Let the journey begin... in Japan

Posted on June 20, 2018 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

kyoto petals


When I decided to take a sabbatical for 6 months, I wanted to switch off from running a business and focus more on myself. For years, I have been doing various part time courses on textiles esp. indigo dyeing and shibori (Japanese resist dyeing), and so the sabbatical was a good opportunity for me to learn more about this craft. Where is the best place to learn indigo dyeing? In my mind, this place has to be Japan. Although I had visited Japan numerous time over the years, I had never spent much time in the rural areas or lesser-known cities. The research and planning of my trip took a rather long time, and it was almost as exciting as the journey itself (not quite). Determining the duration was a challenging task, and I settled for 5 weeks due to pragmatic reasons. I wanted the trip to revolve around my passion-textiles and paper-and had originally hoped to do a paper-making course as well. Nonetheless, I had to abandon the idea because of the costs and extra traveling time. I guess this has given me another excuse to return again in the future.



A farmer in Kanagawa


It has taken me months to contemplate on this inspirational journey, and to sort out the 5000+ photos! The trip was beyond all my expectations, and I loved every minute of it - including the mishaps. I have decided to share the highlights of the journey, since it is impossible to record the entire trip. If you want to understand more about the Japanese culture, here is a list of alternative books (beyond the travel guides) that I think would help visitors before their visits:

  1. Lost Japan by Alex Kerr
  2. In Praise of Shadows by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki
  3. The Narrow Road to Oku by Matsuo Basho
  4. Wabi-sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
  5. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
  6. Japanese zen gardens by Yoko Kawaguchi
  7. Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan by Kazuaki Tanahashi
  8. The book of tea by Kakuzō Okakura
  9. A Brief History of Manga by Helen McCarthy
  10. The way of zen by Alan Watts
  11. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
  12. All books by Haruki Murakami


fishing kanazawa

Asanogawa River in Kanazawa


My 5-week journey began in the Kansai region, then Chubu and ended in Kanto. It felt quite rushed because I underestimated the traveling time across 10 prefectures! With the aid of Yamato Transport, a delivery and luggage forwarding company (their black cat logo is ubiquitous in Japan), I was able to forward my luggage to the next destination which saved me much time and hassle. I only wish that more countries could provide this service.



The iconic Japanese manga character, Doraemon


For me, the most memorable part of journey was not the sights, but the people I encountered throughout the trip and the hospitality I received esp. outside of the cities. I was blown away by the unspoiled nature (in rural Japan); the intricate craftsmanship that has been passed on for generations; and the passion and pride of the local artisans. However, I also witnessed the problematic side: urbanisation and the disparity between urban and rural Japan; the negative impact of mass tourism and consumerism; and the dying of some traditional art and craft... The Japan that I saw and experienced this time was unlike any of my previous trips, and it was quite eye-opening. Instead of seeing Japan through rose-tinted glasses, I am able to see it in a more realistic way, though it doesn't diminish my appreciation for this unique and beautiful country - it just makes it more real.


This post was posted in Travel, Anything Japanese, Japan and was tagged with Japan, sabbatical