When you are in Japan you can't help but feel the spirit of the place. In the past when I traveled I either visited churches, cathedrals, temples or shrines because of their architectural beauty, or to view gardens which are also very beautiful. This time I actually wanted to visit some shrines and temples in Japan to pray and make wishes. 

I visited many temples and shrines on this trip. When I entered these sacred places I just let myself relax and let all my senses absorb everything around me. As a visitor you want to do the right thing. A few things you must do is wash hands before you pray.  To enter you would have to remove your shoes. In some places they provide you with a clean plastic bag to put your shoes in. You carry it with you so that your shoes do not get mixed up with others. Also if you want to exit from another door you would have your shoes with you ready to exit. 

The entrance of Nezu Shrine in East Tokyo. A 300 year old Shinto shrine built using the Gongen-style architecture. You can read more about it here

There are usually bridges outside the gate of a shrine. This bridge was just outside of the gate of Nezu shrine above. Notice the beautiful garden beyond. In the water there are goldfish and baby turtles. My friend Ayako was sure there were plastic turtles until one decided to jumped from the rock!

These red Torii gates are the famous symbols of the Nezu shrine. Red means good luck in Japan so walking through these red Torii should brings us a lot of luck!


The big Buddha at Kamakura, the seaside town South of Tokyo. Kamakura is the home of our tour guide Hirata-San. It was an optional visit after the tour ended. I'm glad I went because the little town of Kamakura was really cute and of course to see the big Buddha was special. 

The cloud was part of the base of the big Buddha. It is made of copper. You will see a lot of cloud images used in Japan. 

The red bride was also from Kamakura. This red is a special red, if I remember it is called Chinese red (why not Japanese red!). You will see this red used in most temples or shrines in Japan.

This shrine was the local shrine where my friend and her family visit. It was only a few minutes drive from their home.  She goes there every time she is back in Japan. 

These are wishing tablets. You can purchase them in a small shop in every shrine or temple for only small amount. I think this one is a marriage wishing tablet. If I'm wrong please let me know...!

More of the wishing tablets are left at the shrine. My friend told me that they are like  fortune cards. If it doesn't turn out well you leave them behind. I will check with her on Monday and will update this if I'm wrong.

You can also find these in every shrine and temple too. These are sake barrels. The Japanese need sake or rice wine for their ceremonies and festivals. Each barrel contains about 20 liters of sake. They are big!

Chozuya, water scoops are in every shrine and temple. You have to wash your hands when you enter shrines. You wash from left hand to right outside of the well. Just before you finish fill the scoop and wash the handle before you put it back in place. You can drink the water from the well too. Chozuya comes in many shapes and styles. These one made of copper. They normally have long handles on them.  

This one is interesting. I only saw it once at my friend's local shrine. It translates as "bad luck board". It is located at the entrance of the shrine. If your age is displayed on there you have to enter the shrine and pray. You also need to get yourself something colourful to wear. If your parents found your age on this board they would give you something colourful. The board changes at the beginning of each year. My age is not on there- guess I'm lucky! 

The view from the outside of  the red Torii gates at Nezu shrine. I hope you enjoy reading about different aspects of shrines in Japan. It might not mean much to you now, but if you do visit Japan one day (I hope you do) you would know what to look for. Before my first visit to Japan last year I read many blogs and websites and indeed it helped me a lot. I even found the textile market in Tokyo! I went back there again this time too. Will show what I got from there in a later post.

Arimatsu Shibori Festival was one of the highlights of my trip to Japan. The festival happens annually on the first weekend in June. It was luck or good planning as it happens that my friend Ayako and I were on our way to Tokyo that weekend. We stopped in Nagoya which is only 25 minutes by local train to Arimatsu. We stayed for two nights in a ryokan. I thought I knew a lot about Shibori and even took a workshop on Shibori techniques, but what I saw at the festival was amazing! As soon as we stepped out from the train station we saw the street lined with every kind of Shibori from children outfits, umbrellas, hats, shirts, fabric, kimonos etc... I spent both days at the festival and enjoyed every minute of my visit there. 

They were demonstrations of different Shibori techniques by the lovely ladies, the same ladies I saw on a YouTube video. It was exciting to see their work in person! For a small fee you can make Shibori yourself and dye it right there. Both indigo and natural dyes were available for us to use. 

