Nagoya, Japan Art Trip, 2013

A “torii” or a gate to a shrine. This massive one stands as a entry to the historical temples and shrines of Kyoto.

At long last, I finally have some time to post about my trip to Japan this past June. (warning: lots of photos in this post)

When I go traveling, I don’t really think about blogging my adventures later, thus this will pretty disjointed and contain probably only the memorable moments and summaries of what we all did.

At this point, it should be noted that I actually went on this same trip last year as well, but as a formal student. This year I served more as an assistant to the head professor of the trip, which I found much more interesting. But I still got to participate in the exhibition, so I was satisfied all around.

Unlike the well known hot spots in Japan like Tokyo (congrats on 2020 Olympics!) or even Kyoto, Nagoya is still a massive and very industrial city in Japan. Yet, it has some super cool and awesome things about it. Historically, Nagoya was where Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu where based (being warlords and all, not everyone liked these guys, but it seems like most people from Nagoya regard them as local heroes who helped unify Japan back in the 1500-1600s). The production of pottery, tie dying, etc. is also well known in small towns in the Nagoya area. I’m thinking this was one of the big reasons this town was chosen for the art program I went on.

Part of a wall in the pottery town of Seto. An interesting charm to this small town is that the walls, houses, and even streets contain pieces of incomplete or “mistakes” in pottery, making a beautiful mosaic throughout the town like this.

A kimono that was hand tie-dyed in the town of Arimatsu. This is one of the more simple patterns they can create.

Some pine trees from the appropriately named “Arimatsu” (lit. “where pine trees exist.”). A lot of the older buildings remain as well.

Plus, there’s a brilliant art school called Nagoya Zokei University, who was in partnership with us while on our trip, that brought us there!

The shopping was also great in Nagoya. It has various shopping “malls” of sorts both above ground and underground, but a famous shopping district we went to is called Osu. It’s open air, but is a series of streets covered by a transparent roof to keep the rain out.

These demon/oni heads point to Osu’s entrance. The biggest face is saying, “Over here!”

Overall, the trip was packed with something to do almost every day, from going to art demos at a painting class (gold leaf and momigami paper dying techniques!) at Nagoya Zokei to visiting art museums all around the Nagoya area.

A far from perfect example of momigami in it’s finished state, mounted on a wooden frame. For language purposes, momi = massage and gami/kami = paper.

We also were able to spend 2 days in Kyoto to run (quite literally) to as many temples and shrines as we could including Kiyomizu Temple (one of the most popular places to visit in Kyoto, especially by high school students on field trips), Kinkakuji Temple (surreal to see a gold covered building in real life), Ryoanji Temple (known for its large and beautiful rock garden), and Nijo Castle (that has one of my favorite architectural feature, “nightingale floors”).

Only a small glimpse of Kiyomizu Temple. It sits on a small cliff overlooking a vast forest in the mountains.

Kinkaku-ji. This one is a pretty famous one for post cards as well as tourist photos. It’s brilliant to behold, but unfortunately you can’t go inside (for obvious reasons).

Only part of the rock garden in Ryoanji. While it’s hard to tell simply from pictures, it’s very serene and peaceful sitting on the steps overlooking this garden.

Nijo Castle. One picture cannot hope to grasp how massive this building is.

But back to Nagoya, oddly enough my most memorable moment in art was not with the rest of my group of American students on the trip, but rather when my host father took me to the Tokugawa Museum. Sadly, like most museums, I couldn’t take pictures inside, but this is what the gardens outside looked like.

Part of the garden outside the Tokugawa Museum. You can hardly tell it’s in the midst of the urbanized areas of Nagoya.

But better yet, they had actual prints from Genji Monogatari/The Tale of Genji in the museum! I’ve been recently inspired by ukiyo-e (Japanese woodcut prints) so seeing parts of one so famous made me quite pleased.

Then they had this whole hall of katana worn by famous Japanese warriors (some may have been replicas, but SWORDS, it was awesome!)

It should also be mentioned that our host families was what most if not all the American students loved about the program. They were all very kind and caring towards us all, plus we all seemed perfectly matched, personality/lifestyle wise with our host families. Naturally, I thought I had the best family (both last year and this year. This year was a bit more fun because I got two super awesome little host brothers who loved watching One Piece and both did karate!)

The only downside of the trip was rushing around all the time. We hardly had time to hang out and enjoy the sights, chill in the culture, etc. But since the trip was mostly for educational purposes, this made some sense. I think I was able to enjoy it a bit more this time around since it was not only my second time going but also because my limited skills in Japanese could keep be afloat enough to get along well with almost anyone.

The ninjas at the Narita Airport bid us farewell.

Bonus photo for those, like me, and enjoy manga and stuff like that. My host family was super awesome and took me to the JUMP shop!

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