Bamboo forest

My family and I occasionally take a ‘big’ trip.  This summer we went to Japan.  As our children get older, and head off for college, I realize our family trips are numbered.

This was my opportunity to be with family and revisit a country I had spent time in decades ago.  I am still awed by the architecture, culture, beauty and the civility of Japan and its people.  We used Airbnb’s to stay in beautiful homes in residential neighborhoods, (my favorite way to travel) in Tokyo and Kyoto.  Best of all,  for a family of 5, it costs less per night than staying at a Hilton in the U.S..

Some of the ‘must sees’ in Japan are the Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples, and, of course, we toured many of those and we were lucky to observe a wedding in progress at a temple in Tokyo.  Every temple, every shrine, every palace or castle included a wonderful garden.  The cities in Japan are quite crowded, but everything runs on schedule and is both safe and very clean. They have somehow combined the ultra-advanced technical world with ancient traditions.




Todaiji Temple in Nara-Oldest wooden structure in the world

My Daughter Being Chased By Deer Outside Temple

One of My Daughters Being Chased by Deer Outside the Temple

Electronics District In Tokyo

Electronics District in Tokyo

Robot At Tokyo Science Museum

Robot at Tokyo Science Museum

As with most of our trips, the most memorable moments are the interactions with local people, helping to understand their culture and lives.  Three doors down from our house in Kyoto, was a man who wove intricate fabric for Kimonos, table runners, and bed covers.  He spoke almost no English, but welcomed us into his tiny workshop and with the help of Google Translate, we learned the basics of his work.  His mechanical looms looked to be a hundred years old with thousands of moving parts that clickity clacked like it was about to fly apart.

Kimono Maker

Kimono Maker



I love to cook and really appreciate a good kitchen knife. I read about a tiny knife shop in Kyoto named Hayakawa Hamonoten.  There was barely enough room for two of my children and I to stand along with the owners in the shop, but it was another wonderful experience.  They spent about a half an hour explaining the best uses and properties of each of the knives, then we sat down with the 80 year old owner and received a lesson on how to sharpen the knife with a whetstone. (He sharpens all new knives by hand after purchase). He then inscribed ‘Crisp’ in Japanese on the knife.  I walked out awed by the experience with a professional quality knife, all for less than $100.

Knife Shop

Knife Shop

When we are traveling, we try to get out of the main tourist areas at least for a while. In this case, we visited a rice farmer in the countryside outside of Kyoto.  There, we learned how to make mochi, which is an ancient tradition of pounding sticky rice with a wooden mallet until it reaches a dough-like consistency.  You then tear off small pieces and eat it as a little ball or fill them with bean paste or other fillings.  It involves two people, one pounding the mochi while the other kneads the rice, trying not to get hit as the mallet comes down.  The farmer then made us all a wonderful lunch including many delicacies from his garden. After a truly memorable day with the farmer and his wife, we walked across the rice fields to catch the train back to Kyoto. The following day, we took the Bullet Train to Tokyo, a perfect end to our trip.

Rice Fields

Rice Fields

My Wife Pounding Mochi

My Wife Pounding Mochi

Kids Learning To Make Mochi

Kids Learning to Make Mochi



Farmer Making Lunch

Farmer Making Lunch

Crain In Field

Crain in Rice Field

Bullet Train Back To Tokyo

Bullet Train Back to Tokyo

Photography by: Abigail, Alicia, and Jimmy Crisp as well as our guides, Shino and Emi.


By Published On: July 23rd, 2018Categories: Miscellaneous18 Comments on Postcards From Japan

About the Author: James Crisp

James M. Crisp has been an architect for well over 30 years. His architectural firm, Crisp Architects, designs projects throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. In April of 2007, Taunton Press published 'On the Porch' by James M. Crisp and Sandra Mahoney.

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  1. 954160131D57Ed004F1Bd3990F867982?S=54&R=G
    Denise Buchanan July 26, 2018 at 6:51 am

    Wow—what a fascinating and beautifully photographed travel piece you’ve treated us to along with your always gorgeous architecture!

  2. Aa2Cbf39867Dfccabe80558316A86802?S=54&R=G
    James Crisp July 26, 2018 at 7:12 am

    Thanks Denise. I hope to see you soon!

  3. 6570B44A350F1Ad2Cf396Bed34Ffdd24?S=54&R=G
    kristin Krauskopf July 26, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Your ability to share a story is wonderful. What a great trip.

  4. 1Bb68A5D3Cc824C05129141585B66Aac?S=54&R=G
    Deede Dickson July 26, 2018 at 9:11 am

    I usually travel in Western Europe — but this made me want to see the East! Hope you enjoyed every minute with your family. Fondly, Deede

  5. A120C8Bdf6F0D490A17E771Da3Efdd1B?S=54&R=G
    Mary Ann July 26, 2018 at 9:20 am


    Amazing pictures of your trip to Japan and adventures. Sure looks like you guys had an awesome time and have many memories to share. I always look forward to your newsletter and outstanding architecture ideas and/or renovations!! Keep them coming….

  6. Aa2Cbf39867Dfccabe80558316A86802?S=54&R=G
    James Crisp July 26, 2018 at 9:49 am


  7. Aa2Cbf39867Dfccabe80558316A86802?S=54&R=G
    James Crisp July 26, 2018 at 9:50 am

    You should go. We had a blast.

  8. Aa2Cbf39867Dfccabe80558316A86802?S=54&R=G
    James Crisp July 26, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Thank you

  9. 42B04A27D3489A757C613C066935E961?S=54&R=G
    vince&shirley July 26, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Wonderful trip

  10. E0360Ca9F312373Cebd886A09F949694?S=54&R=G
    Rob Karosis July 26, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Jimmy it’s so great that you and your family took this trip together and created
    lifetime memories with each other! Photos are great too!

  11. 266Cc340108C65E59Ebb5057B286C739?S=54&R=G
    Laura Bryson July 26, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Jimmy!!

  12. 528137122Af50668941F99C7Fc081D6E?S=54&R=G
    Mary Beth Greene July 26, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Fantastic trip! Thank you for sharing this experience. Beautiful pictures of a wonderful culture.

  13. Aa2Cbf39867Dfccabe80558316A86802?S=54&R=G
    James Crisp July 26, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    My pleasure

  14. Aa2Cbf39867Dfccabe80558316A86802?S=54&R=G
    James Crisp July 26, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Thank you

  15. Aa2Cbf39867Dfccabe80558316A86802?S=54&R=G
    James Crisp July 26, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    I agree Rob

  16. 028010D300947Cde474B030C45E946F4?S=54&R=G
    Carole Schaad July 26, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    This is beautiful – what wonderful memories for you all (y’all?) Very envious, and can’t wait to go myself.

    Thank you for sharing! Carole

  17. Aa2Cbf39867Dfccabe80558316A86802?S=54&R=G
    James Crisp July 27, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Thanks, it was a great trip. We recommend it highly!

  18. 2D8Acefbc46E19Edc7A50Ef1Eb58437E?S=54&R=G
    Cliff July 27, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Great pictures. Glad that you and your family had a great vacation,

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