On my second day I came across these adorable boys enjoying the icy crust on the side of the road. I asked their mother permission for a photo. You got to love them in Shibori outfits. How very cute!

The map of the Festival was posted at the beginning of the street. It's mainly one long street with lanes going off each side. You have to be so careful not to miss any of the activities that are there. 

It was a very hot day and everyone seemed to be queuing to buy umbrellas. No I didn't get one even though I was so hot that day! 

These are only some of the things made from Shibori fabric. The Shibori fabric used in clothing is very stylish. I love the jacket on the right. 

This stall sells all natural dye items dyed by the lady next to me. I only bought the one I was wearing. I would have bought everything from that stall if I had more $$$!

Abundant Shibori fabric for sale. You have to get the whole bundle when you buy. They do not cut them per yard at this shop.

Some kimono displayed in front of a famous house that once used to be a prime Shibori producer. 

I met Yoshiko Wada there. She is the author of the 'Shibori' book and the founder of World Shibori Network. She took a tour there. She is well known at the Festival. She asked if she knew me, I told her yes we are friends on 'facebook'! 

Rack full of Shibori garments. I did buy a very cool hat from there. I will show it off on my next post under shopping. 

These were the show pieces being displayed at the Shibori Center where all the demonstrations were taking place. They were really gorgeous up close. 

I did say it was a hot day. I normally carry a hat, but silly me, I've left it in my luggage at the hotel so the Shibori scarf came in handy as a head scarf! With me is Shizuka Ayako's friend from Melbourne. Shizuka now lives in Hiroshima. 

I want to show you this photo of the lovely lady tying the Shibori at the speed of lightning! Can you see how my camera couldn't focus on her hand, because her hands were moving so fast! 

This little stall tucked away almost at the end of the street was the place I bought my Sakabukuro and boro pieces from. I went back to the Festival for a second day just to pick up the Sakabukuro she brought for me. I didn't have enough Japanese Yen, but she kindly accepted my Australian dollars for it. 

Here is more Shibori fabric on display at the various venues on the street.

If you ask me, was the trip to Arimatsu Shibori Festival worth it? Yes, it worth every cent I spent to get there. I cannot tell you how I felt just being there! Walking among the lovely crowd of people who love the same thing as I do 'Shibori'.  The Festival was well run and highly organized. Yes I will go back again next time I'm in Japan.  

I hope you have enjoyed reading my Japan journal so far. I'm glad I could share it with you. Reflecting on my visit in this blog freshens up my memory of everything I did there. 

I got a lovely compliment from a Japanese lady about my Japan journal. This is what she said: I read your blog.  It is well organized and it made me smile since I understood a lot.  I am very impressed the way you captured beauty of Japan. I'm so delighted to get such a compliment. 

Don't miss the next installment of my journal. It's going to be on 'shopping in Japan'....!

This is my last Japan Journal. It's going to be a little sad for me to stop writing about my wonderful trip to Japan. I cannot leave without telling you about Japanese hospitality. The Japanese take hospitality very seriously and they do it to perfection. I was totally humbled to get treated so well and looked after by everyone I visited. I read a little bit about Japanese hospitality in the journal Nipponia before I went this time so I took care to notice the way they go about doing things to serve you. I had the advantage to travel with Ayako, my student and friend. I asked her many questions about their culture in the two weeks we were together. 

Japan is a nation of gift giving. Giving is a strong part of Japanese culture. The history of giving goes back a long way in Japanese history. The art of Japanese wrapping and packaging we see and admire today is part of their giving culture. The gift giving culture is so strong that when you go shopping for gifts the shop assistant would packs extra bags with your purchase so when the time comes for you to give the gifts away you would have a fresh bag to put them in! I always admire my Japanese friends with their brand new bags and I thought, how do they keep the bags so fresh looking? Now I know! On the flip side of this I thought they must use so much raw material to produce so much gift packaging and bags, but the Japanese recycling system is the best in the world. More on Japanese recycling some other time...!

Sorry I went of subject here, but I feel that the art of giving is part of the Japanese hospitality. In this post I would like to  pay tribute to my host families for taking care of me, feeding me, taking me places and teaching me their crafts. 

