July 23, 2011

Japanese Hospitality

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! 


Terry said...

A wonderful glimps of your tour . Japanese custom and artis's workshops. I look forward to new work which I am sure will reflect your travels.

Marie said...

Wow, I feel like I was traveling with you. What a fabulous trip. I would love to visit Japan and see all the wondrous sites you have shared!
The Trees, homes, fabrics...just great.
I work with a young man who studies Japanese on his breaks and he has such a love for the country and longs to go back.
Thank you for sharing you journey : )

Nedra said...

Nat, I have loved reading your posts on Japan. It's wonderful to learn the culture of other countries. Our daughter #3 graduated in Linguistics with an emphasis in Japanese, even though she has never been to Japan. She is working now, but hopefully will have the opportunity to visit at one point.

deanna7trees said...

what wonderful traditions in Japan. you are a lucky lady to have had so many wonderful experiences on your trip. and i thank you for sharing them.

Manish said...

Thanks for a nice share you have given to us with such an large collection of information. Great work you have done by sharing them to all. simply superb. Photo Recovery

Queen Of The Armchair aka Dzintra Stitcheries said...

Oh Nat another wonderful post...how sad that man has to give up the family business...maybe another dynasty might start!!! And a bath poured every night for you...can't get much better than that!!! Dzintra

Bev C said...

Hello Nat,

Thank you for the insight into Japanese Hospitality. You have many happy memories of your trip.
Happy days.

Lis said...

Oh what a wonderful post again Nat and I felt as if I was with you. You write about the wonderful hospitality all those lovely Japanese people shared with you but I sincerely think that it takes a certain sort of person to be able to accept that hospitality and that you must have been a perfect guest. I think you have been blessed to see into the lives of all those artists and crafts people and it is so generous of you to share it with us. Thank you. Arigatou gozaimasu. ありがとうございます。

Anonymous said...

oh, thank you Nat, your blogs have made me so "home sick" for Japan. when I was at Kawashima the young students went home on weekends. Sun. evening there was always several little gifts on my desk that their mothers had sent to the "gaigin". I am trying to think how I could do an indigo workshop with Bryan at Japanese Textile Workshop.

kaiteM said...

what a lovely post, makes me want to visit Japan tho i feel as if i already have.

Heather said...

Thank you so much, your post brought back many memories of my own trip to Japan. Wouldn't it be wonderful to go again?

Penny said...

What a wonderful time you had. It brought back wonderful memries of ur trips, but you saw so many wonderful insights into daily life and the arts and artists there,

woman with wings said...

Nat, you've written about your experiences in Japan so beautifully. Because of the way you presented them, I (and a bunch of other people) got to be a teeny little part of your journey.

Now where are you taking me (us) next?

QuiltSue said...

It sounds like a wonderful trip, thanks for taking us with you, and I too would like to know where we're going next?

Janet said...

What a wonderful read, it was like a peek into yout travel journey. Thanks for sharing the journey. It's very sad about the indigo business stopping in that family.

Kathie said...

I really have enjoyed your posts on Japan I am so sad to see them end!
one or two more I am sure there is more you can share! I have always been intrigued with the Japanese culture and now the indigo fabrics as a quilter
I need to find a source to buy a few fat quarters of them to make a little quilt...I want to hand quilt it using a combination of Jude Hills quilting and sashiko quilting to get that texture I just so love on the indigo fabrics...
thanks again and please a few more pictures and another post or two????

Michele Pacey said...

It's so neat to hear about hospitality in this lovely country. we certainly could learn a thing or two from them. the gift-giving/receiving would elevate the way we feel towards each other and bring a whole new dimension to relationships wouldn't they? you must have felt so special to be so well cared for during your stay. not only that, it would make you want to return again and again. thanks for sharing Nat. a wonderful series. And congratulations on your pageview milestone! way to go!

Tammy said...

I have read several of your Japan tour blogs and they are quite beautiful! I really enjoyed reading everything that you did and what a gift to let us all into that experience with you!! My parents lived in Okinawa for a while and I never got to visit because I was state side having babies. My parents though speak very fondly of their time living their. A wonderful people and I love what you have shared. You could be my guide any time!!! Now I just have to come up with the funds to get me there!!! Until then I'll just come back and read all the posts I haven't! I love your cloth on Sew .. its stunning!!!

Els said...

Hi there Nat, what a wonderful story you told us here about your Japan trip. I loved reading it all, THANKS !

Martine said...

i have enjoyed your post about hospitality very much and also what you said about gift giving. We can learn so much from the Japanes i think.

ria vogelzang said...

Thanks, Nat, for such a great report of your trip! And such hospitality is a real gift!!
I love all your photo's'! And what a lovely pottery!! ;))
Love, Ria.

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