d always been fascinated by Samurai, those warriors who were inhumanly stoic and ever willing to fall on their swords for their masters or slay anyone showing disrespect.  At least, that was how I’d imagined Samurai to be, thanks to films like “The Last Samurai” & “13 Assassins”.  I was about to learn there was more to their story.”


She continues, ” On my first morning in Kanazawa, I made a beeline for the neighbourhood of Higashi Chaya and met Kiyoe Nagashima, a 6th generation resident and a Kanazawa Excursion Guide.  The pounding of a TAIKO DRUM, in a nearby Temple, filled the air, summoning the feeling I often have when in a foreign place : of following the city’s beating pulse.”

Kanazawa Higashi Chaya district

” Kanazawa is not a place for “theme parks”, but a place for living”, said Kiyoe, her face beaming with pride. ” In fact, for the most part, the city is a modern metropolis dotted with luxury shops such as Louis Vuitton.”

Kanazawa castle park

“Following Kiyoe into the labyrinth of tea-houses, temples and restored Samurai houses, I felt like Alice slipping into the rabbit hole.  We walked along the row of beautiful latticed buildings and turned down a narrow street lined with “Gingko Trees”.  Then we careened up a steep path, that was so slender and discreet, I thought we were trespassing in a private driveway.  When we arrived at the top, however, the path branched out into a more narrow, winding road.  Kanazawa’s streets were partly designed to “mislead” and “disorient” outsiders, and I was learning, first-hand, they do so effectively.  From the top of the hill, we walked into the neighbourhood of UTATSUYAMA.  Samurai once lived in Buddhist Temples here, working as security guards called BOUKAN.  The roofs of the stately wood buildings with detailed carvings sprouted from clusters of gingko and maple trees.”

kanazawa scenery

The Samurai who flourished, in this city, during the Edo Period (1603 — 1868) were almost nothing like ferocious warriors.  During this peaceful “Golden Age”, the feudal military clan focused most of its energy on scholarly pursuits and craftsmanship.  As the highest social caste, during this time, the Samurai built extravagant residences and opulent gardens behind thick earthy walls and you can still see evidence of the walls today.  Of course, Samurai in Japan never lived this luxurious peaceful lifestyle.  The refined Samurai of Kanazawa were an anomaly, made possible by their rulers’ disinterest in violence and affection for the arts.


Kanazawa’s largest architectural relic of the “Samurai Age” is the stunning white KANAZAWA CASTLE, resting on a hill that offers a 360 degree view of the city.  The Castle was built in the 16th century by the MAEDA FAMILY, the beloved rulers of Kanazawa until 1868.  During the rule of the Maeda Family, the castle was their fortress, surrounded by a moat and stone wall that still stands today.  Adjoining the castle, the KENROKU-en garden is home to plum, cherry and Japanese maple trees and is considered one of Japan’s famous gardens.


Next comes the NAGAMACHI neighbourhood, which was once home to upper and middle-class Samurai.  Many of the original houses were torn down during Japan’s Industrial Revolution.  Still, the district’s cobblestone streets, towering mud walls and peaceful canals remain and a couple of restored Samurai houses are open to the public, including the NOMURA HOUSE, which contains arty facts from its namesake family.  In the Nomura House is a “KOI POND’ and “ZEN FUSUMA”(painted rice paper panels) created by the Maeda Family’s personal artist.

Samurai parade Kanazawa

To defend Kanazawa, the Maeda Clan encouraged the Samurais to focus on arts and craftsmanship instead of fighting.  That way they did pose a threat to the clan with the highest power and so were not invaded.  As a result, there was actually ‘almost no fighting’ in Kanazawa for 400 years.  That was the real lesson of Kanazawa’s Samurai.  Their greatest weapon was not the sword but their focus on the arts ———– A SLY DEFENCE TACTIC IN DISGUISE.