Japanese Craft Tour - Gifu Prefecture and the Hida Alps

Tour Prospectus

Since 1991 Country Workshops has organized an annual series of craft study tours. The 2010 tour will be our 4th visit to Japan. Located roughly half way between Tokyo and Osaka, Gifu Prefecture is an off the main tracks area that is a treasure trove for traditional crafts. Our tour dates in October come at a time when the weather should be moderating and travel is generally pleasant in this part of Japan.

Gifu Prefecture is slightly inland from Nagoya, Japan’s 4th largest city. It’s now easy to fly from the US directly to the new Nagoya International Airport. From the airport, tour members may take a short train ride to Gifu City, and then walk about 1 block to the modern hotel where we will stay for the first 2 nights. Tour members who choose to fly into Osaka-Kansai Airport or Tokyo-Narita Airport can catch one of the frequent bullet trains to Nagoya, and then transfer to Gifu City. Land transportation during the tour will be by van.

The guide and translator duties for our tour will be shared by Masashi Kutsuwa and Osamu Shoji. Kutsuwa-san is a lecturer and teacher in woodworking at Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture located in Mino. Shoji-san is a founder and head instructor at Shinrin-Takumi Jyuku woodworking school in Takayama. Drew Langsner will be the tour host.

As with our other tours, this year’s itinerary is truly off the tourist path, taking us inside the homes and workshops of outstanding artisans whom you will meet on a personal basis. The first part of the tour (with Kutsuwa-san) will take place in Gifu, Seki and Mino. Then we will move on to Takayama in the Japanese Alps for the second tour segment with Shoji-san. For lodging we will use both western hotels and traditional accommodations known as ryokans. These are very different from western hotels; we feel that the unique experience adds an extra cultural element to the tour experience.

We are currently arranging visits with artisans who work with wood and other natural materials. Woodworkers on the itinerary will include a tansu (cabinet) maker, boat builder, and carpentry shop. We will also visit artists working with ceramics, bladesmithing (a samurai sword blade master smith in Seki), washi (hand made paper) makers and urushi (natural lacquer) work. We have arranged for demonstrations at many of our visits, and it will be possible to buy outstanding craft work directly from our hosts. We will also visit the two very interesting woodworking schools where Kutsuwa-san and Shoji-san teach. They are quite different from one another.

The tour will also function as an intercultural exchange among craft artists working in various materials. We will set aside time in the itinerary for serious discussions about the role of craft in society, art/craft philosophy and aesthetics, and even marketing. Kutsuwa-san is planning to set up a temporary exhibit of our tour members’ art and craft work so that our hosts can see what our tour members are currently doing. We are hoping to attract serious craft artists to take part in the tour.

The tour itinerary will also include opportunities for shopping in Gifu and in the smaller towns that we visit. Because we will be in Japan, production of traditional foods will be an additional focus. The tour group is limited to 12 participants.

The tour fee until April 30 is $3,650. This includes: land transportation during the tour, all meals (except for ordered deserts and beverages), accommodations for 11 nights, admission fees, artisan honorariums and the services of our staff members. Because exchange rates are in flux, it may be necessary to make an adjustment to the tour fee.

For further information, including an itinerary, financial details and a tour reservation form, request our Tour Prospectus, available in early 2010. This will be posted on our web site, or we can send you a copy. If you have questions about the tour please contact Drew Langsner by phone.

Note: Tour photos are from 2008. Itinerary subject to modification.

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