Creative Writing Retreat at Fab Cafe in Hida Furukawa, Japan

I really hope to do something like this again one day! Please check out the report from one of my Japanese participants. It’s in Japanese, so grab a friend who reads Japanese, or pour it into Google Translate for an eccentrically poetic interpretation of the experience!

March 22nd – 25th, 2018

(Individual day plans are available for March 23rd, 24th, and 25th)

Application period: through March 20th. Space is limited. 

Escape to a tranquil Japanese mountain town alive with artisan traditions and ancient beauty, and find, connect with, and explore the origins of your unique writer’s voice. Learn to be inspired by everyday life, food, art, nature, music, writing, light, sound, silence, and more…and learn to use that inspiration to find YOUR way of telling YOUR story–whatever form this may take: fiction, essay, memoir, poetry, non-fiction, auto-biography, business profile, love song, manga script…anything goes! As long as you are looking to draw people into your writing, this retreat will help you!

“The townscape of Furukawa-cho has admirable elegance and dignity. Because it is not touristy, unvarnished behaviors and face expressions and even personality can be felt.” –Ryotaro Shiba, Kaido wo Yuku (Walking Along Streets)

This very special retreat, lead by Leslie Fierro in the celebrated Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) Method, invites you to discover the power of your creativity and your original, important voice, as well as the captivating way in which writing with others can strengthen your own writing.

Attending a writing retreat is like being gifted a personal trainer for your writing. Writing IS like exercising. You say you never have time, but if you do 20 minutes of sit-ups and push-ups, you’ll see results, and those results may excite you to continue getting fit. You’ll also have new energy. The workshops that happen in this retreat remind you how to get inspired by everyday life, and how (and why!) to make time for writing. It’s super easy to say, “I have no time to write,” but through this retreat, you’ll see that with a series of twenty-thirty minute writing exercises, there can be some great starts made, and starting can get you excited and give you the energy to continue writing.

The AWA method is a gentle but life-changing teaching method based on the belief that everyone is born with creative genius. It doesn’t matter what grades you got in school. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never been published or celebrated for your writing. You were born with a strong, unique voice that can be nurtured and drawn out through the teaching of creative writing–an art form that is available to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level. The teaching of craft can also be done without causing damage to a writer’s distinct voice and artistic self-esteem; the AWA method is all about focusing on what is strong and memorable in a person’s writing, and allowing for uninhibited experimentation, not about tearing people down. Read these testimonials to find out how a workshop in the AWA method has inspired people to write and keep on writing!

During our retreat at Fab Cafe, in the snow-laced town of Hida Furukawa, (the inspiration for the setting of Makoto Shinkai’s popular anime film,”Your Name” or Kimi no Na wa), we will explore 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 through old-growth forest, or along the canal in the Sanmachi “old town” district of traditional white-walled store houses.

You’ll be inspired on a sensory level, using and writing with all your senses! We’ll sample hot sake from the Watanabe Brewery, and enjoy traditional mountain teas and artisan craft coffee from our hosts at Fab Cafe. You will breath in the heady, pine-scented tradition of lumber and master woodcraft, along with other sensory prompts to reconnect you with your origins and deepen whatever style and method of writing practice you enjoy most. Read samples of the various types of writing that have come out of these writing workshops, here.

Throughout the retreat, in our exercises and responses, we will uphold the AWA core practices:

  • Everyone’’s writing, including the group leader’s, is treated with equal respect and value.
  • Writing is kept confidential and is treated as fiction or story to instill freedom and trust in the group.
  • Writers can refrain from reading their work aloud.
  • Responses to just-written work reflect only what is strong, memorable and successful.
  • Responses and exercises support the development of literary craft.

Lastly, a hand-bound booklet, featuring a contribution from each retreat participant, will be created and sent to you, as a beautiful reminder of Hida and memory from our wonderful retreat experience.

Who can participate:

This writing workshop is best suited for mid to high level English speakers who want to write, and want to ensure their writing (of ANY type) is engaging, powerful, colorful, and doing just what you intend it to do.

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.

If you missed it before, please read samples of the various types of writing that have come out of these writing workshops. This is just a brief sampling. 

Those who are interested can also learn how to submit your work to no-fee, international literary journals, how to write query letters to literary agents (and how to find the right agent for your work), and you will be encouraged to contribute your writing from this workshop 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.

