Important Covid-19 Update. Our client’s safety is important to us, and travel will resume when the travel ban (including the 14-day quarantine) is lifted both in Japan and the United States. Next Spring, we will offer two “off the beaten track” tours to escape the large cities and to enjoy the rural parts of Japan. First, is Textiles of Kyushu, a unique opportunity to experience Japanese culture and textile in the southern island of Japan. Second is Edible Japan, which will be a modified version of the original Culinary Tour with an extra day in the Shinshu region with sake brewery tour, miso making and knife shop visits. Stay well and be safe.

Three Days in Kyoto

Geikkekan Kyoto

Your Japan trip can not be completed without visiting Kyoto.

Located in the Kansai region, Kyoto is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan and overflows with ancient temples, exquisite Japanese gardens, historical landmarks, refined cuisine, art, and crafts. The area is home to an astonishing 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Kiyomizu Temple, Golden Pavilion, Silver Pavilion, Nijomon Castle to name a few.

Kyoto can be easily accessed from Tokyo and will only take about two and a half hours on JR Shinkansen (you can use your JR Pass ). Once you arrive in Kyoto, take advantage of the local subway system (JR pass cannot be used)or the local bus system to get around. If traveling with three or more people, taking a taxi can be a cost-effective and time-saving way to traverse the city.

A compact city, Kyoto is well suited to walking and biking and, the perfect way to depart from the main streets and discover the back alleys, small shops, and cafes. Kamo (Duck) River is just a few minutes from the downtown district and a scenic backdrop for relaxing in the sun and enjoying your favorite Matcha beverage.

Kyoto is a place I have visited many times with clients and group tours, and below is a sample three-day itinerary from those experiences. I hope you enjoy this amazing city as much as I do!

Day 1: Philosophers Path, Silver Pavilion, Kiyomizu Temple, Kawai Kanjiro’s House, and Kaiseki Dinner

Philosopher’s Path and the Silver Pavilion


Philosopher’s Path was named after a famous Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro who walked this path from his residence to Kyoto University where he was a professor.

On the first day at 9 am, take a taxi or walk to the Philosopher’s Path near Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion). Ideally, start your morning journey about 15 minutes (by foot) away from Silver Pavilion so you can walk along the beautiful river path to the entrance of the Silver Pavilion.

You should arrive at Ginkakuji, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site, about the time it opens to the public. Ginkakuji was a retirement villa built-in 1400 by Ashikaga Yoshimasa and is surrounded by a well-groomed Japanese garden of the sand garden, waterfall, moss-covered grounds, and forest. As with many other famous attractions, Ginkakuji can get crowded during peak seasons and I highly recommend visiting Ginkakuji early in the morning during the weekdays.

Kiyomizu Temple and Kawai Kanjiro’s House

Kawai Kanjiro

It is hard to say good-bye to the natural beauty of the Silver Pavilion, but our next stop is the popular Kiyomizu Temple, a Buddist temple and another UNESCO World Heritage Site which is located 10 minutes away from Ginkakuji by car.

Kiyomizu temple was found in the Heian period (778) and was reconstructed in 1633 to the current style and structure. Kiyomizu temple has a wide veranda where you can see a stunning view of the hillside and the city. In Japan “think as if you are jumping from the platform of Kiyomizudera” is a widely used phrase, meaning “take a plunge” or doing something without a safety net.

Next, I have a couple of options depending on your interests. If you have an interest in Japanese potteries, walk down on “Chawan Zaka” a Pottery Hill, and head to Kiyomizu Ceramic Center where you can purchase locally made pottery and jewelry for souvenirs.

Along this same route is Kawai Kanjiro’s house and studio and is a recommended place to visit. Kawai Kanjiro was a poet, potter, artist and one of the important figures in the folk art movement in Japan. Besides being a great artist, he is known for his compassion and humbleness. His house and studio recently opened to the public and here you can see work of arts throughout his life and his famous Noborigama ‘climbing’ kiln.

Now is a good time to take a short break for some coffee and sweets and I recommend a visit to the Ichikawa Cafe, a much-needed oasis in a traditional Kyoto style house with its narrow entrance and garden inside.

However, If you’d rather head straight to Gion to shop and then walk back on “San-nen-Zaka” and “Ni-nen-Zaka”. It’s about a 25 minute walk to Gion from Kiyomizu Temple. Yazaka Shrine is a starting point for Gion and here you’ll find many Geisha teahouses.

