On our last trip to Japan in June, we made sure to book into Hotel Okura before it closed for demolition (the South Tower remains, but the Main Building was where the true magic was).
No word of a lie, as the taxi drove up to the entrance, the James Bond theme song was playing.
The font, colours, signage, MOOD all together was truly so special. Also the nods to a distant past, like the writing desk areas. Too bad they are so quaint and unused nowadays.
L: Taxi drop off/pick up at South Tower (I wish the lights were easier to capture!)
R: Greenery and Mural in the South Tower Lobby
Every detail has been considered, with similar geometric shapes.
Top: Pendant lights, pot lights and sunlights.
Bottom Left: Light wells, and carpets in basement elevator zone, to South Tower.
Bottom Right: Inside the elevator, elevator roof details and font.
Linking the two towers underground is a shopping plaza, yet another reminder of another time. Gift shops, clothing, art and books are all available.
Carpet, Ikebana, Font.
Main lobby at night. Large tree, stone and water installation.
Lobby waiting area. Large scale but intimate.
Love the Smoke Bush.
A more intimate sitting area off to the side.
The Orchid Bar was from another time. Waiters in tuxedos. Classic cocktails. Mother of pearl shell backsplash. Cigarette smoke.
Signage, from when they had travel agents on hand to make arrangements, now done on personal phones and computers.
Cloakroom and Kimono.
Hotel Okura selfie.
So many amenities.
Lobby during the day.
Another outside view of the Main Building.
Triangle tile work.
We were so impressed by Jicon and their small production and processes that we managed to take a couple of videos.
Imamura Kenichi shaping a meshi-wan bowl.
Imamura Kenichi showing us the glazing process. Each piece is individually handled from start to finish. Incredible!
During our recent trip to Japan our friend Ai Hosokawa arranged for us to visit the restored farmhouse of Kazuhide and Hiromi Hashiya in Fukuoka.
The couple go about the daily requirements of up-keeping a farmhouse including chopping their own wood to keep their home warm during the colder months. There have been renovations made to the home, but they have been done so tastefully that everything looks perfectly balanced and within period. There are carefully selected art objects that were on display for our arrival, a mix of contemporary craft as well as Japanese and Korean antiques. The Hashiya’s have a remarkable collection of craft and antiques, and pieces are displayed during different seasons.
You can sense their genuine love of their home, and also their appreciation of daily ritual. For instance the couple enjoy having their own Tea Ceremony every morning,
The top floor of the home, where all of the solid wooden walls are removed to open the room completely to the open air.
The covered patio off the kitchen.
I really like the simple gardens in Japanese farmhouses, they remind me more of the gardens here in Canada.
A repair to the plasterwork reminds us a little of calligraphy.
The front gate to the house, framed by large wooden beams with walls made from plaster mixed with grass.
The outside of the front gate, an impressive structure in its own right.
A closeup of the textured plaster.
A hanging swing is in the front entrance of the home, complete with a traditional mud floor.
The raw tree trunk support was a nice contrast to the square columns.
The interior with double height paper shoji screens.
A traditional Irori in floor hearth, originally used for cooking but now being used to perform Chanoyu.
A beautiful lidded ceramic chest by Uchida Kouichi, next to an antique game board.
Ai, her daughter Tsubaki and Hiromi on the front steps colouring.
The living space off the entrance and patio, one of the only spaces with western style chairs all of which are antiques. The carpet is very interesting, it is Japanese dyed with indigo. It isn’t that common to find antique Japanese carpets like this, and this one was especially beautiful.
Our recent trip to Japan found us in the most Southern part of Japan’s main island, spending our first days in Kumamoto city. Japan always has us returning because every region seems to have their unique cultural specialties, so even though there is a familiarity to some cities in Japan, it really does feel like a completely new experience when you go to a new region
Kumamoto Castle just so happened to be outside the doorsteps of our hotel. It has a special place in popular culture because of the epic Samurai movie Ran, directed by Akira Kurosawa in which soldiers attack the castle. It was the most expensive film ever to be made in Japan in that period.
The stone walls are very beautiful, and incredibly difficult to scale I’m sure.
The exterior is really beautiful, but it isn’t an old castle. Actually it was rebuilt in 1960, and the interior is now a museum.
The laying of Japan: parking lot, stone tower for spirits, bamboo, and office building.
Kumamon bear, the character for Kumamoto City.
We also visited the former home of author Lafcadio Koizumi who is famous for translating traditional Japanese folklore and ghost stories for a Western audience.
His home and garden were very beautiful.
American icon-ism in Japan.
We would be spending most of our visit with our friend Ai Hosokawa, who took us to an incredible coffee shop called Antiques-Coffee.
The owner is a famous Ikebana artist (pictured), curator of antiques, bee keeper and makes some incredible coffee which is served in lacquer-ware cups by famous wood artisan Ryuji Mitani.
Most of the antiques come from Japan, Korea and China. There are also beautiful floral arrangements to be found throughout the cafe.
These two Mei-Ping vases really caught my eye. The one on the left is ceramic and the other to our surprise is made from copper coated with lacquer-ware. We ended up taking that one home with us.
The antique glass vase also caught my eye, but I could only chose one piece for myself so early on in the trip.
