Explore Japan

My memory of Japan (Kyoto - Tokyo)

By Diane Frost (Printmaking artist)  May 2018

     I have just come back from Japan and I am full of images, ideas and
inspiration from this unique country.

Sunday 4th of April

     Kyoto welcomed us almost as soon as we arrived with a reception at
Galerie Be-Kyoto with the British and Japanese artists. The galery is a beautiful
Machiya, traditional Kyoto house built in wood with a tranquil back garden. The
work exhibited was of a very high standard and everyone made us feel very

     After the opening party a big group of us went to visit Nijo-jo castle by
night where a show of lights and music filled the gardens to celebrate Hanami,
the cherry blossom festival. We took photos and had a great evening together in
this beautiful setting. The next day, Mike, Alan his partner, Kei Watanabe and I
visited the workshop of Nr Noguchi, a gold leaf master. This demonstration of his
art and the wonderful architecture of his house were one of the highlights of my
stay. He explained and showed us how to create wonderful paintings but also
fabric with gold leaves and how he sought to recreate certain techniques that
had been lost over the centuries in order to approach the beauty of the ancient
gold screens. I later saw some of those screens by Ogata Korin in the impressive
Nezu museum in Tokyo and understood better why he had embarked upon such
a quest.

    We also visited the Shinjiki textile center near Galerie Be and admired the
silk jacquards as well as a catwalk of beautiful kimonos. I was mesmerised by the
kimonos that so many ladies wear in the street or to go to temples and tea
ceremonies. It is very much the formal wear in Kyoto and still very present.

Monday 9th of April

    Kei Watanabe, a talented artist and co-exhibitor invited us to a tea
ceremony at his place to perform and explain the intricacies of this ritual that
was put in place in order to entertain the samurai in time of peace. The samurai
swapped the sword for the fan and created a ceremony full of symbols and
poetry - only in Japan would warriors invent such a pastime! We dressed up in
yukatas and had a lot of fun chatting over cups of very bitter green tea and
nibbling on the most inventive and creative of sweets - Japanese sweets look like
jewels or ornaments and are too pretty to eat.

Tuesday 10th of April

    Mike Barret, Alan and I met to visit Arashiyama, the bamboo forest and
the monkey mountain. It was a beautiful day and the sight of the sakura
blossoms against the blue sky was a pleasure everywhere in Kyoto. Arashiyama
is located on a beautiful river and the trek to the top of the mountain was
rewarded by a fantastic view over the roofs of Kyoto.
In the morning I was lucky to be able to visit the imperial Villa Katsura and its
glorious garden. I spent a lot of times in gardens in Kyoto as there are so many:
Some are around temples like the Silver pavilion or Honen-in temple, others are
inside private houses or restaurants. The art of gardening is an ancient and
important part of Japanese culture: There are moss gardens and stone gardens,
gardens dedicated to ancient poets and gardens designed to enjoy the moonlight,
sacred gardens, water gardens and sand or dry gardens where the rake replaces
the watering can.

    Our Japanese friends were incredibly friendly and generous with their
time and we managed to spend some great moments together: I went paper
shopping with Kyoko at the amazing Kamiji-Kakimoto shop and we ended up
having tea and a lovely matcha fondant at the Museum of modern art which has
the best café. I also spent a lovely day in sunny Nara with Sachie visiting the
many temples and getting chased by dears. To round it all off, I suggested a good
bye dinner at my hotel near Kyoto station and a dozen of us had a fun time eating
a type of Japanese tofu fondue and drinking saké cocktails. I am so pleased I now
have many Japanese friends on Facebook and hope to see them sometime in
London, if I do not return soon enough to Kyoto !

    I left Kyoto by the bullet train and arrived late in the capital but the
instructions left and my friend's help meant I had no trouble finding the flat
where we were put up and its hilarious resident Myna bird.

Saturday 14th of April

    The next day we went for a calligraphy lesson at Taka and Megu's place
and spent a blissful hour practising our kanji for "Dragon". It was surprisingly
intense and tiring as your whole body energy should be channelled into your
hand and this way of viewing drawing is truly inspired.

   Tokyo is a huge city, daunting even for a Londoner and I felt I only
scratched the surface. I spent long hours walking the city's streets and its many
parks. My favourite spots were the Yoyogi park, the Meguro canal and the super-
cool shops of Daikanyama, near the Nezu museum. I had some of the nicest meals
in the restaurants of the Nezu Museum and of the Teien museum, and both are
nestled in the most beautiful traditional gardens. The subway system is tricky to
navigate if you are not a Kanji specialist but there is always a kind youngster
ready to help you and keen to practice his English. I had nevertheless rented a
portable Wifi and this was my lifeline above and below ground. Coolest shops are
the Daikanyama T-site library and the several and hugely popular Tokyu Hands
department stores where you can find everything about anything...

   I had the most enjoyable stay and feel very lucky to have been introduced
to Japan in such a warm and friendly way! Arigato...

Diane Frost

Printmaking artist

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Diane Frost

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