Japan 2018 Review

 Painting the beauty of Japan.

The beautiful Imperial palace gardens in Tokyo.

In April 2018 we hosted our first two week painting holiday in Japan, we took eight guests and they were delighted with the trip. We travelled from Tokyo to Mt Fuji, to Kyoto, Osaka, Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Nara. We found Japan was a beautiful country to explore, draw and paint.

We chose early April to visit as this is when the Cherry Blossom is at its best. When we visited the Cherry blossom had almost finished as unexpectedly it arrived 11 days earlier than usual. There was still blossom about but it wasn’t as abundant as we hoped but Japan was looking beautiful.

Our plan was to stay explore and paint in each of the places, drawing, sketching and painting as we visited and travelled around the country. We sketched in shrines, on streets and in parks. We visited museums and galleries seeing ancient and modern artwork.

We went to places with unique features such as the Aryimashi Bamboo forest with its 60 ft high bamboo lining the route, also to Fushimi a Inari Shrine, miles and miles of Tori gates to walk through. We sat at the side, in the forest sketching the gates as they snake along. The GoldenTemple, sat on the lake in beautifully manicured gardens was a real sight to behold. So much to sketch and paint wherever we went.


Duration: The course was two weeks long, several guests chose to arrive a few days early, they were collected at the airport by a shared taxi service and taken to the hotel. .

Everything below was included in the price.
There was a surcharge for single supplement and a smaller surcharge if willing to share in the Japanese Ryokan for two nights. The basic fee was based on two people sharing one room.

Guide: They provided a fabulous Japanese, English speaking guide that stayed with us 24/7. She was, professional, flexible and very organised, her service was excellent!
Tutors: Janet Brady and Peter Davies hosted the course, teaching in situ at many of the locations. Demonstrating how to paint, explaining how to prepare a painting idea and offering one to one tuition and critique throughout the trip.
Accommodation : We mostly stayed in western style hotels in convenient locations, good for our sightseeing, painting locations and travel. We spent two night in a Ryoken, a traditional Japanese house, sleeping on a futon and bathing in a hot spa.
Travel: We were given a JR rail pass to go on the Bullet train and local trains and they provided tickets for all our modes of transport, from trains, tram, metro, bus, cable car, and boat trips.

Meals: Breakfast and Supper was included, we bought our own lunch wherever we went, sometimes sandwiches or sometimes a meal. Our guide took us to a different restaurant each evening for supper. The food was varied and delicious, it became a fun event that everyone enjoyed.

The itinerary:  Our first few days we spent acclimatising and exploring Tokyo. We stayed in a Western hotel in a quiet part of Tokyo, it had good transport links and was very comfortable. We could access all of Tokyo easily, we had (like an Oyster cards) and train passes. We visited an area called Asakusa rich in fabulous architecture and history. This is where we went to paint the ancient Buddhist temple of Sensō-ji.  A huge area with many temples and a pagoda, providing us with plenty to draw and paint.

We left Tokyo and travelled by train and bus to the mountainous region of Hakone, we purposely chose this area as this is the best place to see Mt Fuji. We weren’t disappointed, after a bus, tram and cable car ride she appeared on the skyline, huge, majestic and breathtaking. We were so lucky as she decided to stay cloud free and visible for the whole day. High above the sulphur mine, we first caught sight of the snow capped mountain. We descended on to a ship travelled along the lake and stopped off at a small town where she reappeared. We had a great view and we’re able to sit all afternoon drawing and painting her.

Our next stop was Kyoto, this very cultural city had so much on offer, firstly the Kinkaku-ji – The Temple of the Golden Phoenix. A beautiful palace sat in manicured gardens, so picturesque.

A visit to the Arashiyama Bamboo forest, here we sat and painted the 60ft tall Bamboo and walked through a street lined with shrine after shrine.

Fushimi Inari Taisha, the thousands of Torri arches, we sat in the forest and painted the bright orange- red arches.

In the late afternoon we went Geisha spotting, we were very lucky, we saw six! We also organised a Calligraphy lesson hosted by a professional graphic artist. It was great fun, a good teacher, we all came away with our own sign and learnt a lot about technique.

We all chose to go to Hiroshima it was quite long day, 2 hours by bullet train. Our guide told us we would first visit the famous island of Miyajima, said to be one of the top three most beautiful places to visit in Japan. It was very beautiful island with dramatic shrines and the most famous sight the ancient Torri gate standing proud in the harbour in the sea.

In the afternoon we headed over to the Peace Park, to stand in the place where the Atomic bomb was dropped, this was a very humbling experience. Mixed emotions, the Atomic Bomb dome kept as a reminder of the terrible event in the peace park full of beautiful memorials to all those that lost their lives. The museum an amazing record of how the bomb was built and the politics surrounding its invention, the people it affected and what happen to them.

We also wanted to visit Himeji Castle, this was a good train journey out of Kyoto, but well worth it. The fairytale castle is one of the few remaining real castles left in Japan. It was stunning and beautiful and worth the trip. We all stood and sketched the main buildings, it is huge and stretched right across the landscape in front of us.

Our final destination was Osaka, We only had a short time staying in this beautiful city. Everyone wanted to head for the shops to find things to buy as a reminder of their trip of for gifts. An afternoon of shopping was called for. Amazing finds from a Shibouri Kimono to earrings and scarves, all sorts of wonderful reminders of our trip. We also went to a beautiful Shrine, know as the cathedral of shrines in Osaka and painted and sketched all afternoon.

Our last trip was to ee the Golden Buddha in Nara, a huge park with the oldest shrine in Japan, it was a beautiful sunny day, walking through the park, visiting the Buddha and sketching outside the shrine with tiny deer wandering around looking for a cheeky snack.

We met early before supper, thanked our guide for all her hard work and looking after us so well. We gave her her own painting kit and an arty back pack to put it in, she was inspired to draw and paint by our trip.

 At the end of the last day we reviewed all the work we had done on the trip, sketchbooks, paintings, scrapbooks and journals. It was a chance to celebrate everyone’s work and enjoying seeing what everyone had achieved.

We headed out for our last supper together before heading off in all different directions some onward travels others heading home.


Tutor Janet Brady – This was a very inspirational trip for me personally and I created a large body of work based on the beautiful places we visited. I filled four Japanese prayer books on this trip and took over 2000 photos.

You can see my paintings inspired by our visit to Japan on my website,  I was pleased to exhibit some of them at the Royal Opera Arcade in Pall Mall in October 2018.


Arashiyama Bamboo forest