The lost art of getting your Moomba on!

Any other Melbourne children of the 90’s out there who loved Moomba as kids? Any of you left who still love it, even a little bit, as an adult? Anyone who even knows what the hell I’m talking about?!

For the uninitiated, Moomba is an annual festival held in Melbourne, basically for the love of the city and the enjoyment of the people. The big events every year include the Moomba Masters, the Birdman Rally, the parade, and the announcement of the years’ monarchs – this year it’s Melbourne Cup stars Michelle & Stevie Payne.

There is also music, food, carnival-style games and rides, and fireworks – that was always my favourite as a kid  : )

It’s sadly been a few years since my last Moomba visit, but I made my way back this year; judging from the reactions of the people who asked what I was getting up to for the long weekend when I said “Moomba!” I feel like it’s not getting the love and attention it used to back in the day. Despite the ever increasing cost of living and having fun in Melbourne, it’s still good, I promise! So if you didn’t bother this year, hopefully this will encourage you to mark it on next year’s calendar and get into the fun Melbourne spirit!

 

How to get your Moomba on

Step 1: Leave the car, nice clothes and fancy shoes at home, pack the sunnies, umbrella and sunscreen.

Because you’d be an absolute idiot to drive into the city and pay premium car parking rates when you can catch a train into Flinders Street Station, cross the road, and be at Moomba. Also, because Labour Day falls on the tail end of summer, expect freshly cut grass and a bit of dirt dragged up by it. If you’re planning to wander around and sit down on the grass at some stage to chill out and enjoy the day, you’re probably going to want to be in comfy shoes and clothes that won’t suffer from dirt or grass stains.

There are also some undercover areas, but no where near enough to cater for the crowds, so best to pack some sunscreen and sunglasses, as well as an umbrella. Because, Melbourne.

 

Step 2: Check out the program for music acts, so you can time your day around the tunes you want to hear.

After missing out on their Mardi Gras performance, I was stoked to see Horns of Leroy, an unreal New Orleans style brass band, on Monday’s program! Over the years, the husband and I have discovered some amazing music at Moomba, like long time favourites Lowrider, who we heard play back in 2009. Still love this album

 

Step 3: Time your arrival on the day and time the parade is on.

Because there won’t be anywhere near as many crowds around, so you can get something to eat or enjoy a few rides without the lines if you’re that way inclined. And if you want to watch the parade, you can enjoy it on the big screen by the river without all the people shoving you around!

 

Step 4: Arrive on an empty stomach, because there’s more than just crappy hot dogs available.

This year’s line up included food truck stars like…
– White Guy Cooks Thai
– Hoy Pinoy Filipino BBQ
– Burn City Smokers (see above for their brisket burger. WOW.)
– Nici Nunu Dumplings
– Everybody Loves Ramen
– That Arancini Guy

There were also the good old dirty hot dogs and fairy floss still available…

 

Step 5: Get yourself a spot on the sloped banks of the Yarra for prime viewing position for the water skiing.

Even if you’re not into water skiing, it’s fun to watch the trick jumps and what not on Moomba weekend, and it’s a pretty relaxing way to end the day when you’ve had enough of pushing through the crowds, but are too tired to start heading home.

 

 

It may be a bit expensive (seriously, AUD$10.00 for a ride and AUD$8.00 for a donut?!), it may get really busy, it may seem like an indulgence of the past that’s no longer relevant, but Moomba still has its place. I think it’s a brilliant way to celebrate Melbourne and appreciate the music, food, culture and fun the city has to offer. It’s a festival that puts smiles on the faces of both parents enjoying the nostalgia and memories of their childhood experiences, and their kids enjoying it for their first time. It brings together people of so many nationalities that all now call Melbourne home. It’s an opportunity to just relax and have fun and take a break from the mundane routines we find ourselves in. Save the date for next year  : )

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Yarra Glen Racecourse Craft Market, Melbourne 

Yarra Glen Racecourse Craft Market
http://www.craftmarkets.com.au/markets/yarra-glen.aspx

