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.
I’m off on my next trip to a special part of India called Arunachal Pradesh and then on to Bhutan. I’ll try to send daily posts and pictures as I’ve done on other trips. However, the WiFi may be not as dependable. You can become a subscriber to my blog and receive the posts in your email if you like. See how to do that on my home page in the upper right corner of the page. Of course this is a textile trip and I think we’ll have fantastic scenery. There will be many winding roads and mountains. I hope the monsoon rains don’t change our plans. The map shows the road trip path of our itinerary. There is a gap in it because the map didn’t show any roads at that point.
Here is a live Google Map link so you can follow me along on my trip: MAP of MY India & Bhutan Trip
While in Kyushu Island south of the main island of Japan near the town of Karume is a distinguished master craftsman kasuri dyer. Kasuri is a form of ikat and can be warp-wise or weft-wise. The threads are dyed in a pattern then put on the loom and woven. Here is a photo of Shoji Yamamura tying threads to make a pattern. Then the threads are dyed with indigo for the traditional blue and white kasuri fabrics we know. We bought one of his gorgeous pieces–a length of cloth for a kimono with the idea of splitting up the piece when we got home.
On a Saturday afternoon the three of us met to divide the fabric–over 15 yards.
Here one third has been cut off and we are about to cut off the second piece.
This is the end piece– it’s the signature of the weaver and is woven at the beginning of the length of cloth. Note that the unwoven area shows the ikat pattern that was tied in the threads. Also notable is the dyeing of the warp stripes–a specialty of this artist.
We took a cable car up a mountain to get the famous view of the spit of land. Besides that view the town of Miyazu is known for its winner of the Ig Nobel Prize where it was studied to see if things looked different if you bend over and look between your legs. There were several locations provided for viewing and it was a hoot to see people bent over like this. When our Japanese friends tried to tell me about it ahead of time I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about! But this was the thing to do in Miyazu for sure.
Day 20 a visit to the village Kami-Seya outside of the town of Miyazu outside of Kyoto. Kami mean upper and we were at the top of these steps at a former school where people came for a workshop to learn to weave with wisteria.
This is what the wild wisteria vines look like. I had no idea they are so thick. Of course certain vines are better suited for the fibers and a certain part of the vine is used. The preparation is hugely time consuming.
Here is a spool of thread. I’m not sure if it is for the warp or weft. From the look of the woven cloth both warp and weft threads may be prepared in the same way. These students have been coming to learn once a month to learn all the stages. The first one was In the spring to cut the vines when they are soft. It was a wonderful experience for our next to the last day in Japan.
Day 19. I found the little bags for the tea in the tea ceremony at a very special beta shop with tea bowls and other supplies. I am thrilled to have 3. It is interesting to me how they are made. I also learned how to tie the cord.
The stick shuttle with the weft thread in the fly shuttle being woven on the loom. I couldn’t imagine how the thread came off the shuttle so fast. When the looms were turned on the shuttles zoomed across the warp threads as they were being woven. Maybe this photo is a repeat but you can tell I was intrigued .
Here is a hand tied and hand woven kasuri or ikat fabric by Mr Shoji Yamamura the distinguished kasuri master near Karume. See the next photos to see the dyed threads. In this cloth both the warp threads and the weft threads are tie dyed then matched perfectly when woven. This takes a lot of planning and skill. The light patterns are where only the weft threads were tie dyed.
Threads that were tied dyed. That means where the threads were tied together they resisted the indigo dye and remained white. That is what we call ikat. The Japanese indigo and white fabrics we call kasuri.
We visited a factory using old looms to weave weft ikat or kasuri. Mr. Shigehori Maruyama showed us around. The name of the company is Marugame. Seeing kasuri machine woven and machine tied—and machine untied was interesting.
The tie dyed weft threads are wound on special stick shuttles that can be woven by a fly shuttle. This was amazing to see. I’m not sure just how the stick shuttles unwound so fast with the fly shuttle.
This is a close look at part of the machine that does the tying for the tie dyed weft threads. 12 bundles of weft threads are being tied at once. The spools spin around the threads. Then stop and the machine advances the threads then the next sections are tied. It is very fast.
