Japan! Where to begin

A toast to new friends!
I am not sure exactly where to begin this remarkable trip so I will start with the reason I came to Japan- to teach Japanese quilt instructors. My trip was made possible by the wonderful Japan Handicraft Instructors Association and Vogue Nipon.
Ryoko Kobayashi- liasion extraordinaire.
A bit of history. It was started by the first Mr. Seto, a remarkably visionary man who was an entrepreneur after WWII. I will not go into a detailed history except to say that he passed away five years ago after growing a very successful publishing business that focuses on Japanese handicrafts - not just quilting and stitching.
It is now run by his son the lovely Mr. Seto who is charming, funny, and speaks perfect English. A better host could not be found. I had a private meeting with upon upon arriving and was shown his fathers study which is kept in tact at the company's offices. And, he gave me two beautiful cups as a souvenir.
Shabu Shabu lunch
Without the remarkable Ryoko Kobayashi I would never been able to manage the logistics. In addition to having dinner with us the very first night, she was able to arrange to have

Chiaki Doshi and her sister

Chiaki Doshi and her sister showed us around the second day we arrived. They were lovely hostesses, and we spent 4-5 hours looking at different parts of the city together along with having a fabulous Shabu-Shabu lunch. And they took me to Nuno to look at some wonderful fabrics. I know I will certainly keep in contact with Chiaki- a real benefit of the Prize.

Nuno fabric store

On the 15th I spent a few hours setting up my teaching space, and that evening we were invited for an opening reception,  I did not take very many photos of that since I was so busy. The audience were mostly women dressed as fashionably as you can imagine. Some wore kimonos but most wore the funky outfits you might find at any opening night reception. Lots of black, amazing lines, and interesting fabrics.

The Big Site where the exposition was held was enormous.

Then on the 16th I joined 30 teachers for a six hour session. I was nervous for so many reasons but the class went well. I did make one huge mistake- I went to tour the exhibiton hall before the class and got to see the meticulous workmanship that the Japanese are so famous for. OMG. Talk about being cowed. My work can not hold a candle to the detail and perfection that I saw in most of the show. Unfortunately we were not allowed to photograph inside the hall but there were a set of miniature quilts from the collection in Paducah that were exquisite.
My classroom. The work begins!
Teaching with an interpreter was not as bad as I thought. I had a wonderful interpreter that is also a quilter so it made translation so much easier. The hardest part? My instructions are to sew right side to right side whereas they see wrong side to wrong side.  Don't ask me to explain... But that was the hardest part. Other than that they picked up my instructions quickly and were able to make circles ten times better than I could ever hope to!
The ladies were lovely and I had my picture taken with almost every participant. I brought everyone a gift bag with a ergonomic tracing wheel and I taught them how to use it. I found that I over planned and had to combine two exercises into one since the six hours flew by. Their tendency towards precision made it difficult to loosen them up in only one day, but I provided a template that allowed the teachers to do the very fine work they are famous for.
With barely an hour to spare,, I hurried back to the hotel to change for dinner with Mr. Seto, Ryoko, And the other esteemed guests. Dinner was held in a beautiful traditional restaurant under the Tokyo Tower. My photos can not do it justice.

My impression? This prize is so valuable in a number of ways. It does build bridges between the two communities. I learned more about Japanese quilters and now am many Japanese FB friends richer. I spent time looking at their work both before in preparation, but seeing it in person is quite different. I hope this was not a one-sided affair since I was able to teach them a technique they did not know and introduce them to how circles and rings can be used and executed.