When we arrived in Nara, we checked into Kidera No Ie Kiji no Ie. An old machiya that has been completely renovated. Rather than a hotel, it offers five welcoming and entirely independent houses, furnished and equipped from floor to ceiling. The kitchen, bathroom and living room complement a traditional tatami room. Sliding paper doors open onto small individual gardens where the wooden hinoki tub also does.
Since breakfast is included, it really feels like home, with the added bonus of service. You decide what time and on the dot you will hear a little knock. You are given an old steal frame that you unpack and serve your own Japanese breakfast.
Miroku was the second hotel we stayed in Nara. As part of The Share Hotel group, it's their latest hotel, built super central to everything. With a clean design, crisp white sheets and furniture from Karimoku Case Study and Ishinomaki Lab, we highly recommend for comfort and convenience.
In the afternoon you can have a cold drink and watch the deers on the mountain.
Bitowa Naramachi Antiques
Having a close relationship with JETRO (Japanese external trade organisation) they had set up a very busy schedule in Nara, meeting craftspeople and workshops. So we selected our top four for you.
Tucked away in a residential area of Nara, lives the most beautiful house and workshop and a very talented woman, Mieko Tsuchiya. Here they weave, sew and dye fabric by hand on old looms – they even spin their own yarn.
After a long drive to Tokoyama, we met a master chasen maker (tea whisk). We have never seen such incredible skills performed in front of us. It takes 15 years to earn such a title (that’s one long apprenticeship). We learnt about different types of Chasen - how it’s a fading craft, yet the demand is high. After we watched him make a chasen, we were invited into their Japan home for a tea ceremony.
1. 片木(Hegi): peel one-third of the bamboo skin and divide it into 16 equal parts. Then separate skin and endodermis each of the parts, and cut out the endodermis. 2. 小割(Kowari): divide 1 mm divided into 0.4mm and 0.6mm. 3. 味削り(Ajikezuri): Make the all bristles thinner just like your hair. 4. 面取り(Mentori): Shave the edge each of the bristles to round off the corners. 5. 下編み(Shitaami): Separate inner(0.4mm) and outer(0.6mm) bristles alternately with a thread. 6. 上編み(Uwaami): To keep the shape of the Chasen, knit the inner and outer bristles twice. 7. 仕上げ(Shiage): Arrange the each of the bristles to make beautiful shape.
In 2019 we visited the Akahada-yaki Gyozo Furuse workshop in 2019 and did a pottery class with the master. It was such a pleasure to go back (and pick up the bowl we made).
Gyozo Furuse contains three climbing kilns of large, medium, and small sizes. Of those two kilns, the large one built at the end of the Edo period (1800s) and the medium kiln built in 1951, as well as the former work place and exhibition place, are listed in Japan as Registered Tangible Cultural Properties.
On our last day in Nara we went to City Hall to have a meeting with the Mayor, Mr. Nakagawa. Sitting in a room with lots of people in suits was a little nerve racking, however everyone one was so happy to greet Provider Store. Mr. Nakagawa wanted to learn more about our business and the relationship we have to Nara and its craftspeople. He was so happy with the relationship we have formed with Nara and Japan that he gave us a special gift as a gesture of appreciation.