Happy Monday morning, everyone! I’m more than ready for the cooler weather, but it seems that Melbourne hasn’t quite got the memo that it is in fact now autumn; we’re still getting bright, hot, 30°C sunny days! I usually turn into a frightened little vampire in that kind of weather, having super pale skin and light-sensitivity induced migraines, but I was actually kinda feeling it yesterday! The husband and I took a little drive up to the Yarra Glen Market, which we used to go to a fair bit but haven’t been to in a couple of years.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s one of Victoria’s biggest and best craft markets, held on the first Sunday of the month, full of carefully selected vendors selling the highest quality products. Home made preserves and cakes, children’s clothing and jewellery are the most popular stalls, as are the little food stalls. It gets pretty busy, so it’s good to arrive early so you have your pick of the goodies, and there’s plenty of room to enjoy a tea or coffee and breakfast out in the fresh country air.

Good to know bit of information when you visit:
– On site car parking costs $4.00
– Most vendors are cash only
– Yes, if you’re planning to get there early, they so have a few coffee stalls to wake you up!
– It is family and kid friendly, with things like face painting and a petting zoo around
– It’s also a great place to stock up on treats for your furry friends, with a few dog treat and “clothing” stalls. Marley recommends the Dog Snack Company.

The next market is to be held on Sunday 3rd of April, so you’ve got plenty of time to clear your schedules for it! In the mean time, hope everyone has a great week  : )

Tea time: Captains of Industry, Melbourne (café)

Captains of Industry
Lv 1, 2 Somerset Place, Melbourne
http://captainsofindustry.com.au/

As you can see, not just a café. Captains of Industry has been around for a while now, servicing many of the city’s original hipsters. They deal in the art of being a gentleman – bespoke leather shoes and accessories, lovely grooming products and traditional barbershop haircuts and styles. They also do breakfast, lunch, tea and coffee, which, not being a gentleman of the world, is why I visit.

It’s one of my favourite tea spots on the city to spend a lunch break; it’s beautiful inside. Having grown up around a family business that deals in leather goods, being surrounded by lovely leather pieces and that smell just feels warm and cozy and homely to me… Down a little Melbourne laneway, with creaky wooden floorboards and big, communal wooden tables, vintage touches of furniture and tidbits, the natural light through the windows overlooking the street below; it’s all my idea of perfect.

The tea is great, too, as is the coffee (so I’m repeatedly told) and the service. Catch up with a friend, enjoy a cuppa alone over a good book (like I tend to do), enjoy a bite to eat, do some shopping, get prettied up – whatever tickles your fancy! It’s a really lovely place to unwind and switch off from the world for a while, just in case you need to at the end of this long week  : )

Ladies who glamp – a night at St Jerome’s – The Hotel, Melbourne

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St Jerome’s – The Hotel
http://www.stjeromesthehotel.com.au/

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I am beyond lucky to have this woman in my life. My best friend and soul sister, one of the only people who truly gets me and accepts me completely as I am. Someone I have never felt the need to censor myself around (there are only, like, 2 or 3 of those humans in my life). We’ve worked together and travelled together, laughed together and cried together. Any time I’ve needed her, she’s been there without fail and without even needing to be asked. She’s without a doubt the most generous person I know, with her time and money and talents. I’ve never seen her hesitate to help anyone needing it. She’s stronger than you’d think, takes no shit, and somehow manages to keep her smile and optimism in tact even in the face of the most stressful, hurtful, heart breaking situations.

And this beautiful lady treated me to the most spectacular birthday present ever – a night at St Jerome’s roof top hotel in Melbourne   : )

The level 3 rooftop at Melbourne Central was converted into one of the most stunning camping ground in the world, where glamping is taken to the next level. The tents (with heating, air conditioning, electric blanket and electricity) are cozy little cocoons in which to spend the night with a favourite person. You have a perfect view of the old Daimaru cone, the old Myer building, and the stars… You also get all of the following:


* 24-hour reception and the ability to text the crew at any time if you need a hand with anything at all. And they are without a doubt the most friendly, helpful, lovely bunch of people you could hope to meet!

* Nice big bathrooms with all of your toiletries from shampoo to make up remover.

