Itinerary – Ceramics and Crafts

Day 1: Depart U.S. for Japan

Day 2: Kyoto

Arrive at Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. If you are on our guest flight, your tour leader will meet you at the airport and assist you in transferring to your hotel.

Accommodations: Four Star hotel

Day 3: Kyoto

The day begins at Sanjusangen-do Temple, which features a magnificent display of carved wooden, gilded statuary. We walk a short distance to the Kawai Kanjiro Museum, where we visit the home and studio of the famed 20th C. Mingei potter. After a Kyoto style lunch, we visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple where we’ll be guests of the temple priest’s family in their garden and home. The garden, called the “Garden of the Moon,” uses design to create a sense of space in a limited area. Then we’ll visit a master potter who creates some of Kyoto’s finest bowls for tea ceremonies. From there, it’s a short walk to the studio of a potter making dynamic contemporary sculptural works glazed in traditional Kiyomizu celadon green. The evening is free.

Accommodations: Four Star hotel (B,L)

Day 4: Kyoto

The first visit of the day is with a traditional brush-maker whose handmade brushes crafted from sheep hair and wood make wonderful gifts. We travel into the countryside to the Miho Museum, which houses an exquisite private collection of Asian antiquities and art in a spectacular mountain setting designed by I.M. Pei. Afterwards, we visit the studios of two well-known potters in nearby Shigaraki pottery village. We return in the late afternoon and meet again to walk to dinner.

Accommodations: Four Star hotel (B,D)

Day 5: Kyoto

Early risers can enjoy a full Buddhist service performed by 40 chanting monks, including a fire ceremony. A local train takes us to Rengei-ji, a little-known hideaway in northern Kyoto, where the garden harmonizes perfectly with the adjacent mountains. The abbot and his wife welcome us with whisked green tea in their tearoom and discuss Tendai Buddhism with us. Lunch at an old riverside inn will be followed by a shakuhachi flute performance. Our next visit is to the studio of a calligraphy master and performance artist. There we’ll see him wield his gigantic brush, dancing across paper to create a masterpiece-in-the-moment. At dinner we’ll enjoy a sake tasting using fine ceramics. Our final visit of the day is to a master carver of Noh masks. We’ll meet in the evening for a dessert reception at CafĂ© David with proprietor and friend of Esprit, Morimoto-san, followed by a visit to his home to view his private collection of Asian art.

Accommodations: Four Star hotel (B,Dessert)

Day 6: Kurashiki

We depart Kyoto by train to Kurashiki. We’ll visit the Ohara Museum, with its collection of Mingei works by Hamada Shoji, Munakata and Serizawa, Asian antiquities, Japanese paintings and European masters. We have free time to stroll the well-preserved and charming canal which is lined with weeping willows and full of interesting old storehouses that now house museums and shops. We meet later for dinner.

Accommodations: Four Star hotel (B,D)

Day 7: Bizen/Kurashiki

We’ll take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Okayama, then a local train to the pottery village of Imbe, where wood-fired, natural pottery known as Bizenware is created. Imbe is known for its various serendipitous kiln effects and Bizen is one of Japan’s renowned ceramic traditions, favored by centuries of tea ceremony masters. On the train ride to Imbe, ceramics expert Robert Yellin will explain the history of Bizen, preparing us for our visits the studios and kilns of well-known ceramic artists working in a variety of styles. We arrive in the late afternoon in Kurashiki. The evening is free.

Accommodations: Four Star hotel (B)

Day 8: Kurashiki to Karatsu

We’ll travel to Karatsu, on the spectacular wild coast of the southern island of Kyushu. On the way, we’ll stop to visit a remarkable textile shop and learn about the essentials of collecting Japanese fabrics from the shop’s proprietors, who are textile artists. The owner of the Japanese inn we’ll be staying at will show us his private collection of Karatsuware after a multi-course banquet featuring traditional Japanese cuisine.

Accommodations: Deluxe Ryokan (B,D)

Day 9: Karatsu

In the morning we’ll visit an American potter who works in a studio high in the mountains. He’ll explain the history of local ceramics, show us around the Nakazato Museum, and introduce us to a member of the Nakazato family who continues the work of his father, a Living National Treasure. We’ll have time for a relaxing seaside stroll before another wonderful banquet meal at our inn. After dinner we’ll visit a traditional basket-maker.

Accommodations: Deluxe Ryokan (B,D)

Day 10: Karatsu to Hagi

We’ll travel to Hagi, a castle town dating back to the 17th C. that is famous for its kilns and Hagi-yaki pottery, well-known for its use in the tea ceremony. On the way we’ll hear an enlightening lecture by Robert Yellin about the Hagi-yaki ceramic style we’ll be seeing. Upon arrival, we’ll take time to stroll through the old walled town, then visit the studio and home of an internationally known potter. Dinner will be a feast for both the eye and the palette, and will include fresh treats from the sea. An after-dinner surprise event will be announced.

Accommodations: Deluxe Ryokan (B,D)

Day 11: Hagi

Robert Yellin takes us to the studios of two very different ceramists, both working with Hagi clay and its stunning pinkish-gray glaze, with startlingly different results. After tea and scones in the garden of a friend’s shop, located in a beautifully restored old house selling interesting local ceramics and crafts, we’ll have free time to shop, walk on the beach, visit the old castle keep or take a bicycle ride across town to a dramatic hillside temple. A soothing bath and another wonderful dinner await us at the end of the day.

Accommodations: Deluxe Ryokan (B,D)

Day 12: Hagi to Benesse House

Photo by Deborah Martinez; Potter We travel by train and ferry to Naoshima Island, where we’ll stay at the spectacular Benesse House, a contemporary art museum/hotel designed by internationally renowned architect Tadao Ando. We tour the installation art exhibits on the island and relax in the beautiful surroundings. Our farewell dinner is in the hotel dining room.

Accommodations: Benesse House (B,D)

Day 13: Depart for U.S.

We take the ferry back to the main island and train Osaka’s Kansai International Airport for return flights home. (B)

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