Japan Tour 2018 – Day 20


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 20 – Tokyo Tower. A welcome sight the tower was as we neared our Shiba Park Hotel after another full day.

After lunch and two folk art exhibits with two Tokyo friends Cathy and I returned to the fabric store in the Shinjuku area. I wanted more wool because when I washed a little piece in the bathroom sink last night it fulled (shrank nicely) easily. I also wanted the special thread for sashiko stitching. Cathy wanted some of the wool, too.

Shinjuku was really crowded today, Saturday. Yesterday it was so bad we stopped for dinner to avoid the rush hour going home on the subway. This is a photo of people waiting for the light to change.

This is a Starbucks on the third floor of a big building in Shinjuku. This is the line waiting to order—there were 18 people in that line. There were about 20 in the line waiting for their drinks. It was the third or fourth place we tried to get a coffee—all too crowded. We thought no one would know about this place on the third floor. Boy were we wrong. Cathy lined up to get a table while I went for the drinks. A mad house it was.

We stopped to get food to take back to the hotel for dinner. Another mad house. There are food courts in the basements of the many department stores. We’ve made many meals this way and found bakeries too.

This octopus salad was my main course. I also had a tomato salad and a salad with avocado and fresh vegetables. All delicious to eat wearing my pajamas and the hotel’s free slippers.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 19


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 19 – Finally arrived at Mrs Sooma’s to shop. We got some nice things.

We took the train to Tokyo today. Left at 7:38 and arrived at 1:24 to hot and humid weather and crowds of people. We met a friend who took us to a fabric shop where fashion students go. I bought these linens and silks and one lovely wool for dyeing.

Okadaya fabric store was 5 floors chock full of fabrics. Thank goodness I had in mind what to look for.

Another shot in the fabric store, Okadaya. Originally I wanted light weight wool that was loosely woven and see through. I got one piece then moved on to linens and then quickly to silk organza which dyes fantastically well. Then we got out of there before getting overwhelmed. I am excited about dyeing them with the natural dyes that are new to me.

Our last views of rice fields from the bullet train.

It always surprises me to see the houses so crowded together.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 18


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 18 – A creative sashiko vest. Today we were taken to Towada about an hour drive from our hotel in Hon-Hachinohe by a textile dealer we met the other day at a flea market in Morioka. She brought along her friend who spoke great English. Her friend was wearing this lovely subtle vest she created from two old kimono fabrics. Here is the inside of the vest showing sashiko stitching covering it completely. The patch was to cover a hole in the fabric. She really gave the old fabrics a new look. Click to enlarge to see the original cloth.

Here’s a closer look at the fabric she created. She was shy so I will keep her identity secret.

Here is the back of the vest. It was her original design.

Vest front. Designed by an artist.

Our first stop in Towada was to visit the Takumi Studio which is chock full of looms making sakiori cloth using bits of rags. People can come in and weave for a small fee for an hour to make a table mat. The looms were the same type that were in yesterday’s post. This photo shows the fronts of a row of looms.

The back of one of the looms.

I just liked this view down a row of looms. The cords are made of rags or fabric made into cords. The other end of the cord is a loop which goes around the weaver’s ankle. When the ankle pulls back it pulls the end of the bow-like piece down which raises the other end of the bow which raises the heddle bar that lifts half of the threads while weaving.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 17


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 17 – Hon Hachinohe, Japan. This is our last stop before ending up in Tokyo for 5 nights. The photo is of the technique we came here to see. The technique is called “hashizashi”. I took this photo in the museum here; it’s a variation of sashiko. It’s a form of stitching diamonds and instead of working the needle like in kogin the needle goes into the fabric perpendicular to the cloth one stitch at a time. The video looked like a blunt needle went between the threads of the foundation cloth. I’m feeling pretty vague about the technique still.

This technique seems to be traditionally done on aprons. I hope we’ll get more information tomorrow. The technique is called hashizashi.

We expected to find sakiori cloth woven in this area as well as the diamond pattern stitching, called “hashizashi”. We saw a woman weaving it in a shop. It was interesting to actually see her weaving and the motions she did and the loom. This photo shows the fabric which is fairly thick since it is woven with strips of cloth like for rag rugs we are familiar with.