* Complimentary stocked esky with local craft beer, cider and water in your tent.

* Gourmet house-made breakfast box, delivered to your tent.
–– Butter croissants
–– Yarra Valley preserves
–– Fruit and nut granola
–– Banana and chocolate chip banana bread
–– Fresh seasonal fruit salad
–– Juices by Noah’s
–– Fresh milk
–– Coffee bags by Robert Timms
–– Fully biodegradable cutlery and crockery
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* On-the-house coffee for early campers from 7.30am to 9am.

* Sweet treats from Cupcake Central from 3pm to 5pm.

* Complimentary cocktail during Cocktail Hour from 5pm to 7pm.

* Complimentary Grill’d sliders (x 2) and chips, per tent (8:30pm or 9:30pm).

* Voucher for complimentary pizza at Slice Girls.
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* Complimentary bowling at Strike Bowling.

* Complimentary meditation classes in the mornings on weekends.

* Custom-made dessert from Gelato Messina delivered to your tent (1 per tent) – we got a Messina S’Mores kit, complete with blow torch! That was FUN!!
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* The General Store, where you can enjoy beer, wine, cocktails and an incredible platter of antipasti.
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We enjoyed a cocktail at The General Store and our Slice Girls pizza around the corner at Thousand Pound Bend. Then we made our way back to our tent and sat out the front in our fluffy white robes, eating our sliders and making s’mores and watching the stars. We woke up with a fantastic meditation class, had a tent picnic with a pile of pillows and our delicious breakfast box, then opened up our tent to the sunshine and snuggled under a blanket like kids. I left feeling like a new person.

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I am so thankful for having had the chance to relax and re-set and re-calibrate.
I’m thankful for the fact that I’m still here.
I’m thankful for the life I’ve managed to create for myself, the life that I didn’t even bother dreaming about because I never thought I’d have it.
I’m thankful for my stubborn streak that’s never allowed me to give up or give in.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the angels in my life who love me oh so much and share such incredible experiences with me  : )

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Happy Australia Day! What I love about living in Straya

In the words of one of my husband’s good friends (who sadly passed away a few years ago), “how good’s Australia?!” While tomorrow’s Australia Day means a lot of different things to different people, to me, it essentially represents the time to take pause and celebrate the good fortune living here has afforded my family and I.

My family are of Italian origin. Like many other Italians of their generation, my grandparents came to Australia looking to create a better life for themselves and their young families. In turn, I, like many others of my generation, have had the blessing of growing up in not only one of the most stable, but also one of the most multicultural countries in the world.

I feel absolutely blessed to be a grown woman who has the best of both worlds. Comparing upbringings with my husband, we had a lot of differences. While he grew up at the park with backyard BBQs, interacting only really with his immediate family, and kicking the footy around with the neighbours, I was lunching on Lygon St with my extended family most weekends, bottling tomato sauce with one set of grandparents, and learning to pluck and gut chickens with the other (yes, really). He was eating ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch; I had mortadella and provolone. He went to AFL games with his parents; we went to mass read in Italian with our grandparents. That was the Italian side.

We also had some similarities, from the Aussie part of my upbringing – party food favourites included meat pies with the lids torn off and filled with tomato sauce (ketchup), sausage rolls dunked in tomato sauce, and BBQd sausages in bread, also smothered in tomato sauce. We both learnt to swim as early as we could walk and enjoyed lots of family beach holidays, and we enjoyed frequent walks down to the milk bar with a handful of coins with which to buy a handful of lollies. And you know what else?

 

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Things that make being an Aussie fun…
– We live on a giant island. That means we’re generally never more than a few hours from the beach, the forest or the mountains.
– Tim Tams, lamingtons, ANZAC biscuits, Cherry Ripe, fairy bread, Fantales.
– Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger.
– You can use the same words to describe a mate and an enemy; it’s all in the tone you use.
– Everyone’s name can be shortened somehow. And the already really short names are better lengthened. Everyone must have a nickname.
– We’re also bloody lazy and shorten as many words as possible. We have breaky, not breakfast. Your wife is your darl, not your darling. You’ll be wanting another bev, not a beverage. And you’ll need to fire up the barbie, not the barbecue.
– Everyone knows the first verse of the national anthem, no one has a clue what the next verse is. And that’s ok, because the first verse is the only one that ever gets played.
– We’re totally cool with our national heroes being a bushranger and a race horse.
– Travelling to Asia is great – I just got to and from Tokyo with a nice, fat suitcase for about AUD$550.00.
– At one stage in the 1950s, a bloke made the Guinness Book of World Records for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. He went on the become our country’s Prime Minister.

