Flower of the Forest – Takayama 高山市

Taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya is a thoroughly modern ride. The high-speed train glides along while the view of lush farmland interspersed with citiscapes rush past. And of course, there’s Mt. Fuji.

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Transferring at Nagoya to the Hida Express, the journey is somewhat different. The train chugs along, ever upward into the mountains, where a fast-moving river, small farms, and lush forest become the scenery.

At the station I was greeted by Keiko Futatsuya, a local dyer and sashiko artist, and my host in Takayama. When I first stumbled onto Hida sashiko thread, it was Keiko’s work that caught my eye. I loved the soft color palette of her vegetable dyed threads and tracked down a way to purchase them. A year later Keiko left Hida Sashiko to work independently at sashi.co, and I’ve continued to follow her work.

Keiko’s sashiko is remarkable, and I will write more about it in a separate post. The scope of her work deserves more space than I can devote in one post about Takayama.

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Interesting shop fronts and old homes in old town, Takayama.

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Early the next morning we were both up at sunrise. This is not normal for me… I blame the cool, fresh air and altitude. I wandered around old town Takayama taking pictures, dodging the only other person roaming the streets with me–a fellow photographer. He and I politely avoided each other as we raced the sunrise and got as many clear shots as we could before other people arrived.

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Streets range from just wide enough for a car to just wide enough for a bicycle.

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Takayama is very popular with tourists and the streets fill up during the day. The shops in old town are filled with local specialties including food, sake, and handcrafts.

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Keiko and I shared a breakfast of grilled squid and local vegetables including lotus, which was in season and delicious. Actually, everything was delicious and I don’t even know what some of it was. You hear a lot of “it’s a local vegetable” followed by a shrug. The names of certain plants don’t translate–we don’t have anything similar in the US. Our diet is so basic and bland by comparison.

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Carp streamers across the river make for a festive view.

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Inviting entrance to a shop. Sadly, I didn’t have time to browse.

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The child’s kimono hanging outside this shop caught my eye. Inside, this shop is crammed with so many kimono and related textiles that there is only a narrow walkway through the middle. When I told the owner that I work with sashiko, she shared this piece with us.

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It’s several meters of sashiko on natural indigo-dyed cotton done by an older gentleman. The shop owner confessed that when she ordered it, she had no idea it would be so expensive. She hadn’t even told her husband how much it cost yet! She was thinking of making it into a jacket, but there wasn’t quite enough for full sleeves, plus she was afraid to cut into it.

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The quality of work is beautiful. Hand-worked sashiko like this is never cheap, nor should it be. Take pride in your work, it has value.

More to come, including Keiko’s beautiful sashiko and my visit to the Tulip needle factory in Hiroshima.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Nia Lorre says:

    This is so wonderful.I love posts like this – I get to visit far away lands vicariously with someone who likes things I like. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful moments.

  2. Cheryl Faison says:

    Your photos are beautiful! They make me want to get back to Japan now…looking forward to more posts.

  3. claire says:

    I was lucky to visit Takayama in 2014 as part of a longer trip, your photos have brought back some lovely memories, thank you. I’m now planning another trip for 2017, so will be keeping a close eye on your blog for more ideas on places to visit next time. 🙂

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