Memoirs Of Kyoto (Part II)

My next stop brings me to an even more escalated point, private lunch at an ochaya located in Gion where I would be entertained by geikos (In Kyoto district, geishas are knowns as geikos and maikos. The latter is an apprentice and that usually means working without a salary or very basic salary. However, most of the daily necessities are provided by the company that manages the geiko and maiko; such as their kimonos and make-up. It is a dying trade and some sources say that there are fewer than 200 geikos in Kyoto now. Even traditional hairstylists for maikos are left with only a handful (a geiko is allowed to wear a wig whereas a maiko’s hair is styled using her own).


Literally translated, ochaya means tea house but it is different from my experience at the tea room where I learned the art of tea ceremony. The Gion district is most famous for its traditional Japanese houses; many of which are ochaya, a must visit for any visitor to Kyoto.

My last stop in Kyoto brought me to the Entoku-in Temple where the head priest Mr. Tensho Goto is the ambassador for Visit Japan. It was not hard to see why as despite the fact that he hardly speaks a word of English; you can feel his sincerity and passion towards every tourist that visits the temple. I was ushered to the Chashitsu, a free standing structure that usually refers to a small and simple wooden building. Guests have to enter the Chashitsu by lowering their head and crouch; this signifies that all are equal regardless of status or social position.

The interior of the room is kept very simple, without any furniture except with a scroll and simple floral arrangement (usually containing one or two stalks of flowers to inform guests of the current season by just looking at the type of flower being displayed). Even though there is a small window, it is not meant to be opened as it would distract the participant’s concentration. Its purpose is just to let light filter in through the shoji, which is a translucent paper framed with wood.

Before departing for Kansai International Airport, I made my way to the famous Nishiki Market made up of more than one hundred shops and restaurants formed by five blocks of long shopping streets.

This market specialises in fresh and dried seafood, knives and crockery, pickles and Japanese sweets. Some shops willingly give out samples to curious tourists who come from all over the world. The fresh strawberries looked too good to resist and I decided to buy two packets to eat on my flight home.


The market closes around 6pm daily but some restaurants there might be sold out earlier. After finishing my Japanese dessert of anmitsu (made of jelly cubes, azuki bean paste and ice-cream) of which I was the last customer, I slowly made my way back to the hotel, ready for check out. With that, my brief but memorable 3-day trip to Kyoto ends. But I will definitely be back; Kyoto has not seen the last of me.


Memoirs Of Kyoto (Part I)

On arrival at the Kansai International Airport, I was swiftly picked up by a chauffeur in a private limousine. That was one of the main highlights of my trip and an indication of the extraordinary journey to come.

The journey from the airport to Hyatt Kyoto was a scenic one and a half hour ride. After a warm reception at the hotel lobby, I was shown to my suite, a garden facing room with modern and traditional amenities; imagine this: a bathroom with contemporary shower facilities plus a cypress wooden stool to sit on just like in the bathhouse or onsen. Kyoto is also known for its traditional okashi (Japanese sweets and snacks) and guests get to sample different sweets that are thoughtfully placed in the room daily.

There are countless temples within walking distance to my hotel and one of them is the Chishaku-in-temple, just a stone’s away from the Hyatt. Once I was back, I was greeted by the representative from both the hotel and the group. Following a brief explanation of my entire itinerary, our mini bus was waiting n the driveway, ready to send us to the Daikakuji Temple.

The temple was established in year 876 as a detached palace belonging to Emperor Saga. Following his death, his daughter renovated the palace into Daikakuji temple and appointed her son as the first chief priest. The artificial lake in the temple, Osawa pond, is the oldest and one of the most beautiful lakes in Japan that was created during Haian Period.



Second day in Kyoto, I was looking forward to staying at Hiiragiya Ryokan, one of the most prestigious ryokans in Kyoto. Unlike some of the ryokans with natural onsen (hot spring), thre is no onsen in this part of Kyoto. But what more than makes up for the absence of the onsen was the sincere hospitality shown by each staff member from the ryokan, including the okami-san (manageress of the ryokan) and the delicious kaiseki dinner that was meticulously prepared by the chef.

Being the ever considerate host, whenever one books a room with a ryokan, it is likely that you will be asked about your dietary preferences; whether there is any food that you can’t take and they will then customise the menu according to your liking. And it goes without saying that The Ryokan Collection has already taken down all my order and passed it on to Hiiragiya Ryokan.

Hiiragiya Ryokan comprises of two parts; the old building and the annex building that was completed in recent years. The new building comprises of only 17 rooms and each room is designed with a different theme. I was assigned to a room with a leaf theme. Using ingenious architecture and a strong interior sense, leaf shaped light beams is projected on the wall.

