travel

Bessho Onsen

A few weekends ago we took a trip to Bessho Onsen, a little town near Nagano, in a pretty little snowy valley. It's the last stop on the local train and has several ryokans and shrines. We stayed in a magnificent place called Ryokan Hanaya Nagano.

ryokan.jpg

It used to be a Samurai residence, and has been a ryokan Since the Meiji era. Our room was sublime and we spent most of our time there tucked up cosily in the kotatsu!

ryokan room.jpg

I loved the rotemburo, the baths and the dining rooms and drew some of the beautiful dishes we were served.

plates.jpg

We walked around the town in the freezing but beautiful sunny weather and admired Anrakuji where the wooden octagonal pagoda is a national treasure of Japan.

anrakuji sketch.jpg

I wish there were more weekends I could spend in this luxury...

slippers and wall.jpg

Hawaii

Recently I went to the Big Island of Hawaii for a little holiday. We travelled most of the way round the island, visiting all sorts of different landscapes...and sketching...I loved seeing the sea, in pretty coves and the wide, wide open...We stayed in wonderful retro hotels that felt like Wes Anderson movies, and saw secret and mysterious bays,and lush, tropical rainforests with towering trees and ferns...

and then visited the dry, ashy caldera of the most active volcano in the world, in Volcanoes National Park.

We watched bright green lizards playing,and every morning watched the sun rise over the palms...I can't wait to go back again. Aloha!

Grand Teton National Park

When we visited Yellowstone, we also went to the Grand Teton National Park, and I found it more beautiful than I could have imagined.We stood at the same point that Ansel Adams took his famous photograph, overlooking the winding Snake River, and I did a pencil and watercolour sketch.The wildfires in nearby Montana were making the skies a strange smoky texture, and many of the views we had were softened and mysterious. We went on an early morning river rafting trip and I managed to paint a few quick sketches of the passing scenery and sunrise. We saw elk, moose, bald eagles and even two baby bears.

It was a truly inspiring place; a smaller but perfect National Park. I loved it.

Kawaguchiko

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.

East Coast trip

I've just come home from a wonderful visit in New York and Washington DC. I love NY, and it felt wonderful to meet friends and wander in all my special spots...bellhop I showed my portfolio, ate fun dinners, and saw some inspiring exhibitions in both cities. sketchbooks

I was super excited to see the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, the White House, the Museum of American History and the Capitol.dcI was especially moved by the Jefferson memorial, as he's my favourite US President of all!jefferson

Vienna trip

I spent a few days in Vienna recently, and finally managed to eat at the famous Cafe Central with its glorious arched ceilings.cafe centraleI mixed it up a bit, and then went for cake at Simoni's, a very modern cafe, and just as delicious.simonisThe big revelation for me was the visit to the Kunsthistoriches Museum. I couldn't believe how many truly amazingly beautiful works of art there were.museumMy favourites were this portrait of a lady by Rubens...rubensand this absolute gem by Vermeer. It gave me such a lovely warm feeling.vermeerVienna is such a beautiful city, even the hotdog stands are like works of art. This photograph is my tribute to Hopper, and features Durer's Hare on the roof.hopper

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 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

kokeshi

I've been trying to do more mokuhanga, and recently completed this print of Japanese kokeshi dolls for my new collaborative project with Yoomni Nam and Katie Baldwin.kokeshi 2 c;eaned This time we're calling our project alabama + california + kansas. You can find out more on our blog. We'll again be travelling to visit each other in our studios in these locations, and sending work to each other. Here's a pic of the wood block for this print, as I was carving it.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Connecticut magazines

I recently created some maps for a series of town guide magazines for Litchfield, Ridgefield, Fairfield, Bedford + Pound Ridge, and Wilton, in beautiful Connecticut, USA. The magazines are super nicely produced, and full of useful local information.Exif_JPEG_PICTURE I illustrated one map per magazine, like this:bedford mapSmall details from the maps were used throughout the articles to highlight various attractions and historical notes.Exif_JPEG_PICTUREYou can see the town websites here. I hope I can go there one day!

Japan trip: Wakayama

I've just spent a lovely few days in the Kii peninsula, in Wakayama, Japan. We stayed in traditional guest houses, in onsen towns along the Kumano Kodo ancient pilgrimage route. Our first stay was in Yunomine.The tiny public onsen 'tsuboyu' there is the only UNESCO world heritage recognised hot spring! After enjoying that, and cooking our own onsen eggs, we walked part of the Kumano Kodo, over a mountain, enjoying the moss and ferns.I love the combination of lush green, tall trees, and ancient stones.We then stayed at the delightful Kameya Ryokan in Kawayu Onsen, on the Ota river.We sat on the rocks and swam in the river, where the cold running water mixed with the bubbling hot spring water rising up through the stones.I love onsen holidays!

Morocco

I've just spent a wonderful five days in Morocco with my best friend, relaxing and seeing the countryside. We arrived in Marrakech, and stayed in a beautiful riad to the NW of the Medina. It was calm and soothing, and even had a hammam.We wandered around the souks, buying babouches and a rug, admiring the wonderful details of life in the bustling city.We then went on a three day trip into the mountains, with Desert Majesty. They were super helpful, and our guide Said was very sweet. Here's a map showing where we went.We drove up into the Atlas mountains and down into the valleys. Our first notable stop was at Ait Ben Haddou, a stunning UNESCO world heritage site. It was exciting to find that it has been used as a location for quite a few movies and TV shows, including Gladiator and Game of Thrones.We drove and drove, past huge vistas of mountains...and into an endlessly blue, blue sky...We explored an ancient Kasbah, and found an old display in one of the courtyards, like a lost moment in time...We stayed the second night in a Berber tented camp, and rode camels into the sunset, and in the evening, sat around a campfire listening to songs and drumming.And then on again, into the dusty, red and pink landscape.We drove through Rissani, where the Moroccan king's family comes from,and back again to Marrakech, to get the Saharan sand out of our shoes...All through the trip we were welcomed everywhere with hot, sweet Moroccan mint tea in beautiful little glasses, and invariably, a pretty silver teapot. Yum.

Porto, Portugal

I was in Porto last weekend, and loved its faded charm. It's run-down, but in a delightful way. We had tea at the Majestic Cafe...and I had a very tasty eggtart, with toasted almonds on the top.I love the blue azulejos tiles covering all the walls.We spent a rainy sunday in the museum and church. I like this carved lady holding a sign. I wonder what it could be for...There is good design everywhere, and I especially admired the typography in the metro system.