Daily Schedule: (Please note that alternate arrangements can be made prior to payment, such as one day only options, or waiving the accommodations and meals. Please contact Akiko at Fab Cafe to discuss:

Day 1 (Thursday) – optional

  • Afternoon arrival and check-in
  • Dinner on your own to allow for relaxation and late arrivals
  • Evening meet and greet beer/wine/sake.

Day 2 (Friday)

  • Breakfast – 9:00 AM
  • Morning writing – 10:00 AM – Noon –  includes two writing prompts, sharing, responses
  • Lunch – Noon – 1:00 PM
  • Afternoon writing and excursion- 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM – writing excursion, three-four writing prompts, sharing, responses, and one optional takeaway prompt.
  • Dinner – 6:00 PM

Day 3 (Saturday)

  • Breakfast  – 9:00 AM
  • Morning writing – 10:00 AM – Noon –  includes two writing prompts, sharing, responses
  • Lunch – Noon – 1:00 PM
  • Afternoon writing and excursion- 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM – writing excursion, three-four writing prompts, sharing, responses, and one optional takeaway prompt.
  • Dinner – 6:00 PM

Day 4 (Sunday)

  • Breakfast – 9:00 AM
  • Morning writing – 10:00 AM – Noon –  includes two writing prompts, sharing, responses
  • Lunch – Noon – 1:00 PM
  • Afternoon writing and excursion- 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM – writing excursion, three-four writing prompts, sharing, responses, and one optional takeaway prompt.

About the Retreat Leader, Leslie Fierro:


“Leslie’s Cast Off! workshops offer novice and experienced writers a safe and supportive space to generate new work. Her creative spirit makes her workshops fun and engaging. Also, I loved the way the AWA method allowed me to feel at ease and take risks with my writing. Leslie did a great job encouraging everyone to participate and provide positive craft-focused feedback.” – Kathy, Brooklyn, NY

“The workshop I took with Leslie was a delight! Leslie is a creative genius–she took an ordinary object and turned it into a prompt that got me writing a scene for a short story. Leslie kept the group focused and encouraged all of us to share our writing–scary for some, but made easier by her warm smile and supportive personality. Whether you are a beginning writer or an experienced one, a Cast Off! Workshop will steer you in the right direction.” – Laurie, Grand Rapids, MI

More about Leslie Fierro here.

Application period: through March 20th. Space is limited. 

Tuition Fee for the full 3 day retreat with meals and accommodations:  $890 USD** (equivalent to 95,000 Japanese yen) Includes accommodations for three days, happy hour the first evening of check-in (March 22nd), breakfast and lunch for days 2, 3 and 4, and dinner for days 2 and 3.  Pay here for the full retreat with accommodations.  

One-day only options (minus meals and accommodations, but including coffee, tea and snacks) are available for $188** USD equivalent to 20,000 Japanese yen a day.

Two-day only plans (minus meals and accommodations, but including coffee, tea and snacks),  for $188** USD (equivalent to 20,000 Japanese yen) per day.
Three-days plan (minus meals and accommodations, but including coffee, tea and snacks) –  $188** USD (equivalent to 20,000 Japanese yen) per day.

**Special Offer: 

Group discount. Traveling, learning, getting inspired and sharing new cultural experiences is more fun with others!*

Apply with friends, colleagues, or family members (over 16 years old) and each of the members of your group will get a discount of 5,000 yen, returned to you at check-in.

*After you make a payment, please email or call us and tell us your name, as well as the names of the other members of your group. or phone:0577-57-7686(attention to Moriguchi)

Payment Deadline: March 20th

*Payment is not refundable after March 20th. Please contact Leslie Fierro with any questions.

payMake your payment here. You will receive a confirmation once your payment is registered, and will receive follow-up emails to get to know your hopes for the workshop, address any questions, and to ensure your expectations can be met.

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 Hida is five minutes on foot from JR Takayama Main Line Hida Furukawa 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. There is also a direct express bus available from Shinjuku St., Tokyo. More on access here.

Nearby attractions include the  Sparful and 48 falls onsen, and the Ryokufu Resort for skiing and snowboarding. Options for extended stays at Fab Cafe are available.

*Special thanks to Kosu of for letting me use the beautiful photos of the town and landscape from their travel blog post: Hida Takayama and Shirakawa-go Late Winter Trip Part 9: Hida Furukawa, a filming location of “Your name /Kimi no na wa”.

Check it out for more gorgeous images and a personal account of the Hida visiting experience.

*The I Am From Project project culminates in an event, planned for October 2018, that 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. We’ll be Facebook Live-recording the march to share with all.