Painting Japan

My son is spending part of the summer studying at Sophia University in Tokyo, so my wife and I went over for a couple weeks to tour around. It was a great experience, as Japan is such a varied and interesting country full of both ancient and modern marvels. However if you do go, avoid mid-summer as it is hot and muggy!! With the advanced rail system, is is very easy to get around to practically anywhere. I had a Japan Rail Pass, which allowed unlimited rail passage all over Japan for a full two weeks.

Generally when I travel with friends or family, I don’t have much time to paint, but usually take a small acrylic set in case the opportunity and time arises. I take an acrylic set particularly when I fly, especially internationally as it is easier to travel with as you don’t have to deal with turpentine, etc.

I won’t turn this blog entry into a travelogue, but Japan has so many wonderful things to paint, I did manage to do 4 paintings, which are shown below.

The first painting is of a temple complex at Shibamata, in Tokyo. It was only 3 rail stations from where I was staying, so I went out in the morning to do the painting.


Shibamata Temple Japan

I took a day trip to Nagano, only a couple hours by Shinkansen (bullet train) where the Winter Olympics were held in 1998. Nagano was like many cities in Japan, so I backtracked to a little town called Sakudaira. I walked several blocks from the train station where there were rice paddies, and I had a view of the surrounding mountains. It was very hot, and there was no good place to sit in the shade, so I ended up under an overpass sitting on the ground…Japanese ants and all!! Below you can see the scene and my painting materials on the ground. The long white structure in the middle ground are the Shinkansen elevated tracks—


Near Nagano Japan

I had been intrigued by all the Buddhist cemeteries which dot Tokyo and all over the countryside. Every neighborhood seemed to have one. I found that one was around the corner from where we were staying, so one morning went over and painted it…probably my best painting of the trip. I loved all the abstract shapes and colors. I also got attacked by a crow there..I think they are very territorial.


Japanese cemetery

I also took an overnight trip to Hakone and Lake Ashi, which was the prettiest and most scenic of my visit. You can usually see Mt Fuji from there, but it was too hazy and cloudy to get a glimpse. I stayed in a hotel right by a rushing river which was great, so did a painting right there. The tall building on the right edge of the picture is my hotel–


Hakone japan

I wished I would have had more time to do more, but took lots of pictures, so if the mood hits, I have plenty of material to do some studio paintings!!

5 thoughts on “Painting Japan”

  1. Dear Don, you have created fantastic paintings during your trip to Japan! It made me nostalgic about my own trips to Tokyo and places in Japan during 80s and 90s. Thanks for the blog which is interesting.

    Best regards, Ram.

  2. Don,
    I’m envious. Having spent a year in Japanesse language school (just before A.C.) and then never having a chance to see it. Some great paintings. You need to go back to paint. Especially Kyoto and northern most island…very scenic I’m told.

  3. Don, my son is staying there for over 2 months. He has had Japanese since HS freshman…straight ‘A’, nonetheless, and wants to go back and work there for awhile after college.

    My wife has a niece in Tokyo we all stayed with, which makes it nice. We did go to Kyoto for a few days. Also Hiroshima, Hakone, Nagano, etc. We had a 2 week Japan rail pass where you can ride anywhere/anytime as much as you want. The Shinkansen and rail system in general are great.

    I posted some videos on youtube if interested–

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