Painting in Japan

Korakuen Morning, 8x10, acrylic on canvas
Korakuen Morning, 8×10, acrylic on canvas

 
Most of you know my son lives and works in Maniwa-shi, Japan, a town in the mountains of Southwest Japan about an hour from Okayama. I recently visited him again, for the third time. He had moved to a new location since my last visit, so I was anxious to explore around his apartment in rural Japan for painting practice! It also happened to be cherry blossom time, so was anxious to see that!

On international trips, I usually take a small acrylic paint set. Acrylics are water soluble, and dry in minutes, so they are easier to travel with than oils. Since you cannot take turpentine on a plane, if you want to paint oils, you have to find a place to buy it after you arrive at your destination. Here’s my setup on the road—

My acrylic traveling kit
My acrylic traveling kit

 
I won’t turn this post into a travelogue and go into all the details of the trip, some of which I posted here on Facebook, but concentrate on the painting in this blog entry. In retrospect, I wasn’t satisfied with most the paintings on the trip except the last day, but here goes anyway…

My son’s new place is a little further out of the central town area, mainly surrounded by rice fields. There is a Shinto Shrine close by, so I did two paintings there on different days.

Shinto Shrine 1,8x10,acrylic on canvas
Shinto Shrine 1,8×10,acrylic on canvas
Shinto Shrine 2,8x10,acrylic on canvas
Shinto Shrine 2,8×10,acrylic on canvas

These are not the main shrine, but other structures in the courtyard. Although it was a relatively small shrine, I could have done quite a few paintings in the little nooks and crannies of this small area.


 
We decided to visit Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, and about a 4 hour bus ride away. Our hotel happened to be right by Dotonburi, the most famous district and party spot in Osaka. We kept quite busy around Osaka and a side trip to Kyoto, so I didn’t have time to paint except for one day. On that day while the others shopped, it was pouring rain, so found a place under a bridge on the river to paint. I also don’t usually do urban scenes, and it was a bit smelly as you know what people do under bridges in party areas…even in clean Japan!

The piece was going nowhere, but as it got darker, the lights started coming on, and I put them in as my focal point which helped brighten things up.

Dontonburi, 8x10, acrylic on canvas
Dontonburi, 8×10, acrylic on canvas
Dotonburi
Dotonburi

 
Upon returning to Maniwa, the blossoms were still not out, and due to the rain and cold, they kept pushing back the projected blossom open date. I did find one close to my sons place, so painted that…

Maniwa, 8x10, acrylic on canvas
Maniwa, 8×10, acrylic on canvas

 
So far I was not really satisfied with any paintings done the the trip and we only had a few days left. We spent the last part of our trip in Okayama. One trip was to Kurashiki Bikan, an old historic district near Okayama. It was a scenic spot, and I started a painting while the others shopped and looked around. There were just a few blossoms, so did a painting of a bridge in the district. We got there late, and I didn’t have much time, so the painting only got about half done.


 
One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan is called Korakuen (Koraku-en). Located in Okayama, Japan, it was built in 1700 by Ikeda Tsunamasa. We saved visiting Korakuen Garden until the last day so-as to catch the blossoms. Although they were not in full bloom, there was enough to paint, so did a painting in the morning, and one in the afternoon.

The morning painting is shown at the top of this blog entry. Here are a few pictures of the area–


 
The blossoms were not fully open yet so I painted the trees a little fuller with blossoms imagining what they will look like.

The afternoon painting was a little more interesting scene and turned out pretty well, but could use some touchup later.

Korakuen Afternoon, 8x10, acrylic on canvas
Korakuen Afternoon, 8×10, acrylic on canvas

Too soon we had to depart for home. I left all the paintings with my son in Japan so he could show them to friends and students.

Kako-no-ike

"Kako-no-ike Pond, Korakuen", 24x12, oil on canvas.
“Kako-no-ike Pond, Korakuen”, 24×12, oil on canvas.

One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan is called Korakuen (K?raku-en). Located in Okayama, Japan, it was built in 1700 by Ikeda Tsunamasa. Korakuen means “garden of pleasure after”, which is a reference to a saying attributed to Confucius explaining that a wise ruler must attend to his subjects’ needs first, and only then should he consider his own interests. Once a playground for the elite, in 1884 Okayama Prefecture took Korakuen over and opened it to the public.

In 1957 Okayama and my home town, San Jose, became sister cities. San Jose built it’s own garden in 1965, called the Japanese Friendship Garden, patterned after Korakuen, and in 1966 it’s koi ponds were stocked with koi sent from Okayama. Although koi live over 50 years with some reports of over 200 years, unfortunately in 2009 a virus wiped out much of the koi in the gardens.

This is a painting of Kako-no-ike, one of the ponds in the garden, and the eighth in my Japan studio series. I visited Korakuen January 2015 while visiting my son who has been teaching English to school kids in the area the last three years. I didn’t have time to do any paintings there, but this is my second studio painting of the garden. You can see all my Japan paintings, both en plein air (on location), and studio paintings on Pinterest, here.


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