Land of the Rising Sun; Day 8

Last I left you, we were getting on the bullit train to travel to Okayama for our next 2 fabulous days in Japan. The first day will be spent at the Toho bead factory in Okayama. I was very excited about this when I first saw it on the intinerary! We were going to see how beads are created. Orginally we were supposed to go to both Toho and Miyuki, but Miyuki thought we were too big a group. This day has so much to share, that it might take 3 days of postings as there’s just too many pictures. Something to look forward to, I hope!

Okay I digress as I want to tell you more about the bullit train. Part of our tour package was a Japanese Rail Pass which would allow us to travel on the train, and also some other public transportation including the ferry to Miyajima tomorrow.


Okay I have seen it spelled bullit and bullet. It is a beautiful way to travel is all I have to say! The Shinkansen (新幹線, new trunk line) is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by five Japan Railways Group companies, which can travel up to 200mph. Pretty fast!


The first time we were using the train, I noticed someone poking their head out on the approach… but this would take me a few days to figure this out.


Not the same person as the other picture, and I still wonder what the name of this job was that was being taken so very seriously.


Maybe checking the time? or maybe adjusting the gloves? Do you see the numbers on the floor? You would stand at that number that was printed on your ticket. When the train stopped you would enter that car that matched the number on your ticket. Very organized!

As I watched and observed (as how else do you learn?) that this conductor would make sure that the train lined up exactly so that the doors opened at the correct place. They would point to the ground as the train stopped and being that this all happened in the blink of an eye, it was really hard to get a picture!


Notice how clean everything is! A little shop for drinks or snacks and stuff.

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clean, clean!


all for now I will say…sayonara


Land of the Rising Sun; Day 7


Again it was the public transportation of the day…bus, train, subway, etc and it would take us to Lemmikko Studios where we were to have a beading class.


We were graciously greeted with bows and introductions and entered the studio, which was warm and inviting. Take off your shoes and put on the slippers. I had no problem with taking off the shoes, but I preferred no slippers and the exchange of words went back and forth. I was told by one of my tour mates that they really didnot want my bare feet touching their floors!

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A tour through the rest of the studio was in order before we settled into class. I wanted one package of every bead that she had!


Are you familiar with tambour beading? well this is what it was! And the small piece is what we would be “trying to create”… not as easy at it looks!

Definition of tambour is the French word for drum. Tambour work is embroidery done with a hook where the fabric must be stretched tight as a drum. The fabric is stretched or laced and sewn on on a rectangular frame or in a circular frame. A tambour hook makes one stitch, the chain stitch. The hook is held on top of the frame with the threaded beads or sequins underneath.”

To be honest I sort of struggled with mine. We practiced for a few hours just to master that chain stitch! What you are creating is on the back and you just see your chain stitches on top. Beads and sequins are restrung before starting and you feel your way along as the beads and sequins are underneath, turning it over every so often to check your work. When Googling tambour beading I came across an old posting from Plays with Needles and she really explains it much better than I…so check it out. 

After reading it myself, I don’t feel so bad that I struggled. I would try it again (as I gave my kit to Elizabeth) sitting in a better chair and not having to bend over so much.


This was our teacher demonstrating and why do they always make it look so easy?


Mary Alice was getting a little extra help!


I think that they both got it!


This is Midori with the sensei, who was very charming btw.

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We were learning to make the roses here and I aced that part!


These were samples of her work!


This was amazing and yes its all sequins and beads! There are lots of bugle beads in this, but I learned that they called them bamboo beads.

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She was trained in France and her work was just amazing! amazing! amazing! This was my favorite piece BTW!

Travel night again as we are moving to Okayama, a little bento box, a seat on the bullit train, a nap…and tomorrow is all about beads too!

and for now, I will say…sayonara


Day 6 in Tokyo

We were on a bus, a train or subway…which was it? on our way to Asakusa to enjoy the celebration of Sanja Matsuri. Sanja literally means 3 shrine festival, with the word matsuri meaning festival. It is one of the 3 great Shinto Festivals filled with the counds of taiko drums, flutes and packed with people and yatai (food stalls) in honor of the 3 men who established and founded the famous Sensoji Temple.


It is an ancient temple located in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan and is Tokyo’s oldest temple!


This meets you at the entrance and is created in red and black is to represent thunder for the Thunder God “Kaminarimon.”  The main street that runs in front of Asakusa is named this and is one of its most significant streets.



Nakamise-Dori starts at the temple gates and leads to the main hall of the Sensoji Temple.

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There was lots and lots of shopping to do! and many stops for a bite to eat or a drink.


There is the Sky Tree that we saw earlier!

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Portable shrines and floats are being readied to be pulled through the streets while loud shouts accompany them, and during the festival’s 3 days, 1.5 million people come out to celebrate.

