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Japan 2015: Day 4

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Day 4 became my “art” day. I had an appointment at Marumasu-Nishimuraya for a kyo-yuzen workshop (requesting English instruction, naturally).

You get to choose the item on which you want to paint your chosen stencil(s) and you pay according to that. They have quite an array, from tote bags to phone cases to place mats and so on. I picked a tote bag :D

My setup!

You choose your stencils from one of their many folders. (I chose flowers because those were the nicest-looking stencils.) Those pencil-like sticks are pins you use to fix the stencils in place. The masking tape is there to mark the corners if there’s more than one stencil in the set.

The brushes are stiff-bristled and the paint is thick. You have to take a little bit of the paint on the brush and spread it on a palette (in this case it was just a paper towel) until the paint is evenly spread on the bristles. Then you just rub the brush over the stencil in circles to transfer the colour.

The guy who instructed me spoke passable English. I wonder if I would have understood if he had used Japanese instead. The process wasn’t particularly difficult so I might have understood – or not.


You get gradated colours by just painting over it several times over.


In one case I took the masking tape and used it to cover sections of the stencil because the paint would have gone into the wrong segments otherwise.

There were several staff walking around the room, helping and talking to the other visitors who were also doing this dyeing workshop (we all started at different times). There was one much older man who seemed to be the most senior staff member, and he came over and spoke to me in Japanese. *cue brain cells going into overdrive* I understood his initial questions and remarks because they were the standard. “Where are you from? Ohhh, Malaysia! How did you know about this workshop? Your Japanese is very good!” And yet again, after that point my comprehension started breaking down. hahahahaah But he came back round to me again later to chat a bit more and there was plenty I didn’t understand, although I know he did say that he has friends who have been to Malaysia…

When I was done, the guy took up a hairdryer just to make sure all the paint was dried. I was instructed to put a piece of cloth over the images and iron it for a bit to set the colours when I got back. (I duly did this on my last night in Japan when I found an iron in my hotel room.)


My finished bag! (A little creased now that I’ve used it several times.)

The website says that the workshop should take 1-3 hours and I think that’s quite accurate. I was there about 2 hours and it was just nice for doing both sides of the bag.

After that, I walked back to the hotel to nibble on snacks in my room before going out again.


Kamogawa! The riverbanks were looking all brown… And those four guys there were flying kites. The spot in the sky is a kite.


Hopped on a bus to Kiyomizudera, where I went to find Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka. I’d seen them by night now, but I hadn’t seen them by day…

I also wanted to see if I could find the pottery workshop place around there. I did find it, but it was fully booked. :( Oh well.


Random side street.


People in kimono and colourful round somethings hanging from the roof of that little shrine.


This group of four looked like they were having a professional photographer follow them around and take pics.

I made my way to the Handicraft Centre, where I arranged to take a damascene workshop. But I had to wait for an hour so I went for a stroll in the immediate area – I hadn’t been there before as it was a little way out of the main touristy area of Kyoto.


I passed by this apartment where a lady was parking her car. It was one of those fancy tiered parking things so it came up from underground. Her car was the white one. The black car two levels above it would’ve been the only one visible when the whole “pillar” went down – like the blue one is in this pic. I just stood there and watched her park her car because I found it so fascinating. We need parking lots like this in KL…


Walked to the Heian Shrine.

If I turned around, this was what I saw right opposite the entrance to the Heian Shrine:


Oooh. (And geez, how do they keep their roads looking so neat and so clean??)


Selfie sticks were all the rage.


Just past the main gate, there’s a wide sandy space before the main building. The people you see milling around there? Chinese tourists (mostly). A busload of them turned up at the same time I did.


I was really curious as to why the tree (or trees?) here was covered by a hut… There was a signboard but it was all in Japanese so I got no answers from that :(


Leafless trees with omikuji tied on.


Pink bunnies! LOL.


The damascene workshop was supposed to last an hour… It took me half an hour. >_> I think this was because I went in already kind of knowing what I wanted to do so I didn’t have to think very much. “Bunny looking at the night sky” was my concept. haha

For this one you get a little black circle made of steel of some sort. It’s just about 1mm thick (and later you can choose whether to have it made into a pendant attached to a necklace or to a phone strap). Then you can create whatever patterns or images you like from the various tiny shapes cut from gold or silver leaf. There were teensy circles, teensy maple leaves, teensy hexagons, teensy sakura petals, small sakura shapes, dragonflies, snowflakes, birds and rabbits. (Believe me, those tiny things can be really hard to pick up.) You create your design, and then, you put the small plastic packet over it and use the small hammer to pound the gold and silver into the steel. They give you a small magnifying glass to work with too.

After that, your part is done and they’ll pass it on to the professional craftsmen to be finished. The surface of the steel is corroded with nitric acid and rusted. The rusting is stopped by boiling it in green tea. Then lacquer is baked onto the entire surface. The gold and silver are polished out with soft charcoal and then final details are engraved on.

I chose to have it attached to a phone strap because the necklace chain was a bit too short for my thick neck. The finished product arrived a couple of weeks ago:

They added fine details to the bunny (look at the fur lines!) and the petal shapes I’d placed at the bottom to mimic grass.


Dinner was a nigiri sushi set and a chocolate cake. The cake was a treat (I didn’t have any cake in Japan before or after that), but I ate sushi quite often on this trip. It’s easy, you see. I don’t like sitting at restaurants alone and the takeaway sushi or sashimi sets found in Japan’s department stores and the major train stations are a great solution for me. I didn’t eat as much sushi or sashimi as I would’ve liked to because it took me a few days to remember that I should go buy these in the morning or afternoon and keep them in the fridge in my hotel room until night. Whenever I went at night, I usually had very limited choices left because the after-work crowd would’ve bought up the majority of it.


I turned on the TV every night and channel-surfed. On this night I stumbled upon a drama featuring three actors I recognised. Not sure what the whole story is about but I gather that they’re all working for a news channel and one guy was in trouble for something and there was a lady who was a nurse and who was linked to a murder in the past. It certainly wasn’t a very light-hearted romantic comedy…

I know that watching TV isn’t something people generally do when travelling abroad but I find that it’s interesting, especially when I can understand bits and pieces of the language. It’s a way to test my listening skills and an opportunity to see celebrities I actually recognise. Frankly, if I was to watch local TV now, I wouldn’t recognise 90% of the people featured in ads and such. I recognise way more Japanese actors and TV personalities because I’ve watched so much of it over the past 9 years (in comparison to Malaysian TV).

Got anything to add or say? :D