Japan :: Okan Arts

land of the rising sun

By Patricia Belyea

since i was a little girl, i always wanted to visit japan.

For my 40th birthday, I made plans to walk around the island of Shikoku in Japan for 28 days. Life got in the way and I cancelled that trip.

For my 50th birthday, I bought tickets for a two-week visit to Kyoto. Life got in the way again. Instead of canceling, I shortened my trip dates. Surely I could find five days to celebrate my half-century milestone!

A people eager to please, the Japanese welcomed my husband Michael and me wherever we went. Our initial stay in Kyoto included riding bicycles along the Kamo River, discovering local places to eat, and exploring historic temples and shrines.

Since our first escapade in 2004, Michael and I have returned to Japan many more times. On the home front we’ve hosted eight Japanese home-stay students, so two of our trips focused on spending time with their families. The generous hospitality of these families overwhelmed us!

Michael and I sought out everything old in Japan, things that were often overlooked. That’s how I got involved with yukata cottons—there was a wealth of vintage bolts with incredible hand-dyed patterns that no one wanted. So I began to import the bolts to share with quilters in North America.

Fast forward to today: now I co-own Okan Arts with the largest collection of yukata cottons outside of Japan and take enthusiast quilters on textile tours to Japan. It is like a dream come true to be able to share Japan and Japanese textiles as my new mission in life.