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Every float had revelers garbed in different colors. They would carry the float while jostling it up and down and shouting! Lots of hard work and it was HOT!

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He stopped to pose for me!

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A juxtaposition of the old and the new!


aren’t they precious?


this was Debby’s picture as she found a dog dressed in ceremonial garb!


It was a long hot day and what did we do that night? Well I am sure after something to eat, I crashed in my room and watched a baseball game!

The next 2 days of our trip will be all about beads, so stay tuned!

and for now, I will say…sayonara


Good Morning Tokyo!


This beautiful view is what greeted me in the morning! I have lucked out with my room location the last few hotels with the great secenery from my window!

This is Day 6 in the Land of the Rising Sun starting off with a walk and a bus ride to the Tokyo Sky Tree.


and of course there was always some beauty to discover along the way!


“Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー Tōkyō Sukaitsurī) is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida,Tokyo, Japan. It became the tallest structure in Japan in 2010 and reached its full height of 634.0 metres (2,080 ft) in March 2011, making it the tallest tower in the world, displacing the Canton Tower,and the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa (829.8 m/2,722 ft).”


Just a bit of smog in Tokyo! Reminded me of when I first moved to Los Angeles in the early 80’s.


It was still an amazing view!


It was quite the ride up to the top!


Back down on the ground now!


Does this look familiar? Well its the Sky Tree! I asked Kathy Schenkel if she had any Japan or Tokyo travel rounds and she said no, but I will come up with something. So this is what she sent me! Granted the sky tree is not red, but I love it anyway and I thank you Kathy! Pat is going to be here next week and we are going to pull threads and beads together…but I think that this could be a walk through the stash project.

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Next up was a visit to the Sumida Aquarium since it was located in the Tokyo Sky Tree Town. A nice relaxing hour to chill…and we had worked up quite a hunger so it was time for lunch! Some of the group opted for McDonald’s (not to say that I didn’t enjoy McD’s a time or two when I was there!) but at least half of us went into the noodle house.


Watching our lunch being cooked!


I was most fascinated with this noodle cooker (center left)…


Notice the steam? and the different levels of the baskets? I was mesmerized watching it. There were timers on each basket that would raise it when finished!


and here was my lunch! Very enjoyable indeed… next up was a choice of Cold Stone


and these young ladies were quite entertaining as they would sing for us!

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or gelato!

Now if this wasn’t enough for the day…we are now off to Asakusa to celebrate Sanja Matsuri. And that is for the next post as I have so many pictures to sort through!

and for now, I will say…sayonara


Land of the Rising Sun; Day 5

On our way to Tokyo today! And another day of adventures and new experiences. Assorted public transportation conveyances and lots of walking brought us to our hotel where we would be staying while in Tokyo.

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Just a few pictures from our walk to the hotel. They were not ready for us to checkin, so what’s the next best thing? Lunch! and then we would be off to the Hokusai Museum.


I am sure that you recognize this picture? It is Japan’s most famous artwork! A woodblock print of the Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. Do you see Mt. Fuji in the middle of the picture? This is the most famous piece from his 36-views of Mount Fuji.

Now it was time to check into our rooms and then it was off to our early evening adventure which would be a sumo-wrestling match!


Along our walk to the Ryogoku KokugiKan Sumo Hall.


Waiting to get into the sumo hall! Looks like this is quite a popular event!


This is a suspended Shinto-style roof over the dohyo, which is the ring where the match occurs…and according to Wikipedia:

The dohyō (土俵) is the ring in which sumo wrestling bouts are held. A modern dohyō is a circle of rice-straw bales 4.55 meters in diameter, mounted on a square platform of clay 6.7m on a side, and 34 to 60 cm high. The surface is covered by sand.

A new dohyō is built prior to each tournament by the yobidashi, who are responsible for this activity. The dohyō is removed after each tournament, and in the case of Nagoya, pieces are taken home by the fans as souvenirs. The yobidashi also build the dohyō for training stables and sumo touring events.”




The kensho banners are the advertisers for each bout. The more importance of the bout, the more advertisers there are!

It was a very enjoyable experience!


Time to move on and who do I find myself waking behind? You would think that they would have better bags than what they are carrying?

Another fabulous evening of Shabu-Shabu as we entered the restaurant, Hananomai.


The table was all set and it was such a feast for the eyes! This was different from last night as the vegetables for the shabu-shabu were already in the pot, just waiting to be cooked.

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and there were these additional plates of delicous morsels that accompanied our meals.


and then when that was over…more food just kept coming and coming! I was sitiing here with Pat, a BFF and since she’s not a fan of the raw seafood, it left more for me.