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Frustrating things about living here…
– Groceries cost a bloody fortune.
– Don’t even think about taking your date to the movies for under $50. Just for tickets.
– The weather is demented. Last week, Melbourne had a 42°C (107°F) day, followed by a 17°C (62°F) day… ??!
– Bushfires and floods are a very real threat.
– Just about every animal in this country can kill you. Sharks, crocodiles, snakes, spiders… Even the cute ones. Kangaroos are violent AF and koalas have chlamydia.
– Who’s even running the country today?
– Melbourne’s public transport situation. No trains from the airport to the city. Nor do they run on time. Embarrassing.
– We have several sports that qualify as “footy.” You have to be specific.
– Travelling anywhere but South East Asia is a bitch. 14 hours Melbourne to LA, or around 22 hours to Europe. Bleh..

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But, fun (and absurd) stuff aside, living here has blessed me with a good life. I was born into a country where women are more equal to men than in many other parts of the world. I grew up taking for granted the fact that I had a full education, because I never knew until much older than many women don’t automatically get that. In turn, that education has afforded me to work hard enough to earn the money to buy my own home and travel extensively.

That’s another thing – I can work. I am lucky to live in a country where women are not expected to stay at home and have children at a young age. I am able to come at go at my leisure, without male accompaniment. I am able to spend my money as I wish, dress as I wish, get tattooed and wear make up and drive and play sports.

I was blessed enough to be born into this country with a very stable economy and government, where coups and war and the such have not affected my generation first hand. I have the ability to step out of my home in the morning without fear of bombs and shootings and soldiers confronting me.

I have the honour of sharing this country with hundreds of other nationalities and cultures and lifestyles. I have friends who are Asian and European, gay and straight, Catholic and atheist. Walking down the main street near my home, I can get Japanese, Indian, Fijian, Macedonian, Turkish and Italian food. I share a community with these people, and everyone exists harmoniously. I see a little old Greek lady purchasing apples from an Italian grocer from a young Vietnamese girl manning the cash register.  They smile and chat and know each others’ names, somehow communicating with smiles through heavy accents and big age gaps. It doesn’t matter. I know not every area is like this, but the area I live in is, and I am blessed to be a part of it.

I have the privilege of living in a country where education and health care are readily available. I can turn on my kitchen tap and automatically have clean, safe drinking water. I can jump on a train and be in a big, fascinating, beautiful city within 20 minutes. Or I can walk a few hundred metres and have a picnic by a lake in a beautiful park.

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We truly are the lucky country. I know that as the world struggles through tough times, we’ll inevitably feel it here, too. But we’ve been through tough times before, and the Aussie battler spirit will get us through, as it always has. If you’re a fellow Aussie, I hope you celebrate a little tomorrow, and appreciate just how good we have it here 🙂 And if you’ve not visited before, we’d love to have you! We know we’re a long way from everywhere else, but we promise it’s worth the trip!

Eat. Travel. Blog. The 2015 highlights :)

Holy wow, 2015 is over… I never believed mum when I’d hear her say “the older you get, the quicker it goes!” I hate to admit it, but she’s kinda right… It simultaneously feels like it was only a few weeks ago/it was all a big dream that we were on our way to America for our mega-trip, but it was this time last year we were half way through it all!

