“The further one goes, the less one knows.”
-Lao Tsu

Regarding Lao Tsu's quote, I feel that there are probably three or four lifetimes’ worth of work in clay before one might finally be able to begin to chart the medium so to speak. While engaging in my own personal cartography concerning my work, it is my belief that it is via the sharing of our journeys, both creative as well as literal, that we may come to a deeper understanding of the medium and of the nature of our humanity in a more universal sense. Therefore I offer you a few photographs I’ve taken of some of the people and places that I have experienced in Japan, that have been separated into two categories, one pertaining to ceramics, and the other which were taken during some of my wanderings about the country. I hope these images will provide a general sense of the land and its people.

Ceramics | Wanderings

Suggested Itinerary | Tour Price | What to Expect

Japan Pottery/Craft Tour – 2010
Japan Pottery Tour 2006

Join me as I share my insights into Japanese ceramics gleaned from my previous life in Japan which covered some 7-8 years. Traveling as the Japanese do, we’ll begin our survey of work in the dynamic, creative mega-city of Tokyo which has become the repository for all manner of Japanese art forms. I’ll share with you my favorite galleries and museums as we start our journey through Japanese ceramics, both traditional and contemporary, as well as crafts in general. When in Tokyo, we will be taking in a myriad of sights, sounds, as well as tastes of this fascinating city and time permitting; I’ll take you to the incredible home and garden of a well known Japanese sculptor.

Stopping briefly in Mishima to visit my friend and Japanese pottery expert Robert Yellin, we will next head down to Nagoya which is famous for so many types of ceramics, among them Oribe, Shino, and Tokoname ware. Using Nagoya as our base for the next few days, we will take day trips out into the surrounding lush countryside visiting towns such as Tajimi with it’s Museum of Contemporary Ceramics and a fine little sake cup museum in Ichinokura as well as Tokoname which is know for it’s kyusu, or Japanese style teapots and features a fine walk though the old studio district of town.

Leaving Nagoya behind, we head off to the picturesque town of Shigaraki which I famous for it’s wood fired ware and the internationally renowned architect I.M. Pei’s Miho Museum. Renting bicycles is a leisurely way to see this small town.

Heading out from Shigaraki early in the morning, we’re off to Moriyama to see the current Raku masters’ contemporary tea room at the Sagawa Museum before heading to Kyoto. In Kyoto we will be taking in such sights as Kawai Kanjiro’s historic old home and studio, the Raku Museum, the old “kottoya-san” or antique dealer district near the geisha quarters of Gion, as well as taking in the myriad of sights and sounds as we stroll through the old Nishiki-koji day market which dates back some 1400 years. As Kyoto was my home town for a number of years, any free days offer a range of possibilities for me to share with you such as bicycle touring in Sagano, a day hike to Kurama, temple hopping among the hundreds to be found, or perhaps a day spent seeking out the multitude of traditional crafts for which Kyoto is internationally famous. Possible day trips from Kyoto may include a trip to the picturesque and craft filled town of Kurashiki, as well as a possible trip to Uji which is know for its’ tea as well as a pottery style called Asahi-yaki. For those interested in the tea ceremony, a visit to the Chado Research Center is a possibility as well. Days end will find us among the locals enjoying cuisine ranging from nouvelle as well as traditional Japanese, to French bistro, to the always amazing izakaya or Japanese pub food. Our tour comes to it’s conclusion in Osaka for our flight out of Kansai International airport to the US.

Additionally, college credit may be available for your travel experience with me via Shoreline Community College, Shoreline, Washington. Please inquire for details!

  • Travel with me as I share my insights, technical, aesthetic as well as contextual regarding Japanese ceramics.

  • Enjoy the insights of potters, craftsmen, and restaurateurs as they talk of their art/livelihood.

  • Experience Japan’s historic cultural capital of Kyoto as well as other quiet traditional towns such as Kurashiki, Tajimi, and Shigaraki while traveling through some of Japan’s finest rural countryside.

  • Journey through the varied world of Japanese cuisine.

  • Stroll through charming old neighborhoods where the traditional and contemporary strive to co-exist in unique ways.

  • Experience how crafts of all types are thoroughly integrated into modern day Japanese lifestyle.

Suggested Itinerary:
The tour will depart the US May 14th, 2010 arriving at Narita Airport on the 15th and will return on May 26th 2010 for a total of 13 days and 11 nights with the entry port in Japan being the Narita Int’l Airport in Tokyo. The tour is sold as a ground only package with participants needing to furnish their own roundtrip airfare and one week rail pass. All tour members MUST have a one week JR rail pass voucher in hand at time of departure. While participants are free to choose their own travel agent when booking flights, I highly recommend Suzuki-san at Sankei Travel here in Seattle, as I have been working with her for many years and find her most professional and competitive price wise as well. I am willing to help people who prefer to stay on a bit longer after the tour has ended in making further arrangements at no charge. The suggested itinerary is as follows with some flexibility to make changes as we journey, as I strive to make the tours user driven as much as possible.

