Kaiwa Japan: Rachael Griffiths of Hannah Zakari

kaiwa japan

It’s taken a while to get around to doing another one of these, but they’re always worth the wait. This time I’m chatting to Rachael of Hannah Zakari – the shop is one of my oldest stockists and I always enjoy visiting in Edinburgh to see what’s new. I don’t think I have ever had a conversation with Rachael in all the years I’ve known her where one of us didn’t bring up Japan! She’s one of the few other people who totally understands the need to keep going back.

Rachael in Japan

Who are you and what do you do?

My name’s Rachael and I’m the owner of an online boutique and real life shop in Edinburgh called Hannah Zakari that stocks the work of independent designers from all over the world. The name Hannah Zakari comes from the Japanese word   花盛り  [hanazakari], which translates as ‘blossoming’ or ‘blooming’. I LOVE Japan!

How did you become interested in Japan, and how did your first trip there come about?

I think my love of Japan spills over from my love of clothes/fashion and can probably be traced to when I first came across ‘Fruits’ which is a magazine documenting Japanese fashion, specifically in Harajuku. I was smitten!

In 2000, my dad was speaking at a conference in Nagoya and I made him take me with him! We were there for 10 days, most of which was spent in Nagoya but we also took trips to Kyoto and Tokyo. As part of the conference we got to experience a variety of stuff that had been put on for the people attending such as a visit to a tea plantation, amazing banquets with tables of colourful and beautifully presented sushi and a Taiko drum concert.

My dad’s colleague took us to visit his family and his sister (who was trained in Japanese arts) performed tea ceremony and showed me flower arranging and dressed me in a traditional kimono from her collection– it was really special.

building in Kyoto
Building in Kyoto

Tell us a little about each of your trips to Japan

I’ve visited Japan several times since then, I’d happily never holiday anywhere else.

From main bases in bigger cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima I’ve done smaller journeys to Mt Koya, Okayama, Miyajima, Nara, Nikko and others for day trips or overnight stays.

My last trip was over xmas and new year last year when I went on my own for the first time. Although they don’t officially celebrate xmas in Japan they do like to shop and give gifts so they kind of have xmas without the time off work and take holidays at New Year.

It’s hard to remember which memories go with which holiday. One of the more unusual things I’ve done in Japan include staying in a Buddhist Temple on Mt Koya. The journey to Koya is stunning and Koya itself is so beautiful and peaceful. It’s a really interesting experience and a great place to get away from the craziness of the city.

journey up to koya
Journey up to Mt Koya

Miyajima is another magical place to visit. I was lucky enough to stay in a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and experience the island at night when there are very few people around – you can just wander about in your Yukata and wooden clogs, it’s so chilled out! The place is covered in deer and there are monkeys at the top of the mountain which was amazing.

I love going to Roppongi to the Mori Arts Centre, every exhibition I’ve seen there has been brilliant and you get a great view of Tokyo from the top floor. There are so many great places just to hang out in Tokyo – Ueno Park has a great zoo, is next to the National Museum, has a great pond with swan pedalos, and is the place to hang out during cherry blossom season. Shimokitazawa is a maze of thrift stores and fantastic cafes and bars. Harajuku is fun for people watching and a visit to Kiddyland of course! Kichijoji has some lovely indie shops and if you like steak then I highly recommend a visit to Steak House Satou, steak will never be the same again, and it’s on the way back from the Studio Ghibli Museum. There’s just so much to see and do, I could go on forever!

Mt Fuji by Rachael Griffiths
Mt Fuji from Mori Tower

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2015 Wall Calendar

2015 wall calendar

I’ve never offered a yearly wall calendar before, but I’ve been feeling the need for one in my house as my iPhone calendar is just not working out for me any more. Sure, I could buy one but Lulu offers them on-demand quite affordably so I figured I’d do that.

It started out pretty simple and then I got a bit carried away and there are all sorts of fun backgrounds to make it more exciting! Hopefully you can see the preview thing below. If not, go here!

You can buy them on-demand from Lulu for £12 each. I will be ordering one for myself soon and if any UK folks are interested, I can get a few extra. Lulu do regional printing/shipping worldwide so no-one has to pay crazy shipping (and Lulu go WAY over the top with packaging so no worries on that front either).

While we’re talking calendars, I got my swatches for next year’s all-new calendar designs so I will share those soon….