Here is the woman weaving the sakiori cloth. She randomly selected different colors of rags, choosing from some bundles of rags she had by the loom. This is an old technique used to make sashes for the kimono called obi. The old ones I have are so soft and subtle compared with these new ones where the colors are not faded and are much brighter.

Click to enlarge We were braver tonight for our dinner “restaurant “ and stoped in this tiny stall in a lovely little alley. There was room for a very small charcoal fire ringed with pieces of fish on sticks cooking and 6 tiny stools.

Here are the fish grilling around the fire ring. The ones that are cooked are standing away from the fire. Cathy had the best salmon she ever tasted and I had a delicious fish. This town/city? is on the coast with a big port and known for fishing.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 16

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Japan Tour 2018 – Day 16 – Kogan Stitching a development from Sashiko. This type of stitching is only in the Tsugaru area in northern Japan and that’s the reason we are here. It differs from the sashiko that I’ve seen before is the patterns but it is done with a blunt needle and the threads of the foundation cloth are counted. Sashiko with which I’ve been slightly familiar is done with a sharp pointed needle. It was usually done with a thick white thread on indigo fabric. It was interesting to find out that when it got old and dirty it was over dyed with indigo. The stitches were still there but barely seen if it was dyed a very dark shade.

We started out with breakfast at Starbucks which was in an old historic building and not having a plan but we knew we wanted to see the kogin fabric and maybe sashiko as well. A stop at the visitors bureau on the way back to our hotel gave us some leads marked on a map. We chose this shop which turned into a gold mine. We forgot to take pictures as what happens when one gets involved so here is the business card with the contact information. Minako Hikima’s shop had lovely things to sell as well as supplies for stitching. After some conversation she offered to take us to a famous kogin teacher and see her wonderful collection of old kimono fabrics. What luck for us!!

This is where we were taken. We had tried to get here twice but the phone recording said only by reservation so it was really lucky for us that we got to go there. It is the gallery of Mrs. Yoko Sato famous as an artist collector and teacher. It was just grand to see and learn about so many of the patterns used and the histories of the different types. A video at the end of this post shows her stitching and the interesting way it’s done and how she uses the needle.

On the way from our last stop at an indigo shop we saw this man cleaning up after pruning this big pine tree. There was a huge amount of pine needles to sweep up. I’m told they pluck individual needles to accomplish such gorgeous trees in Japan.

For dinner we chose a place we saw last night but it was fully booked. We tried our hotel and they didn’t serve dinner but suggested a little place down the street. We peeked in and went into a small neighborhood sushi and yakatoti restaurant where a customer welcomed us and bought us a bottle of sake. We were quite the topic of conversation and they were surprised we could use chopsticks. And we all did pretty good with sign language and laughter. Here we are after finishing off the sake.

Here’s the video of Mrs Sato stitching. Notice how she holds the needle and uses her special needle and how she tensions the stitching.

Japan Tour 2018 – Hirosaki Night Time Storefront Gallery


Japan Tour 2018 – Hirosaki – Night Time Storefront Gallery – [to view slideshow click HERE and/or click the first photo below]
A mosaic of night life scenes taken tonight in the town of Hirosaki. Our hotel is in the bar district and many of the door ways and “storefronts” were lovely and/or interesting. There were so many taxis waiting around. Made me think of the Broadway district in San Francisco years ago. 

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 15


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 15 – We are in the town of Hirosaki which is sashiko country. The cloth is sometimes covered with stitching and sometimes white stitching in vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines. The stitching is done on one or more layers of cloth. Originally it was for mending and later to make cloth heavier for warmth. There are several types of designs and reading about all of this is terribly fascinating. We went to the Hirosaki Koginzashi Institute and saw a lovely collection of old kimonos and patterns.

The Institute is a place where local women bring in sashiko pieces they have been commissioned to stitch. Here are two women having their work checked in and recorded.

The women are given pieces cut carefully one by one by women at the Institute and assigned what designs to stitch at home. There is an enormous inventory there of stitched items to go to shops for retail from little coasters to buttons to larger bags.

This old kimono was once had white stitching on dark blue indigo cloth. After some aging it was completely over-dyed in indigo almost obliterating the intricate stitching pattern.

