I have always been fascinated with Japanese culture, especially the varying forms of Japanese art, and the breathtaking care and attention to the smallest details that is ever-present in the arts of Japan. From calligraphy, painting, lacquer, textiles, even knife skills and cooking, lifelong devotion to specific techniques has resulted in a focused expertise with gorgeous results. For all these reasons and more, Japan was at the top of my travel list, and I was so excited to travel there during cherry blossom season this past spring.
Our first stop was Tokyo, a city of fascinating juxtapositions: both bustling and impeccably clean and orderly, with modern architecture and neon lights abutting thousand-year-old shrines, where you can go to kabuki and a robot restaurant in the same afternoon.
We were charmed to see that Hachiko, the statue in Shibuya of the loyal dog who waited for his owner at the train station every day for almost ten years, had a friend, a contented, well-cared-for blind cat.
We also visited a handicraft center in Aoyama where the supplies were nearly as beautiful as the incredible artistry!
We watched a kimono being hand-embroidered with stitches I could barely even see.
It was wonderful to see a beautiful bride in her photo-ready finery.
The robot restaurant in Shinjuku neighborhood was too unique to really capture in a few photos, but the psychedelic stairways give a little glimpse of the experience.
One of the highlights of our time in Tokyo was a visit to the owl cafe Fukuro no mise. This is exactly what it sounds like: a sweet little cafe with a few dozen adorable owls that you can hang out with and befriend.
I love all sorts of Japanese food, and each meal was an opportunity for another amazing culinary experience. There was an incredible variety to our eating each day: a quick stop for takoyaki (pancake-like balls with octopus inside) from a street stall, wandering the giant food courts in train stations, an entire evening at a refined sushi counter, a tempura shop that only served giant golden-fried shrimp, French pastries and perfect lattes, or early chirashi breakfast at the Tsukiji fish market. I loved how each restaurant and stall was so good at its own specialty. (eight kinds of eel in one tiny restaurant! an incredible ramen counter with only three perfect options! And of course, the best sushi I've ever had in my life.)
I also did a lot of shopping in Tokyo. Vintage shops in Harajuku yielded amazing vintage bargains (while I didn't get to take home this silk bomber jackets, I did score lots of other fun finds including a gorgeously embroidered silk kimono), and I also brought home lots of adorable souvenirs.
Of course, we did more than eat and shop! The famous Meiji shrine was lovely, and a day spent in the Asakusa neighborhood meant meandering between restaurant supply shops, dozens of shops selling as many trinkets as you can imagine, handmade paper, dishware and more, and bustling shrines, after a morning spent at the traditional kabuki theatre.
I may have only spent a few days in Tokyo, but I felt like I got to soak up as Japanese culture as possible in the short time I had there. Bright colors, intricate details and patterns, Japanese brushstroke techniques all provided inspiration for my own painting!
Next up... Kyoto!