Gion, Maiko Performance and Kaiseki Dinner

Maiko, Gion

If you are lucky, you may get a glimpse of Geisha walking the streets of Gion in the evening. I highly recommend making a reservation at a teahouse in Gion to see a dance performance by a Maiko and experience a traditional kaiseki dinner. The beautiful kimonos, unique makeup, and formality are guaranteed to capture your attention.

A private dinner offers a rare opportunity to speak and ask questions (you must hire a translator as they usually do not speak English). In the near perimeter is Gion Hatanaka, a traditional Ryokan (hotel) which also offers traditional Kaiseki dinner with a performance by Maiko for those staying at the hotel. If your budget allows, it is worth it.

Day 2: Roketsu/Indigo Dye Studio, Arashiyama, Bamboo Forest

Roketsu/Indigo Dye Workshop & Textile in Kyoto

Roketsu
Long been a tradition here in Kyoto is the ancient method of applying liquid wax onto fabric. The fabric is then dyed in indigo blue highlighting the design where the wax was applied.

Visiting and taking a roketsu zome workshop at Roketsu Yamamoto is an excellent cultural activity everyone can enjoy. The workshop takes about 2 hours and you will immediately get drawn to the process of making art.

If you have an interest in textiles, here are a few more recommendations.

Tezomeya
Located near the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Tezomeya offers natural dye using Chinese herbal medicine. The fabrics and threads dyed in herbal medicines are earthy, warm with vivid natural colors.

Shibori Museum
Located near Sanjyo Street. This small museum offers shibori exhibits and workshops.

Nishijin Textile Center
Often overlooked at Nishijin Textile Center is the museum located on the third floor. It has an extensive collection of Nishijin fabrics, looms, and other historical artifacts. This is also a great place to get an understanding of the history and process of making Nishijin Textile. They also offer weaving demonstrations and 10-minute Kimono Fashion Show for no charge.

Arashi Yama, Trolly Ride, Bamboo Forest

From the Roketsu Dye Studio, Sagano-Arashiyama and Bamboo Forest are not too distant. This area was discovered during the Heian era as a retreat for nobility and has kept its charm today.

You can get to Saga-Arashiyama JR then walk across the street to Torokko Saga Station where you hop on a 30-minutes trolley ride along Hozu-gawa river. The trolley can be very crowded especially during sakura season and on weekends but the view is spectacular. Also, equally recommended is the Hozu-Ogawa River Boat Ride. Instead of taking the trolley back, why not enjoy the thrill and fun of rafting down the river. Tickets can be purchased for 4,100 yen. There are many cafes and restaurants at the entryway to the Bamboo Forest where you can stop for a quick lunch or tea.

Day 3: Nishiki Market, d47 Kyoto, Gekkeikan Brewery, Inari Taisha Shrine

Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market, d47 Kyoto, Lorimer Restaurant

You must check out the local food scene at Nishiki Market before you depart Kyoto. Nishiki Market was built in 1615 and consists of 126 stores. It is called the “kitchen town” of Kyoto and you will find almost all kinds of food from Kyoto and the surrounding region. Pickled vegetables, noodles, seafood, meat, kitchen tools, you name it. If you are looking for a kitchen knife to take home, make sure to stop at the Aritsugu knife shop. It is the oldest sword (no longer selling swords, though) and knife shop in Japan.

Side Notes: The red, yellow and blue patterned roof of the kitchen town is a trademark of Nishiki Market.

Near Nishiki Market is d47 Kyoto, owned by D & D Department ( a lifestyle brand and magazine) where they showcase made-in-Japan artisan products and food. Unlike its flagship store in busy Shibuya, Tokyo, this shop and restaurant/cafe here is located inside Bukkoji Temple.

Take your shoes off and sit on tatami mats to enjoy Japanese style lunch, tea or sweets.
Lorimer Restaurant Kyoto
For lunch, stop at Lorimer Kyoto on your way to Kyoto Station. Lorimer Kyoto is owned by a Japanese chef (who became a chef in the United States along with two other New Yorkers) and operates multiple Japanese restaurants in New York and Japan. Enjoy the long-standing formula of simple Ichi ju san sai, one soup three (or five) sides with rice.

Fushimi Sake District, Gekkeikan Museum & Chokenji Temple

After lunch take a local train heading south to go to Fushimi Sake District of Kyoto (about 25 minutes train ride from Kyoto Station) to go visit the world-famous Gekkeikan Sake Brewery.

