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Tue, Dec. 1, 2015 Artisans and Beauty: Koshu, Yamanashi
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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.

Lake Motosu (Mt. Fuji viewing spot)
Lake Motosu (Mt. Fuji viewing spot)
The famous view of Mt. Fuji (as printed on the back of Japan's 1,000 yen notes) can be observed from the hills on the northwest side of Lake Motosu. Follow the steep mountain trail from Koan-so for about 30 minutes.
Inden no Yamamoto
Inden no Yamamoto
This shop sells items made by the traditional Koshu Inden process, in which patterns in lacquer are applied onto tanned deerskin.
Address: 3-8-4 Asake, Kofu City, Yamanashi Pref.
Tel: +81-(0)55-233-1942
Shosenkyo Gorge
Shosenkyo Gorge
This is one of the most popular tourist spots in Yamanashi Prefecture. Visitors can follow a path along the valley to view the beautiful landscape. To reach Shosenkyo, take a bus from the terminal by the west exit of JR Kofu Station to the last stop, Taki-ue. It takes about one hour and costs 800 yen (adults).
Yamaju Seishi washi paper workshop
Yamaju Seishi washi paper workshop
There are eight workshops in Minobu Town producing traditional washi paper. Four are open to visitors, including Yamaju Seishi. Please note: advance reservations are required. Visitors can try their hand at making washi at Nakatomi Washi-no-sato (also in Minobu Town). You can also make reservations for visiting one of the paper-making workshops at this facility. Cost for washi-making: around 2,000 yen.
Nearest station: Kai-Iwama station (JR Minobu Line).
Address: 345 Nishijima, Minobu-cho, Minamikoma-gun, Yamanashi Pref.
Tel: +81-(0)556-20-4556
Otengusan (hoto noodles)
Otengusan (hoto noodles)
In a traditional wooden house, visitors can try making the local specialty dish, hoto noodles. Advanced reservations are required. By bus from Isawa-Onsen Station, it takes about 50 minutes to Araibara-Otengusan-mae.
Closed: Tuesdays.
Cost: from 1,750 yen.
Address: 1955 Araibara, Ashigawa-cho, Fuefuki City, Yamanashi Pref.
Tel: +81-(0)55-298-2833
Isawa Nishikigoi Center
Isawa Nishikigoi Center
This facility raises and sells Nishikigoi (varicolored carp).
Address: 142-2 Hatsuta, Isawa-cho, Fuefuki City, Yamanashi Pref.
Tel: +81-(0)55-262-4191
Access
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To reach Koshu from Tokyo, it takes about 100 minutes by limited express train from Shinjuku Station to Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture.
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.
Travel Log

Traveler: David Bull > More Info

Nationality:England/Canada

Occupation:woodblock printmaker

Length of residence in Japan:29+ years.

Reason: came to Japan originally to study woodblock printmaking.

Traveler's Archives:

> Osaka Art Power

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!

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