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


The Land of the Rising Sun; Day 2

okay…I’m on the trip of a lifetime! I added Cloud storage to my phone ’cause I know that I am going to take a whole lotta pictures, which I did. Had our amazing breakfast buffet at the hotel and we usually went back upstairs to do whatever and then meet at our spot. Wellllllllll I took my phone out of my pocket for the moment, took care of what I had to do and left the building. Didn’t realize till we arrived at our first stop that I was without it! Do you realize how much we depend on these things and to be without it…OMG!

My awesome travel buddies, knowing my dispair, shared their pictures with me for that day. So all the pictures that you see for day 2 in Kyoto were generously shared to me by Mary Alice, Janet, Debby and Pat, a dear BFF. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I think that I failed to say that we are in Kyoto. We started off here and we will end this amazing trip in Kyoto after moving to Mt. Fuji, Tokyo, Okayama, Hiroshima and back to Kyoto. I have to say that Kyoto, well besides Fujiyama was my favorite!


We arrived at our first stop; Saga Arashiyama and Tenryu-Temple, Buddhist Temple as Pat explained it to me. If it was Shinto, then it was a shrine.


We removed our shoes and were quickly in awe at the beauty of it all. There were tatami mats all over for you to walk on…but I always love a reason to be shoeless! This is Midori and Mary Alice and they are the ones that put together this amazing “embroidery tour” which I never wanted it to end!


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the gardener was hard at work! He had an incense pot burning and I would later learn it was to keep mosquitos away.

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This was our walk on the way to the Bamboo Street. So peaceful and beautiful!


This is a little bamboo shoot and I was told that…


just overnight it could grow to this height!





This is a lot of our group here on the left.

and this was just our morning! we would walk into town and do a bit of shopping on our way to a very Japanese lunch. Then Midori had a very special afternoon planned for us, which I will save for next time. Just too many pictures to get it all in one post!

so for now I will say…sayonara


Land of the Rising Sun; Day 1

Remembering that I had this info sheet while doing a little more research on the Aoi Matsuri Festival which I thought I would share with you…“it is one of the most solemn and graceful festivals in Japan and has been well preserved throughout the ages ince the th century. The aoi leaves which are used to decorate the costumes are believed to have all sorts of powers, including protection against lightening and earthquakes and guaranteeing easy childbirth.

The procession consists of 511 people, 36 horses, 4 cows and 2 carriages and runs 1 kilometer from front to back. The highlight of the festival is the saio-dai, a young woman which in the Heian period was always an imperial princess who rides on a paanquin with a multitude if followers wearing the colorful clothing of the imperial court. She is dressed in 12  layers of imperial Heian robes.”

What a fabulous way to throw ourselves into the Japanese culture and start off our time in Japan. Off to hop a bus/train and venture our way to Nakasyu Studio in Kyoto where were to experience Yuzen dying.

We saw samples ahead of time and were supposed to pick out our color. I really do love blue/purple/periwinkle, but I selected the brown as I got to see that sample in person and it was very striking, so that was my color!


We walked into the studio of course after removing our shoes, which is still the custom there. There were always slippers offered, but I prefer not to use them and just walk in my stocking feet!

Our fabric was prepared for us and mounted on these special frames. As we sat we were served tea and welcomed to the studio with proper introductions and bowing of the head.


This is before the colors of paint. The silver actually is albana (if I said that correctly) and would not absorb colors.


This was the gold sensei demonstrating his craft.


This is the sample which I would try to follow the color placement.


We were all busy painting!


This pictoral collage was created by Leslie who was sitting across from me. We both were lovers of baseball and cats, so we really hit it off!


Our sensei

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My buddy Debby. She would share many laughs and pictures with me throughout our trip!


Focused on my painting!


a little help from our sensei.

It was hard work which made us work quite the appetite! We walked around the corner to have lunch, but first you needed to put your shoes away in the shoe locker before you entered.



The wooden blocks were numbered as to where you placed your shoes. Hopefully I would remember where they were!


Most delicious lunch! and then of course there was dessert…


Soon it was time to go back to our pieces.


Originally we were supposed to add the gold outlines, but it was decided for us that it would be done and we would get the pieces back in a week. They would need to be washed first and then the gold is added as if you were using a pastry bag.