Fushimi district is located along the Fushimi River on the south side of Kyoto. There are small canals and natural springs making the area ideal for sake production and trade of sake and rice. There are about 40 breweries in this area and many buildings preserve their traditional appearance of wood and plaster-white walls.

Gekkeikan (the name means “Crown of laurel”) was built in 1637 by Jiemon Okura and this preeminent sake is widely known not only in Japan but internationally. Although there are about 40 breweries in the area, Okura Gekkeikan museum is one of the few places that are open to the public for tours and sampling.

A standard self-guided tour of the museum is 400 yen and comes with a bottle of Gekkeikan’s original sake (yes, they give you a bottle of sake to take home, which tasted great by the way) and sampling of three kinds of sake. However, if you are interested in observing the fermentation of moromi and unrefined sake, make a reservation for the Optional Tour.

Especially during the Sakura Blossom season and nice autumn days, I highly recommend a walk along the Go canal (two minutes from the museum). This tree-lined canal was once used to transport and trade sake between cities of Kyoto and Osaka. You can take Jikkokubune Canan Cruise, flat-bottomed boats for a 45-minute cruise.
Chokenji Temple
Chokenji Temple is located along the canal and worth a stop as well. This small but well-kept neighborhood temple is dedicated to Benzaiten, the only female member of Japan’s seven lucky gods who was primarily as a patron of water and trade.
Also, if you are interested in the history of the Meiji Restoration, check out Teradaya Inn and Former Site, and Ryomadori.

Back at the station, take a north-bound train to the Fushimi Station (or you can take a taxi). To go to Fushimi Inari Taisha, get off the train at Fushimi Eki Station and walk a couple of minutes to the entrance of Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head of Kami Inari and sits on the base of a mountain. There is a famous Torii trail that leads you on an hour hike to the top of the mountain. Highly recommended.

Note: Another recommendation for a sake brewery visit is Matsui Sake Brewery located near the Kamo River on the northern side of downtown. Started in 1726, Matsui Sake brewery makes highly regarded sake and served as a purveyor for Kinkakuji (Golden) and Ginkakuji (Silver) Pavilion. Call ahead for a brewery tour. No reservation is necessary for a sake tasting.

Where to Stay in Kyoto:

Brighton Hotel Kyoto ($$$)
Five minutes walk from Kyoto Imperial Palace and has 4 first-class level restaurants on the premises. Free shuttle bus to downtown.

Congrats Hotel Kyoto ($$)
Ten minutes’ walk from Kyoto Station and Lorimer restaurant. This hotel has a cozy Japanese style bar offering local sake and whiskey along with an assortment of tofu and pickles from nearby shops.

Jisco Hotel
Jisuco Hotel Kyoto ($$-$$$)
Located one block from Kyoto Imperial Palace. First level rooms offer private access to small Japanese gardens.

Sowaka Hotel
Sowaka Hotel ($$$-$$$$)
Located in the heart of Gion. This former tea house was remodeled to hold luxury guest rooms and a restaurant. Each room is uniquely designed combining traditional tatami and modern beds. Enjoy delicious meals at its La Bombance restaurant.

Travel Tips:

Following Etiquettes and JR Pass:

  • Spring and fall are the busiest seasons in Kyoto with increased traffic from tourism. Please respect the culture by following local customs and etiquette as the increase in tourism has created a few problems with loitering and vandalism.
  • When traveling, visit popular attractions as well as less known attraction sites to avoid crowds. Ask locals and hotel concierge for their recommendations.
  • Kyoto can be overwhelming with so many places to see and visit. If you have a limited time, have a focus and interest then pick an area or two where you would like to visit. Hiring a guide would save time and assure smooth travel.
  • JR Pass can only be used on JR Lines and not to be used on the subway system and other privately run transportation. There are fewer JR options in Kyoto and Kansai regions as the private rail system has more power which is not a part of the JR Pass system.

Accommodation:
Plan ahead because accommodations can be expensive during spring and fall and can fill up quickly.

Take Advantage of Duty-Free:
If purchasing gifts such as local pottery and artworks to bring back home, check the store and see if they offer duty-free pricing. Present your passport and get a discount on local taxes. Most places only accept the actual passports and not a photo or digital copy.

