Monday, 29 June 2015


Paul's back is getting better little by little but we are still not sure if we can get on a Thursday flight to Melbourne. My parents worry about Paul so they don't want us to go out too much but Paul doesn't want to stay in bed all day, so we've been trying to have a little trip somewhere each day. 

Our original plan for today was to go to Kamakura - an old samurai town- but it takes nearly two hours by train from my parents' place so we decided to go to somewhere closer. 

I wanted to check a little shop in Okachimachi for my business, so today was a good chance. I thought we could just pop into the shop and have lunch and dessert in Shinjuku and then come home, but the shopping area in Okachimachi was surprisingly good, so we ended up checking all shops in the area. 

This little shopping area is called 2k540. It's directly under the train line between JR Okachimachi station and JR Akihabara station. It's named 2k540 because this place is 2540m away from Tokyo station. 

Most of the shops sell hand crafted unique things like leather products, wooden products or pottery. They are all made in Japan. We really enjoyed each shop. 

Unfortunately we couldn't have our favorite ramen for lunch because the shop had moved (initially we thought they were closed) but we had a great day thanks to some lovely discoveries.

With love,

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Special Experience

When we decided to go to Japan, I booked a lesson for fabric dyeing. This has something to do with the "thing" I'm going to sell at my shop;) This "thing" requires a craftsman's experienced skills to make properly, so there's no way I could properly make it myself, but I wanted to "experience" the process so that I can really tell my customers how precious these items are.

This kind of lesson seems pretty popular in Japan now and when I went there, a tv crew was there too. (I will be on a Japanese morning tv show next week;) if I knew about it beforehand, I could have dressed up a bit more though! )

I wanted Paul to experience this lesson too so that he could know more about my business and help me with the English explanations for how the items are made, but he had terrible back pain the day before the lesson and couldn't go:( I think he's been lifting up and cuddling Nico too much...Fortunately my best friend from uni could make time to come along and took his place, so we had a lovely girls' day out that day;)

Now Paul is getting better, but it's not so nice for him to have back pain during such a short trip. He's been lying down in bed for the last couple of days and missed some fun events, but hopefully we can do some of the things we planned for next week before we go back to Melbourne next Thursday.

With love,

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Yokohama Day

When I lived in Tokyo, I really liked visiting Yokohama sometimes. Yokohama is the biggest harbour city in Japan and reminds me of Geelong;) In central Tokyo, you can only see a little bit of sky between buildings, but in Yokohama with the open space near the harbour, you can see the beautiful blue sky.

Yokohama is somehow a romantic spot too, so I always wanted to take Paul there, but it's a little bit far from Tokyo (I mean my parents' place) so I thought we wouldn't be able to go there with our tight schedule.

However, one of the wholesale shops said I needed to go to their shop for the first order and the shop was in Yokohama Chinatown. I was so excited! Yokohama Chinatown is the biggest Chinatown in the world and there are so many yummy things. You might think "Why would I go to Chinatown in Japan?" But you'll be surprised how high the quality of Chinese food is in Japan.

Yokohama is the city where east meets west. There are many beautiful old red brick western buildings which are quite different from what you see in western countries. Around Minato Mirai area, there are many modern buildings which look more like the "mirai" (future). If you want to have a day trip to somewhere from Tokyo, Yokohama is one of the places I recommend.

We had lovely Chinese lunch at Santou, a restaurant that was recommended by the shop staff where we bought our wholesale things. They are famous for dumplings and no wonder - their dumplings were delicious!

At the wholesale shop I visited, we bought some stuff for ourselves too;)

With Love, Allie

Monday, 22 June 2015


Konnichiwa! No news is a good news. We're having a great time in Japan. We spent last couple of days relaxing around my hometown, doing things like visiting relatives, walking around the neighborhood and going to the local shops. Paul and I also had haircut today. We'll be more actively exploring around Tokyo from tomorrow so it's good to prepare before that;) Now we got a "Tokyo look";)

Today we went to a local "kissaten" (an old style cafe) called "Canadian coffee". Last time when we went there a couple of years ago, we didn't have enough time to enjoy their coffee -we arrived at church (which is just near the cafe) a little bit early, so we tried to grab a coffee quickly before mass. But the lady staff diligently made filter coffee by slowly pouring hot water and by the time we were served our coffee, we had to leave. This time we decided to arrive extra early.

