すごい – 25/2

I learned a new word : すごい (sugoi)… and, wow, I was surprised to learn the meaning!

This morning started special… EGG had planned a half day tour for me… had, because it went some kind of different…

Yesterday Yoshi had already said within their organization they were quite curious about that “Belgian girl” who wanted to learn more about sumi-e… What should they think about her? How exciting… would their knowledge of English be good enough to help me? Stressy!

Back to today: I met Junko Asagi who’d been so nice to ask het next door neighbour – a sumi-e sensei – to give me a workshop. But when we met at the station it became clear pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be back early! In the mean time her other neighbour had heard of the visit and she would appreciate me to visit her house too. In the occasion of girls festival she had decorated her house with Hina dolls and would love to show that to me.

But first we visited Ms Ito, who had been transforming her whole house into a sumi-e gallery for the event! Impressive what this lady has been painting… starting with beautiful classical pieces, over ponds with waterlilies that remind one of Monet’s in Paris on to sunflowers linke Van Gogh’s but this time as large as the walls…

She wanted to see what I’d painted too and saw a whole other style. We admired each other’s work and thanks to our interpreter (Ms Asagi) we were able to talk about our passion… while having a delightful cup of matcha tea with Japanese cookies.

And then the study guides opened… a whole library of examples… I was asked to choose an example and try that… I choose poppies. I had never tried these and on top of that they accorded nicely with what EGG promotes: spreading peace over the world… After two attempts I already got positive remarks from the other side of the table and got the suggestion to try another one. In the mean time the ladies started rubbing some different kinds of inks for me so I could test those too. Then Ms Ito disappeared, I should try another kind of paper. Wow, this is great! And on this went for the rest of the morning, fantastic!

But then, amazement! I asked if Ms Ito would like to paint some examples for me … She hadn’t made any artwork of herself anymore since her husband got ill, and that was 10 years ago…


It was lunchtime, time to head for the other neighbour and her Hina-dolls. I had already seen some Hina dolls the last days. Mostly in pairs of two in the windows of houses where there are girls. These dolls are put there because, according to the tradition, they would bring good fortune and marriage to the daughters. But watch out! As from Girls Day (3rd March) they need to be stowed away as soon as possible, otherwise they bring bad luck!

So yes, I had been expecting to see 2 dolls when the doors to the living room opened… and there they were… on a 7 stories high display… a whole Hina universe… with in a corner of the room another set of 2 that had been carefully crafted by the lady of the houwe herself! Stunning!

Even the neighbours are blown away… usually they never enter each other’s house…

We have lunch together. We enjoy soba, delicious pastries and cakes with fresh fruit. Then we head back to Ms Ito’s for a second session, the Hina-neighbour would like to see my work too… “Sugoi”. Then, all of a sudden Ms Ito takes a brush to teach me something…

The neighbours search for another exmample in the library and ask me to try this… “sugoi, sugoi” and another one “sugoi” “sugooi, sugoi!”

When leaving I receive some presents with the request to do my best to use them well… That’s a promise! I secretly hope my visit has brought Ms Ito back the energy to paint again…

In the end I only got back to Nara at 5 pm. Too late again for the teaceremony at Isuien that Yoshi recommended… Maybe another time.

Sugoi! It sounded wonderful, but tonight I looked it up in Google translate: “Amazing”

That’s the only correct word to describe today! Who could ever have thought that I would walk from one house to another in Japan and what I would get to see and experience there?


Thank you!

The titles for these posts are becoming quite a challenge! It’s like I’m on a big cake that is getting an extra layer added every day!

I just realised that, though you seem to be enjoying the text and pictures you are still missing out on a lot here… you should serve yourself a big cup of popcorn tea and get some elevator music in the back (like this one).

But let’s get back to 19/2

I finally had the honour of meeting Mayu, my guide for the day. She’d arranged to visit the bamboo grove of Arashiyama early in the morning so it wouldn’t get so crowded. But first we stopped at a shrine and I took the opportunity of asking her which charm could suit me.



There were charms for many occasions but none of them suited me, so we went on.



When we arrived at the grove Mayu was surprised to see so little people in it. It was exceptional and very beautiful. When getting out we saw a path that was without a hedge so we took that one too. In the middle of it were 2 statues with coins on their heads, so I asked my guide and that was for thanking the gods for all good things that are happening. Then this had to be the opportunity to thank for all the nice things that were on my path for the last few days…

Later on we went to lunch and I had dombori with fish for the first time. A very delicious dish!

Then we met some other members of the Good Samaritan Club to go for a sumi-e workshop with Ms Kono. It was very nice. I learned new ways of loading the brush, how to paint bamboo in the wind and learned the theory of painting bamboo in the rain.