Two Days In Kanazawa

Kanazawa Geisha District

City of Gold Marsh

Kanazawa is located in Ishikawa prefecture on the north-west coast of Japan. The name literally translates to “marsh of gold” as the area is famous for its gold leaf. In fact, almost all the gold leaf produced in Japan originates from Kanazawa. If you’re not familiar with gold leaf, it’s a process of creating extremely thin sheets from small amounts of gold while retaining its brightness. These sheets are then used in the arts, jewelry, architecture, and even food.

Besides gold leaf production, Kanazawa is also known for the Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle, the Geisha District, Kaga Yuzen Textile, Kutani Pottery, Kanazawa lacquerware, and wonderfully fresh seafood.

The town was established in 1583 by the Maeda Clan that ruled the area from Kanazawa Castle until the end of the Edo period. Because of its wealth, art and culture flourished in Kanazawa. This legacy remains to this day and Kanazawa is best known for its historical attractions, modern museums, and vibrant arts and crafts community.

Getting There

The city, with limited access from Tokyo, was an undiscovered gem until 1997 when Hokuriku Shinkansen started its service from Tokyo to Nagano. Then in 2015, the Shinkansen became available from Nagano to Kanazawa making it possible for travelers to go from Tokyo to Kanazawa in less than three hours.

There is at least one Shinkansen per hour bound for Kanazawa from Tokyo Station every day. This makes Kanazawa an ideal destination city for both Japanese and international tourists alike.

Hokuriku Shinkansen Time Table

Day 1: Fish Market, Higashi Chaya Geisha District & Izakaya

Omicho Fish Market

Japanese Fish Market
From Kanazawa Station, take a bus or walk to Omicho Market and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of this vibrant seafood and vegetable market. You’ll find that many of these are unique to the area. It’s a large, sprawling market and reminiscent of Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. The market is roofed over making it conveniently accessible rain or shine.

Before you go, treat yourself to a fresh, sushi lunch at a restaurant on the first or second floor of the market or stop at one of the many vendors selling everything from grilled Noto beef skewers to traditional Japanese confections.

Higashi Chaya Geisha District


Kanazawa has three well preserved Geisha Districts and the Higashi Chaya District is the largest and most popular. Here you’ll have the opportunity to visit these historic buildings called Chaya or teahouse. Here, Geishas would entertain wealthy customers with traditional music, dance and games.

You can get a guided tour of the area compliments of the volunteer group, Kanazawa Goodwill Guide Network. You can even rent a kimono for the afternoon and simply stroll through the area at your own leisure.

How about a soft ice cream wrapped in paper-thin gold for an afternoon snack? Then head to over to the Gold Leaf Application Studio to learn gold leaf is made. Many of these arts and crafts shops offer workshops as well.

Izakaya


Wrap up the day by grabbing an open counter seat at an Izakaya shop. You’ll find a number of izakaya shops located between Korinbo and Sai River (behind Korinbo Tokyu Square). Beautifully presented food can be cooked on the table-side for your enjoyment.

Day 2: Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle & Kutani Kosen Kiln

Kenrokuen Garden


On the second day wake up early and wander around the Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Arranged another guide through KKG to get a full understanding of the history, philosophy, and significance of this garden. Shigure Tei Tea House is located in the garden welcomes you with made to order matcha tea and Japanese sweets.

While the Castle was mostly destroyed in a fire in 1818, the main gates did survive, and large sections of the structure have since been rebuilt to their original appearance and contain sections showcasing the intricate joinery and woodworking techniques of the era.

Kutani Kosen Kiln


After lunch head to Kutani Kosen Kiln for history and demonstration on Kanazawa’s famous pottery (reservation required).

If you like crafts, you will enjoy making brooch at Meboso Needle Company. Their unique designed was a byproduct of their original product, a fishing lure (needle). Perfect for a gift. (reservation required)

Where to Stay

Kanazawa Pacific Hotel ($)
Hotel Pacific, Kanazawa, Japan
A two-minute walk from Oumi Fish Market. This contemporary hotel has a cafe on the first floor and lodging on the upper floors. Bathroom is small but the rooms are spacious and very clean.

Mitsui Garden Hotel ($$)
A five-minute walk from Omicho Fish Market. This hotel was built in 2019 and has a spa-quality hot tub on the top floor overlooking the city. The rooms are very clean and the service is exceptional.