This is a pattern on a short kimono- like jacket that Cathy and I found in a little dusty antique shop. We are “fighting “ over who gets to have it. I saw it first but we agreed ahead of time if we both wanted the same thing we would flip a coin or negotiate. So we will see what else comes up and decide who gets it. I passionately want to have it. The indigo is a light shade because people couldn’t afford to pay for many dips in the dye to make a darker shade. And it fits me perfectly and is very wearable and the fabric is strong even though it is old. [see some Instagram comments below]

  • finniganh Peggy do you think this was done in part using the ikat method?
  • tludlowhunter Love it! I’m pulling for you to win !!
  • lisascenic I like the way this is both structured and unstructured.
  • shiborigirl Love the combo of kasuri, sashiko and indigo!
  • peggyoster@finniganh yes there is ikat too
  • ysabelladreamer A Solomonic solution, though I am not Solomon, would be to SHARE. It on a weekly monthly or yearly basis. Determine the time set dates and exchange it!!!! It would be the Solomon Ikat short kimono….
  • ysabelladreamer I must say it is a wonderfully executed gorgeous Ikat. The star pattern of stitching is extraordinary. It almost looks like a tie die. But you could not do tie-die and ikat on the same fabric, I think …. The shade of indigo is so perfect as an old looking piece. For you who knows so much about textiles, techniques of weaving, the process of indigo, tie dye, embroidery and much more: this is a found “gem” ( i would love to have it too!!!) Since you saw it first, i am rooting for you to have it (Solomonic solutions are puzzling but if you decide on it put it on writing it helps clear the mind) Does Cathy knowledge of textiles rivals yours?
  • peggyoster Yes she knows her stuff. Interesting way to settle this – will let you know.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 13


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 13 – Today we visited the stencil dyer, Mr Shintaro Ono in his shop and gallery. He showed us how stencils were used on cloth and then his collection of textiles in the gallery.

This elaborate old doll in Mr. Ono’s collection really impressed me. I’m told it is of an empress and a figure often associated with Girls Day. It was large—at least 2’ high.

Mr. Ono in his shop in front of a noran dyed with one of his hundreds of traditional stencils. If you visit me you will see it hanging in my window. I was completely seduced by it even though the window behind it is distracting.

Here is Cathy shopping. This is a typical area in a traditional shop in Japan.

We did some shopping in this antique store. China and textiles were the featured items. The aisles were narrow as seen here and moving by one another with all the old dishes on display was a challenge. Now I know what “a bull in a china shop” is really like. We are still muttering about a large old textile with the traditional purple dye. We are thinking of sharing it. We will go back tomorrow if the shop is open on Sunday and decide what to do. The muted purple dye was gorgeous— made from the roots from old wild plants that are not allowed to be used anymore.

Here we are after a hard day of shopping after ice cream and a coffee. It rained all day and was really cold and windy. We were glad for our raincoats. I really needed my wool beret. We heard there was some serious flooding where we’d been in Murakami last week. Photos on TV showed water in the rice paddies over flowing their dikes.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 12 – The Noodle Video

 Japan Tour 2018 – Day 12 – The Noodle Video – Video with sounds of the bowls of soba noodles being served at the soba restaurant last night. Our personal waitress kept push more and more on us and the sound of the bowls being piled up was charming if that’s the right word.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 12


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 12 – Today was our first day in Morioka. Friends from Tokyo joined us and made appointments for us and did translating as well as help to get us around town on a very rainy day. Our first visit was to a lovely shop featuring purple dyed shibori silk kimonos and smaller pieces. Mr. Fujita is the president of Soshido Ltd. and he answered questions after we saw a video about this interesting purple dye and the shibori (tie dye) process. I had never heard of this natural dye which is from Shikon (Lithospermnm erthrorhizone) root. The color is called murasaki. These words were bantered around and I think I have it right. Anyway this dyeing with them root to make purple goes back to “early times”. I bought this lovely silk piece which is about 14” x 9”. It is nicely finished with a grey silk lining.