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It’s been a pretty big year for me. Among other things, this year has seen me:
– turn thirty  >_<
– travel to America, Canada, Mexico and Japan
– get closer to some friends and finally shed some toxic ones
– start a new job
– finally acknowledge my depression/anxiety/disordered eating and get help for it all
– acquire a few new tattoos
– complete my first 5km fun run, and a consequential 8km run
– thoroughly enjoy Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club
– discover that I’m lactose and fructose intolerant
– start getting back to who I used to be

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It’s been big. It’s been fun. It’s been challenging. It’s been heart breaking and joy bringing and all the rest of it. Because that’s what life is. The other thing 2015 gave me was the opportunity to write. I love blogging; I love being able to do what I love, whenever I want. And the fact that there are so many of you out there interested enough in what I have to say to read along means more than you can possibly imagine! From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much for reading along from time to time; I’ve been writing and recording since I was old enough to put pen to paper, and I’ll continue to do so for as long as I can still hold a pen in my hand 🙂

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I thought that I’d follow suit with so many other bloggers and take a little walk down memory lane at some of my most popular posts over the last year…

It seems that my readers enjoy my food review posts the most, with these Melbourne eats getting the most views:
1. Yu-U
2. Kustom Burgers
3. Supernormal
4. Cheshire
5. Mamor
6. Bad Boys
7. Leyalina
8. Addict Food & Coffee
9. Mankoushe
10. Good Ovening

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For the record, my favourite Melbourne eats of the year are a little different; my favourites were, in no particular order:
1. Lievita
2. Sookie La La
3. Rockwell & Sons
4. Gypsy & Pig
5. 1090
6. The Gem
7. Shortstop Donuts
8. Addict Food & Coffee
9. Tipo 00
10. Two Little Pigs

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This year’s most popular international eats looked like this:
1. Bangkok’s ice cream truck
2. Nong Ploy, Koh Samui
3. The Halal Guys, New York City
4. Eataly, Chicago
5. Momofuku, Toronto
6. Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington DC
7. Eggslut & Tumbras, Los Angeles
8. Shake Shack / In-N-Out
9. Central Grocery, New Orleans
10. Kanga, Toronto

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Again, my favourites looked a little different:
1. The Joint, New Orleans
2. Four & Twenty Blackbirds, New York City
3. Tartine Bakery, San Francisco
4. The Great Burger, Tokyo
5. Tsukiji Fish Market sushi, Tokyo
6. Yummy Yummy, San Francisco
7. Momofuku, Toronto
8. The Halal Guys, New York City
9. Au Cheval, Chicago
10. Cafe du Monde, New Orleans

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Recipes weren’t as popular as reviews, but the most viewed recipes were:
** Pork, macadamia, cranberry & sage sausage rolls – even though this wasn’t a 2015, it had over 350 more views than the next most popular recipe this year!! Amazing!
1. Red beans & rice
2. Poached egg & polenta
3. Tea infused porridge
4. Peanut butter granola
5. Zucchini choc chip cake
6. Quick 6 ingredient cookies
7. Coconut matcha porridge
8. Spring onion zucchini omelette
9. Cornbread pudding
10. Roy Choi’s ketchup fried rice

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And just for the record, the recipes I enjoyed most this year were:
1. 6 ingredient fried rice
2. Microwave matcha pudding cakes
3. Cranberry gingerbread granola
4. Coconut pandan oat & matcha chia parfait
5. Cornbread pudding
6. Crispy salted sage, hazelnut and cacao nib cookies
7. Olive oil chocolate zucchini cake
8. Fluffy protein pancakes
9. Chocolate pretzels
10. Tea infused porridge

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Your favourite travel related posts?
1. Dong Xuan Night Market, Hanoi, Vietnam
2. 10 Books Every Traveller Must Read
3. Through my eyes: Nutella crepes in Phuket, Thailand
4. Through my eyes: Santa Monica & Venice Beach, Los Angeles
5. Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1
6. The New Orleans School of Cooking
7. USAdventure days 26-33- New York
8. TBT: Crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
9. Pure freedom: cruising Isla Mujeres
10. iPhoto essay: The Californian Redwoods, Warburton

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And my favourite travel experiences this year (other than those 10)?
1. “Finding myself” in St Louis Cemetery #1, New Orleans
2. Inside the hospital of Alcatraz
3. Through my eyes: Jomyo-in Temple, Tokyo
4. Through my eyesL crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at sundown
5. Through my eyesL New Orleans, 10 years post-Katrina
6. Urban paradise: Milton Lee Olive Park, Chicago
7. Toronto Islands, Canada
8. Through my eyes: The streets of Kagurazaka, Japan
9. Greystone Mansion & Park, Los Angeles
10. Flashback Friday: A night at the Temple of Edfu, Egypt

