Tim and I are on the train heading to the Kumano Kodo for a 7 day adventure that Tim has planned and booked. The Kumano Kodo is an ancient and very famous pilgrimage; we will pass Shrines, temples and finally Japan's largest waterfall. There is a river half way through the walk of volcanic water called the thousand people bath. Tim has booked accommodation in a different guest house each night and has arranged for our luggage to be sent on for us. We will walk from one guest house to the next on a route that the Japanese have taken for over 1,000 years. I think it's going to be tough - lots of very steep climbing and old steps through the forest. I hope we don’t get lost; I’m a bit scared as the days are very short now so we don’t have that long to walk in day light. But Tim has printed off lots of maps and assures me it will be alright.
We have just come from Naoshima having spent 3 nights there. Naoshima is a small island off the south coast of Japan and a very special place. It's filled with several major art museums which house art works including Hockneys, and four very large beautiful paintings by Monet. We went to Naoshima in 2014 on our last trip to Japan and it was great to go back and see how it has changed in the past three years. There are now so many more visitors to the Island. In 2014 we were here in June, but April and November are the two high seasons due to the Spring Cherry blossom and Red leaves in Autumn. It was interesting to see who was visiting - young tourists, looking arty, fashionable and many from overseas. Our B&B provided bicycles so we cycled around from one museum to another. We noticed that new cafes, restaurants and guest houses have opened since we were last there. On our last night we went for dinner in a tiny bar that served food - very cheap, fresh and delicious. We got chatting to a girl about our age who has worked for The Chicho Museum since April this year. There is also a very high end hotel connected to the museum where the entrance to the hotel is the same as the entrance for the museum so it's a bit like staying in an art gallery. She told us that last year was the busiest year on record since Naoshima was founded in 2003 and 70% of the visitors were from overseas, despite having to take several trains and a ferry to get to there. Visiting feels a bit like a pilgrimage; I wonder what the island will look like if we go back there from now.
Where to start; I've just had the best 7 days of my life! Trekking through the mountains of the Kumano Kodo, enjoying evening soaks in volcanic hot springs after walking 8 hours each day. On the last day, Tim proposed to me on the top of a pagoda. It's been a wonderful adventure we've had together - Tim planned the entire thing from organising our luggage being sent onto the next Ryokan to lunch boxes for us to eat during the walk and he carried a ring in his pocket the whole time.
We are now heading to Osaka and later today we'll check into our Airbnb that I've organised to stay in for the next 9 days while I complete a one week residency in the very fun party city of Osaka a huge contrast from working in rural Kawaguchi. I'm starting the residency this , but I'm planning to cut and carve the block ready for . I've been carrying my printmaking tools from London with me, since the start of October when I first arrived in Japan, with the plan to use them this coming week. Of course my tools have grown in quantity vastly since completing Mi-lab. I now have brushes, inks, paints, carving knives, blocks of wood etc. and my suitcase is bursting at the seams, so at the end of this week I'm going to pack it all up in a box and ship it back home.
Tim is going to head to Toyama for a couple of days during the week to visit a major glassblowing studio and glass museum. It's worked out beautifully, as a glassblowing friend of his will be there this week giving demonstrations in the studio. Tim is very keen to investigate Toyama because it offers a very prestigious glassblowing residency.
Before I came to Japan I was nervous about coming here on my own but I always felt really excited for this part of the trip. Excited because I new that by now I will have been in Japan for over 2 months and used to the way things work here. Also knowing that by the time I get to Osaka I will have completed the course at Mi-Lab. Having never made a woodcut before coming to Japan, I wondered if I would even enjoy the process and want to make further prints in this technique. Luckily I love the process and am really pleased with the results. I can't wait to get stuck in to the next project, in which I will explore combining what I've learnt at Mi-Lab with the more familiar techniques I work with in London. This is why I have brought my tools from London.
we are going to meet a friend from Uni who has been working in Asia for the the past few months. Kate studied Fine Art with me at Brighton. She has just finished a Masters in Knitted Textiles and Sustainable Fashion at Nottingham and won several major awards that have taken her to Hong Kong to design a range of clothing for a Chinese fashion house. She also received an invitation to study in Japan near Osaka. She has just finished her course and is free to meet up. She has a couple of friends coming out here to join her and travel around Japan over the next few weeks. We’re having a girls night out (plus Tim) in Osaka. I've got us on the guest list for the party picture pictured below. The is a dress code - colours of the rainbow... we've got the next few hours to come up with a costume...