For those of you that follow us on Instagram, you probably know we just got back from a short but sweet trip to Japan.
This was our first trip outside of the country in almost 2 years, so as you might expect we had our share of business meetings and visits with suppliers as well as artisans to interview for the book and also to secure some future exhibitions. Having said that, there were some really beautiful moments visiting our friends, meeting new ones, sharing meals and the reinvigorating inspiration that comes from traveling.
On our last day in Tokyo just before our flight left in the late afternoon we went with our friends Ian and Kimberly to one of their favorite Sunday antique markets. This was where all of the restraint we showed not buying things during the first portion of our trip had worn off and we had some yen left over in our pockets ready to be spent before we got on our flight.
It’s kind of embarrassing to say, but in all of our visits to Japan we never made a point to visit an open air antique market. We have been to a lot of antique shops, but we never really did enough research to find out where and when the markets were on. Luckily our friends formerly from Toronto, now living in Tokyo, had been to many of the markets around the city and took us to this one.
Needless to say, we walked away with some very nice work.
Although not specifically from this antique market, we found the Mei Ping vase above at Antique-Coffee located in Kumamoto.
I originally thought the vase was ceramic, but after picking it up I was shocked to find it weighed almost nothing. The vase is made from copper, and then finished with black urushi. It is from Korea and around 200 years old, the urushi has been slowly peeling away and underneath the exposed copper has turned a blue-green colour. The vase was originally used to fill with sake to be offered to the gods.
From here on these are all the antique market finds. This one I especially love because I knew absolutely nothing about it, even after I bought it I came back to ask some more information. It’s an old Korean copper or brass bowl, around 1000 years old. It seems we are naturally attracted to Korean work, some of the best metal and pottery we saw on our trip was from Korea. Now these pieces are even more significant since the government has banned Korean antiques from leaving Korea. If you go to a shop or market there and legitimately buy something, they will apparently confiscate it from you at the airport.
Copper has been a reoccurring material obsession for us.
From the same dealer where we bought the Korean bowl we also saw this small shrine, which is actually one used for traveling.
It is from the 1600s, and coated with a rich black Japanese lacquer.
What is really spectacular is when the doors are opened, beautiful gold leaf lined doors and back panel with three intricately carved figures are revealed. There has been some speculation about who these figures are, so if anyone knows anything about them please write us.
Another object we had no idea about, is this pair of wooden sticks on a rope. I just really liked the form, weight and shape especially where the rope was tied. Bringing them back home we found out these are knockers used during the Kabuki theater to get people to sit down and get ready for the show.
This is maybe more of a touristy thing, but I wanted to find a nice gong to hang on our wall. The problem was finding a really nice old copper one, not a new one made of brass or one made from iron. It also had to be simple. There were a couple of gongs at the market but this one was the nicest, and the sound is really nice.
These wooden molds to make Tea Ceremony sweets are beautiful and sculptural.
What made this mold special to us is its shape. There were a lot of other molds we saw, but none of them had a handle.
We loved how the carvings just peak out through the openings.
Red snapper is a special fish used to symbolize celebrations, crane and turtle are for long life and wisdom.
Another beautiful object that caught Juli’s eye was this antique watering can in copper. Its smaller scale makes it ideal for watering bonsai and other small plants.
The form is incredible.
Finally, always one to attempt to find a piece of artwork during our travels Juli found this lovely print of a dancer. In a way it has a Japanese quality, but is in fact, to our surprise made by a French print maker in the 1960s. It’s being framed now, so we’ll share another photo once it’s up on our wall.
Autumn is a time to get out and breathe in the earthy air. Lately a lot of people on my instagram/facebook feeds have been visiting the waterfalls of Hamilton, a natural wonder that I was completely unaware of (I guess Niagara Falls gets all the love in these parts, or so I assumed). Anyway, it’s totally a thing. I love it when places brand themselves “The Waterfall Capital of The World” too. I somehow doubt it but that’s ok! There is plenty to explore (waterfalls, Bruce Trail, Niagara escarpment)!
I inquired as to what falls were toddler friendly. This website gives difficulty ratings. We went to Tew’s Falls (#15 on their list, so those other falls must be quite something) and the nearby Webster’s Falls (the top photo), which was about a 15 minute walk down a trail that was doable but nicely challenging for a toddler and mama carrying a baby.
We were impressed. John thought I was crazy planning this outing but had to admit it was quite something. Elodie loved it but immediately wanted more, as one does when they are two and a half.
Some nice views along the trail.
I wonder how the fall colours are now, we went a couple of weeks ago. Would be spectacular.
On the walk back to our car Elodie became exhausted (YES! FINALLY!) and had to be carried. We thought we’d have to skip lunch and head home but we decided to head to nearby Dundas (town of) to maybe grab some takeaway from Detour cafe. The main street in this small town is pretty crazy busy, which struck me as weird but it must be a thoroughfare. We had trouble finding parking and then scored a spot right out front, and Elodie hit that second wind that then prevents her from napping, so we had a lovely cozy lunch, where no food was flung, nor tears cried. WIN! Here she is feigning sleep.
All in all, a day trip I’d like to make again!