After that the day wasn’t over yet! Ms Kono had suggested us to see the exhibit on the domain of the Shokokuji tempel (2nd of 5 Zen-tempels of Kyoto) in the Jotenkakumuseum where we should observe the work of 伊藤若冲 – Itō Jakuchu. Delightful!

So far for the icing on the cake! Then came the Dutch cherry! Ms Kono had also suggested a shop … and so an half hour later we were speechless to see the most beautiful shop ever!


Thank you Mayu for this wonderful day!



Gisteren dus in een ooghoek shodo opgemerkt in het gebouw van het museum voor Westerse Kunst in Ueno. Puur toeval!

Eigenlijk dacht ik dat museum over te slaan maar dat zat mee in een combi-ticket… En neen, die calligrafen komen niet uit het Westen, het zijn Japanners…

Maar goed, de tentoonstelling zou vandaag pas open gaan, dus ik terug naar Ueno.

Ondanks de goeie raad van S. over de goedkoopste vervoeropties bracht de zon vanochtend nog een betere optie: de immer gratis benenwagen… Mét een dikke halve ton extra’s onderweg naar Ryogoku station.

Nu ik die foto terugzie vind ik het jammer dat ik er zelf niet bij ben gaan staan. Misschien toch maar eens zo’n armprotese (selfiestick) kopen.

En dan dus bewust naast Googlemaps gelopen, de lange weg naast het water gekozen … Zoiets leest ge dus nergens, maar gisteren hadden S. en ik het nog over het feit dat het zovelen ontgaat hoeveel water er is in Tokyo… Zonde om over te slaan! Iedere brug ziet er totaal anders uit  en zou je doen geloven dat je elders bent!  
 Dan de tentoonstelling (daar maak ik een aparte post van want die was de max!) 
En dan de belofte aan Kiéro: alle beren van Ueno Zoo op de gevoelige plaat vastgelegd. Samen met wat observatie voor traditionele Sumi-E.


En dan was het al middag… Al late middag zelfs omdat die expo zo supercaligrafalisticexpialishodocious was en omdat ik daarom toch maar  besliste om wat later te vertrekken.

Uiteindelijk om 16u 33 vertrokken met de shinkansen richting Kyoto. Reisgids erbij gepakt: “vraagt u bij de stoelreservatie naar een stoel bij het raam aan de rechterkant om Fuji-san te kunnen zien”. Wist ik dus niet voor het opstappen, jammer… 

Opgestapt, plaats gezocht. Raad eens waar mijn plekje was… Yes! I’d got a golden ticket! Bij het raam aan de rechterkant!

En weet je, hier zijn ze heel bijgelovig… Ik dus ook nu. Mij dunkt dat als ge de top van Fuji-san niet hebt kunnen zien door de wolken dat ge dan minstens nog eens moet terugkomen… Ja, lap!
Maar neen, ‘t was nog niet gedaan! Net aangekomen in Kyoto. Bij vertrek thuis dacht ik: “Ik ga mij ginder toch een fles Shiseido shampoo zien te vinden, zoals meter vroeger voor mij kocht”

Raad eens wat mijn badkamer mij te bieden heeft…



Spreading sumi-e ;-)

Just got a new mail from Japan. By M., a student volunteering to guide tourists around and practicing her English. I’ve come across more than one such organisation during my preparations. It sounds great. You contact them via their site and they match you with one of their members. From then on you fix everything directly in person. Logically you have to pay for the transportation, lunch and entrance fees of your guide but apart from that their service is free (or in some cases you pay by spreading peace over the world). img_0009

M. had confirmed that she would guide me around in Kyoto. That was something to look forward to! But it got even better…

When I filled out the application form I’d mentioned my interest in sumi-e. She had had courses in shodo when she was younger and was eager to personalise the tour around those themes… Wow! Great news!

I had heard from sumi-e teachers and enthousiasts alike that the technique wasn’t very popular in Japan anymore. That it became harder and harder to find craftsmen who still make our precious materials. That the so called Living National Heritage was experiencing great difficulty in finding successors.

But then today a new message from my guide in Kyoto… with such great news!

During the preparations for our excursion she met a sumi-e artist who would love to meet us. That during the conversation M. got more and more intrigued by the technique that she wants to try it for herself… And if it would be OK for me if she arranged a little course for us, and if that would be ok for me than it’s out of the question that I would be paying her fee for attending…

Can someone pinch me now please?

You have to know that this is not the first mail in this tone. I am feeling so welcome in Japan already! You can hardly imagine what’s going to happen in the next weeks! The kids are less enthousiastic but I am counting the nights as they do when their birthdays approach! It’ll be worthwhile! I only have to sleep for 12 nights!!