Viewing Mount Fuji

Viewin Mount Fuji | Tanpopo Studio

Japan’s Iconic Mountain

Mount Fuji is the highest and most celebrated mountain in Japan and conveniently located about 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. Known to Japanese people by “Fuji San”, it is an active volcanic mountain surrounded by an abundance of natural scenery that includes scenic lakes, caves, and waterfalls. The area is especially beautiful during the springtime cherry blossoms.

Mt. Fuji is one of the top three pilgrimage mountains in Japan and very popular among hikers, but people have also come to this site to relax and enjoy the hot springs in the surrounding nature. It is very spiritual and sacred place to the locals as well as for travelers. Notable pictures and drawings of Mt. Fuji appears in many Edo period prints of Katsushika Hokuai and other artists, Japanese and non-Japanese alike. Because of its cultural significance, Mt. Fuji is UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Getting to Lake Kawaguchiko

One of the best locations to observe Mt. Fuji is from Kawaguchiko in the Five Lakes area which can be accessed by taking JR train (Chuo line bound to Matsumoto from Tokyo) to Otsuki station and transfer to Fujikyu Line. Fujikyu Line platform is not to be missed as it’s well marked with signs in both Japanese and English.

Standard express train works well from Otsuki but to make your trip worth a while, plan ahead and reserve a seat at one of four luxury trains, Fujisan View Express, Fujisan Tozan Train, or if you have kids ride on the Fujisan Express or Thomas Land Train. The new Limited Express Fuji Excursion debuted in March of 2019 providing much needed direct access from Tokyo to Mount Fuji.

Kawaguchiko is the last station on Fujikyu Line from Otsuki and here are some of the highlights in the area.

Mount Fuji

Things to Do

Arakura Sengen Shrine
Hike up the hillside of Mt. Arakura for about 20 minutes to Arakura Sengen Shrine to see a panoramic view of Mount Fuji. Best to go there in April to see sakura on the back drip of the Mt. Fuji. To avoid crowds, get there early in the morning.

Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park
Kids and families can enjoy rides in the backdrop of Mt. Fuji.

Lake Kawaguchiko Excursion Ship
Enjoy European style cruising ship to make a 20 minutes tour of the lake.

Mt. Fuji Ropeway
Take a 3 minute ropeway to the park and enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji. A folk story “Kachi Kachi Yama” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa was based here.

Ubuya Hotel
If you are spending a night in Kawaguchiko, indulge yourself by booking a room at Ubuya Hotel. It is a traditional Ryokan with outdoor hot spring in many of their traditional rooms. Enjoy the wonderful hospitality and and the traditional Kaiseki Dinner.
Japanese Rain Drop Cake

What to Eat

Raindrop Cake
This delicious yet low calorie dessert called Shingen Mochi is made from mineral water from Mt. Fuji and agar, resembling raindrops. The mochi is then sweetened with Kuromitsu, molasses like syrup and Kinako, soybean powder. Shingen Mochi was named after Shingen Takeda, a pre-eminent daimyo as it was his favorite dessert.

Kamakura Day Trip

Kamakura Day Trip | Tanpopo Studio

A Stroll Around Kamakura City

For an unforgettable day trip from Tokyo, consider making the journey to Kamakura City. Located approximately one hour from Tokyo by train, Kamakura is a seaside resort town popular with locals for the sand beaches, surfing, boutique shops, temples and shrines. It’s also home to one of the most famous buddha statues in all of Japan.

History:
Kamakura was the ancient capital of Japan (Kamakura period, 1185-1333) where the first warrior led government was established under the Minamoto shogun. During this period Kamakura was also home to an influential buddhist priest, and the city is a known for its historic temples.

Location:
Kamakura city is located approximately one hour from Tokyo (30 minutes from Yokohama on JR Yokosuka Line). You can travel there with a JR Pass until you reach Kamakura Station, and local trains or buses around Kamakura will be an extra charge.

Kamakura Komachi Dori retail shopping stree
Komachi Ooji

Visit Komachi Ooji for Shopping

Kamakura Station > Tsuruoka Hachimangu > Komachi Ooji > Kamakura Station

From Kamakura Station East Exit, walk towards Wakamiya Oji, a main street that connects to the Tsuruoka Hachimangu, Shinto Shrine. After visiting the shrine, walk back towards station along Komachi Ooji where there are many small shops and cafes. Make sure to snack on dango – a rice cake on stick with sweet red bean paste or sweet soy sauce.

