Day 21 | Tokio (7)

Our last full day in Japan. Vladimir’s alarm goes off three times. I hear him snoring through the wall. It still feels too early for me to get up, so I linger a bit longer.

Today, we need to pack our suitcases and we want to visit David Bull’s studio. V. was busy with his suitcase until late yesterday and spent the rest of the night in his dreams packing and unpacking, making piles, and sending packages… It keeps us occupied. That’s for sure. Breakfast on the balcony and we set off. Two subways and a ten-minute walk later, we arrive at Mokuhankan, the studio of David Bull. David is an English/Canadian who ended up here and has been living in Japan for a few decades. He looks like a windswept guru. He was a pioneer in spreading mokuhanga in the West. His instructional videos are legendary.

sign of a singer on the streetlight

To our surprise, the studio is located in a bustling tourist area of Tokyo. Downstairs in the shop, bins full of prints line the walls: originals, reprints, bargains, suggestions, etc. Clearly a man with vision and a businessman. Casual passersby stream in, as well as people like us who come to visit purposefully. Above the shop is the studio. There, reprints are carved and printed. He has 33 people on staff, including salespeople. He is present in the shop.

We hesitate if we should dare to strike up a conversation or not. Vladimir picks a print from a bin, the same one we saw hanging on the wall at our sensei’s - one with 70 blocks. We immediately have our ‘opening’ for a conversation - Vladimir asks if this print might have been carved by Asaka Motoharu… ? One thing leads to another, we give him our last Mokublad, stickers, and business cards and explain our concept. He is very interested. Thinks it’s a good thing. He has two Dutch people working in his studio, they will translate for him, he says. He knows some people from the Mokublad. April Volmer will drop by soon, he tells us.

vladimir and david bull talking

We wait, look at the prints, and continue chatting in between. It gets intense at times - he is a passionate person. I get overstimulated, it’s hard to keep listening even though he has some interesting things to say. April, John, and Florence come in, nice to meet each other again. They fly back to NY on Wednesday and come to pick up the prints they bought last week.

There are many prints by Hiroshige for sale, I search for the whirlpools of Naruto, we saw the whirlpools live on this trip! Unfortunately, there is no copy in the collection. Too bad. I choose a small different work (from 1906) by Hiroshige for back home.

basketballbal hanging on the sealing

Then off to Don Quichote, for a larger carry-on suitcase. I choose a rectangular backpack, light and half the price of the suitcases. It has straps on the side to compress everything. All good.

We wander around the neighborhood a bit more and are just served our *matcha ice cream *when suddenly police officers appear from all around us. A marching band is coming. A big marching band, followed by a long line of people with a cap, white pants, and yellow t-shirt. They make strange slow movements with their arms.

macha icecream
people marching on the street

A leaflet is thrust under our noses. No festivities, but a protest march by the Falun Gong. Actually, a cool idea to protest accompanied by a marching band.

We return to our Airbnb to pack our suitcases. Vladimir picks up a cardboard box on the way to make his parcel. We pick up the scale at the hotel. One two three - start!

We figure it out. I have a slight overweight in my carry-on-bag. One set of wheels on my large suitcase is nearing its end. Fingers crossed they hold up for at least one more day. I’ll avoid the guided lines for the blind. Vladimir sends 10kg by post. His clothes are washed, and he will donate them to Uniqlo tomorrow.

Vladimir gives me two funny thimbles as a gift, he thinks they are for counting paper. All in function of the graphics, right!

We want to end our adventure with a nice last supper. We arrive at an authentic restaurant filled with locals. Funny waiter and chef. Delicious food. The TV is on, there’s loud chatter, laughter, and smoking. It’s cozy. Our non-alcoholic ginger ale becomes the running joke of the evening between us and the waiter. We go over the trip, discuss what we’ve experienced and our conclusions. What we still want to do and how we want to continue our journey. Many plans and still a lot of enthusiasm! As we stand up to leave, the chef looks at me with big eyes and says that I am very tall. ‘Yes, sorry’I answer laughing, and we are escorted outside with much laughter.

We have a dessert in our Japanese room and I go to the shower, blog, and sleep.

Tomorrow we start the journey back. In 24 hours, if all goes well, we’ll be on the second flight. Straight to Brussels! I look forward to seeing everyone again.

It was nice. A very special trip with many facets. Glad I could experience the first part, the wonder and discovery of all the new things together with my love. The second part was intense, fun, and interesting. I gained so many experiences, impressions, and encounters that I won’t soon forget. I will be able to draw from this for a long time.

Thanks to everyone for letting me experience this x

selfportrait in the reflection of an aquarium