Japan // Kyoto & Nara //

Experiencing Kyoto culture

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It’s possible to learn about various traditional crafts and Kyoto culture at venues around the city. For yūzen dyeing head to the Kodai Yūzen-en gallery (daily 9am–5pm; ¥500; w http://www.kodaiyuzen.co.jp), located on Takatsuji-dōri, southwest of the Horikawa Shijō junction. Ask to see their introductory video in English, first and then, if you’re inspired, you can try yūzen hand-dyeing for yourself, on a handkerchief or table centrepiece (from ¥1600). Two blocks west of the Nishijin Textile Centre, on Nakasuji-dōri, you can learn about another hand-dyeing technique at the lovely old Aizen-kōbō workshop run by the Utsuki family (Mon–Fri 10am–5.30pm, Sat & Sun 9am–4pm; free; reservation essential at weekends; t 075/441-0355, w web.Kyoto-inet.or.jp/people/aizen). Aizen-kōbō’s owner, Kenichi Utsuki, gives explanations in English of the intricate and time-consuming techniques involved in indigo hand-dyeing. The cloth is dyed with natural indigo and then sun-dried to give it a glorious, rich shade of blue or green. The Kyoto Handicraft Centre offers demonstration classes for beginners in cloisonné (enamel-work) and woodblock printing (¥1890 for 1hr; book at the ground-floor information desk 1–4pm). The Uzuki Cooking School in northeastern Kyoto holds classes in seasonal Kyoto cuisine, mostly on weekday afternoons. The enthusiastic English-speaking instructor, Emi Hirayama, brings you into her own kitchen and takes you through the steps of creating a delicious four-course meal (¥4000/person; w http://www.kyotouzuki.com). Finally, WAK Japan (¥3500–5500/person; w http://www.wakjapan.com) offers 55-minute courses with English-speaking female teachers in tea ceremony, kimono, calligraphy, flower arrangement and musical instruments at their machiya school near the Imperial Palace. More expensive “home visit” lessons are also available (from ¥10,500).

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