We were all looking away as we quickly learned that this was…


where the sumo wrestlers in traning came to practice!

All too soon this fun-filled evening was over and time to go to the hotel and turn in. A few of us needed to do laundry though…

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and thanks to Debby for these 2 pictures! We all got a kick out of the scenery…


Goodnight Tokyo!

and for now, I will say…sayonara


Day 4 In Kyoto

We took a bus back to our starting point for the day, where the hotel shuttle would pick us up. Checked in and they were nice big rooms! By now I had learned how to use the heat/ac unit (as it is all written in Japanese) and for this night we needed some heat! I found an English speaking station on tv and watched some news. But some of us, well while in Japan do as the Japanese do…


and some would enter the bath. The hotel supplied these robes and they really did look quite Japanese, don’t you think?

We would have a dining area set aside for us and enjoy a wonderful evening of sake, Japanese beer and shabu-shabu…


According to Wikipedia “Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ , also spelled syabu-syabu) is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water. The term is onomatopoeic, derived from the sound emitted when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking pot and served with dipping sauces. The food is cooked piece by piece by the diner at the table. Shabu-shabu is considered to be more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki.

They are demonstrating how to do it here and then soon we would take over! It was really delicious and I do enjoy shabu-shabu very much.


There were a few side dishes served too and as always, so perfectly presented! A very enjoyable evening and soon it was time for our goodnights as we would leave for Tokyo tomorrow.

I am not always the best sleeper. I always fall asleep right away, but it’s staying asleep all night that is not always so possible! So I woke up and of course had to peek out the window and what do I see? BTW sunrise was rather early around 4-4:30am.




I went back to sleep for a few hours and when I woke up it was sunny, so I quickly ran to the window again!

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I was so thrilled and I just sat there for about an hour or so texting this picture to everyone I could think of!

Finally it was time to have breakfast and check out. This hotel had a very nice gift shop right in the lobby and we were able to do some shopping!

We were on our way to Tokyo and another very full day!

and for now I will say…sayonara



Land of the Rising Sun; Day 4

I was starting to get more acclimated to Japan! Getting around the area around the hotel, going to the 7-Eleven which like everything else in Japan was immaculate, organized and peaceful. I was able to use the ATM on my own (after my lesson with Mary Alice the other day!)

But today we were on the move as we take the bullit train and a bus or two to get to Mt. Fuji. I have seen it written as Fujiyama and I will need to Google and see the difference. What we learned while taking public transportation, you didn’t carry your suitcases…you had them shipped! Very convenient…so we would take a little carry on with just what we needed for a day or so.


My buddy Debby, having a little fun with me before we took off. On a later post, I will have more pictures of the nuances of the train! There would be a steward, usually female that would enter our car, bow and present to each of us with both hands a wet wipe type cloth to refresh yourself. After that was finished, she would come through again with a beverage cart.


Unlike Pat, who seems like she is very wrapped in her book, I did not read or stitch, but rather enjoy the scenery and gab with my seat mate.

Of course when we got to Fuji, it was raining! and where was my umbrella? In my luggage that was being shipped! It wasn’t coming down that hard, so I was able to brave the walk to the resturant for a steamy bowl of noodles… and sooner or later someone took pity and shared their umbrella with me.


which really hit the spot on the cool rainy day!


Of course the manhole covers are perfectly painted…well why wouldn’t they?


We continued our walk through rice paddies…


To the Monkey Theater!


There were no pictures allowed inside during the performance.


But there were afterwards, as they waved bye!


The rain had stopped and look who was poking her head out among the clouds!

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Mt. Fuji! It was quite a thrill to be able to see it!


We would walk down the roads to the Itchiku Kubota Museum, which was fabulous…and a little about him!

“Itchiku Kubota, (1917-2003) is considered the most important Japanese textile artist of the XXth century.

He rediscovered a traditional Japanese dyeing technique, lost since the XVth century, which allowed him to create an exceptional body of artistic kimono. These kimono have since reached international acclaim through major exhibitions around the world and future exhibitions will carry on celebrating Itchiku Kubota’s devotion to his Art.”

Day 4 to be continued with the visit to the museum, although no pictures were allowed inside…but Google him and you will find much about Itchiku Kubota Museum. Our fabulous dinner that evening and what we woke up to in the morning!

Then day 5 would take us to Tokyo with many more wonderful adventures!

so for now I will say…sayonara

Day 3 In Kyoto

Our busy day of weaving bamboo baskets and dying Shibori was over and we headed back to the hotel where we would freshen up to spend our evening with Maiko at the Kyoto Cultural Center.

When we arrived, there was some time so that we were able to do a little shopping before going upstairs. Gifting is so Japanese and I needed to bring back many gifts!