Weekend Wrap Up

Packaging stamps in the sunshine this morning.

It’s been another busy week for orders (so much so that I am running out of Little Ghost brooches – buy one now if you want it for Halloween) and I have been spending a lot of time packaging products and ordering more supplies. I may have ordered a couple of new things too that I am so excited about. I hope they arrive soon!

News, Offers and Reminders

Penny Black

penny black

People often ask me if I want to have my own shop someday and I always say NO WAY as I’m quite happy working in the comfort of my own home. However, I am totally delighted to be helping my friends design their new Post Office/cafe/gift shop, Penny Black. All the excitement of seeing my designs on shop fronts and coffee cups and cappuccino stencils without any of the expense!

They’re not opening for another month yet, so you will definitely be seeing many more photos then. In the meantime, give them a like on Facebook so you’ll be ready to pop in next time you’re in the West End of Glasgow.

Summer Reading


I’ve read so many good books this year – and a few terrible ones – so here’s a catch-up from over the summer before I start doing end of the month things again.

A Passion for Mars by Andrew Chaikin
If you were following my book a month photos, you’ll remember this was book I’ve been reading for years. I put it back on my to-read pile after that and finally finished it! The good thing is that each chapter covers a different era/mission/person so it was easy enough to get back into, although I probably forgot which people had been involved in previous missions. If you’re interested in space exploration this is worth getting, especially since Mars exploration is still big news. Reading about all the early missions and everything they discovered about Mars is almost as exciting as the Apollo missions, and there are loads of amazing images included. (Buy on Amazon)

Child Octopus / Pretty Good Number One by Matthew Amster-Burton
Both these books tread a similar path, involving trips to Asia (Tokyo and Hong Kong) where the author and his food-loving young daughter eat their way around town. Both are really just collections of short essays so great to drop in and out of, although I read both in one sitting each. They’re easy to read and full of weird and wonderful food, people and places. It suffers a little from being a bit too jokey – the writing is interesting enough without feeling like you’re constantly supposed to be in fits of laughter – but if you like food writing and travel and, I imagine, especially if you have kids, these are well worth picking up, and really cheap too. (Buy on Amazon)

Wolf Hall / Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
I don’t know why I picked up Wolf Hall as I’m not generally a fan of historical fiction, but I’m so glad I did as I loved it and taken together they might be my favourite things I read this year. Telling the story of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power, it gets right inside his head and family life, making him so much more interesting, sympathetic and almost heroic compared to the usual portrayals. Obviously well-researched, but with a huge amount of poetic license and a use of contemporary language that makes it easy to get caught up in. The writing style reminded me a bit of Parade’s End, both with the words and the phrasing and the rhythm keeping me delighted, and how you feel like you don’t understand what’s happening, only to watch it all come together beautifully. It’s one of my favourite types of books, that instantly make you want to read it again to study the construction, like re-reading a mystery novel once you know who dunnit. I came out of it in a sort of obsessive daze and immediately read the sequel, which suffers a little from speeding up the plot,  and am now bereft waiting the final book. I would be quite happy if she drags it out into another ten books instead. (Buy on Amazon)

The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford
Rather coincidentally, I then discovered that Ford Madox Ford (author of Parade’s End) also wrote a book about Cromwell, which picks up not long after where Bring Up The Bodies stops and is in the public domain. I thought it would be an interesting contrast and it certainly is. A trilogy of short novels, it focuses on Katharine Howard – Henry VIII’s fifth queen – and bizarrely casts her as the most perfect woman who ever existed, while Cromwell is basically Darth Vader. It’s written in ye olde medieval language and comes off as something of a Dickensian romp – it wisely tells most of the story from the point of view of minor characters plotting away in the background including bumbling religious types, idiot servant boys and dastardly spies so I ended up enjoying it rather a lot. (Free to download)

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
Another one that has jumped right into my favourite ever books list. My dad lent me this and I loved it so much as it’s one of my favourite genres – overprivileged gentleman of the British Empire goes travelling in the 1950s. This is a cut above the usual though as Eric Newby has a tremendous way with words and his sense of resigned wretched misery about every aspect of his hilariously disastrous journey is a constant delight. At the beginning he jacks in his job in a fashion house and joins up with an old friend to visit a remote part of Afghanistan and climb an unclimbed mountain, despite the fact that they are both clueless about mountaineering. Things start quite badly and get worse and worse until the whole expedition becomes a cloud of illness, discomfort, loathing and resentment but never stops being funny – it’s amazing that he manages to keep his sense of humour throughout. It’s all thoroughly entertaining and fairly interesting too, although he is pretty disparaging of everyone and everything. Must read everything else he’s written. (Buy on Amazon) Read the rest of this entry »