I am absolutely thrilled with the way mine came out! They are used to cover your Japanese embroidery pieces. But since I don’t do JE, I have something in mind that I will work on with my framers. Next on the agenda was making a little coin purse, so we would have something to take with us. I didn’t download any of those pictures, so another time!


Our day was done! and it was off to a sushi spot that utilized a conveyer belt and you would just help yourself to what looked good…and it all did.


They would figure your bill by either counting your plates, or if you really ate a lot of selections, they would measure your stack with a ruler. Very clever!

And wow that was just our first day. Tuesday would take us to Saga Arashiyama, Tenryuji Temple, Bamboo Street and Nagakusa Embroidery Studio.

and for now I will say…sayonara


Nothing to do With Needlepoint!

Okay fair warning! My trip to Japan has absolutely nothing to do with needlepoint! We were all stitchers, wether it be needlepoint, embroidery, Japanese embroidery, counted work, etc. So as long as I share with you my amazing trip and it will take a while, there is no needlepoint involved!

It was considered an embroidery tour and we had many activities revolving around stitchy type things. I did bring a few projects with me, but I did absolutely no stitching! By the time I got back to the hotel at night, I was too tired! So watched a little Japanese tv, checked email and Facebook, had some tea and crashed.

I do have hundreds and hundred of pictures…seriously! and it takes a while to sort through them all, get them cropped and adjusted and especially now that my computer is really aging. Actually I am not even sure I can get finish the first day all in one posting.

Okay I’m really in Japan and I barely slept as I couldn’t wait to get my day started!


These were the plates that were available for breakfast. Wow the possibilities were endless! Dozens and dozens of choices both Western style breakast and Japanese.


Just a little taste of a few things, most of which I enjoyed. I would try a few different things every morning as I am a very adventerous eater!

During our trip here we experiened every type of public transportation from bus to train to bullet train, subway to cable car to street car, rickshaw to ferry and what else I am missing? And I can’t always remember which one we did when…anyhow Monday morning found us off and running to view the Aoi Matsuri! Matsuri is Japanese for festival and this is one of Kyoto’s three most famous ones. It takes place on May 15th and is a celebration for aoi leaves, a species of wild ginger which are used to decorate the costumes of the participants.

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The grounds are just beautiful! and in the windows you can see kimono-clad women watching the parade.

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What a way to start our trip! We stayed for but an hour or so as we need to get to our yuzen dying class. In order to really enjoy the rest of the day, I will save that for the next posting! which will be sometime next week as I head for Dallas to take a class at Creative Stitches and Gifts, instead of going to market…see that’s needlepoint and that’s for another time!

and for now I will say sayonara…

A Trip of a Lifetime!

Well I left you with AlleyCat, so why not start with out with her? She was being a very good girl, not sleeping on my clothes or in the suitcase! She was busy supurr~vising here!

and here we were bonding as much as possible before I left! She really does sleep on my lap while I’m stitching for hours and does not mess with my threads, believe it or not! Felix was the same way.

So Friday morning May 12th… and would it ever get here? found me winging my way to San Francisco where most of us would meet and fly on the same plane to Osaka.

Well it was really time and here’s our plane!

As much as I thought I would stitch on the plane, I did not. I slept, I read, I watched movies, had a glass of wine or two and slept some more. Before I knew it, we were in Japan!

Here we are, the whole motley crew! MaryAlice is front and center towards the left and Midori, our Japanese tour leader was not in this picture, but you will see her often enough! We then had a long bus ride to our hotel in Kyoto.

a little Japanese beer to celebrate with everyone and a light snack!

It’s just a tomato, but look at the presentation!

It was a trip of a lifetime and in my wildest dreams did I ever expect it to be so special, so memorbale, so moving, so motivating, so… well I think that you get the idea! I will go back, someday soon. I have hundreds and hundreds of pictures and then many of us were sharing them through Moments on Facbook, so that’s even more to go through! So, it will take some time, but I hope to talk about our first day with you before I take off again this weekend… but shhhh please don’t tell AlleyCat I’m leaving her again.

It’s good to be home, but Japan did keep a piece of my heart there.