A Creative Writing Retreat in Hida Furukawa, Japan, 2018

Origin Stories: A Creative Writing Retreat and International Diversity Project at Fab Cafe in Hida Furukawa, Japan, 2018

Session 1: March 8 – 11
Session 2: March 15 – 18
Session 3: March 22 – 25

Escape to a tranquil Japanese mountain town alive with artisan traditions and ancient beauty, and find, connect with, and explore the origins of your own creativity, while contributing to an international project that will bring your words to the White House in 2018.

Where, who, and what you come from plays a tremendous role in how you write…and where your words can go! This very special retreat, lead in the celebrated Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) Method, invites you to discover the power of your origins, as well as the captivating way in which writing with others can strengthen your own writing voice.

During our retreat in the snow-laced town of Hida Furukawa, inspiration will be explored through the ways in which writers of numerous cultures have mined their origins to create their art. We’ll also be drawing inspiration from our culture-rich surroundings, as this retreat will include bundling up for riverside ambles to peaceful shrines and temples, and strolls along the canal in the Sanmachi “old town” district of traditional white-walled storehouses. You’ll be reminded of the warming food and drink of your own home, practices and traditions, as we sample hot sake from the Watanabe Brewery, and enjoy traditional mountain teas, artisanal craft coffee, and delicious hot pot stews and soups from our hosts at Fab Cafe. You will breath in the heady, pine-scented tradition of lumber and master woodcraft at the Takumikan Craft Museum, along with other sensory prompts to reconnect you with your origins and deepen whatever style and method of writing practice you enjoy most.

​Lastly, and perhaps the most exciting element of this retreat, you’ll have the option of contributing to an international happening: the “I Am From Project,” created by American poet George Ella Lyon, whose famous poem, “Where I’m From,” has inspired writers and teachers around the world. The event, planned for October 2018, will be a “celebration of the diversity and beauty of who we are,” and will include a peaceful march in Washington, DC to unfurl a massive scroll full of writing and art inspired by worldwide meditations on origin. The march will be accompanied by recitations from the scroll, and performances near the White House. The scroll currently includes work from Europe, Asia and South America, as well as from voices of all ages throughout the United States. The goal of this project is for the scroll to include work from every country in the world, and you are warmly invited to add your words and experience to this.

A bound booklet, featuring all the contributions from the Hida retreat to the “I Am From Project” scroll, will be mailed to each retreat participant.

Who can participate:

This writing workshop is best suited for mid-to-high level-English speakers. Writing prompts will be both spoken, and handed out in printed English text, and will strive to be simple, clear and direct. Most of the prompts will be tactile and sensory, things that you can see, feel, smell, hear and touch, though some will include very short passages of written work. Basically, if you can understand the main request of the prompt, you can write. Writing can even be done in Japanese, or whatever your native language might be. As this is an AWA workshop, sharing what you write is optional, and your inspiration to write doesn’t even need to directly respond to or engage with any of the prompts. Having a decent grasp of English will be helpful in listening to the shared work, but what is really important in this workshop is your quiet discoveries within yourself, the strengthening of your writing voice (which need not even be spoken aloud), your “ear” for daily inspiration, and your feelings of mutual understanding and shared experience amidst the peaceful, historic surroundings of Hida Furukawa.

Daily Schedule
(still in development, but roughly)

Day 1 (Thursday)
• Afternoon arrival and check-in
• Dinner on your own to allow for relaxation and late arrivals
• Evening meet and greet wine/sake

Day 2 (Friday)
• Breakfast – 8:30 AM
• Morning writing – 10:00 AM – Noon –  includes two writing prompts, sharing,
• responses
• Lunch/free time – Noon – 2:00 PM
• Afternoon writing – 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM – writing excursion, two writing prompts,
• sharing, responses, and one optional takeaway prompt.
• Dinner – 6:00 PM

Day 3 (Saturday)
• Breakfast – 8:30 AM
• Morning writing – 10:00 AM – Noon –  includes two writing prompts, sharing, responses
• Lunch/free time – Noon – 2:00 PM
• Afternoon writing – 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM – writing excursion, two writing prompts,
• sharing, responses, and one optional takeaway prompt.
• Dinner – 6:00 PM

Day 4 (Sunday)
• Breakfast – 8:30 AM
• Morning writing – 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM –  includes 2 writing prompts, sharing,
• responses, one takeaway prompt
• Optional keepsake craft project – 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM
• Checkout and departure – 2:00 PM

Cost and Accommodations (still in development)

Getting here:

The retreat, running Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon (with the writing happening Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning), can fit in nicely with a longer visit to Japan, or can be a relaxing weekend experience for those already in Japan.

Fab Cafe is five minutes on foot from JR Takayama Main Line Hida Kogawa Station, which is a three hour train ride from Nagoya, a four hour train ride from Kyoto, and a four and a half hour train ride from Tokyo. Nearby attractions include the Tanbono Yu Hot Spring, featuring a red iron oxide bath, and the Ryokufu Resort for skiing and snowboarding.

About the workshop leader:
​Leslie (Henkel) Fierro is a world traveler, an internationally published writer, a contributing editor to the arts journal,
Statement of Record, a juror for the annual Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and leads the “Cast Off! Writers’ Workshops in New York, New Zealand, and online as an Affiliate of the Amherst Writers and Artists organization. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The New Zealand Herald, Tom Tom Magazine, The San Francisco Book Review, Volume Magazine, Performer Magazine, Under The Radar, and The Zinester’s Guide to New York. She spent a year as an English teacher in Izumo-shi, Shimane Prefecture, Japan, and most recently, spent five years working with international students as a program administrator for Parsons School of Design in New York.