Soshido Ltd also does dyeing with what we call madder root and is called Akane by the Japanese. The red is gorgeous. This piece I bought is about 14” x 22” and is finished the same as the purple piece to be used as a table runner or mat. I love the shibori design. I hope my tech guy can make the red as lovely as it is in real life. We were told they have 800 shibori patterns and about 10-15 older women who do the shibori tying. They also do contemporary design some but want to keep alive the traditional ones. A stencil is used to mark the fabric for the pattern then all the stitching for the shibori is done and then the threads drawn up tightly and knotted. He said untying after dyeing can take longer than tying.

After sandwiches and lattes at Tulley’s Coffee shop we visited a homespun business called Oriza. It was begun after the war by and for women and today is still completely a women’s business. Sheep were raised for home use in the area after World War I. Today they get wool fleece from New Zealand and Australia. They have two huge carding machines and 3 people who are spinning with motorized spinners. There’s a huge warping reel a chemical dye area and a weaving room with about 10 looms— I forgot to count. I bought this gorgeous scarf with a lovely soft hand and subtle colors in a 3/1 twill made by the woman who showed us around. I don’t need a wool scarf in San Francisco very often but I loved it and couldn’t resist.

I bought this very large beautiful shawl at a large shop featuring crafts made in Morioka. It is made of bamboo and feels good of course. I loved the grey which is dyed with coal. The white areas stuck me and the two colors make it really attractive.

This is a very very large shawl made of cotton mosquito netting. I bought it with the idea of cutting it up and dyeing it when I get home. However it might be a perfect fabric for the hot Japanese summer we’ll have when I come back for the symposium in Yamagata in July. The other day I got a nice top made with the same cloth in a light blue.

We went to a unique to Morioka soba place for dinner. All you can eat and they encourage everyone to eat a lot. Here are the 20 empty bowls of soba noodles that I had. Cathy had 41 bowls! The place is called Wanko Soba. Each table has its own waitress who keeps filling your soup bowl with more and more bowls of soba.

Here I am slurping soba noodles. The waitress kept piling up my empty bowls until the stack was 15 high. Then a new stack was started. In the video you can hear the waitress throwing the bowl onto each person’s stack. We each got certificates for eating the number we had. Notice the bib. The noodles were warm and I think they tasted good.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 11


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 11 – We visited reknown indigo dyer, Matsue Chiba, out in the countryside outside Kurikoma. She is the third generation to use indigo in this old traditional method which used to be done long ago. Now her son and niece are the fourth generation and the only dyers using this “cold” indigo method. It uses only three ingredients which is unusual today. They are indigo, ash, and water. She is showing our Japanese friend how she puts the cloth to be dyed on stretchers to hold the cloth apart in the dye. They are not dyeing now but she explained her technique to us.

Mrs. Chiba talked with us in her small show room next door to her weaving room and next to her dye vat room. Her color of indigo is distinctive—not the dark shade we often see. The piece hanging was gorgeous and stenciled and dyed by a previous generation—her mother I think it was.

Mrs. Chiba told us she had just now planted the indigo seeds. This is mid-May. The seedlings will be translated then harvested in August/September. The leaves will be put in net bags and hung to dry. There is a year and a half cycle that she explained and I remember vaguely. At some time the leaves were fermented. Then mixed with water to make little patties. These would be used for the dyeing. During December and January they make wood ash from linden tree bark. They are constantly burning so can’t leave home while making the ash. It will be used in the indigo dye. The dyeing actually is done in May using the patties made from the previous years crop. Usually she dips twice for 3 minutes each time for her light shades. However she sometimes dips more times for darker color.

Here are her indigo vats. Notice they are above ground so they are not heated. All other methods I’ve seen in Japan have the vats deep In the ground with heaters to keep the temperature just the right warmth.

Here is the altar/shrine for her dyeing area. I think most indigo dyers have one above their vats. Her dyed cloths were of many different shades of blue which she attributed to the differences of the indigo at different times. I think that might mean at the beginning or end of a dye session for example or how happy the indigo was at the time. For another example does it need to have ash added.

We heard the frogs right outside her studio all the while. When we stepped outside we could also hear the pretty swift river where she washes the cloth.