Of course before entering the dining area, our shoes were removed and placed in an orderly fashion. This is what we saw when entering…wow!


The table was beautifully set with these bento boxes! The presentation is so perfect and not a thing out of place.


Hats folded from washi paper. Mine came home with me and will be added to my memory board.

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For me, it was as delicious as it looked!


MaryAlice on the left and Midori on the right, which are the 2 ladies that put this fabulous tour together!


Okay my comment was… the table was just so beautifully arranged and exactly why would they ruin it with this UGLY water pitcher?


The mamasan would introduce to us the maiko, which is a geisha in training. Very young, maybe 16 years old and they live with their mamasan. They have no money of their own and probably not much of their own life, except to study to be a geisha.

There are many tell tale signs that she is not geisha yet, the long sleeves of her kimono, the hair ornaments, the way the lipstick is worn and the obi.


She would play a little game with us…


and Teresa would be gracious and play!



Then she would dance for us!

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So graceful!

This would be the end of our first stay in Kyoto (we would come back to finish up!) and tomorrow we travel.

and for now, I will say…sayonara


Land of the Rising Sun; Day 3

We would definitely hit the ground running this morning and would have a very full day! Two workshops and then a very special evening.


We started at the Shibori Museum as we were going to learn to dye our own! Shibori is a Japanese manual resist dyeing technique, which produces patterns on fabric.


The stitch would produce the very tiny circles and the wind gave us the flowers!


We would pick our design, most of us selecting the rabbit and the blues/periwinkles. A few did the orange and it was really quite striking when it came out of the dye pot!


This is what we started with! The small ties or stitch was already done for us.


The young man explaining how we were to do it. He was Japanese but had lived in Australia for many years and his accent was most delightful!


Another demonstration of the tying techniques. No we didn’t have to sit on the floor!

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Here were our dye pots. And while they were drying we got to play and shop!


Debby called this the kimono hug!

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Mary Alice and Debby modeling for us. I think that they should have bought these kimonos as they sure looked great in them, don’t you think so?

After the Shibori pieces were dry, we cut out the tied threads to reveal our patterns. I wasn’t paying close enough attention and I knicked myself with the scissors and it bled more than I realized! I wound up with a lot of blood on my piece…


and I was holding this way as not to show it. But I am here to attest that YES your own spit does remove your own blood. Amazing as you would never know it was there!

What a fun morning and we got to leave with something finished! Isn’t that a great word to say, finished?

We were headed to our next stop and I am not even sure if we stopped for lunch. Midori was great for finding little places for us, so I’m sure we did, except that I don’t have any pictures of it! Okay onward to Yokoyam Studio to weave a bamboo basket!





And I have to wonder what Pat and Janet were up to here?


Another finish! A very fun project indeed and it sits on my coffee table for a special remembrance of an amazing trip!

I will continue telling you about our evening with maiko (geisha in training) at the Kyoto Cultural Center next time! Then day 4 would find us on the bullit train as we travel to Mt. Fujiyama. So much more to share. Brenda Hart is at our shop this weekend, so that might get in the way. Yes blame Brenda!

and for now I will say…sayonara


Day 2 in Kyoto

So last I left you we were walking through the Bamboo Forest, and I have been reading about this area on line, so if it peaks your interest…Google it!

We walked through a little village and it was my first glimpse of the Japan that I had imagined in my mind. Narrow streets, rickshaws, kimono clad women, little shops which I wanted to go into everyone and explore! It was also our first taste of shopping and throughout the trip many of us supported the local economy quite well! Unfortunately I have no pictures of the village, and that’s another reason to go back soon!

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We crossed the Togetsu-Kyo Bridge and walked next to the river to our lunch destination. It was follow Midori as she really was the only one who knew where we were going!


We would enjoy a Japanese style afternoon tea! The presentations are always so beautiful that you almost don’t want to eat it.

As if this wasn’t enough to fill our day, a bus ride would bring us to our next stop and something I was really looking forward to! A vist with a master Japanese embroiderer in his home!


Here he was signing books for us that we all purchased.

We were served tea and sat around the table for a few hours as we listened to him talk about his work, his craft…just so beautiful!


This one was my favorite! I am from the school that less is more.


a closeup of his amazing stitching!



The master was talking about this kimono which he said took him 4 years to complete. The strip that he was holding would be part of a Noh dancer wardrobe and would cost about $5000 in American dollars.


He was showing off his work that is published in the book that we all bought!


Another one of my favorites! The mums were done in the Shibori technique… and more about that on Day 3.


It was a true honor to be invited into the masters home! I could have listened to him for hours.


We said our goodbyes and thanks yous and headed back to our hotel. Where soon I would be reunited with my phone, which I would keep very close to me for the rest of the trip!

and for now…sayonara