If you stay at a Ryokan (Japanese Inn) you will be welcomed by the O-kami (Japanese Inn landlady) with a gracious smile. The moment the O-kami sees you she will be calculating your size in her head so she can give you the right yukata to use while you are staying there. 

This is an old Japanese home built from wood and paper lining. Japanese houses don't always have walls around them, but this one was quite close to town, and I think the walls help keep the passers by at bay. I just love the trees and bushes in Japan. Back at home I would have to visit a Japanese garden to see these trees, but here Japanese gardens are everywhere!

Once inside the genkan you must remove your shoes. It is best to arrange them with the toes facing the door. Most shoes were facing the right direction in the photo above. It pays to wear slip-on shoes when visiting Japanese homes. 

I had a chance to visit local artists Mr and Mrs Watanabe in Shiga prefecture. The husband and wife team. Mr Watanabe is a wood artist and Mrs Watanabe is a painter. They opened the house/studio to welcome me. They showed me around and by chance I spotted the photo of Fuji-San with the moon rising from behind. I thought it was a painting she did, but no it wasn't.  It was a real photo Mr Watanabe took himself on the last trip to Fuji-San. I was so entranced by that photo that I promised myself to go there and see the moon rise over Fuji-San in person one day! 

You might wander what this pile of fabric is. This pile of fabric is vintage kimono silk given to me by the artist above. She had them for so long and was happy to find a home for them. She did not only invite me to her home. She gave me something she knows I love and collected.

I stayed at the Hattas in Shiga for 5 days. Every day Tomiko-san arranged for me to visit  locals artists. I visited an indigo artist, an Italian cook, a graphic designer, a painter and on the fifth day we stayed home and visited Tomiko's pottery studio. Tomiko has been a potter for more than 30 years. She has  exhibitions twice a year in different cities in Japan. Every two years she and her artists friends put on an exhibition at their home. When I left, Tomiko gave me 6 pieces of her pottery. They are such treasures to me...

Everyone I met opened their home to me. I had Japanese tea and a tour at this beautiful cozy home.

I had a dip in the indigo vats in this old home. I can see now that he has ten indigo vats! Sadly Someori-San doesn't have anyone to inherit the indigo business after him. The indigo business has been in his family for the last 500 years. He will have to give it up when he is too old to manage it. 

I was taken to this country inn for lunch on our way to visit the Watanabe family. We had the most beautiful set meal. Only 20 sets are made per day. All the produce came from their own farm including eggs and milk. We had delicious sweet potato ice cream after lunch. 

I visited the private gallery of the Masuda family who are graphic designers. This couple makes modern art. They use modern technology to produce their work. They get a lot of commission work from private business. They are both cats lovers and have many cats. 

At the Japanese Textile Workshops I was shown how to wind silk yarn on the traditional  wheel. 

Here are Ayako (left) her sister Noriko and Katsu Noriko's husband. This young couple married two years ago. I knew them well from the wedding photos Ayako showed me. I also helped Ayako made their wedding journals. They are both very sweet. Both of them took a day off to take me out for a day. We went boating in the Tokyo river not too far from their home. The memorable experience for me would have to be the home style onsen (Japanese bath) I had every evening. Noriko here would run me a bath and just as I was about to enter the bathroom she stopped me and switched on the most relaxing music I have ever heard! 

Mr Hatta took us out to a Thai dinner on my last night in Tokyo. Noriko and Katsu found the most famous Thai restaurant in Rappongi (the nightlife district). I must tell you something about Katsu. Katsu at this moment is in London. He was sent by his company to select chocolate for next Valentines Day. He works for the Matsuzakaya Department store in Tokyo. Katsu was a football star in his youth and I suppose he knows what women like in chocolate!!! 

Last but not least, Tomiko and I at the sushi train restaurant. I had so much sashimi that night, they thought I would be sick the next day, but I wasn't.

I really enjoyed staying with the Hattas. They are an example of the best in Japanese hospitality. All good things have to come to the end. I have enjoyed reminiscing about my trip. Thank you so much for your comments and interest. 

My blog also reached 100,000 hits this week. I must say I'm very proud to get to where I am. When I started this blog just over two years ago I wouldn't have thought that anyone would read what I write. Blogging is like an indigo vat, you have to feed it to get the best result! 

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