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And last but not least, because I do my very best to keep it as real as possible on here, the most viewed personal musing posts this year have been:
1. Sometimes you DO get to choose your family
2. I believe the time has come for me to re-introduce myself
3. The importance of pizza and a strong father-daughter relationship
4. Welcome to my book nook
5. You’re not alone
6. Wanderlust 108: Melbourne 2015
7. Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be? [Escape part 2]
8. S2, Ep2: Eat. Travel. Blog. It’s been a big weekend
9. Ways to keep your love & friendships strong: Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club
10. There is NOTHING wrong with being real

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From the bottom of my heart guys, thank you so much for reading this year 🙂 Writing is my biggest love and passion in life. It’s what I’ve always done, truly, since I was as young as I can remember. I write primarily for me, but having other people read and appreciate my work is absolutely the biggest, kindest compliment I have ever been paid. So, whether you’ve been reading most days or just read one or two posts this year, thank you so so much 🙂

Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year’s Eve saying farewell the year that has been, saying thank you for the lessons learnt, and getting ready to take on 2016 with reckless abandon xoxo

Japanese Film Festival, Melbourne 2015

The lovely Mon from Mon’s Adventure got in touch with me a few weeks ago about the Japanese Film Festival only a few days after getting back from Japan with an offer I couldn’t refuse – she’d been invited to attend an opening screening at the Japanese Film Festival but couldn’t attend, and very generously offered up her place at both the pre-screening cocktail party and the movie itself to me! Yes please and thank you!!

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The pre-screening party, held in ACMI’s Lightwell space, was a good chance to mingle and nibble and drink; basically, a bit of time to unwind from the day and start to enjoy the evening! As one would expect of an event like this, the food was delicious (particularly those sliders), and when I realised the glasses being passed around were full of Choya Umeshu (a Japanese liqueur made from ume fruit, and a personal favourite of mine), I was a pretty happy little camper.

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This year in Melbourne, the Japanese Film Festival was being supported by Washoku Lovers, an organisation/club/community that is promoting authentic Japanese culture and cuisine here in Australia (mostly Sydney at this stage, but they are trying to break through in Melbourne, yay!), so I have them to thank for the kind invitation extended to myself and my good friend JV for the night  : )  After seeing the list of eateries they’re compiling for Sydney, I can’t wait to see the places that sign up for Melbourne – not only is it going to be a great little black book of dinner locations, you may get some discounts, too…

It all started back in 1997 with three little screenings; now, in it’s 19th year, the JFF  is enjoying much bigger crowds (almost 32, 000 people attended last year), showcasing the unique nature of Japanese film (through genres as varied as anime, samurai, food, classics and drama) in comparison to the standard Hollywood stuff we usually see – on Thursday night, the screening we were invited to was for BAKUMAN, which is pretty popular in Japan! We also got to hear from JFF 2015 Cultural Ambassador Adam Liaw (of MasterChef fame) who spoke about his first link to Japan not being food, but film.

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I’m going to be brutally honest here – the idea of seeing a movie about two teenage boys trying to become published manga artists didn’t really excite me much, but I found myself really getting into in 15 minutes into the film! Based on manga and publishing giant, Weekly Shonen Jump, the film tells of two kids who just want to be published (actually, now that I think about it, I should have been more into this  movie from the start as an amateur writer who’d love to be published…) and the struggles it takes them to get there. The themes explored were friendship, struggle and triumph, and this film perfectly captured all three.

The festival is still running right around Australia until the 6th of December, so if you’d like to get a little taste of Japanese film, head to the website for tickets! I never thought I’d be sanctioning a film like this, but seriously, Bakuman – go and see it!

 

And a very big thank you to the Japan Foundation for having me as one of their guests, for opening my eyes a little more and giving me a little more appreciation for their culture beyond just their amazing food!