This weekend I did a little sightseeing around where I'm staying, in Kawaguchiko, Japan. There are a series of caves you can visit at the foot of Mt Fuji, formed from lava from the last eruption. The Narusawa Ice Cave is one of them, and is a National Monument. And also a little bit scary to get through due to the extremely low ceilings. The entrance is fascinating, as you go down under the floor of the forest, and suddenly it's literally ice cold, like you've walked into a fridge. The haze you can see in the photo is the air condensating between hot + humid and freezing! A walk in the sea of trees, along lava strewn paths, was also truly beautiful: it had my favourite combo of moss and ferns.I visited a site called Saiko Iyashi no sato NENBA, a recreation of a thatched village that was destroyed by a typhoon in the 60s. Each lovely building had examples of local crafts.And of course, a visit to the opposite side of Lake Kawaguchiko, to get a magnificent view of the sacred mountain, looking just like a Hokusai print.

happy new year!

I was given this lovely simple shimekazari to put on the door, made of straw and rice, to ward off evil spirits and invite the good ones in. Let's hope it works!shimekazariToday we enjoyed a Japanese osechi meal, all handmade and tasty, in a variety of special dishes, many of them wedding gifts used for the first time. Sometimes making beautiful food can be as fascinating as illustration.osechiAnd here's a close-up of a little carrot blossom I made...carrotHope it will be a healthy and happy 2016 for you all!  

Kyushu part II

From Kumamoto, we travelled by scenic train to Kagoshima, with its famous active volcano Sakurajima. We visited up close, riding the boat across the bay, watching nervously at the smoke puffing gently from the top...sakurajimaWe spent a day further south in Ibusuki, and visited the famous sand baths. At Yamakawa it was calm, almost tropical, and we saw another famous mountain called Kaimondake, with its perfectly conical shape.ibusukiThe skies we saw over the waters were truly magical through the train windows, as we travelled along the coast.coastWe ate at a tiny restaurant, that specialised in local style yakitori, and the regulars were amazed to see us. These sorts of places are what make travel amazing...IMG_9169From there we made our way to Kurokawa Onsen, passing by yet another active volcano, Aso san. At Kurokawa we stayed in a lovely traditional ryokan and tried many different sorts of onsen baths. We rested, and walked in the Autumnal mountains.autumn And then back we went to Fukuoka for one more evening of tasty food. Here's a lovely tempura place we found, dating back to the 1930's!IMG_8230And then on to Tokyo, and home.

Montana road trip - part 2

We drove from Missoula across the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains and along the edge of the Great Plains up to the Eastern entrance of Glacier National Park. The Park was beyond breathtaking. The mountains, the trees, and the wide vistas of lakes, they were all so beautiful, I think they'll fill my mind for a long time.many glacierI painted several of the lakes, loving the reflected colours of the skies. This is a huckleberry cobbler, keeping my watercolour company...many glacier 3This is Lake McDonald, where we tried to swim in the freezing water, brrr.glacier 1And Holland Lake at sunset...flathead ... and in the morning.holland lakeWe stayed in a beautiful ranch cabin surrounded by meadows,cabinthat also inspired me to paint...farmThe sunsets and sunrises were bigger than I've ever seen, this is truly the Big Sky Country!flathead lake 1We saw a mama bear and her cub in the forest, and I collected images of Montana bears:bears of montanaYay Montana! Can't wait to visit again...

Montana road trip - part 1

We've just started our road trip in Montana and I'm already loving it. We landed in Missoula, and were greeted by this bear at the airport.bear We spent our first day wandering the town on the hottest day of the year so far (40C!) We tried huckleberry pancakes for breakfast, and huckleberry ice cream to cool down in the afternoon, what a delight!huckleberriesWe browsed junk shops in the historical part of town, full of fascinating Americana and I bought a wonderful box of vintage pencils, hurrah!Who knows what wonderful things we'll see when we set off today, into the Great Plains...

Follow my trip on instagram @mariko.jesse

Hearst Castle & Monterey

We visited Hearst Castle last weekend, which was totally enshrouded in fog and completely crazy. It was fantastic to walk through the rooms and marvel at the mismatched objets...I liked the details in the carvings and sculptures...and I really loved the vintage phones in all the rooms!On the way there we drove down the Monterey coast along Big Sur. It was absolutely beautiful. We cruised '17 Mile Drive' and looked at the famous lone cypress and saw sealions and dolphins, hurrah!

Art in Chicago

This weekend I'm in Chicago. The weather's perfect, and I'm loving it. I've always thought that Chicago is a wonderful secret that nobody tells outsiders, and I feel lucky to have discovered it. And I finally got to see 'the bean', aka 'cloud gate' by Anish Kapoor......on my way to the Art Institute of Chicago, one of my favourite museums in the world. It's just so full of famous paintings that take your breath away.Seurat's 'A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte' has a special place in my heart. I can't quite explain why it moves me so much, but it's like visiting an old friend. The monkey is the cherry on the cake, it's just so delightful.This beautiful Georgia O'Keefe painting of clouds was a lovely surprise.There was also a wonderful little show of Utamaro mokuhanga prints, which crowned an inspiring day.

workshop tours

As part of the SGCI conference last week, I went to visit several local print workshops. It was amazing to get a tour of their facilities and wander around. I have a bit of a thing for paper (can you tell?) so here are my photos of the various studios' paper storage areas. The first is Crown Point Press,and I also loved this huge roll there...   and the flat and roll combo at Kala in Berkeley ...I have to say these tape dispensers at the Compound Studios also tickled my fancy...One day I will have my very own paper shelves!