Fall In Love

Scent links to memories, a moment, a special someone. – Debbie Wild, Lifestyle Director, Jo Malone London

When it wafts through the air, it is a soundless voice that whispers into your ears, an effortless power that conjures images of yore to your mind. How do scents affect your mood? W&T talks to Debbie Wild who shows us true scents should be unpretentious and non-synthetic to connect to our souls.


What was our first scent memory? How did that influence you?

As a small child I liked making my own scents from crushed petals and leaves in the garden, pretending to be a perfumer and giving them to my friends and family. I think I always loved the idea of scent as an expression of someone’s unique personality and mood.

Later on, I was instantly drawn to Jo Malone London when I received my first gift – a bottle of Cologne nestled in black tissue in the cream and black box and wrapped with a stiff ribbon. I loved the simple elegance of presentation and of the scent itself.

Our scent memory bank is full of personal recollections form different stages in our lives, starting from early childhood. Certain scents trigger memories of people, places, music and moments throughout your lifetime. As far back as I can remember I have always preferred more masculine and spicy scents.


Why is scent so important? How does it related to travel?

Scents evoke memories; memory of a place, a person. It is also a way to bring a sense of home with you when travelling.

Can you tell me about your role as Lifestyle Director at Jo Malone London?

I have been a part of the brand since 2006. The journey has been an incredible experience. Being the Lifestyle Director for Jo Malone London I find myself visiting wonderful places, discovering new foods, fashions and architecture. I tell the brand story all over the world.

I am passionate about fragrance and how it can change a mood, set a scene or simply make you feel good about yourself. Life is never the same from one day to the next – a week may start where we are presenting a press launch for a beautiful new fragrance in a faraway city and end in our creative studio experimenting with new ingredients.


Is there a scent that is most popular for inducing romance?

I would say Orange Blossom as it is a scent that is suitable for any season. Wear it in the day, followed by Mimoso & Cardamom in the evening would be so perfect. Mimosa & Cardamom is versatile for any venues, be it a beach setting (just picture the sunset with this bohemian scent) or even a city hotel because the scent is so modern and part-like.


Do you have any tips for honeymooners on how to create a romantic ambience on their trip?

Bringing along the scented candles would be the easiest way to scent the room. To enhance the cologne, wear it over body cream or lotion.


In a few words, can you describe the importance of scents in a relationship?

Scent links to memories, a moment, a special someone. Wedding couples can gift to Jo Malone scented candles to guests as a way for them to rekindle the memory of the wedding.


Simplest Tips To Nail Those Shots

Now that you have successfully lost 10 kilos and look stunningly hot in time for your pre-wedding photo shoot, how do you make sure that you don’t spoil the pictures with clumsy posing?

Killer looks could get a woman almost anywhere. But when it comes to standing before the camera, beauty is handicapped if you pose with two left arms and two left feet.

During a photo shoot, the photographer usually does not have the time to reach you the ABCs of modelling. But now with some tricks that professional bridal models swear by, you can also make the camera fall in love with you.


#1 Don’t Be Square

If you are on the plump side, NEVER, NEVER stand square to the camera. You should always turn your body slightly to one side, usually at an angle of 45 degrees or more to look slimmer.

Don’t be afraid that this pose will draw attention to your tummy as some gowns are designed to make you look bustier with a rolled out tummy.


#2 Put Your Best Foot Forward

Accentuate your curves by moving one food forward and pointing your toes, as you rest your body weight on the back foot. This will tilt your hip to one side and make your hips look fuller and rounder to create a sexy, statuesque effect. However, do not over-stretch your torso as that will make you look more vampish than regal.


#3 No Cold, Rigid Shoulders

When you are all tensed up on a shoot, rigidity will show on your face and shoulders. Some women, when nervous, will draw up their shoulders and make themselves look shorter above the chest. You should always remind yourself during the shoot to relax your shoulders for a natural look.

Useful Tips:

Do not face the camera squarely as your face may look flat when there is no angle at all. Point your nose always from the camera, as you keep your eyes on the camera or look in the direction where your nose is pointing. This angle will give prominence to a nice nose bridge.


#4 Crook The Elbows

Bend your elbows slightly to create a think crack between your waist and your arms. This pose works well if you have the sunlight or any other bright illumination shining behind you. It will make a beautiful picture, and furthermore, when the lights bounce off your waist and inner arms, the effect will deceptively take inches off them.

This pose is highly recommended for women who have less than well-toned upper arms, because when the arms are slightly lifted, they will not appear squished on the sides.

However, do practise to perfect this pose ahead of the actual shoot as you will not want to extend your elbows too far away from your body and look unnatural and clumsy. As mentioned in the earlier tip on relaxing your shoulders, do remember to keep them down as you work your elbows.

Useful Tips:

There is nothing worse than a slouching bride-to-be. Suck in your tummy, straighten your back and stick out your bottom to flaunt your curves.