We said goodbye to our Japanese companions at the train station. Their bullet train left at 2:59 and ours at 3:02. They passed one another, one coming in while the other going out.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 10


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 10 – More from Yonezawa before taking trains to Sendai. Mr Suwa’s studio also made baskets and these lovely baskets by hand. Today was a half day of traveling and nothing special this afternoon. We took 2 bullet trains to get to the big city of Sendai changing at Fukushima. I saw lots of houses and farming but no evidence of the nuclear trouble. This post will be a catch up for more of yesterday’s adventures. Mr. Suwa’s factory included an area for basket making. These were in the inventory but not available for sale.

Here were two of the three basket makers. The man is working on a handle and the girl is tediously weaving with strips. No wonder the baskets are so expensive.

These are molds for shaping the handmade baskets.

A closer look at her weaving with those individual strips of basket material. She is lifting every other one to go over and under just like weaving with strips of paper!

I’m trying to send a video I took in the power loom room at Mr. Suwa’s yesterday. It starts out with just the sound of the loom. Keep watching and you’ll see the woman running the loom. It could be a fairly long video with me moving the camera wildly at times. I hope it works. Tomorrow we take a train at 8:02 on the way to see an indigo dyer.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 9


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 9 – Our last day in Yonezawa. We had an appointment to visit Nonohanazome Studio, the weaving and natural dyeing studio of Goichi Suwa. After tea with him and his mother we toured his factory. Here we are at the end of our visit. Mr Suwa is holding the gifts Cathy and I presented him. His showroom had many rolls of kimono cloth made from a variety of fibers as well as silk that were dyed with natural dyes. He has two weaving rooms—one for hand weaving which had a jacquard loom going making plain weave on an ikat warp. Another weaver was weaving natural dyed strips of cloth for heavier sakiori cloth for an obi. The other room had around 3-4 power looms. The dobby loom was making loud rhythmic clacking sounds which I love to hear. I took a video mainly for that sound but got nice pictures of a middle aged woman bending over and watching carefully to be sure the width stayed perfect and periodically she would stop the machine to mover her measuring tape just like we do.

Here Mr. Suwa is showing us his indigo vats. This one was only 2weeks old and not ready yet. He makes new vats 3 times a year. He brought out a big bottle of sake to show us that it is an ingredient that adds sugar to the vat. He uses the “sukumo” (spelling) method for making his indigo. Japanese who specialize in indigo are famous for their rich colors and shades. We saw an alter above the vats which I’ve heard is common around indigo vats.

Here was a big pot boiling with these twigs to make dye. He dyes with the twigs from flowering cherry trees cut just before the blossoms bloom. He gets these from trees that have fallen under the weight of winter snow. I said I’d try it in San Francisco because we have cherry blossoms too but then remembered we don’t have the snow! He gave me some twigs to dye with when I get home. I’m still going to keep an eye out for cherry tree trimmings to cook up for dye.

Here is the pot boiling away for a red dye. Cherry gives pink. A new to me dye for red is a plant called Akane. I will learn about it when I come back to Japan in June for the Shibori Symposium.

These come from safflower flowers. This area of Japan is famous for benebana (spelling) the name for dyeing with safflowers. When I come to the International Shibori Symposium in this area next month we will go to a field of flowers and pick them for the dye. That’s the reason for having the symposium in hot July in Japan. I’ve seen these little patties which I assume are made somehow from the flowers for the dye. All to be learned.

This is the end of a kimono length with the label that tells that the fabric is woven from yarn made from fiddle head ferns! Last week we saw people drying little pieces of these on mats on the road and driveways. Yesterday we ate small pieces on our soba. Editors note for Day 8: The process of ikat using boards is called itijime. The owner of the studio is Mr. Sato.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 8


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 8 – We took an hour ride in a taxi from our hotel in Yonezawa to a small village among rice paddies and cherry orchards named Shirataka. We visited the studio where a seldom seen form of ikat is done by wrapping threads onto boards to resist the dye to make the patterns. Here are warp threads that have been dyed. Next they will go to the weavers studio to be put on a loom and woven.

Here is one of many boards used to make a simple or complex pattern. If you zoom in you can see the silk threads wrapped on the grooved board. The dye eventually will flow through the channels of the grooves. Note the cut out at the edge for a pattern There would be 40 or more boards wrapped and stacked and held tightly next to one another in a press like device.

