Tokyo University of the Arts, or Geidai, is one of the oldest art schools in Tokyo. I have the opportunity to visit and tour the facilities today. Toru Ishii is my guide. He’s an artist working with textiles and dyeing fabrics. He’s been studying textiles for ten years and is now working towards his PhD. He shows me the dyeing and weaving studio (below right). A student draws on fabric with rice paste (below left). Bottles of pigment are organized on the shelf according to what type of fabric they are used for (above right). Different pigments are better for silk, cotton or hemp.
Another student paints dye onto the fabric. Rice paste is painted on the pattern which resists the dye. This way the colors don’t bleed into one another. After all the colors are added, the fabric will be rinsed and the paste removed, revealing the completed design.
Toru takes me into the rinsing room where the fabric is washed with water (below left) and steamed to set the dye. He shows me the bowl that he uses to make the rice paste (below right). He explains that it takes many hours to mix the paste. A nice example of a katazome stencil (above right) and more pigment (above left).
Toru shows me the complicated dye pattern that he’s making for an exhibition in London next year. This is the back of the image before it’s been rinsed with water. I think it’s beautiful already.
We take our shoes off before entering the weaving room. Yarn is being dyed in large pots of pigment (left). Toru remarks that the process of dyeing is a lot like cooking. I have to agree. Details in the weaving room (right).
Even though I left Kyoto a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to post about the wonderful covered market that I visited. Nishiki is a traditional Japanese market in Kyoto that has been in operation as early as 1311. It originally started as a fish market, but now sells many traditional Japanese food items that are locally produced.
Japanese pickles are a favorite of mine (above right). At first, being a picky eater, I assumed I wouldn’t like them. I avoided the small pile that comes with certain meals. Now, I’ve learned that chopped pickles and rice are a perfect combination. Pickled plums are my favorite. Small octopi are cooked and served (above left) and I’m not exactly sure what this is (below left). I think it might be eggplant covered in miso. A basket of cranberries (below right) is very tempting.
There are also small cafes that line the narrow street (above).
Krill (above left) is a common addition to salads and other dishes. It can also be eaten as a dried snack. There are a few souvenir shops in between the food stalls and I pause at the frog purses (above right). They would certainly make unique gifts! Rice (below left) and smoked fish (below right) are on display.
Expensive pieces of grilled fish (left) and more krill (right).
Kita-in is a Buddhist temple in Kawagoe that is famous for the 540 statues of Rakan, disciples of Buddha. Each statue is unique and they include a wide range of personalities. Two Rakan chat with each other (above). One plays music, another holds a rabbit, and yet another drinks sake. This crowd of statues seem to speak to each other, almost as if they were alive.
This flea market is held on the first of every month and it’s probably the last one that I’ll be visiting on this trip, so I’m hoping to find something good.
There are piles of fabrics, especially kimonos, everywhere. I sort through some and find a few things.
This tree bends across the pathway in front of the shrine. It’s wrapped with red silk so you don’t run into it. I almost do anyway!
There isn’t a lot of boro, which I’m always looking for, but I do see a few pieces. There is a nice example of a boro coat (above) and I see a vendor using a piece as a tablecloth. I ask if it’s for sale, he thinks for a moment, and then replies that it’s 10,000 yen. I decide it’s not worth it since I’ve seen better.
A sumo wrestler walks in Shinjuku, accompanied by a gang of friends. He kindly let’s me take a photo before disappearing into a chankonabe (Japanese stew) restaurant. A sumo wrestler will eat up to 20,000 calories a day!
Masashi Shiobara has been selling my paintings in Japan for many years. He’s become a good friend and today I had the pleasure of visiting his hometown on Mount Akagi. It’s about three hours from Tokyo. We drive up the windy roads made famous by the street racing manga and anime series Initial D. Once we arrive, we take a ride across the lake in the Art Office Shiobara boat (above left). Masashi’s nephew (above right) looks adorable as he poses for a photo in a traditional costume at the tourist center.
Masashi looking cool for the camera.
The midday fog rolls in and we decide to walk down the 800 stairs (above right) to the natural spring. I do this successfully, down and up, in 4 inch heels! The landscape is amazingly green and lush.
Masashi’s childhood home.
Cleansing with the spring water at Akagi Shrine (above). In 2007, a Shinto priest from this shrine gave me my name in Chinese characters.
Cat Cafes are an interesting phenomenon in Japan, and being a cat lover, I’m beyond excited to visit one. They are especially popular in Tokyo because a lot of apartment buildings don’t allow pets. It’s a way to “rent a pet” for an hour or so and de-stress. I pay the entrance fee, replace my shoes with slippers, wash my hands thoroughly and enter the café. There are cats everywhere! You can purchase small containers of roasted chicken which ensures that the cats will pay attention to you. Here is an example of what happens when you have the chicken (above).
There are a lot of purebred cats here. They don’t seem particularly interested in being pet probably because so many people come through, they tire of the attention. I do make a friend who comes over and sits on my lap for a while. A curious Persian is perched on a shelf (above left), a long haired Siamese is balled up in his bed (below right). There are rules that you can only pet the cats, not pick them up, and you can’t wake them from sleep. It’s hard to resist!
A pretty silver tabby.