2 Dreamy Weekend Trips to Tokyo’s Countryside
Though she calls L.A. home, Osaka-born designer Yuka Izutsu makes yearly pilgrimages back to Japan to visit family, find new inspiration, and, lucky for us, to source ethereal fabrics from traditional mills for her loungey, time-proof line Atelier Delphine. On a recent trip, spurred by an interest in traditional folk art, she hit two towns in the Tokyo countryside—one known for silk production and one famous for pottery—and made us desperate to do the same.
Distance from Tokyo: 180 miles, or about a four hour drive.
EXPLORE ANCIENT HOMES
Like a Japanese version of Colonial Williamsburg, this historic village is made up of about 200 preserved homes from Japan’s Edo period. “The whole town is really beautiful. People there traditionally made silk in these houses,” explains Yuka, whose textile affections inspired her trip. But it’s not a museum—people still live there, and the town has some amazing bakeries worth checking out for sure.
GO SAKE TASTING
This little town is also home to some of Japan’s oldest sake breweries. One of them, Hirase, dates back to 1623, and uses rice specially grown in Hida. Talk about a great souvenir (but don’t even think about making sake bombs with it!).
TAKE IN A BONSAI COMPETITION
Another Hida calling card: a unique, more free-form style of bonsai, and Yuka was lucky enough to catch a local contest. “People in Hida learn a traditional type of bonsai from a young age,” she explains. “They grow the plants for a year or two and then compete for top medals. I took this picture at a competition that was specifically for older people.”
Distance from Tokyo: 90 miles, or about a two hour drive.
VISIT A FAMOUS CERAMICIST'S STUDIO
Shōji Hamada was a 1900s potter who became so well-known that he transformed Mashiko into a hotbed for his style of ceramics, known as mingei. “His studio is now museum on a huge property, and many people visit it to learn about ceramics and buy tools for making them,” explains Yuka, who caught the pottery bug from her tea-service-collecting mother.
GET INTO JAPANESE FOLK ART
Not surprisingly, Shōji Hamada’s influence drew many other folk artists to set up shop in Mashiko. The town hosts art and pottery festivals twice a year, in May and November, that seem very worth planning a vacation around.