Sunday, June 16, 2013

My attempt at ikebana-inspired flower arranging...

I went on yet another wonderful cultural trip hosted by MCAS Iwakuni's Cultural Adaptation office, our fearless leader Akie again leading us in to another adventure. This time we "ventured out" and, instead of taking a tour bus to our location, we took public transportation... the city bus to downtown Iwakuni. It's about a 10 minute walk from base to the bus stop, a 10 minute bus ride, and then about a 15 minute walk to our cultural destination, a floral shop called Flower Atelier Loto.

The two-room shop was much smaller than those you might be used to in the states, but beautiful and charming. The owner is Shigehito Hiramitsu, who trained in floral arranging for more than a decade before opening his shop. He and his wife hosted nine of us Americans as we embarked on a ikebana flower arranging project Thursday. Actually, as he was quick to point out, the project we did is not specifically ikebana in style, but is inspired by it. To keep it simple, ikebana style includes a "dot" and then a "long line" in its design. Where Western arrangements tend to be full, with many blooms and a focus on the flowers, ikebana is more minimalist with the emphasis more on leaves and stems, the overall simplicity, and form.

We respectfully called Shigehito Hiramitsu a kyosho, or "master" or "teacher," sensei. After all, he was definitely teaching usunflower paintings), a kiku, or chrysanthemum (often used to decorate Buddha statues), a silon stalk (which reminds me of mother-in-law tongue plants), a vine called decuso, which is actually a type of grass, not an actual clinging vine, and gerax leaves as cover for the oasis sponge. In Buddhism, which is where ikebana flower arranging got its, ahem, roots, it is bad form to show that the flowers have been cut, so the leave cover the base of the plants where the oasis sponge rests inside the pot.
something he is an expert in. He designed the project we created, with what he called a Goho sunflower (apparently named after the artist Van Gogh, who is famous for his s

First we had to submerge the sponge in the water to get it wet. There was not pushing, just floating the sponge on top of the water until it naturally soaked up all the water it possibly could. And then it was pretty heavy. We pulled the sponges out of the water and then literally plunked them in to our pots.

When then followed along with Shigehito Hiramitsu as he recreated his arrangement. I did learn something useful when it comes to cut flowers: They will last longer if you trim the ends  with a misugiri, or water cut. While the stem is submerged in water, trim the end off at an angle. This keeps air from touching the new trimmed end and the flower can draw up water faster and longer, making the arrangement last longer. Good to know next time my husband brings me flowers... which may be decades from now, I am note sure. But, still, good to know.

We then took the newly trimmed floral items and placed them strategically in the foam in our best copies of the kyosho's design. When we were through, he very kindly commented on everyone's design, whether they were kawaii (cute) or, as he said about mine, very reminiscent of the ikebana style. OK, maybe I have a knack for flower arranging. Or maybe he is just a very nice man. Either way, I had a great time in the class and would love to learn more about flower arranging, but I hear his classes are hard to get in to because they are popular. I can see why. He is talented and has great enthusiasm for his work. And his good sense of humor doesn't hurt either (neither does his wife's! She was pretty quiet during our visit, but when she did speak, she had some funny things to say!).

Here are some of my favorite photos I took of the shop, and of our class:

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