This is an example of one pattern of cloth woven with both warp and weft threads dyed with the boards forming the resist and dyed areas of the pattern. The dye was black. The threads were white to begin with.

During dyeing, the wrapped boards would be stacked in the holder on the left in the photo and the dyer would pour the hot black dye over the stack. He would dip and pour the dye over and over for perhaps a half hour. The dye would drain through the pattern grooves and run out a spout below back into the dye pot.

Here is a stack of wrapped boards in the holding press. You can see the threads wrapped on the edges of the boards. You can see evidence of the pattern on the side of the stack. The whole thing would be turned on it’s side when the dye is poured over it so the dye can drain down through.

On the loom a black warp is added on the beam but the pattern portion is separated so it can be adjusted by individual threads as needed during weaving.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 7

– click to enlarge –

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 7 – We left our lovely Japanese inn this morning for almost a whole day of traveling on various trains. We left at 9:30 and got to our hotel In Yonezawa around 3:00. This is the garden at the inn. There were beautiful compositions where ever you looked in the gorgeous garden—complete with koi swimming around, of course.

A partial view of our breakfast at the inn this morning. Notice the fire cooking something good.

We rode past many rice fields. If you look closely you can see snow on the mountain. It was cloudy all day so all the scenery had a shadowy feel to it.

click to enlarge –

Finally we saw cherry blossoms. They have all been finished wherever we’ve been. We are farther north but I only saw these from the train. I kept looking for them in the villages we rode through. Many houses had something blooming but the cherry blossoms were all gone. We have seen evidence of beautiful cherry trees along rivers in several places along our trip however.

This is my best photo of snow on the mountains. They were quite a distance from the train.

This picture doesn’t belong here but I couldn’t resist it. This was in a tiny shop in the little town where the Japanese inn was. We love soft ice cream and had to stop when we saw the sign outside this mans shop. This was new technology to me.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 6


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 6 – This is a hot springs area and we have one night in a ryokan which is a Japanese inn. I am sitting on my futon on the floor covered with tatami mats making my daily post. I love the smell of the tatami and think I will sleep well tonight (which is Saturday night). One of our Japanese friends joined us today which was great help getting around.

We took a local bus to Sekikawa a small village in the country side to a see shinafu which is weaving with bark fiber. Bark from tall Japanese linden trees which are cut down are processed by many steps down to fibers about 30 meters long. That’s the length of the bark stripped from the felled tree. This is men’s work we learned from an excellent video all in Japanese (our friend Takako translated details). Then women do all the processing. One of the last steps is to join the lengths of fibers to form yarn for the warp and weft. The join is made with some twisting. It was demonstrated but too much for me to catch. However when looking at the “yarns” you can see the 1/2” or so twisted spots here and there. The photo shows the steps starting with the bark. There were interesting thing on display and many small things to but of the woven cloth and fibers.

This is the road into the village showing mountains and verdant country.

Here is a farmer beginning to plant rice. We finally got a chance to see the tractor up close. We were really in the country. We snatched sandwiches at the train station at Tsuruoka which was good because there were no places to get food let alone coffee. We ate our lunches overlooking the rice farmer while listening to the frogs croaking softly. Peaceful is was.

Here’s the posture for gardening by hand. The woman is spreading out some plants to dry them. One woman spread out hers to dry on the road going into the village—in the left lane of the two lane road. Our bus had to swerve around her. This shows how small the village is.

Along the river in the town (still no place to get a coffee) of Atsumi Onsen where our hotel is there are hot springs around town for soaking your feet. Here is one by the river along side of the sidewalk outside our hotel. A lot of hikers visit the area and come back to soak their tired feet. It was charming and the hot water really felt good. There were towels in a basket to dry our feet.

We had dinner at a little sushi place then headed black to the hotel and a soak in the public bath in the hotel. We put on our cotton kimonos provided and came back after our bath in them, all warm and comfortable.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 5


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 5
We visited two studios in two separate towns today. Then took another train to our hotel. A busy awesome day. First stop to Akiko Ike in her shop in Niigata. She does a form of stitching she calls chika-chika sashiko. The photo was taken at a solo exhibition.

We had great laughs together with Akiko Ike.

