In April this year we took a group of 6 genki (energetic) ladies (Ann, Helen, Jen, Renate, Susan and Tricia) during the spring sakura (cherry) blossom season for a 14-day shumistay program focussed on nuno and washi shumis (textiles and paper).

Even though the blossoms were two weeks early this year we caught them at the base of Mt Fuji, at Gero and then in Takayama, which made a splendid scene with the snow-capped Hida mountains in the background and we saw plenty of azaleas, tulips and phlox in bloom too.

Incorporating a good balance of nuno and washi opportunities was quite a challenge in creating this program for our guests who had a wide range of interests within textiles and paper, but the highlights included a Edo-komon stencil dyeing workshop with the 3rd generation master at his factory in Tokyo; a Sachiko stitching workshop at a 200 year- old thatched farmhouse in Takayama; a tie-dyeing textile workshop with a 5th generation master in the quaint old town of Arimatsu; a one day washi making workshop from growing the plants to drying at the wonderful mountain lodge of ‘Kamikoya’ in Shikoku, and in Kyoto we did a style stencil dyeing workshop, bamboo and washi lantern workshop, traditional silk weaving workshop and book-binding.

Our talented guests went home with a whole pile of crafts they made plus some new skills! On top of that we watched some traditional masters making washi in Tosa, doing tie dyeing in Arimastu and witnessing the incredible master who uses his fingernails to do beautiful silk woven textiles in Kyoto.

Of course, as with all our programs we incorporated as much sightseeing as possible. We visited Japan’s highest and most beautiful mountain, Fuji-san; the amazing Uchiko Kubota kimono collection; one of the most elegant original castles, the 400-year-old Matsuyama castle; and one of the three most famous gardens, the Ritsurin in Takamatsu. And just for a bit of modern culture, we spent a day exploring the art island of Naoshima in the sparkling Inland-Sea. We soaked in the soothing waters of Gero onsen, wandered through the geisha quarters of Gion, and experienced the night-life of Pontocho. And we had one amazing unplanned bonus – witnessing the annual ‘Battle of the Drums’ Festival in Furukawa where half naked men battle with their drums through the night.  . Last but not least, we tried just about every kind of Japanese cuisine, including regional cuisines like venison and a Kyoto temple tofu banquet.

Tricia summed her shumi stay with us this way:

I had a really fabulous time. Thanks for organising everything so efficiently for us. Thanks to your meticulous planning, we saw much more than most people would see in twice the time, and got to places tourists wouldn’t know about. I really appreciated all the translating you did for us, and also your willingness to share your amazing knowledge about the history and culture of your amazing country.