Day 17. We visited a factory where they weave a special type of obi outside of Fukuoka. We were served tea first and saw lovely pieces. They are known as Hakata obis. Hakata is a part of the city of Fukuoka.
Here the president of the Hakata Ori factory, Mr Kazuyuki Kuroki was showing his special obi with areas you could see through. I have a macro lense I can attach to my iPhone so we all could see that those areas were a gauze weave we call Leno.
Day 16. A Day in Okawachiyama. Another town known for porcelain. Long ago the feudal lord Nabeshima took the best potters from Arita village to the valley where he lived to make porcelain for him and to send to the Shogun as his tax payment rather than sending rice. Now we know it as Nabeshima ware. Notable is the painting done on the ceramics and also for celadon porcelain. From my vantage point I could see 4 chimneys for kilns. If you zoom in you can see two. The valley with its surrounding mountains was picture-perfect.
A display of the hairs used in the brushes for painting the pottery. Some of the examples here were eye brows from horses, goats, pigs, and raccoons. An especially spikey one is from the belly of a deer. One of the bushy ones is from the tail of a chipmunk. Our guide told us that somewhere in Japan there is a shrine or monument honoring all the animals sacrificed for all the artists’ brushes.
A climbing or step kiln. It was interesting to learn some of the techniques involved. For example the different temperatures as you go higher in the kiln and where they would put pieces in to be fired again.
At the shrine commemorating the Korean potters who founded Imari ware as in every shrine there is a cord attached to a bell above. People come and make a wish and shake the cord to wake up the gods to grant their wishes.
This tiny pot is a container for special tea for the tea ceremony. Its little bag is made of antique fabric. Each bag is made to order to go with the pot it will hold. I hope to go to a tea ceremony supplies shop and find out more about the little bags and maybe learn how to tie the cord. The artist is the one who made the big black pot: 14th generation Tarouemon Nakazato.
This is Takashi Nakazato. We took a taxi to his lovely compound in the country. He showed us the kiln he built and explained a lot about how a step kiln functions. He goes to Aspen twice a year to teach.
The tiny bathroom in our hotel. Japanese toilets are really complicated and accommodating. The lid flips up automatically when you approach and we are surprised when the seat isn’t heated. Sound effects come on sometimes when you sit down. I haven’t tried any of the other treatments available. But it is awfully nice to be able to sit down and always find toilet paper when traveling in Japan.
Finally. A Loom! And what a wonderful one. If you zoom in on the blue spot you can see the weaver. This is a jacquard loom– the jacquard mechanism is up above. There is a ladder going up to it. That is the part that makes the intricate patterns for the well known Hakata obi. In a few days we’ll go back to this town and visit a factory weaving Hakata obi.
A traditional Hakata obi design. We have seen many innovative designs being made for today’s fashions. There is a school where the students are encouraged to be creative. This is keeping this old tradition alive. We’ve seen many of the traditional obi worn on this trip however.
So many lovely doorways. Hard to choose which photos to send. It was Wednesday and a few tourists but mainly just Cathy and I and the locals were out.
This shop/gallery owner wrapped our purchases in the old traditional way. The Japanese are known for using the smallest possible piece of paper to wrap things. These days they mostly put our purchases in nice bags that one is loathe to throw away.
Here is the supply of papers of different sizes for wrapping purchases. I always wondered how they always had the right size sheet of paper at their fingertips. I used to be impatient waiting for things to be wrapped. By now I understand that’s a part of the shopping process– even at a flea market.
We took a bullet train to Hakata Station in the city of Fukuoka which is on the island of Kyushu south of the main island.
We visited Aoni Textiles shop this morning. They specialize in bast fibers: linen, hemp, and ramie but here are examples of wild silk from India. Look for the stem in the photo where the silk worm attaches the cocoon to a branch. Those stems are what the skein of yarn is made of. The loose fibers come from the outside of the cocoon–not the good silk from unwinding the cocoon. We were told nothing is wasted: neither the stems or rough stuff on the outside of the cocoon; it all goes into making carpets. The cocoons were bigger than I’ve ever seen, maybe 1 1/2 inches long ( and beautiful).