Akiko took a pair of jeans and cut down the sides and inserted a piece of her stitched cloth to make them “fit” her. Notice the suspenders. There was a nice patch on her backside but she didn’t let me photograph that view.

Now we were in the town of Murakami at the Yamagami Dye Studio. The family has lived in this very old house for generations. She is the eldest daughter and is an artist with many dye techniques. She studied at a university in Kyoto and does contemporary as well as traditional designs often with stencils. Her father developed the technique of dyeing with tea. There is a lot of tea grown and processed in the town. Here she is in front of a tea dye pot. She gave me some tea to take home for my dyeing. We met both parents who were still involved with the shop and factory. There were two silk scarves available that were tea dyed so of course we had to have them. Lovely brown and beige.

A tea dyed piece I. The old house.

The dye “factory”. It was full of brushes and stencils and tools.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 4


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 4 – We headed out this morning to visit Oguniwashi Papermaking Studio in the small village of Oguni. We were told we could visit anytime and to take a bus so we had a leisurely breakfast in our hotel room. At the station we discovered the next bus wasn’t for 2 1/2 hours. We decided to out fox that and to take a local train to a town on our map and then see if we could get a bus from there. This is what we found: a tiny station with no one in sight! There was nothing to do but start walking towards some buildings we saw in the distance. There was a little post office and we asked them to call a taxi. The cost of the ride was $33 but we were sure glad to get it.

This is the Oguniwashi Papermaking Studio which seemed to be run by 3 young people in their 20’s. They make small papers, postcards, note paper etc. I got hand made paper business cards which I’ll dye and print when I get home. I saved one I got years ago dyed with indigo that was distinctive. I can use a rubber stamp for the text. This place is out among lovely rice paddies I. The country!

The kozo plants were soft and wet when the workers scraped them to remove everything but the fibers for making the paper.

The day fibers were boiled here with steam coming out. There was a big stash of wood for the wood stove another part of the preparation process.

Here we saw the familiar process of actually making the paper. The tub has the slurry which might look like wet Kleenex particles thoroughly mixed in water. A tray is lowered into the slurry and jiggled thoroughly to disperse the fibers evenly. Then it is lifted up and the paper in the tray is transferred to a flat surface then sent to be dried on a metal surface with heat below. It takes skill to get the fibers evenly spread out. When you see handmade paper often you can see the fibers and the rough edges that are the edges of each sheet. It looks like back breaking work. Everyone there was young.

We were raced to the train station in a car to get to the train going home. We got there 3 minutes before the train was due. We scrambled to get our tickets from the machine and got on board. It’s a pretty remote place with few trains and even fewer busses. Here the woman is busily cutting out shapes in pieces of their paper to give us as gifts. We gave cards with photos of our work as our gifts while dashing along the rice fields.

Got back to the hotel with nothing else scheduled, ate lunch in our room and went out to find an ATM machine found at 7Eleven stores. I napped and Cathy went walking around the town of Nagaoka which was were our hotel was for three nights. Sent off our suitcases to meet us after two one night hotels coming up. The photo is of our dinner of special soba noodles the area is noted for.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 3


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 3 – We took a train to Tokamachi this morning with an appointment to see the making of Tsujigahana kimonos. The process is elegant and complicated. There is stencil dyeing, hand painting, and then shibori and probably I’ve missed some more techniques. Our guide took us to every process allowing us to take as many photos as we wanted. It was fabulous. We were taken all around by Suizankoubou, the president of his company. Someday I should put together a slide show.

Mr. Suizankoubou dressed Cathy and me in two glorious kimono in his showroom. I hope you can admire all the details.

An example of one of the techniques. Here the woman is hand painting a flower. I tried to get a closer picture. She put the paint on her brush by touching the tip to a second small brush in order to be able to paint the fine details.

We took a bus in the lovely mountains back to Ojiya to see the washing of the crepe fabric woven with rami threads. First he entered the cloth into tepid water slowly but after that he massaged it like kneading bread for about 5 minutes. He carefully kept watch as the fabric began to shrink and stopped when it looked just right with the right amount of crinkling. See my post yesterday to see what the cloth looks like with it’s crinkles.

Here I am in front of the fabulous kimono seen in yesterday’s post with Fumiko Higuchi. She is the woman who picked us up yesterday and took us around again today which was wonderful.