Day 1 –
Depart US for Japan
Day 2 –
Arrive at Tokyo’s Narita Int’l Airport, board the JR Narita express train for Tokyo, check in to the Princess Garden Hotel or similar.
Day 3 –
Day spent in Tokyo gallery hopping. Possible stops include galleries such as kuroda Toen, The Minge Kaikan which is a superb craft museum,and a wonderful craft shop, Bingoya. Time allowing, a studio visit to my potter friend Higashida Shigemasa may be in the offing as well.
Day 4 –
Today’s events may include visits to Tokyo’s 2 finest department stores Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi to take in the craft shows there as well as the food floors before heading to Asakura Fumio’s home/studio and garden.
Day 5 –
Boarding an early shinkansen we’re off to see Robert Yellin in Mishima before reaching our day’s destination which is Nagoya.
Day 6 –
Taking the JR Chuo Line we head out to Tajimi to visit a contemporary crafts museum as well as the sake cup museum at the old pottery town of Ichinokura. A studio visit may be in store as well!
Day 7 –
Today finds us strolling through the Tokoname which is famous for it’s simple, unglazed pottery. Originally manufacturing ceramics for industry, Tokoname now produces a wide variety of ware and is home as well to the Inax ceramic museum.
Day 8 –
Heading out early start, we’re off to Shigaraki with the first stop being that of the house and studio of Japanese potter Otani Shiro followed by a leisurely afternoon spent touring this small town via bicycle.
Day 9 –
Getting an early start, we stop first at renowned architect I.M. Pei’s masterpiece the Miho Museum before taking in the a fabulous chashitsu designed by potter the current Raku head, Kichizaemon XV. The evening finds us dining in Kyoto before retiring.
Day 10 –
Slowing it down a bit, today is a free day to enjoy the sights and sounds of old Kyoto. Options include bicycling in Sagano, a day spent temple hopping, or perhaps wandering the myriad of crafts shops found in this mecca of art and craft, or even a trip down to the tea capital of Japan, Uji with it’s wonderful Asahi-yaki.
Day 11 –
We’re off first to the Nishiki -koji Market which dates back some 1400 years followed by a visit to Kawaii Kanjiro’s superb studio and home. After touring a number of galleries in Higashiyama – Gojo, we head off for tea and sweets at a very special place in the neighborhood.
Day 12 –
Today’s events include Aizenkobo, an indigo dying workshop, the Raku Museum, a visit with a tea master friend from Urasenke as well as the ever amazing flea market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.
Day 13 –
After a final early morning stroll through the streets of old Kyoto, we board the express train Haruka for Osaka’s Kansai International Airport and our flight back to the US.

Tour Price
The ground only package beginning at Tokyo’s Narita Airport is priced at $4280, subject to adjustment due to currency fluctuation up until full payment is received. Having arrived in Tokyo a few days ahead of the group to make final arrangements on the ground, I will be meeting you as you arrive at Narita airport. References from fellow travelers of previous tours are happily supplied upon request!

What’s Included
Both packages include lodging and breakfasts at hotels or ryokans falling in the two to four star range. Daily touring and ground transport not covered on the JR rail pass i.e. bus passes in Kyoto, buses and subways in Tokyo, as well as transportation to and from Narita Airport, and finally admissions to any museums and temples except for those on free days. All accommodations are for single rooms with the exception of ryokans or any other Japanese inns which case occupancy will be double rooms with dinners included.

What’s Not Included
Round trip airfare to and from Japan, a one week Jr Rail Pass, lunches and dinners as well as any and all transportation costs incurred concerning dinners out. Any admissions to venues including but not limited to sentos, onsens, tea seatings and any other cultural events and/or performances. Expenses incurred, be it rentals, transport, or any admissions on scheduled free days or afternoons. Portage of participant’s baggage and or purchases. All tour members are responsible for the overseeing, portage, and temporary storage fees of any and all of their possessions. Travel insurance which is highly recommended.

What to Expect!
For those of you who have never be to Japan before, travel there is different than here as public transportation tends to be crowded, however it runs on clock-like precision. There will be walking, more walking, stair climbing, and more stair climbing with standing involved as well as there may be no seats available. In short, if you’re not in reasonably good physical shape, this is not the trip for you.

For those of you new to Japan, I will prepare a short but strongly recommended reading list covering basic cultural differences and faux pas to be avoided. Unlike traveling in Europe where many people speak English at a basic level, Japan is different, therefore learning a few basic Japanese phrases is strongly recommended. Traveling as light as possible concerning preconceptions is strongly advised as well. Other than that I can assure you of a fairly mind opening, sensory overloaded experience. Further information will be made available to those signing up for the tour.

How Do I Sign Up?
Please notify me at rob@robertfornellceramicarts.com of your interest in the tour to receive updated information as it becomes available. A deadline for commitment and payment of funds will be set for Spring 2010 and as the tour has a minimum enrollment quota, should that number not be reached, I reserve the right to cancel the tour at which any and all monies paid as deposit shall be refunded in full. Finally, in order to ensure the best possible experience for travelers, the maximum number of people I will take is 8.

Like to Go But Have Timing Issues?
If so please let me know of your interest so that I may contact you again for inclusion on a future tour. Additionally, utilizing my network of contacts in Japan that I have developed over the years, I offer my services creating custom tailored travel experiences focusing on the arts and crafts of Japan for those seeking the utmost in personalized travel. These services are on a flat daily rate plus expenses basis. For further information concerning this unique travel experience please contact me.

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© 2010 Robert Fornell Ceramic Arts