Day 8. Walking in the Teramachi District. We walked in a large arcade area with a fish market, places to eat and many shops. This shop really made me know we were in Japan.
There are several quite inventive designer shops named Sou Sou– pronounced so-so. All with nice textile things. Things to wear and for the home. The separate shops are all very close to each other. You don’t want to miss any of them. I got a nice jacket.
We went walking in the Gion district. The old buildings are beautiful and it was nice to see women strolling wearing kimonos.
We saw an exhibition of red kimonos that are worn under kimonos. They were collected by Glen Kaufman at flea markets. Here he is at the show. Gallery Gallery is the name of the gallery. It’s in an old building with many artists. It’s always stimulating to visit here but it always seems to be the end of the afternoon when I’m nearly worn out. Then it gives me a second wind because of all the art textiles to be seen.
Day 7 A Glorious Park in Nara: Isuien Garden.
We took a train to Nara to see an exit of old hemp and ramie textiles in the Neireku Museum which is in a most beautiful park composed of Japanese gardens. It is more beautiful than the famous gardens in Kyoto and there weren’t the crowds. It was a real contemplative place. The textiles were so fine they spoke to my heart but the gardens spoke to my heart and soul.
Back in Kyoto we went to a shop that sold all kinds of dye supplies: Tanakanao Senryoten. There were hundreds of brushes, chemicals, and textiles for dyeing.
Day 6. To-ji Shrine Flea Market. Here is my loot after 5 hours of serious shopping. We arrived at 7:30 and left at 12:30.
There were lots and lots of textile vendors. By noon this one was a mob scene. We were glad we went early.
This couple sold things dyed with green persimmons. I wore a scarf I dyed with green persimmon dye from Japan so we had a little conversation.
Another couple with green persimmon dyed things. I bought a hat that will keep off sun and rain.
Day 5. Shopping in Kyoto. We had the afternoon and went first thing to Gallery Kei on Teramachi Street near City Hall. She specializes in old textiles made of bast fibers. My loot was from there and another old textiles shop on the street, Tadashi-ya.
It was dark by the time we left the shop called Tadashi-ya. It’s small but the textiles are piled high. The light blue piece in my photo came from there. It is gorgeous close-up. The weft threads are made of paper.
Day 4. Arakei Textile (who we visited in Chichibu) had an exhibition at Mitsukoshi, a prestigious department store. We exchanged websites–they had put our visit on their site and I put them on mine! It was a grand display.
Another display at Mitsukoshi department store. We will be going to Hakata to see a weaving place. Traditionally they weave obi like the ones sumo wrestlers wear. I wonder what we’ll see when we get there. Here they are promoting their non traditional textiles.
Another department store, Matsuya, had a boutique of textiles from Nuno. Their textiles are ones we watch for because they are so innovative. I learned to make this exact textile in a workshop with Yoshiko Wada!
An exhibit of indigo Japanese work clothes was at International Christian University. They have a big collection of textiles and many exhibits. This is a place to keep watching for future shows.
Day 1 / Part 2 – More About Meisen Weaving in Chichibu. This is the front of a brochure from the studio we visited: Arakei Textile. An image is printed on a warp.
First temporary wefts are woven very far apart in a warp of white threads. Then the extremely loosely woven cloth is taken to the printing table. Here you can barely see one weft on a diagonal. See the next photo.
Here you can see that temporary weft in this photo of the printed warp. I brought home a piece of the printed warp. The warp threads are barely held in place by the temporary weft–just enough so the warp can be put into the loom. If I disturb these printed threads they will separate some so they must stay put or all the threads could get out of line.
Here you can see on the loom where the cloth has been woven and also the printed warp threads not yet woven.
These young women were wearing lovely kimonos of Meisen fabric while shopping in the showroom on the day we were there. I am not on a tour for this trip but am traveling with my travel partner on many previous tours. Dear friends drove us to Chichibu which is three hours from Tokyo.
Day 1. Our trip to Chichibu to see Meisen weaving. This is outside the weaving shop. The man is the weaver. His mother made most of the delicious food which we ate with our tea after seeing everything and shopping.