New iPhone & Galaxy Cases

iphone 6 cases

If you read my post yesterday and fancied a Casemate case of your own, they’re also available from my Zazzle store and I’ve been adding tons of designs lately. Although most of them say iPhone 5 in the title, they’re actually all available for any iPhone, iPod, iPad, Samsung Galaxy and Motorola Razr phone, though each design will fit some devices better than others.

Most regular cases cost $42.95 (£27) but always look out for offers. Non-US buyers will get a better deal on Society6 as they’re $35 (£22) and offer free shipping regularly, but there’s less choice of designs. I’ve been having An Issue with some of my on-demand stuff but that should be sorted soon and I will start adding more designs everywhere. If there’s anything you want that isn’t available, you can always give me a shout.

How do my on-demand products hold up?

Today's #ctmonthinthelife vignette - things I've designed that I use all the time! @zazzle bunny squares laptop case, 5 A Day tote bag, vintage buttons Keds, prototype coin purse, @denydesigns sun coaster, Zazzle planet wallet, @society6 cupcake iPhone ca

Since I’ve bought and been gifted quite a few of my products from DENY Designs, Society6 and Zazzle, I thought it might be interesting to see how they’ve coped with everyday use.

deny designs

DENY pillow – received December 2012

It’s been in use since it arrived, but mostly decorative until I moved. It was always a bit floppy so it’s quite creased but nothing a quick wash and iron wouldn’t solve. The zip and seams are still perfect and the design hasn’t faded at all. Original review | Buy my DENY pillows

DENY designs coasters

DENY coasters – received December 2013

These have been used daily since I moved into my own place in March. One has a tiny chip missing from the design and they need a regular wipe down to remove drips and dust, but otherwise they are still in perfect condition. Original review | Buy my DENY coasters

society6 iphone case

Society6 Casemate iPhone Case – received October 2013

This case has been amazing! I’m really so impressed with the quality. My previous Society6 case was a bit of a mess by the time I upgraded and never quite fitted properly. The new versions are loads better with cushioned inserts and raised sides. I keep my phone in my trouser pocket and put it down all over the house and yet there’s barely a scratch on the case (especially compared with my screen protector). It still fits well and looks great, though collecting a bit of dust inside, and my iPhone is in perfect condition. It also adds a nice heft that means my naked iPhone feels horribly fragile without it. I really really recommend these, and you can get them for Android phones too. I hope you like my Photoshop skills there in the photo too – I do only have one case. Original review | Buy my Society6 iPhone cases

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Spoonflower Free Shipping Day Today!


Spoonflower have been very generous with the free offers this year but this is the last one so don’t miss out! It’s another free shipping day so you can get your order shipped anywhere in the world for free.

2015 calendar posters

You could pick up the fabric for one of my 2015 tea towel calendars, treat yourself to a roll of cute gift wrap or buy one of my cut and sew patterns for cute coin purses, cookie ornaments and mini pillows, or just stock up your fabric stash. If you do buy anything of mine, I love to see your photos. You can upload an image to the fabric page in my Spoonflower shop, tag me (@marceline) on Instagram or just email it.

spoonflower cut and sew


According to that graphic, free shipping should have started by now and will end late morning tomorrow. Happy shopping!

World Egg Day

Apparently it's World Egg Day today?! This guy says it's about time he got the spotlight.

I don’t think I’m going to blog on Sundays because it feels like a ‘waste’ of a good post and I couldn’t bring myself to schedule in any of the posts I have ready. I don’t know if people really are on the internet less at the weekend but it seems like it.

Anyway, here’s some Fried Eggs if you are around. Lulu informed me it was World Egg Day on Friday (which WHAT?) so I put together some of my favourite products.

Tote Bag (free shipping today with that link!) | Cross stitch patternCoin purse | Duvet cover

According to that photo, we have been sewing my purses the wrong way around! I will have to correct that on the next batch :)