Friday, I headed to Tokyo to buy art supplies (katazome paper, thread, linen fabric to dye, etc). I took the train from Fujino station into Tokyo (about an hour, depending on the part of Tokyo you’re headed to) to go to Seiwa, where they teach dyeing classes and sell supplies. The French dancer Julie and I arrived and… it was closed due to Oban, the mid-August Japanese Buddhist festival honoring one’s ancestors. Officially Oban ended a day or two before, but some shops close the weekend after.
During Oban, people travel home (or to their ancestral homes) to honor their ancestors and spirits. On the mountain roads in Fujino this week, the little family shrines were tidied up and cleaned, and you could hear kids’ laughter as they played outside late into the night or spent time around a bonfire. (I heard a rumor than the “bon” of “bonfire” comes from this festival name, but I haven’t read up on that). My sense is that it is a ritual of family togetherness and a reunion of sorts for many Japanese.
With the shop closed, I headed to the Tokyo National Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Japanese art. The museum is really easy to navigate and every sign is in multiple languages (thank you!). There were some beautiful textiles from the late Edo period on display, and some amazing things in the bookstore. (Sorry, credit cards, but I really needed that book on Happi coats!)
The National Museum is located in a museum-dense section of the city in Ueno Park near the zoo. Although the weather was hot and humid once again (as it has been every day here), it was a lovely day to walk around and eat popcorn. I walked over to the Toshogu Shrine, dedicated to the emperor who opened Japan to the west, but… it was closed due to renovations. It’s still a brilliant gold on the outside.
My third destination was Nippori, a quick train from Ueno. Nippori textile town is a mile-long section of shops selling all manner of sewing supplies and fabric. My goal was Tomato, which boasts six floors of every fabric imaginable. And I arrived, and it was… closed. All five locations. Luckily, there were a few shops open so I could buy some supplies. Sweet treats from the local mart, pizza in the park, and a train ride back to Fujino to round out the day.