This is one more picture from the National Garden that we wanted you to see. It is a small bonsai type tree on an island in the pond.
The arrangement of flowers in the hotel lobby was especially elegant.
Before we left the hotel, Debbie noticed these dolls in a tourist’s pack. The woman who had them said they were designed by a relative of Jimmy Choo.
On the way to Fujino the wild cherry trees were also in bloom.
Bryan Whitehead is a Canadian who has made Japan his home for 28 years and has totally embraced the culture, history and art of it people. He lives in a 150 year old farmhouse that was originally two stories; the top one being dedicated to raising silk worms. Bryan still raises them; albeit on a smaller scale and in just one part of the second floor. When he began teaching and wanted to host the workshops at his home, he built the third floor guest rooms. This is still a typical Japanese farmhouse with the only heat being provided by kerosene heaters on the first floor. One full bathroom is on the first floor and there is a hallway with three water closets, or as the Brits say “loo’s”. The other tub and shower are in a bath house behind the barn; the tub being a hot tub. This is not a workshop for the delicate or the faint hearted. Learn to hold it all night or be ready to negotiate the stairs/ladders up/down two flights. Bathing times were split between evening and morning bathers and we had no conflicts or issues with this. One of the loos is in a room without windows and is called the monkey bathroom, as monkeys occasionally come down out of the hills and sit on the window sills. (None were seen this time as evidently there was enough food in the hills or they did not consider us interesting enough to come and observe).
The house is situated in the foothills of the mountains west of Tokyo and on a clear day one can see Mount Fuji. The scenery was wonderful (especially for us from Texas). Brian grows his own indigo and there are also terraced tea plots in the area.
At the hotel and again once at the house we had a chance to meet the other students for this 10 day adventure into indigo dyeing. David and Debbie are in the top left, then Min who is from Singapore, Sophie and Caroline from the UK, Claire and Meg from Australia, Mar-Lou from the Netherlands and Shelly and Heather from Canada. We were the only couple there and only Claire and Meg had met before this trip. The international group made for really interesting conversations and lots of learning experiences. It turned out to be a great group and so much fun to be with.
Bryan observed the Japanese custom of removing one’s shoes before entering a home. He provided a rack where we left our shoes when entering the house. We all ran around in stockinged feet for the rest of the time.
Our room was a comfortable corner room with lots of extra blankets as it was still pretty cool and remember there was no heat in these rooms.
Bryan’s partner Hiro is an Ikebana master flower arranger and his arrangements are placed throughout the house. This arrangement was hung near the ceiling on the third floor. We have to note here that the Japanese are not as tall as most westerners and David had to quickly learn to stoop when walking through the halls and rooms on the second and third floors. After cold cocking himself a couple of times, he finally learned his lesson. We had a chance to try our hand at this form of flower arranging in a few days, with varying degrees of success (or not). More on this later.
Time and weather permitting we took several walks through the area with views like the above being rather common (common depending on where you are from).
Hiro was our cook for most of the meals and what a fabulous job he did. Meals were loaded with fresh vegetables and healthy side dishes and soups. Sweets are not a normal part of the diet in Japan so there was very little sugar and we did not miss it. Meat was not served at every meal and normally when it was it was incorporated into the dish and not a main course. We came home without gaining any weight and that was a first for both of us. We found the food delicious and satisfying and we were never hungry.
The rest of the day was spent in getting settled and getting to know our housemates and fellow students then, Bryan gave us an orientation of the contents of the class.
On Tuesday and in the next blog posting we get into the purpose of this trip and get into the really fun stuff and getting our hands into the dye vat. Stay tuned for some really fun and interesting information on this centuries old craft.
Debbie and David