#5 Don’t Make A Spectacle Of Yourself

Glasses look unglamorous in bridal shots, but if you must wear them, beware of certain taboos. Never wear transition lenses as they will look dark on the photos, even if the photos are taken indoors.

Make sure that your glasses have anti-reflective lenses to reduce reflections. When you pose, tilt your chin slightly downwards so that the camera’s flash will not reflect on your lenses and render your photos amateurish.


#6 Don’t make the headlines

When too much focus is on the eyes, arms, legs and torso, women tend to forget to mind their wrinkles, even in the case of young women.

Some women would furrow their brows to attempt the “cool look”, but end up looking irritated instead. And in some other cases, women with small eyes would try to open their eyes as widely as possible, only to look “surprised” with wrinkles etching the forehead.

Again, the solution is to relax your eyes and above the brows. If you are using the trick of lowering your chin to enlarge the eyes, make sure you relax your forehead.

#7 Make Eyes At The Camera

Some women with enthralling soulful eyes just can’t seem to project the same charm on camera. The problem lies once again on getting the angle wrong.

To make your eyes appear bigger, lower your head slightly to bring your eyes nearer to the camera than your chin is. Don’t push your head too close to your chest as that will create double chin and expose too much of the whiteness in your eyes if the camera is positioned at eye level.

Useful Tips:

If you don’t feel natural in certain postures, keep adjusting your body and angles until you feel comfortable, or else you will look uncoordinated in the photos.


#8 Posting The Posy

For women who feel exposed, awkward and naked without holding anything in their hands when they take pictures, bouquets are the best props. But do not raise your bouquet beyond the chest level, unless you want to highlight its beauty rather than yours.

As a general rule, place your wrists on your hip bones and don’t forget to leave a small space between your arms and your side. This will create a graceful 45-degree nook on your arm and naturally bring the bouquet to your mid-section. This is especially useful for women who are conscious about their belly.

Useful Tips:

Invite some friends along – preferably the jesters – who know how to push thr right buttons to help you feel relaxed, ease you into the most photogenic positions and bring on the natural smile.


Making Your Marriage Work

Many couples are so caught up with the pomp and ceremony surrounding the wedding, the actual vows is completely overshadowed. It seems there are far more important things to take note of other than the vows you repeat nervously after the celebrant or officiator. Once the couple is pronounced man and wife, chances are they have a fuzzy recollection of what they have just promised each other.

Research has shown, almost half of all marriages end in divorce; and experts have noticed the alarming trend that most of these unions end within the first two years of marriage. The irony of these break-ups is that the unions are based on more than five years of dating. Studies point to the fact that while many know what love is, they are unaware of the demands and expectations of married life. Many couples enter into marriage expecting the relationship to run on autopilot, and when the end comes, they simply shrug and say, “It just didn’t work.” The newspaper recently reported that more and more couples are visiting their lawyers to help draft a prenuptial agreement. While practical, the irony of the popularity of such an agreement signals that many people enter into marriage expecting it to end in divorce.

Do not for one minute fall for that “happy ever after” ending of fairy tales, with visions of the hero and heroine riding off into the sunset. Having grown up on a diet of children’s fables, fairy tales, romance, novels and Hollywood movies, many of us wake up the morning after with a rude shock. Dating daily for several years with the frequent weekend stay-overs, are still not preparation enough.

There are many entertaining anecdotes about marriage that reveal a very disturbing mind-set. One joke goes: The cheapest way to get a live-in maid is to get married. While another pokes fun at the guys with: A husband is the only bolster in the world that fills up with age. Comic relief aside, the attitude is rather worrying.

Countless reasons are given for breakdowns, errant ways and divorces, and many blame their spouses for the problems in their marriage. Often it is the “I and you” attitude that causes the rift. Early on in the marriage, many couples agree to maintain individuality and not to stifle the other party. This agreement may be acceptable with young couples as they start getting acquainted with each other. However, this agreement will have to be replaced with a newer arrangement: A “WE” contract. Popular pronouns “I”, “me” and “my”, must be replaced by “we”, “us” and “ours” for the marriage to work.

Marriage is a team effort and individualism has to be set aside for the “corporate” good. For a marriage to work, both parties must be committed to making the union work and suppress individual needs, attitudes and opinions.

Commitment is the basic infrastructure for every marriage. As there is no such thing as a happy-ever-after-marriage, couples have to brace themselves for the good times and for the bad too. Marriage is tough and it is only with commitment that husband and wife will be able to ride out the turbulence.

Closely related to commitment is willpower – the discipline to keep to the promises that you made in the wedding vows and abide by them. Only then will the most important aspect of a marriage take place: Two complex individuals slowly being moulded into one entity. All will be well, when two become one.