If you have extra time, start off your trip by getting off the train at North Kamakura Station and visit less known Tokeiji Temple. Built in 1285, Tokeiji Temple or divorce temple was run by nuns and gave refuge to women who separated from their husbands and lacked the resources to support themselves. After strolling around the beautiful garden, take class on sitting meditation, tea ceremony or flower arrangements.

Attractions

Tsuruoka Hachimangu
Kamakura shi, yukinoshita 2-1-31
Hours: 6:00 am -8:00 pm
Admission: Free
Tokeiji Temple
Kamakura shi, yamanouchi 1367
Hours: 8:30-4:30
Admission: 200-400 yen
Kamakurabori Museum
Kamakurashi, komachi 2-15-13
Hours: 9:30-4:30
Admission: 300 yen

Kamakura Great Budha
Great Buddha of Kamakura

See the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Kamakura Station > Great Buddha > Yuigahama Odori > Onari Dori > Kamakura Station

Back at Kamakura Station, take a Enoshima Line to Hase Station to go see Great Buddha. Hase station is the third station from Kamakura. There is also a city bus service is also available to Great Buddha. From Hase station, just follow the “Great Buddha” signs. Admission is 200 yen.

(Note: Hase Temple, known as Flower Temple is also along the way and highly recommended. Enjoy lunch or snack at cafe located in the premise.)

From Great Buddha, walk back towards Hase Station. At Hase Kan-non Bus Stop, take left on Yuigahama street and keep walking and you will hit the Yuigahama beach in about 20 minutes.

Yuigahama street is less known to tourists but has many great cafes, sake shops, senbei (rice crackers) shops and historical buildings. Kamakura Literature Museum with rose garden is also worth visiting and is only 5 minutes away. Continue walking until Onaridori and take left (there is a meat shop on the intersection). Onaridori is a shopping street for locals and you can find shops, bookstores, cafes, and bakeries.

Attractions

Great Buddha
Kamakura shi, hase 4-2-28
Hours: 8-4:00
Admission: 200 yen
Kamakura Literature Museum
Kanagawa ken,kamakura shi,Hase,1-5-3
Hours: 9:00-4:30 (Closed Monday)
Admission: varies 300-400 yen
Yuigahama Beach
Kamakura shi, Yuigahama, 4-4

What to Eat in Kamakura

Shirasu Don

One of the most popular dishes in Kamakura is shirasu or young sardines served raw or half-boiled. They are in season April through December, and there are restaurants all over Kamakura specializing in variations of shirasu.

Don’t forget to stop in Yokohama on the way back to Tokyo and have ramen for dinner.

More Photos

Tsuruoka Hachimangu
Tsuruoka Hachimangu

Kamakura Divorce Shelter
Tokeiji Temple

Matsumoto Day 3

Matsumoto Day 3 | Tanpopo Studio

Matsumoto and Yayoi Kusama

Click here for previous posts: Day 1& Day 2
Two hours before my departure from Matsumoto, I made my way to Matsumoto Art Museum exploring internationally acclaimed artist Yayoi Kusama’s exhibits “All About My Love” and “Eternal Life”.

Matsumoto is the birthplace to many talented artists including Yayoi Kusama. How inspiring it was to see so many of her original artworks on display showing her devotion to art with her signature bright colors and repetitive patterns. You can feel the energy in her art. As I walked through the exhibits, I learned that much of her art is derived from years of her struggle with mental illness. It was heartbreaking to see some of her childhood drawing showing her mental struggle at very young age such as a sketch of her mother covered in black small dots.
Japanese Bakery, Matsumoto

Walking to the train station, I picked up Sakura Manjyu (a bun filled with sweetened red beans and topped with pickled sakura flower) and a Russian Piroshki made with buckwheat and stuffed with mushrooms and reflected on my two day visit to Matsumoto.

There is something that touches your heart here; people and their stories, food, culture, history, nature and art that can not be experienced elsewhere. Deep down I hear my voices telling me to share my experiences with the world but another voice is telling me to keep it a secret. As I left the train station bound for Yamanashi, I made a secret promise with myself to return to this town many more times in the forthcoming years.

Yayoi Kusama Textile Art
Here are my favorite places in Matsumoto and also places where we will visit during our 2019 Spring Art Tour to Japan:

Matsumoto Castle
One of Japan’s historic premiere castles, also known as “Crow Castle” for its color.