We love Melbourne-style Italian espresso, but this time we really really enjoyed their mild filter coffee. There are still many lovely old-style "kissaten" that have a lot of character, so if you visit Japan I recommend that you to try them:) Just make sure you have enough time to enjoy it ;)

With love,

Friday, 19 June 2015

Our Japan Trip Day1

So our flight was delayed...not once but twice! We arrived at the airport 3 hours before the flight to get our requested bassinet seat, but found our request wasn't on the airline system. Then at the gate, we found our flight was delayed two more hours.

We arrived in Narita at nearly 11pm. The last bus going to my hometown was 8.50pm. Many people missed the last train to Tokyo and looked at lost at the airport. With a very sleepy little 8month old boy, we just decided to stay in a hotel near the airport that night.

When we got my hometown finally, my okaasan (mum) was so happy and excited to see her only grandson. My otousan (dad) was a little bit shy and pretended like he wasn't interested in cuddling Nico, but he looked pretty happy.

We were resting most of the day, but for lunch we managed to go to Paul's dream-come-true place, a "famiresu" (family restaurant). When he was living in Japan, he used to go to a famiresu by himself and was looking at happy families there while he was eating. He wanted to go there someday with his own family.

At my parents' place, there were many boxes were waiting for me. They were the things I ordered for my shop. I went through some of them and they were looking really great ;) We'll pack some of them in our suitcases, but have to send most of them by mail. I will be very very busy when I go back to Melbourne, so I will enjoy this moments in Japan now :)

With love,

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Oh no!

Our flight was delayed. Our original departure was tonight but it's been changed to tomorrow morning. My okaasan (mum) is so disappointed because she wanted to see Nico as soon as possible. Now she has to wait a bit longer for a cuddle.

We thought Nico would mostly sleep during the original night flight, but now it's changed to a day we never know how he is going to be like. Probably we'll be exhausted by the time we arrive in Tokyo. Wish us a luck!

With love,

Monday, 15 June 2015

Let’s pack our bags!

Do you like packing your bags? I love it! I always start packing my suitcase way before my trip…like a month before. But not this time! I haven’t done anything yet. I managed to get some souvenirs for my family and friends in Japan, some TimTam Bites (Have you tried these?) and Arnotts biscuits, but I haven’t even opened my suitcase yet.

It’s the rainy season in Japan now, so it’s a bit difficult to choose the right clothes. Basically, summer clothes will mostly be okay, but when it rains, it gets a bit chilly so we’d better take some long sleeves too. Japanese trains and shops are also sometimes super cold with air con, so if you’re travelling to Japan around this time I recommend that you take some light warm clothes…even in summer!


With love,


Friday, 12 June 2015

Language Barrier

Were you born in Australia? Have you ever faced any language barriers in this country? I’ve lived in Australia for more than 10 years now, but I still struggle with English.

When I was little, I was always interested in English. My otousan (dad) was a professor of English Literature (well.. more Irish?)  , so I asked him to write my name in English on all my stationary at school and I loved it!

When I started to learn English in Year 7, it instantly became my favourite subject. I always got the best mark in the class and I felt pretty confident about it.

Then when I was 16, I stayed with an Australian family in Coffs Harbour for 6 weeks. A pre-arrival document that informed me about my homestay family showed that my little Australian “sister”, Erin, shared the same birthday with me. So when I met her at the airport, I tested my English by telling her that her birthday was same as mine – but she didn’t get what I was saying at all!

Since then (not because of Erin!) I became so scared of being asked “Excuse me? What did you say?” I totally lost my confidence.  Maybe people sometimes ask me to say it again because they just didn’t hear me properly or my voice was small, but I usually blame any misunderstanding at all on my English.

After ten years of living in Australia, I still haven’t got my confidence back. I don’t think I can work for a local company where I have to use English every day. When I lost my job, I thought my only choice was to work for a Japanese company or Japanese restaurant. I know they require high level English too, but at least clients or customers know I’m a Japanese and they can be generous about my mistakes...that’s what I thought.

Then my life plan changed and, as you may have read in my other entries, I’m trying to be a shop owner now.  I wanted to avoid using English for my work as much as possible, but I’ve somehow chosen a job that requires me to use English even writing this blog in English. My passion has taken over my feeling of inferiority.

In a way, while my ultimate aim is of course to have a successful shop, I’m also looking forward to seeing how I can improve my English through my work over next couple of years. Do you think I can get my confidence back someday? I hope so!

