flow gallery

Makers and Museums Tour

Japan - Inspired Design:Traditional and Contemporary

An exploration of Japan’s traditional and contemporary crafts and, celebration of the simplicity and workmanship in craft, design and architecture.

Monday 13 May - Tuesday 28 May 2018

This tour is designed to show why Japan is the must see destination for contemporary and historic traditional craft, design, and architecture. You will travel by Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto by way of Matsumoto, Kanazawa, and onwards to Kurashiki via Okayama, followed by Naoshima and lastly Osaka. Along the way you will visit studios of makers young and longstanding who work in ceramics, wood, textiles and bamboo with technical complexity to create exquisite works. We will explore several of the historic kiln centres and visit museums to learn how pottery has played a significant role in shaping Japanese culture and aesthetics.

We start in Tokyo where the focus is on visiting museums and design shops to learn how product design and craft have defined Japan’s identity. Visits to the Nezu Museum with a stroll through its garden will titillate the senses as you wander through beautifully designed galleries of pre-modern Japanese and East Asian art, while later you will make your way to the serene Mingeikan Folk Crafts Museum featuring an array of functional pottery and other crafts. Not to be missed is the highly acclaimed Acrylic Gallery and the stores of luxury brands designed by a star studded cast of architects, from Herzog and de Meuron’s Prada shop to others by Pritzker Prize winning Japanese architect, Toyo Ito and the famed Sanna.

Exploring old Tokyo will take us off the beaten tourist track to Yanaka, spared from bombing in WWII; this traditional district overflows with temples and artisans. There we will see a master basket weaver Midoriya, producing acclaimed baskets from susudake, smoked and aged bamboo. A visit to Mashiko, will delight Indigo dyeing fans, and here we learn about the start of the folk-craft pottery movement by Shoji Hamada, who in 1955 was named a living national treasure, as well as others, among them, the famed Bernard Leach. A stop at the Museum of Ceramic Art showcases the works of Hamada and makes connections with other potters, like Leach who influence pottery making in the West.

Next we head to Matsumoto by bullet train. Here surrounded by the twin ranges of the Japanese Alps we will visit the Museum of Art where we will walk through Yoyoi Kusama’s permanent display, visit Japan’s oldest castle, savour the region’s famous soba noodles and soak in a hot bath known as an onsen. The beauty of the surrounding countryside has made this home to many artists and galleries, such as Sioribi & Laboratorio.

Next to Kanazawa, a history-rich city on Japan’s western coast with it’s preserved geisha districts and famed Kenrokuen Garden. Heading to master ceramicist, Takuo Nakamura’s studio. The city is home to traditional handicrafts, which designated it as a UNESCO city of Crafts and Folk arts and we will stroll through the wood-panelled teahouses and drop in on many of the studios still producing lacquer ware and kimonos. While there we will tour the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, a circular glass building by Pritzker Prize winning architects, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa.

Then to Kyoto where you’ll discover how Japan’s long history of traditional arts has influence makers and designers the world over. Visits to numerous studios sprinkled across the city, will including the dyeing duo, husband and wife Shigeki and Shihoko Fukumoto who use innovative techniques to produce their renowned textile installations, their daughter, famed ceramist, Fuku who finds inspiration from the planets and stars, and fibre artist Eriko Horiki who creates large format washi, or paper constructions from mulberry bark fibres and can be seen throughout Japan.

Here we experience a traditional tea ceremony, within its spiritual home being Kyoto. Then visit several of the best temples the city has to offer, including the Sanjusangen-do Buddhist temple, a National treasure with its 1001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Enjoy a stroll along the Philosopher’s Path, visit the food market, and if time permits, the Kawai Kanjiro Museum, the preserved wooden home of the legendary potter, and The Raku Museum with its collection formed over 450 years by successive heads of the Raku family.

From Kyoto we take a day trip to Shigaraki, one of Japan’s six ancient kilns and the oldest producing wood-fired stoneware. Pottery making defines Japan. Starting with the production of earthenware, which has remained an enduring tradition and is much celebrated, pottery making developed into two streams – one is traditional, the other is porcelain with its frequently complex designs. Here we will visit the ancient cave kilns among others and visit many of the smaller ceramic artists’ workshops. A highlight will be the Miho Museum – and architectural wonder designed by I.M. Pei set among the Shigaraki mountains.

The bullet train will whisk you to Okayama where we will venture forth to the village of Imbe, home of Bizen Pottery and visit the studio of the celebrated contemporary ceramic artist, Ryuichi Kakurezaki, one of Japan’s new National Treasures. He is among over 500 ceramic artists working here to keep this century old craftsmanship alive. Onwards to explore Kurashiki and city where the folk art tradition is very much evident. We will wander through the district where tiny shops feature local handicrafts and stop at the Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft with displays of work by basket makers, potters, glass blowers and weavers in restored rice warehouses.

Next stop is Naoshima stopping in Takamatsu first to visit the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum and studio space. Taking a ferry, we lhead to the famed art island of Naoshima where you’ll stay in Tadao Andō’s Benesse House museum-hotel. Waking in a seemingly dream state we will explore both the past and the future, as we visit the endless totems and edifices built across the island. Our guide will whisk us to Honmura to see the Art House project where old houses have been turned into art installations, onwards to Minamidera to the light artist, James Turrell’s work and then to one of the islands best-known installations, the yellow pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama. If your not exploding with imagery and have the energy, we will visit the Lee Ufan and Chichu Art museums bursting with art.

The tour ends in Osaka. A must will be a wonder through Kuromon Ichiba Market where you’ll be tempted with the mounds of Japanese food products, for Osaka has been a hub since the Edo period. Tired of seeing stacks of sea urchins and other sea-food we will head to Nakazakicho, a section of Osaka that escaped the bombing in WWII, it features wooden houses, many now galleries and coffee shops. It’s here that the tour ends as we make our way to the nearby Kansai Airport and home.

Come join Flow Gallery owner Yvonna Demczynska, and museum voyager Cathy Giangrande to discover for yourself why Japanese design is held in such high regard.


If you are interested and would like to reserve a place and receive a booking form, please contact either Yvonna at Flow, info@flowgallery.co.uk or Cathy, cathygiangrande@gmail.com.