Temples, kimonos, paper cranes, cherry blossoms and geikos.  These are the images of Japan I have carried with me since I was a little girl, helped along by Eleanor Coerran’s Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and the various Japanese TV shows of my childhood.  

A few years ago, I got to experience the Japan of my dreams first hand.  And although I only had a week to spend there, it was a magical experience.  I can’t wait to go back!

This is Japan through my lens.


Day 1: Sydney, Australia → Tokyo

Day 2: Tokyo

Day 3: Mt Fuji day trip – cancelled due to a typhoon so we spent the day in the hotel intead

Day 4: Tokyo → Kyoto via shinkansen (bullet train)

Day 5: Hiroshima and Miyajima day trip

Day 6: Kyoto

Day 7: Kyoto

Day 8: Kyoto →Tokyo Airport via shinkansen → Sydney, Australia.

This was a private, self-funded, tailor-made tour through Wendy Wu Tours.  You can find similar itineraries here.


It really depends on what you want to experience but in general, April (sakura season) and October – November are considered the best times to go.  We went in October and were able to see the stunning autumnal colours.  We also got to experience the joys of Typhoon Phanfone as it passed over Tokyo.  Typhoon season reaches it’s peak in August and September.


Getting around Japan is relatively easy once you work out a few details.  The best way to get around most cities is by using the subway system, whilst above ground trains (including the shinkansen) are the best way to travel between cities.  Taxis are slower due to traffic congestion, and in Tokyo they are prohibitively expensive.

To use the subway system, you will need to buy an electronic fare card called an IC card. Suica is the most widely used card, but some areas of Japan use other brands so check beforehand.  You can purchase these cards from vending machines at the station (the instructions are in English) or from the ticketing office.  Simply top up with cash, tap against the electronic readers at the station before you enter and exit the station, and you’re good to go!  To work out which train to take or what station to disembark at, download the free apps onto your phone – I used Tokyo Subway Navigation and Kyoto Metro Map.  You just enter your origin and destination, and the app tells you which station to get off at. It even helps you exit the station on the right side of the road! Stations in Tokyo and Kyoto have English signage alongside Japanese (particularly for tourist attractions), but if you do get lost, people are very happy to help.

To travel on the shinkansen and other above ground trains, you will need a Japan Rail (JR) Pass, which you should buy in Australia before you arrive in Japan.  You will also need to activate your pass at a JR office prior to using it for the first time.  Shinkansen tickets need to be booked in advance.

© 2017 Sunshine and Gelato



Caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart

Buttery flaky pastry topped with sweet caramelised onions and salty goat’s cheese.  This humble tart has to be one of my most favourite dishes to make – its quick, flavoursome and (relatively) healthy.  Serve with steamed vegetables or a simple salad for a more filling meal.

The recipe makes 2 square tarts but  you could use 1 pastry sheet if you wanted a denser filling.

Makes 2 square tarts. Serves 4.


  • 4 large brown onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vinegar (white, malt or balsamic)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Baking paper
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (reduced fat)
  • 200g soft goat’s cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 200C
  2. Add oil to a large frying pan, and place over low heat.  Add onions and cook for 25 minutes or until the onions become a rich golden colour.  Stir occasionally to prevent the onions from sticking to the pan.
  3. Add brown sugar and vinegar (I used malt but you could use white or balsamic vinegar instead) to the onions, and stir until well combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Place the sheets of puff pastry on the tray and allow to thaw slightly.
  5. Prick the pastry with a fork, leaving a border around the edge of each tart (~2cm wide).  Bake the pastry for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove pastry sheets from the oven.  Top with caramelised onion mixture, leaving a 2cm border all around.  Top with crumbled goat’s cheese.  Return to oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Serve with steamed vegetables or a simple salad.


Pumpkin, chickpea and tomato curry

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I love nothing more than a good chicken curry mopped up with hunks of buttered bread.  But over the last few years, I’ve found myself intentionally choosing dishes without meat.  Animal welfare has always been important to me, but after a trip to New Zealand, I just started to feel uneasy about eating innocent living creatures.  Now, I’m what my husband likes to call a “part-time vegetarian” (I Googled it – it’s a real thing).  I still eat meat but not as much.

I recently stumbled across this Jamie Oliver recipe for Pumpkin, chickpea and coconut curry which I adapted slightly by swapping coconut milk for light evaporated milk and adding in some chopped fresh tomatoes that we had at home.  The end result is a hearty and deliciously tangy curry that’s mildly spicy.  If you like your curries hot, then I’d recommend adding more chilli.

This dish is best served piping hot with steamed rice, roti parathas (flaky Indian flatbreads) or even buttered bread.  And it makes way more than 4 serves!  Dig in and let me know what you think!


  • 1/2 butternut pumpkin
  • 4 cm piece of ginger
  • 4 shallots (or 1 red onion)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 fresh red chilli (use 2 – 3 if you prefer it spicy)
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 20 curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 x 400 g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400 g tin of light evaporated milk
  • 1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas


  1. Chop the pumpkin into 3cm chunks and set aside.  Cut the ginger into matchsticks.  Finely dice the shallots and garlic.  Split the chilli in half length-ways and then slice finely.  Pick the coriander leaves (set aside), and finely chop the stalks.
  2. Pour a good lug of oil into a large saucepan and place on a high heat. Add the ginger, shallots, garlic and red chilli and stir.  Reduce to a medium heat. Cook until golden, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves and coriander stalks. Fry until the curry leaves become crispy.
  4. Add the turmeric, tinned tomatoes and evaporated milk.  After a few minutes, add chopped fresh tomatoes.  Bring to the boil.
  5. Add the pumpkin and chickpeas. Reduce to a low heat and cover with a lid.  Simmer for 45 minutes.  Add a little water if it’s looking dry or starts to stick to the saucepan.
  6. After 45 minutes, remove the lid and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes or until the sauce becomes thick.  Remove from heat.
  7. Scatter with coriander leaves and serve immediately.

© 2017 Sunshine and Gelato