Patricia Belyea at the Kyoto Museum of National Crafts

sunshine on a rainy day

By Patricia Belyea

KYOTO JP  The best time to go to a museum is on a rainy day. So that’s what Michael and I did when the skies opened up in a deluge.

Miyako Messe—Kyoto International Exhibition Hall

Armed with clear plastic umbrellas, we walked two blocks north to a municipal campus—home of six museums and the Kyoto Zoo. We located our destination, Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, in the basement of the International Exhibition Hall. The Museum, with displays of every kind of traditional craft, came to life when we entered a room filled with textile artisans diligently working at their crafts.

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Through gesturing, I was invited to partake in a fabric dyeing project using the yusen method. I made a placemat decorated with purple bellflowers, rubbing dyes through five different rice paper stencils.

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

I was having so much fun that I moved on to the next station—painting a hankie. Here I joined Maggie from Australia, a recent high school graduate. The designs were already stamped in gold so we just had to paint between the lines. Maggie and I dabbed vibrant dyes onto our square clothes stretched across bamboo holding frames.

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

The longer we stayed, the more the craftsmen in the room warmed up to us. Pretty soon everyone was smiling and laughing.

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

It's interesting to note that the Japanese fabric artisans were all men. That's quite the opposite to the preponderance of women textile artists in my North American neck of the woods. When we finally emerged from the Museum, the rains had subsided! 


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  • tpmgmd50
    Without a doubt, this museum was a highlight of my visit to Kyoto earlier this month. Watching and participating with the artists in the workroom was so much fun. The collection of traditional crafts was astounding. In particular, there was a stunning blue and white kimono that took my breath away. Upon seeing it, I had the same feeling I had when I saw Michelangelo’s “David.” Seriously, it is that masterful.

    If you go to Kyoto, do not miss this museum.


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