Japan is renowned for its rich textile history, as well as its appreciation for textiles from other parts of the world. The traditional national dress – the kimono – epitomises a refined textile artistry: relatively simple in construction, its broad expanse of fabric is ideally suited to expressive displays of design.
This HALI tour to Japan, in association with Martin Randall Travel, will provide insider access to textile collections in museums and temples, private visits to cultural institutions and presentations by leading textile experts and cultural figures, including the travel writer and essayist Pico Iyer.
The dates coincide with two very special annual events at two historic capitals: the display of Buddhist temple treasures at Kamakura and Nara. The Nara period coincided with the height of the Tang dynasty in seventh- to eighth-century China. At this time, China was central to pan-Asian trade and cultural exchange, making Japan the easternmost recipient of the globalism facilitated by the Silk Road. The later Kamakura period (1185–1333) saw the samurai class become dominant, as well as the beginnings of Zen Buddhism, the tea ceremony and Noh theatre.
For those familiar with Japan and for first-time visitors alike, this tour offers many memorable experiences for the textile enthusiast. Included will be a Kabuki theatre performance, augmented by a special display of the popular art’s outlandish costumes; exclusive talks by curators at Tokyo and Kyoto’s prestigious National Museums; time at the dramatic, recently established Enoura Observatory; visits to traditional textile workshops to see artisans at work; and viewings of private collections and select dealers’ stock.
Tokyo. The tour begins in Tokyo with dinner in the hotel. (Flights are not included. Your room is available from 2.00pm on 31st October – see practicalities.) First of five nights in Tokyo.
Tokyo. The Mori Museum and Observation Deck is a contemporary art gallery with the opportunity to view the metropolis from the rooftop at 270 metres. At the Kyoritsu Women’s University Museum view Japanese textiles and costume. The Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum holds regular exhibitions on the theme of ‘Understanding the Culture of the World and Japan through Clothing’. Mr Tadashi Morita specialises in antique Japanese folk textiles – view his world-class collection.
Kamakura. The annual Homotsu Kazeire (airing of treasures) takes place for three days at two of the most important Zen Buddhist temple complexes: Engakuji & Kenchōji. The Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Kōtoku-in, completed in 1252, has survived fire, typhoon, tsunami and the Great Earthquake of 1923. Built under the orders of Minamoto Yoritomo, the bronze sculpture was intended to rival the larger Tōdaiji Buddha in Nara. A lacquered torii (Shinto gate) marks the entrance to the Minamoto clan’s guardian shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū, where the principal deity is Hachiman the God of War. Attractive red buildings are set between trees, arrived at by a series of three bridges over the Genpei-ike ponds.
Tokyo. See a performance at Tokyo’s main venue for Kabuki theatre: a popular form of entertainment for the last four centuries. See an elaborate performance by an all-male cast. The afternoon is dedicated to the Tokyo National Museum. Some of the finest Japanese art and textiles in the world trace the development from prehistoric earthenware to decorative objects of courtly patronage. Mrs Yuzuruha Oyama, Curator of Textiles, speaks to the group.
Tokyo. The Iwatate Folk Textile Museum is a private museum housing Indian and other Asian textiles; accompanied by Mrs Hiroko Iwatate. Founded in 1936 by Soetsu Yanagi who, with the potters Kanjiro Kawai and Shoji Hamada, coined the term mingei meaning ‘folk’ or ‘common’ crafts, the Mingeikan houses works from across Japan including textiles and costume. Nezu Kaichiro’s extraordinary and diverse collection of Japanese and other Asian arts is perfectly presented in the eponymous museum, a purpose-built space with a delightful garden (subject to confirmation due to exhibition schedules). The Shouun Oriental Art Gallery is owned by Yu and Mika Seki, who host a presentation of Japanese and Persian textiles in their gallery in the fashionable Ginza district.
Tokyo, Odawara. The internationally exhibited textile artist, Mr Ichiku Kubota (1917–2003), was inspired by tsujigahana: a type of 16th-century textile involving resist dyeing, ink drawing, embroidery and gilding techniques. Meet the museum curator, Mr Fumihiko Takamura and the director, Mr Miyahara Sakuo. Recently established by the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto with the aim of ‘conveying the essence of Japanese culture to a wider audience’, meet the Odawara Foundation’s managing director, Ms Haruko Hoyle, and take in panoramic views over the Pacific from the Enoura Observatory. Overnight Odawara.
