Koshu is the former name for Yamanashi Prefecture. In feudal times, it was the base for the powerful Takeda warlords and many traditional crafts date back to that era. Koshu Inden is a way of decorating deerskin with designs in lacquer. Fine washi paper is used for calligraphy. And nishikigoi (varicolored carp) are often considered living artworks. Woodblock print artist David Bull visits the Koshu area to discover this world of natural beauty and artisan skill.
Address: 3-8-4 Asake, Kofu City, Yamanashi Pref.
Nearest station: Kai-Iwama station (JR Minobu Line).
Address: 345 Nishijima, Minobu-cho, Minamikoma-gun, Yamanashi Pref.
Cost: from 1,750 yen.
Address: 1955 Araibara, Ashigawa-cho, Fuefuki City, Yamanashi Pref.
Address: 142-2 Hatsuta, Isawa-cho, Fuefuki City, Yamanashi Pref.
By highway bus it takes about two and a half hours.
There are also direct bus services from Narita and Haneda airports. From Narita it takes three and a half hours.
To visit the washi workshops in Minobu town, take a local train from Kofu to Kai-Iwama Station.
Traveler: David Bull > More Info
Length of residence in Japan:29+ years.
Reason: came to Japan originally to study woodblock printmaking.
As all of us who live in Japan know very well, the number of tourists visiting this country is dramatically increasing these days. Many of these visitors are looking for the same things. They want to visit famous places old and new – such as Sensoji and the Sky Tree... They want to eat good Japanese food – everything from cheap okonomiyaki up to famous sushi... And they want to go shopping for Japanese goods – from anime goods to expensive high fashions. All these things are available to them anywhere and everywhere.
But there is one thing that most of them would like to do, but can't. They want to experience Japanese culture in a “hands-on” way. They want to experience activities for themselves, rather than just watching other people do things. Recently in Japan, travel-related organizations have come to realize this, and there are now more and more places where visitors can have such experiences. On this trip to Yamanashi, we visited a few such workshops.
In my own printmaking workshop in Tokyo, I am used to being the "host" for such activities. But in a reversal of roles, during this trip I myself got to play the part of the visitor! At the workshops we visited, it was my turn to don the apron and try my hand at the craft. I had a chance to make some washi paper. And I also was able to make some udon noodles. In both cases, I think the results turned out not so badly. After I finished my cooking, the TV staff "helped" me eat the food, and they scraped the bowl to the very bottom!