Monday, March 31, 2014


....and Sakae 'Eva' Yagino, our wonderful guide who we all fell in love with.  She is so knowledgeable and poured so much information into us that I'm sure some spilled out along the way. In the background is one of the touring ships that we could see from the ryokan.
And the pirate ship that sailed past as well.

Eva recalled our stay as we drove to the train station.

Mt. Fuji doesn't often show itself and we were delighted the day was sunny and clear!
A woodblock print come to life!
Now it's on to Kyoto via the Super Express 'Hikari' (the bullet train) of Shin Kansen line.....which ran at a 150 mph clip!  But first a group photo with Eva! We are sooooo happy!

Must have Green Tea Ice cream....

Thank you Pam for the yummy cookie (went perfectly with my ice cream).  I never did figure out what the yellow ducky / chicken was???

Eva made sure we all sat together and had window seats.  Here's Bonnie & Charlie with Eileen & Judith behind them.

Time to meet Amy, our new guide.

Everyone wanted a photo of these school children....
All accounted for!
And we're off to our new adventures in Kyoto!


I've long heard tales of the Japanese country 'inns' but this was way beyond my wildest dreams and I found it absolutely sublime!
All of our rooms overlooked the lake with majestic cedar trees and awesome Mt. Fuji appearing just as in all the woodblock prints we've always loved!
The sitting area you see in the distance had a heated floor!  Note the tatami floor mats (shoes left at the entrance).  This is what's on your footsies in the room & there are special slippers you pad about in elsewhere.

Each room had an alcove with stunningly beautiful original calligraphic work.  I'll have to ask Tom what mine says.

The awesome view.....
Yes, that giant snow cone is Mt. Fuji!
Dinner was great fun....stimulating conversation and fascinating dishes.....

Breakfast was equally awesome.....and I especially loved the fish!

The red chair was brought in for yours truly as it took two strong men to get me up from the 'Japanese style' of sitting!
  I stayed in one day and had the 'special' privilege of breakfast in my room.

It was great fun to make pots, and pots, and more pots of the heavenly green tea.....
And watch Japanese melodramas, cute stuff and occasionally CNN.
But the most amazing show was a TED talk....(Love TED talks)....this fellow apparently is the Yo Yo Master of the world!
I also got to witness the process for cleaning the rooms and I will tell you it does indeed take a village!  First a man comes in wearing a crisp white shirt, black pants (no shoes remember?) and proceeds to collect all the trash.  Exit man.  Enter second man (same outfit) and he makes up the futon or in my case....the bed!  Exit 2nd man.  Following is a succession of young women....the 1st vacuumed every inch of the room.....the 2nd dusted every single spot in the room and the 3rd got the bathroom detail.  I was mesmerized!


.......and everything else for that matter.  Remember high school gym?  Not your favorite thing?  Well, one visit to a Japanese bath....after the initial shock ....will change your mind about the whole communal thing.
Here's the entrance....the red is for ladies....

....and the blue for the men.  However, they change 'areas' each day (A.M. & P.M.) so you have to be careful & pay attention......(Woops!)
Looks good so far, a regular locker room.....for your knickers.  These shelves are for your shoes.

And nice clean basins....with lovely soaps, combs and such.

Ready?  Open the sliding door........

First you scrub, scrub down, wash your hair, get all squeaky clean....don't forget to rinse off!  The areas to the left are individual hand held showers with all the lovely soaps & shampoo materials.

Here's one of them.

Then it's into the very clean, very warm/hot water with you for a nice long soak! If you sit on the ledge your legs will float.
.....and enjoy the view!  (Scenery that is....elevate please!)
Yes I did it and yes I loved it and big YES I picked a time when I could go solo!
Afterwards it was back to my spacious quarters to brew another pot of the best green tea on the planet!

Loved everything at the Ryuguden Ryokan Hakone!

Friday, March 28, 2014


The day began at Meiji Shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. I could hardly wait to get to our Sumi-e class at Carre Moji.  This is one of the most elegant galleries in Japan devoted to the most expressive Sumi painting and calligraphy.  Each of us had our places set with all the implements we would need and the setting was so inspiring I could scarcely concentrated.  Excited X ten!  Miss Judith has been studying Calligraphy with Shantien 'Tom' Chow in my studio for some time and took right to it but Eileen has never even held a brush!  I must say after she realized we wouldn't send her work to the Louvre she got right into it!

I was honored by our teacher, master calligrapher & Sumi artist Madoka Yokoyama and there was lots of bowing & kind comments.

Everyone did beautifully....we learned many new things and had so much fun! Wilbur and Pam are quite possibly the dearest couple and as they've been studying with me, had no trouble getting 'into it'.  Our 'teacher' later commented on how free the group was....each going along their own journey
Bonnie & Charlie are loved by all.  It's their amazing joie de vivre, as they take delight in each and every precious1 moment and their educated enthusiasm is contagous!
Good job Pam!
Bonnie really gets into it! Amy, our guide is interpreting our teacher's comments.
Boyd, another student of Tom's had great fun!

Yours truly with Master Calligrapher Madoka Yokoyama.
I think Madoka wisely decided to just let loose of the reins!
Wilbur and Pam loved seeing the gallery as did we all!
With gallery owner Fumitaka Ueno

Some of the artwork in the gallery.
I was on cloud 9 all day!
The Cherry blossoms are coming into their full glory (they will barely last 2 weeks.)

Off to the Tokyo National Museum in Tokyo's Ueno Park....a portal to the creative Japanese world dating all the way back to the year 10,000 B.C.
Hi Pam!
Back to the hotel and then everyone went to  the Akasaka area to a Karaoke Club and word has it they had a hylariously fun time.  I stayed at the hotel still dreaming of our time at Carre Moji & went to the 40th floor for a lovely 'Italian' dinner.
This was the lovliest salad ever!

A perfect Japanese fillet.
Ending a perfect day.


There is no avoiding the pull of the internet, the blogs, the YouTube imaginings. It's as if we're all 'On the Road' with Jack Kerouac each in our own world of meanderings. When we tell someone to 'get a life' it might be a bit difficult when you're dragged into other people's 24/7.

I've come to realize two foundational principals, there are no accidents and everyone has a purpose. More and more I'm desiring everyone to come into a full realization of their purpose as we all find our way on this little jewel of a planet.

For me, as a professional 'Western style artist', I stumbled into Chinese Brush Painting after a trip in 1980 to Monet's home/garden. Seeing all of his collection of Japanese woodblock prints was an ahh haa moment for me and when I returned to the States I started painting in the Chinese manner and never looked back. The first year was extremely painful for me as I felt that I should be able to master the technique since I was a 'trained' artist. Not a chance ... that just gets in your way.

Now, after teaching close to 3,000 students and having my book 'The Ch'i of the Brush' published by Watson Guptill, I can say that every one of my students does better their first day than I did my first year! Why? Because I insist that they leave their critical parent outside and just enjoy the journey, respecting the work that they do. I never let anyone throw anything away because that just ingrains frustration and defeat.

We really only begin to learn when we stop and figure out how to 'save' a painting. It works every time.I am so proud of my students, their receptivity and eagerness to express themselves is a continuing blessing for me.So, back to finding your purpose. Perhaps it starts with realizing 'it's not about me'. It so easy to want our needs met and to filter everything thru this attitude. When we realize that we're here to be of benefit to every life that we touch the universe really provides the ways and means.

The best part is that it's really exciting to not have yourself on your mind all the time!I'm re-reading a wonderful book about authenticity and in my next meandering I'll tell you about it. In the meantime I'd love to hear about your journey and am here to answer any and all questions about Chinese Brush Painting.