Japan (BLUE) Textiles Tour 
15 – 29 September 2019

Are you fascinated by indigo dyeing and Japanese textiles? Keen to immerse yourself in Japan Blue?  Want to dip your hands (and cloth) in indigo vats in five separate dyeing workshops?!

Join our small group of indigo-loving, textile-enthused women for the experience of a lifetime; travel to Japan to visit specialist handcraft and textile museums, enjoy five hands-on indigo dyeing workshops led by Japanese master dyers, visit indigo and other (sashiko, shibori, ikat) artisan studios and an indigo farm, indulge in some fabulous textiles shopping, explore magnificent scenery and experience traditional Japanese culture. Plus so much more.

This immersive 15-day women’s textiles tour, hosted by retreat|recreate and fully escorted by a local Japanese English-speaking guide, commences in Tokyo in September – highlights here include visits to three indigo dye artisan studios, a lecture on indigo dyeing traditions in Japan, and two hands-on indigo dye classes. Our stay in Tokyo also includes a handcraft and folkcraft museum, Tokyo’s most famous temple, and exploration of the city’s diverse districts where we will soak up the bright lights of Shibuya and Shinjuku as well as the atmospheric lanes of Asakusa.  We’ll take you to our favourite shops including two that specialise in Japan Blue, and to a truly inspiring sashiko artist’s home and gallery.

Heading to Kyoto we stroll the famous Philosopher’s Path and take in some of the most important Zen temples and gardens in the country, including the justly famous Golden Pavilion. While in Kyoto we’ll spend two nights in a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn). We’ll visit an indigo dye master’s studio in the city’s textiles district, experience a traditional tea ceremony and wander through beautiful Gion one evening, perhaps glimpsing local geiko and maiko (geisha).  A day trip into the mountains takes us to a rural village of traditional thatched-roof farmhouses where we are privileged to be able to meet Japan’s most famous master indigo dyer and visit his workshop and gallery. This particular dyer has been described as one of the most influential textile artists of our time. We’ll also make time to stroll the beautiful bamboo groves of Arashiyama and the thousand orange torii gates of the magical Fushimi Inari Shrine. A special highlight is a morning spent rummaging for treasures at Kyoto’s biggest and best flea market.

Leaving Kyoto, we travel south to Japan’s indigo growing capital. Visiting an indigo farm, we’ll see firsthand how indigo is cultivated, harvested and fermented, ready for distribution to indigo dyers around the country. We’ll also enjoy a dyeing session at the farm in which we’ll dye our own furoshiki cloth. Next we’ll visit the dye studio of a sixth generation indigo dyer whose speciality is creating enormous, stunning indigo and shibori wall hangings. The following day’s schedule features an indigo museum, a specialist indigo bookshop and a shop featuring all things Japan Blue, plus another indigo artist studio visit. There’s also a trip to a nearby castle town of preserved historic houses from the Edo period, including one of a wealthy indigo merchant, now open to the public as a museum.

Heading even further south we travel to the area famous for Japanese kasuri (ikat) weaving – this is also one of only three places in the world where double ikat is practised. Kasuri and indigo are inextricably entwined in Japan and many of the ikat weaving studios here are also indigo studios. We’ll visit a kasuri museum, tour several studios and take two separate indigo dyeing workshops, dyeing both a scarf/stole, and a furoshiki cloth. A visit to the local handcraft museum and gallery will also feature in these final indigo-rich days.  Waving farewell to the south and all things indigo and ikat, we return to Kyoto for one last day and a fabulous farewell dinner before heading our separate ways.

Immerse yourself in Japan Blue on retreat|recreate’s inaugural Japan Blue textiles tour!


  • fourteen nights accommodation as per the itinerary
  • meals as per the itinerary (daily breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners)
  • local English speaking guide throughout the tour
  • all transport (including 14 day JR Pass, taxis, trains, buses, private coach), sightseeing attractions (museums, galleries, etc) and excursions as per the itinerary
  • five hands-on indigo dyeing workshops and classes
  • luggage transfers
  • arrival airport transfer


  • international airfares
  • travel insurance (required)
  • early check in or late check out
  • meals and drinks not included in the itinerary
  • personal spending
  • tip for guide
  • departure airport transfer (can be arranged)

Things to note

  • the tour comprises 14 nights/15 days and operates from 15 – 29 September 2019 commencing in Tokyo and concluding in Kyoto. The itinerary is a full one to ensure value for money, however free periods are built in;
  • the opportunity exists to extend your trip by extra nights at our hotels in Tokyo before or Kyoto after the tour;
  • the arrival airport transfer may not be included in the price if you book pre tour accommodation at a hotel other than the Tokyo tour hotel. Please check with us before booking alternative pre tour accommodation;
  • retreat|recreate strives to offer culturally, environmentally and economically sustainable tours. To this end, we: engage local guides; partner with a wholesale tour operator whose values align with ours; use public transport where possible; patronise local women’s co-ops and associations where possible;
  • retreat|recreate’s tours are offered in partnership with a fully licensed and well-resourced tour operator for your (and our) peace of mind;
  • your retreat|recreate host on this trip will be Susan Rees-Osborne. Our local guide will be confirmed closer to departure;
  • TripAdvisor rates our hotels at approx 3.5 star. We also stay two nights in a traditional ‘ryokan’ Japanese inn where guests sleep on futons on the floor. Please note the single supplement does not apply at the ryokan as rooms will be shared;
  • please consider your mobility/fitness levels to determine if this trip is right for you. The tour comprises travel on public transport and involves much walking. Many subway stations feature stairs. Participants also need to be able to manage their own luggage for brief periods. The weather is likely to be warm to hot and humid. Ryokan accommodation comprises futon bedding on tatami mats on the floor;
  • our group size is 12 women;
  • retreat|recreate’s tour groups welcome women from all over the globe. We embrace all ages over 18, origins, ethnicities and orientations. Flexibility and a sense of humour are encouraged when travelling as part of a group.

Here’s what our travellers had to say about this tour:

The carefully researched and curated inaugural Japan Blue tour was absolutely the experience of a lifetime! Thorough ground work plus the gracious leadership and  enthusiasm of the local guide enabled our small group of passionate textile and indigo enthusiasts to gain a deep understanding of aizome. From fields, through fermentation, to dyeing and buying, we were able to meet extraordinary artisans, dye cloth in centuries-old vats and workshops and gain a deep appreciation for Japan’s indigo culture. Each of our group returned home with gorgeous indigo textiles whether flea market finds, remnants or small bundles of deep blue heaven. Deepest thanks to retreat|recreate for making this first indigo tour a vibrant reality. Louise – Japan Blue 2019

What incredible, thoughtful, well-rounded adventures the two Susans lovingly offer time and time again! It’s a lovely way to travel – the perfect number of like-minded textile lovers and just the right mix of local delights, cultural immersion and discovery.  Thank you!   Roz – Japan Blue 2019 (and Bali 2015)