For the past few weeks, we have been posting the travel journals of Russ Pope, as he prepped and enjoyed 3 solo shows in 9 days throughout Tokyo. Today is his last journal from the trip, where he got to see some sights, take in some culture and enjoy the reflections of his week of arting in Japan. 

I was looking forward to Tuesday as the first day to just be on vacation in Japan. The art shows were amazing, fun and inspiring, and now I was ready for a free day with no schedule. A day to explore a part of Japan I had heard about from friends, a place where quite a few friends called home, and I was lucky to have Makoto offer to show Jennifer, Lorna and I around.

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I had loads of luggage from lugging all my art and books around, so we checked the luggage at our hotel. Sight seeing with two gigantic roller bags with the throngs of people in Japan did not sound fun. After checking out of the hotel in Yokohma and bumping into other Greenroom artists, we walked to the station to board a train from Yokohama to Kamakura.

I had heard about Kamakura and seen pictures of some of the major sights, but I had no idea how cool the city would feel. The vibe felt so low key compared to Tokyo and the streets were all small, filled with individual shops and vendors with cool stuff. We stopped in to Greenroom Yokohama to say hi and sign a few things that had been purchased by people at the Greenroom Festival. The shop and gallery were well-curated and stocked with cool stuff.

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But, before that, Makoto met us at the train station to show us around. The walk to a temple, a shrine and the Buddha were along lush, tree lined streets and gardens. The whole place was green and there was a floral aroma to the air.

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We lit insence, said prayers, received good luck and felt grateful to feel and see so much history. The Amiya-Buddha is so much more spectacular than you can imagine from pictures. It’s a behemoth. I was able to go inside and check the actual weld lines and see all the work it took to put it together. At over 11m tall, this bronze sculpture is huge with size and beauty.

After touristing, Makoto took us to his favorite noodle shop and it might have been the best meal of our trip! Cold soba noodles with dried chicken soaked in soy sauce laden broth and slathered with green onions and washed down with cold beers.

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After wandering the quaint streets for a bit, we stopped for coffee. The owner of the coffee shop is a famous Radio DJ in Japan known for his jazz playlists. The coffee was strong, and tasty. All of the sugar packets artist illustrations on them.

Makoto made our day! We felt so special to be shown around Kamakura and to experience the history and beauty of this city

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After taking the train back to Tokyo, we dropped off our stuff at the apartment and headed straight out to JBS to listen to music and marvel at the massive record collection (over 10,000). We drank cold beers, and good whiskey, listened to jazz and blues, met some American friends and watched Kobayashi San who is an old, G of a man with a denim apron, good glasses, a white beard, red socks with sandals. He’s not super outgoing to most, but his spot one of my favorites. Our night wrapped up with smiles and a walk through a seedy alley way home to the apartment.

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As we headed to Narita Airport, I reflected on the months of preparation and the hours of work I put into the three art shows in Japan. While those months were stressful at times, once the shows came together and I was lucky enough to meet so many cool, interesting people and even have time to check out new areas of this amazing country, I felt content. Every time I visit Japan I am inspired and this visit was no different. Arigato gozaimasu, friends. —Russ Pope