I just got back from two quick but wonderful days in Kyoto, traveling with two dear like-minded friends. We were worried it would be bare in winter, but in the absence of cherry blossoms or fall foliage, Kyoto was a study in green.
Green moss in gardens…
…and temples everywhere.
We were utterly and completely captivated by our subway car which felt straight out of the 1940s. Mint green walls and deeper green velvet upholstery…
…and even the silvery fretwork on the vents below. How long would this fabric last in New York City?
Day two changed hues as we spent most of it exploring the Fushimi Inari shrine and its thousands upon thousand of orange torii gates, each donated by Japanese businesses.
Walking through the roughly two miles of gates was an extraordinary experience and the jolt of color against the winter landscape was intense.
Later in the day green and orange joined together in some fretwork at Kiyomizu-dera, perched majestically at the edge of the mountains.
Good luck offerings were everywhere, from the traditional kitsune (fox) messengers a the Inari shrine…
…to garlands of rainbow origami cranes.
Our hotel was most conveniently located in Gion, right along Shinmonzen Street, the main antiques drag of Kyoto. Imagine that?! As we shopped, our color palette turned to blue from all the porcelain we were seeing, particularly at a shop I believe is called Akando, run by a darling older couple…
…the proprietor having his likeness on their adorable business card.
My friend almost bought these amazing Nabeshima dishes, but when we did the math they were well over $400.
The other shop we spent serious time in I recall from my last trip. R. Kita Old Imari & Kutani has been in its location for over 70 years. They had me at the sign alone.
In the window was this amazing 19th century Seto porcelain ice bucket, clearly made for the export market. It was the only Seto piece to be had amidst all the Old Imari & Kutani and I really wanted it. Unfortunately, it was a cool 1000 bucks.
In general all the porcelain and other antiques were extremely expensive. Prices were way higher than in Tokyo and way way way higher than at the shrine sales. That is exactly what I remembered from previous visits.
So once again, I looked – in this case instagrammed – and didn’t really buy.
We did better in the soft goods department and my friend Maja of Alegria Design bought some lovely pieces of indigo kasuri to make bolster pillows. I’ve got kasuri on the brain these days, and you’ll see why quite soon as the ASIJ Gala quilt is almost complete!
I managed to pick up a very unusually colored plum piece of kasuri. I am nothing if not predictable! And at a year and a half out, it is starting to seem as if I will never be getting my lampshades from the custom vendor I ordered them from, so perhaps I might use this in another attempt elsewhere or a DIY!
Gold was also one of the colors of the trip, as you can see from this lucky sun shot in the late afternoon at Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavillion. A piece of Kyoto advice – always go there late in the day so that the sun is setting in front of the building if you want the lighting to be just right.
One hidden gem we hit was the house and garden Murin-an near Nanzen-ji. Built just before the turn of the century it had that wonderful Anglo-Japan mix that I adore. The wall murals painted in the sitting room were just divine and the garden was a perfect oasis of peace and quiet in the bustling city.
The vending machines were particularly creative in Kyoto – Cup of Noodles anyone?
That reminded me of the really interesting exhibit currently running in the Frederick Harris Gallery at the Tokyo American Club. A riff on Hokusai’s Thirty-Six View of Mt. Fuji, Peter MacMillan’s witty prints are well worth a viewing. If you are in Tokyo, it runs until February 24. If you are not, more of them can be found in my Instagram stream.
And finally to wind down, a bit of black and white. It is quite common for ordinary folk to go to Kyoto and rent kimono for the day along with hair and make-up services. These girls were not geisha (or maiko and geiko as they are called in Kyoto) but instead just having fun. You’d think they would look better in color, but it took away from their expressions.
And the most modern white of all? That streamlined shinkansen, pulling in to take us home.