Odawara, Kyoto. Mr Michael Dunn, British author, dealer and expert on Japanese art, talks to the group about the MOA Museum of Art, focusing on the work of the most talented, government-recognised, Japanese master craftsmen. The MOA Museum was founded by members of a more recently established Buddhist sect that places art, architecture and nature at the centre of their religious practice. Bullet train to Kyoto: a three-hour journey; luggage is transported separately. Special night-time viewing of a Buddhist temple complex associated with associated with Toyotomi Hideyoshi, an important 16th-century warlord and one of the unifiers of Japan. View historic textiles and wooden structures richly decorated with maki-e – gold and silver lacquerwork. First of five nights in Kyoto.
Kyoto. Established in 1555, the Institute for Chiso Arts & Culture continues to specialise in the dyeing, embroidery and painting techniques required to make traditional kimono. The annual Gion Matsura Festival dates back to the eighth century and, every July, precious Silk Road textiles are paraded through the streets of Kyoto. View important historic pieces at the Museum of Kyoto that form part of the displays. At the Gallery Kei see an interesting array of traditional Asian and Japanese textiles. Mr Teiichiro Saito, the proprietor of Gion Saito, has agreed to show his collection. A talk in the hotel by the National Museum textile curator, Mrs Aki Yamakawa, on kesa – Buddhist monks’ robes.
Kyoto, Koshihata. US-born Mrs Monica Bethe, a long-time resident of Japan and expert on Japanese textiles, dyes and Noh theatre, joins us as our guide for today’s Kyoto visits. At Daishoji there is a private visit to an imperial Buddhist convent associated with the Rinzai branch of the Zen sect. Two small-scale hand-weaving studios: Mr Hirai is a fifth-generation weaver of Buddhist textiles, principally silk brocades on Jacquard looms. Nearby is Mr Watabe’s warp setting workshop.
Nara. The annual Shōsōin exhibition at the Nara National Museum includes textiles that have recently been conserved and is one of the most highly anticipated exhibitions in Japan. The collection contains examples of Buddhist art and ritual objects, as well as long-treasured Silk Road objects from elsewhere. The felt artist and authority on Shōsōin carpets, Jorie Johnson, adds commentary. Kōfukuji’s Five-Storey Pagoda is an important historic structure at what was once the greatest temple in Nara. Mrs Michiko Otani shows rare textiles such as sarasa – Indian chintz made for the Japanese market.
Shigaraki. Designed by I. M. Pei, the Miho Museum is made up of a series of magnificent buildings, harmoniously integrated into a forested nature reserve in the rural region of Shigaraki. They house a world-class collection: Japanese art is well represented, while ancient art from Egypt, West Asia, the Greco-Roman world and East Asia is also to be discovered. Some free time. A pre-dinner talk from Mr Pico Iyer. The well-known travel writer, essayist and TED Talks speaker has lived in Japan for over 25 years.
Kyoto. The tour ends after breakfast. Independent departures (private airport transfers can be arranged, see Practicalities).
Price, per person
Two sharing: £7,260. Single occupancy: £9,200.
High-speed rail travel (first class) from Atami to Kyoto; private coach for transfers and excursions; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners with wine, water, coffee; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturers and tour manager.
New Otani, Tokyo: 5-star hotel located in the centre of Tokyo. It has a historical garden dating from the 17th century. Hilton Resort & Spa, Odawara: a resort hotel located near the Enoura observatory. Celestine, Kyoto: 4-star boutique hotel in central Kyoto. Single rooms throughout are twins or doubles for sole use.
Additional nights and airport transfers
It is possible to arrange additional nights at the hotels before or after the tour. Airport transfers are not included in the price of the tour and can be arranged at an additional cost. Rooms are available for check-in from 2.00pm on 31st October 2021. If you would like an earlier check in, hotels in Japan require you to pay for an extra night (on 30th October). We can book this for you if you wish.
International flights are not included in the price of the tour. We will send the recommended flight options when they are available to book and ask that you make your own flight reservation and inform us of the details.
The tour involves a lot of walking and standing in museums and churches. Uneven ground and irregular paving are standard. A good level of fitness is essential. Unless you enjoy entirely unimpaired mobility, cope with everyday walking and stair-climbing without difficulty and are reliably sure-footed, this tour is not for you. A rough indication of the minimum level of fitness required is that you ought to be able to walk briskly at about three miles per hour for at least half an hour, and undertake a walk at a more leisurely pace for an hour or two unaided. Average distance by coach per day: 32 miles.
Are you fit enough to join the tour?
Between 14 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.