Japan Sketchbook: A Visual Diary by Local Artist Sabra Booth 

Over the last four weeks, local artist and Palo Alto College professor Sabra Booth kept a visual diary of her experiences while teaching art appreciation in Japan in conjunction with the Alamo Colleges’ Study Abroad program. Working alongside San Antonio College professor Yuko Kawabe (who taught beginning and conversational Japanese), Booth led 17 San Antonio students on a whirlwind tour that entailed visits to an array of museums (dedicated to everything from the Edo period to anime), temples, castles and numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites — not to mention trips by boat and bullet train, stays in homes and hostels, snacking on takoyaki (octopus dumplings), sleeping on tatami mats and people-watching in Tokyo’s legendary Harajuku district. — Bryan Rindfuss
Tokyo Paper Lanterns
Cylindrical lanterns called chochin are everywhere in all sizes and colors. Some are made of paper and others are plastic. They are traditionally hung outside of businesses to attract attention.
Stone Lantern in Akasaka Hinokicho Park
Stone lanterns are in most gardens and temple grounds throughout Japan. They are physical metaphors relative to the five elements in Japanese Buddhism: earth, water, fire, wind and void. The reflections from this one were very calming in a busy city park.
Akasaka Hinokicho Park, Tokyo
This city park had an abundance of different varieties of flowers. The Japanese maples are yellow-green now but will turn brilliant red in the fall.
Mount Fuji-san
Mount Fuji-san is the iconic symbol of Japan. It is a sacred place with Shinto shrines dedicated to mountain gods at the halfway point. “San” is a term used in Japanese after someone’s name (like Ms. or Mr.). This implies the mountain is seen as a persona — not just part of the landscape.
Tokyo Blossom
Flowers are important motifs used in Japanese art and textile designs. This was a delicate blossom I sketched in a city park in Tokyo.
Subway Riders in Tokyo
The subways can get crowded but not nearly as bad as I expected. The stations, cars and platforms are like everything else in Japan — immaculately clean.
Hanging in Harajuku, Tokyo
Harajuku is the center of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles. Girls bedecked in pink everything, miniskirts, pigtails with florescent bows and cute barrettes, dangling furry objects and over-the-top makeup. I sketched these tough guys smoking, checking out the scene. The otaku chickens are animation characters for a nearby TV station.
Harajuku Boy
Every hair color imaginable can be found in Harajuku, from shocking fluorescent to light brown and Sailor Moon blond.
Kitsune Statue, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is the chief Shinto shrine dedicated to the god of rice, Inari, who sometimes appears as a kitsune, a shape-shifting fox spirit.
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Tokyo Paper Lanterns
Cylindrical lanterns called chochin are everywhere in all sizes and colors. Some are made of paper and others are plastic. They are traditionally hung outside of businesses to attract attention.
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