With Love,



Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Naming a shop

Naming a shop is a bit like naming your own child. It is very difficult. You choose a name carefully and start liking it, then find someone else has chosen the same name already.. Well if it's a kid's name, you can still use it, but this is more complicated for a shop name that's officially registered.. This is what happened to us.

Sometimes we thought we'd come up with the "best" name, but then we'd get a bit annoyed when we found out that someone else already registered the name as theirs. It was difficult get over some of our favourite names. Our business advisor, Maria (Paul's big sister), kindly suggested a couple of other options to us, but they didn't seem right. I would get so devastated and thought about names all the time - when I was eating, brushing my teeth, feeding...whenever. I even prayed to God to help us with the shop name;)

In August last year, we went to Daylesford for our babymoon and decided our son's name there.

Paul thinks that the business is my shop, but I think of it as our shop. I wanted Paul to like the shop name too, so if both of us didn't agree on a name, I didn't want it...and we pretty much always agree on things anyway. But when we thought of the name "nuno and stitch", we both instantly loved it, and so did our "advisor" Maria. It instantly felt right and we knew, without a doubt, that this was what we'd been waiting for. We felt the same confidence about our son's name, "Nico", when we decided this too.

I'd love to explain all the various meanings of our shop name, but will wait until we officially open our shop. Maybe a bit of mystery about this can build some suspense!

With love,

Monday, 8 June 2015

Planning a trip to Japan

Soon (in 10 days) we’re going to Japan for two weeks. We’re so excited.

With my previous job, I could travel to Japan once a year in summer to help them during their busiest time. So before I lost my job, I just assumed I could go there this year too and planned lots of different things… but then I lost my job. With work not paying my travel costs and not having any income at the moment, I wondered – “Should we still go to Japan?” We had to think about it.

I needed a good reason to go. I told myself, “Well, I can bring back some stuff to sell from Japan and I can also visit some places that will be useful for my business. The trip will be tax deductible (this is really good). What’s more, my otousan (dad) and okaasan (mum) need to see their grandson!” Are these good reasons?? I thought so!

My okaasan came to Melbourne when I had Nico last year and stayed here for 2 months, but my otousan hasn’t seen Nico yet. When I was much younger and before I met Paul, I chose to live in Australia. I just followed my dream and didn’t care about my parents. Now that I’ve become a mum, I can understand how awful it could be if my child decided to live overseas…I feel terribly sorry for not being able to let them see their grandson whenever they like!

So we decided to go.

Now we have to make a “to do list” and “to EAT list” for Japan. I’m looking forward to sharing my travel experiences with you soon. Although I’m excited about this trip, I’m also a little bit nervous about the flight with an 8 month old baby. Have you ever travelled with a baby? What was your experience? Do you have any advice for us?

With Love,

Friday, 5 June 2015

Working from home‏

For the last 8 years I worked from home. I was going to quit my job in Tokyo when I was moving to Australia in 2006, but my boss then told me that I could continue the job because it was web management job.

Whenever I told someone about my job situation, everyone said how lucky I was and then said "when you have kids, it will be really good that you can work from home" and I always believed their words.

this was my office space at St Kilda East apartment where I used to live

Then I had my son Nico last October.  I told my boss that I'd take only 4 months parental leave and get back to work in March. My work was like a bit typical Japanese old fashioned company and I knew they didn't like giving me any parental leave (even without pay), so I tried to make up the time quickly.

When I started work again, it was with a part time shift from 10am to 2pm. Nico was 4 months old. Obviously he didn't sleep through night so I felt exhausted every morning. I usually drove my husband Paul to station before my work and Nico slept in the car, so by the time I started my work he was totally awake and needed my full attention. He wasn't turning or crawling so I put him in a bouncer net and tried to do my work, but soon he started grizzle. It wasn't long before I found I couldn't do my work while Nico was awake. I could only do my work when he was sleeping like an angel.

But I was lucky that Paul's parents lived just around the corner and Mum (well, Paul's mum, but I call her Mum too) often asked me if I needed her help. First I hesitated to ask her but soon it became like a routine for mum to come to our place in the morning and take Nico for a walk or to their place. I couldn't do without her help.

After losing my job, I've decided to become a business owner, but still work from home. I don't have a set time for my work now though, so I don't have to ask mum to look after Nico anymore (she loves him so much, but I know she's already busy with other grand kids !). So, how do I work?