Here I am wearing that wonderful kimono!! It felt so comfortable. The rami cloth was light and the crepe crinkles were so cool and entirely comfortable. Fumiko gave me a fan so I could feel the breeze of it through the cloth. The climax of a great day.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 2


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 2
Starting Our Adventure. This is our first day going out on our own. Here we are at the track in Tokyo Station.

We took a bullet train to Nagaoka, a town in the mountains north of Tokyo. About an hour and a half ride into mountains and ski country. We went through some very long tunnels. The rice paddies/fields were flooded but not planted yet. Far behind the farmers around Tokyo.

We dropped off our Cary-on bags and took a local train to Ojiya. We had two places to look for textiles the town specializes in. We had no appointments or any connections.

We were hoping to find crepe cloth woven in Ojiya that looked like this. The crinkle is what is special. Hemp or silk cloth is woven with weft threads that are highly twisted. After weaving the cloth is put in water and “massaged” The cloth then shrinks and crinkles. Traditionally it is then spread out on the snow for bleaching.

We found one place, a shop, with these crepes which are called chijimi. There were lovely kimono fabrics and lots of small things to buy. The fabric is very light weight which is perfect for their hot summers. When we were finished and ordered a taxi a woman came in and at the sales counter asked in English where we were from. Up until then no English had been spoken so it had been frustrating. Well this woman turned out to be wonderful. She took us to her husband’s studio where this fabulous kimono was on display. He is Takashi Higuchi a famous chijimi crepe artist. This kimono is spectacular because all the color changes are due to the threads being dyed before the cloth was woven. The technique is called ikat. She invited us back tomorrow after taking us to the weaving studio. We will see them working the cloth in the water for the shrinking process. So the day turn out to be a magnificent success!

We took a bus back to Nagaoka and checked into our hotel. I was thrilled to see that our big suitcases had arrived from our hotel in Tokyo.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 1


Day 1/1. Breakfast at our neighborhood Starbucks. I love being in familiar places again. We woke up at 5:00 AM before they were open but made coffee in our room and leisurely repacked and organized. Then we sent our big suitcases off to our hotel for tomorrow.

We headed for our favorite places in this neighborhood for lunch and shopping then tea. This is the subway station.

This is where big time designer shops are located. This interesting building’s shop had some really ugly stuff in the windows.

Mr and Mrs Morita in their antique textile shop. We did some serious shopping there. Can’t wait to unpack the things when I get home. Thank goodness for my large duffle bag I brought along.

The outside of Morita the antique textile shop.

Then tea and parfait at our must-stop tea shop at Aoyama Flower Market.

Japan Tour 2018 – I’ve Arrived


Travel Day/1. The airport in Tokyo was mobbed because it was the end of Golden Week a big holiday week. This was the line waiting for buses into Tokyo. We were thrilled that our friends met us and drove us to our hotel. Than goodness for GPS!

Travel Day 2. Our hotel. We have stayed here many times. Seem so comfortable being in Japan again.

Travel Day/3. We knew we were here when we saw this in our hotel room.

Travel Day/4. Here were the instructions for the toilet. However it flushed automatically. Often I couldn’t find how to flush on previous trips.

Off to Japan Again!


I leave on May 5 and return May 30! The map shows where we’ll be travelling which is all new territory for Cathy Cerny and me. We’ll be more in the countryside (I think) this time. We fly into Tokyo at Narita Airport and soon take off to the north for Nagaoka after one day to visit our most favorite places and regroup. I marked our locations on the map with black spots. You will notice that there will be a lot of area to cover in 3 1/2 weeks. We’ll be staying in 10 hotels including our two times in Tokyo. At the end we have 5 nights in Tokyo for some time to revisit places and a flea market. We’ll be joined by two friends of Cathy for about a week or so and that will help a lot with translating and company. Otherwise it will be just Cathy and me. She did all the research for textile workshops, studios, shops and museums along the way. 

I am almost packed to leave in the morning. We can ship our big suitcases ahead to the next town and they will be waiting at our next hotel! This makes travelling in Japan really easy. We only have our carry-on bags with us on the train or when we have a hotel for just one night. 

I hope you can keep up with us (and that I can, too)!