Matsumoto Art Museum
Featuring Yayoi Kusama’s artwork as well as local and national artists. Only ten-minute walk from Matsumoto station.

Shioribi Book Store
A small independent bookstore located near Matsumoto Art Museum. A small cafe on the first floor offer drinks and pastries. Upstairs holds rare independent books and gifts. Next to Shioribi is a small art supply shop and Alps Gohan restaurant also recommended.

Nakamachi Dori
Old merchant’s street near Matsumoto Castle lined with art and crafts stores.

Chikiriya Folk Art Store (located on Nakamachi Dori, no website)
Mingei shop started by Taro Maruyama of the Matsumoto Folk Art Museum. Many selections on local and national crafts including Okinawa and Kyushu glassware, baskets, dishware and potteries.

Tabishiro Guest House
Guest houses are not only for budget travelers any more. Tabishiro offers an wonderful atmosphere make you feel like you are staying at your friend’s house. Wood burning fireplace in living area warms you up on chilly nights. Located near Matsumoto Castle and a popular destination among hikers and non-hikers alike.

Matsumoto Folk Craft Museum
https://taiken.co/single/matsumoto-folk-craft-museum-the-legacy-of-the-folk-art-movement
Located in Utsukushigahara neighborhood next to famous hot springs.

Marumo Cafe
Located near Matsumoto Castle on Nakamachi Dori. This “Arts and Crafts” cafe was built in 1956 along with Marumo Ryokan (also highly recommended). The cafe is filled with folk art furnitures makes you feel as if you felt like going back in time

Visiting Asakusa in Tokyo

Nakamiise Dori , Asakusa | Tanpopo Studio

Guide to Asakusa

If you are one of those lucky people visiting Tokyo, chances are that you want to spend some time exploring Asakusa, “lower town” of Tokyo. Located in Tai To District along the Sumida River, Asakusa is easily accessible by taking Asakusa or Ginza Subway Line.

Asakusa is home to Sensoji, the oldest temple in Tokyo as well as crafts and shops that have an Edo era nostalgia. The area was a settled by craftsman and working class families who added charm and vitality to Asakusa with old traditions and unpretentious food.

Wearing Kimonos in Asakusa

Enjoy rickshaw ride, river cruise dinner or rent a kimono and stroll around the temple. This is also a great place to shop for gifts for friends and family before you head back home. There is an energy to Asakusa that you can not experience elsewhere in Japan.

Day visit to Asakusa is included in our Art and Culture Tour to Japan (Spring of 2019) as well as in upcoming Textile Tour (coming soon).

River Cruise Boat in Tokyo

Asakusa Highlights

Asakusa Temple (浅草寺)
It is believed to be the oldest temple in Tokyo it was built in 628 and features a Gojyuto “five- story tower”, Kaminarimon “thunder gate” and Nakamisedori, “beautiful approach to the temple”. Make sure to apply incense smoke to your body as it is said to cure illness.

Nakamisedori (仲見世通り)
Nakamisedori is a 250 meter walk from the Kaminari Gate to the temple. There are over 90 shops lines the approach selling Asakusa speciality such as Ningyo Yaki (doll-shaped pound cake stuffed with red beans, cooked in front of you) and other treats and souvenirs. Kimuraya Shop is the oldest store selling Ningyo Yaki since 1868.

Ekimise (駅店)
A department store located above the Asakusa Station. The basement is filled with shops selling regional foods. delicacies, sake and beer. They also carry electronics, clothing, stationery and books. A great place to wander around before you ending your journey to Japan.

Asakusa Cultural Tourism Center (浅草文化ツーリズムセンター)
Conveniently located across the street from Kaminari Gate. This tourism center should be able to help you with any questions you might have around Asakusa. From the viewing deck on the 8th floor, you be able to see the Tokyo Skytree as well as Namamisedori.

Taiyaki

Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)
Asakusa is known for casual everyday food and Okonomiyaki is not to be missed when visiting Asakusa. At restaurants specializing in these “as you like” savory cabbage pancakes you’ll be able to make your own on a hot griddle at your table.. You can also enjoy this delicious street food at home. Here is the recipe from your food blog.

Kappabashi (かっぱ橋)
Located between Asakusa and Ueno is Kappabashi or “Kitchen Town”. This entire district features over 170 shops selling cooking supplies, knives, dishes and almost everything you need for starting and operating a food business. Kappabashi is only 10 minutes walk from Asakusa and totally worth a visit.

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