I am experimenting it a bit now. I do my house stuff when Nico is awake in the morning. He's usually happy in the morning so he doesn't mind following me doing vacuum cleaning or sitting in the pram with his favorite toys while I'm doing dishes. 

When he's awake afternoon I try to take him for a walk, go shopping, to nana and pa's place or play with him at home.  Then I do my work while he's having his morning and afternoon naps and after he goes to sleep at night.

It's been only 4 days since I started my business but it seems like a pretty good system. I found it pretty productive. When do I rest? I usually watch Japanese TV shows with Paul after dinner and that is my favorite resting time.

Nico is now only crawling so it might be a bit more difficult when he starts walking around or goes without morning naps, but being my own boss is pretty good. I can decide my priorities. I don't have to make excuses to anyone when I can't do something. Working from home is not as easy as people sometimes think, but now I'm really enjoying it.

Do you have kids and work from home? How are you managing? Or, do you wish you could work from home? I'd love to hear your experience or advice!

With love,

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

So..what do I sell?

When I decided to start an online shop, it was natural for me to decide to sell something Japanese. I was born and grew up in Tokyo. I love Japanese stationary, fabrics, clothing and homeware. Whenever I go to see my parents in Tokyo, I always just take a suitcase that's nearly empty and come back with full of Japanese goodies. I remember that one of my Aussie friends (It’s you, Alison!) once said that she would go to Japan just for shopping. 

These days we can buy many things online. You can even browse shops in Japan using google translate and buy some stuff directly from Japan. However when you use your credit card online, I guess you want to be 100% sure about what you are doing. Sometimes you might feel you can't trust some of the funny translations from google and might get confused. If you have a Japanese friend, you can ask her/him to order something for you, but not everyone has a Japanese friend. It is also hard to search for new cute and good stuff when you don't use the language.

I'd like to introduce some cute and good Japanese stuff to you, to help you to get these things comfortably like I do. I often get Japanese things as Christmas presents for my nieces and nephews here. My lovely niece Isabelle loves stationary (she used to love Smiggles but I think she has grown up from that now..) and she got so excited to get some Japanese stationary that she had never seen here.

It's exciting for me to connect my two favorite countries with the things I love - simple, cute Japanese stuff! Australia gave me so much and I always wanted to do something to pay back this great country, while connecting with my heritage.  It'll be so wonderful if I can contribute to Australia's cultural diversity, using my own background and interests.

With love,

Today's Photo- Paul's mum (she's a lovely lady!) gave me these flowers when I finished my previous job last week. She thought they were like tennis balls. Did you know that Chrysanthemum is the Japanese national flower? It's on the front cover of my Japanese passport too. I like how she picked Eucalyptus leaves with these Chrysanthemum flowers. A lovely combination of something Japanese and Australian:)

Monday, 1 June 2015


Hello! My name is Allie. Well.. my “real” name is Ai which means LOVE in Japanese. I love my name, but it’s pronounced the same as “I” in English , so you could guess how difficult my life can be with that name here in Australia. So my friends and family here call me Allie.

I live in Melbourne with my husband and son. After I worked for an educational institution in Tokyo for 12 years (for more than half of the time, I worked from home in Melbourne because it was website management job), I lost my job!

This happened just after I got back to work from my parental leave. Before this, I thought I could work from home so we didn’t have childcare organised and then it was too late to find somewhere look after my son Nico. Obviously it is very difficult for a mum to find a full time job without childcare.

I needed to work because we were trying to buy a house. I didn’t really have an option to become a housewife financially. I was wondering, "What do I do????"

Then my husband Paul suggested to me to have an online shop, which we sometimes talked about just jokingly. It was one of those random business ideas that we chatted about from time to time, but never seemed real. But he passionately believed that I could do it, saying how much it suits me and that I have a talent for it. I didn’t have a confidence in myself, but he really encouraged me to give it a go. (He is a great guy!)

I actually think that I always wanted to do my own business, but didn’t have the courage to give up secure work. After I lost my job, I guess I didn’t have a choice, but in a positive way it was a great chance to start something new.

This is how I decided to start my shop “nuno & stitch”. I finished my previous work last week and now I’m starting to prepare for the shop more seriously. I will write about my struggles and excitement for opening the shop in this blog “stitch by stitch” (and also about some other random favourite things). I hope you will enjoy seeing the process how my shop is made and look forward to the opening of “nuno and stitch”.

With Love,