Saturday, 29 March 2014


Hello all,
I've had a week without classes and I took the opportunity to do a little sight seeing down south. First to Okayama, then Naoshima and Hiroshima. The JR pass, that everyone recommended I buy, came in very handy. But, I must say, as efficient as the Japanese Rail system is, it is very tiring going to and from stations and from platform to platform in the huge stations pulling along my luggage. It was worth the effort, however, and I feel the richer for having taken the trip.

I was very keen to visit Naoshima but I had mixed feelings about Hiroshima. I felt it would be too distressing to be faced with the devastation that was caused there. And it was. But there was also a feeling of hope that humanity will not allow this to happen again. And seeing the bustling modern city that has been built out of the ashes was uplifting.

Below are three examples of the art on Naoshima Island.





Thursday morning I attended my second class, the theme for which was, again, 'You in Ikebana'. I should explain briefly how the classes are run. There are two themes - one for senior students and one for those following the curriculum in the books. Students come in and set up their work, then the  instructor for the lesson demonstrates both themes. She then goes around the room critiquing each arrangement. In both classes I attended, the instructors spent a lot of time with each student, but sadly, it was all in Japanese. Except, of course for the non Japanese speakers, where the interpreter steps in to help.

For my arrangement I chose Gloriosa lilies and birds nest fern, both of which I grow in my garden and am familiar with but have never used together.



I used two triangular containers, the second of which is not shown in the photograph, and brought the fern from the back over the top of the front container, which holds the lilies. It's the same old problem with photos - we lose the depth. (For the critique, the teacher commented that the curved line of the leaf was 'very beautiful' and contrasted very well with the straight line of the lilies. she made one suggestion - because I'd used two containers, a smaller leaf could be placed at the back for balance. I did this but, unfortunately it doesn't show on the photograph.



Bisen Sumide San was the teacher and she was excellent. She handled the material for her demonstration of Variation No 6 horizontal nageire with expert hands bending and placing with ease. I fear the photographs don't do justice to the work.



Her second demonstration was for the theme 'You in Ikebana' and for this she used a fabulous container made by Iemoto Hiroshi with six openings. I have to admit I salivated a bit when I saw it. And Sumide San used it to best effect. She did a lovely spring arrangement in it.


Sayonara for now, Emily

Friday, 21 March 2014

Hi everyone and welcome to my very first post from Tokyo. I'm still very much a beginner with this technology so please forgive any clumsiness.

 I arrived on Monday and have been trying to set up house in the tiniest apartment imaginable. The process has been exciting, frustrating, exhausting and exhilarating. Unfortunately, I arrived feeling quite sick with a chest infection and heavily medicated. I'm happy to say, though, I am well on my way to recovery.

I visited the school yesterday and met with Ms Takahira, who went out of her way to be kind and helpful and showed me around the school and introduced me to a number of people in the organization.

This morning I set out, all rugged up against the cold and rain, nice and early to go to my first lesson. To say that I was excited is an understatement. I was met, again, by the lovely Ms Takahira who introduced me to the flower vendor and the two assistants in the classroom, who also act as translators for foreign students. It was a delightful surprise when I recognized Tamae San, whom I met in Sydney during Iemoto's visit. I also had the pleasure of meeting her during my visit here in 2010, when, again, she translated for me. It was like meeting a friend.

In the foyer of the third floor, outside of the classroom there are two rows of materials: on one side are bunches of branch type material and on the other bunches of flowers. With each lesson, we are permitted two bunches of material and we can choose the combination.

Today's theme was 'Me in Ikebana'.

As I looked at the choices before me, I noticed pussy willow branches and amongst the flowers, a small bunch of tulips. They triggered a memory of a demonstration by Norman Sparnon. It was one of only two of his demonstrations I was privileged to witness and in one arrangement he used pussy willow and tulips. I remember him vividly with his beanie and his hands trembling with the effort required to bend the rather thick stems of pussy willow. So, there and then, I decided that my first arrangement would be a tribute to the late, Great Norman Sparnon. I could never hope to emulate him but I can certainly learn from him.

My arrangement, as seen in the photograph, is made using the bent pussy willow to emphasize curved lines - on one side they are heavier and longer than the other and between them is the accent of flowers. I was pleasantly surprised when bending the pussy willow that the catkins stayed on. In fact removing them took some effort. The variety we have at home needs great care not to lose too many catkins while handling.


The first photo shows the front view, the second is from the side. The instructor, Samura San liked the lines and made two corrections. She felt the depth was too long and, although she liked the placement of the branches, she wanted me to remove the catkins from the bottom part of the pussy willow to emphasize lines at the base. Below are three photographs of the same arrangement after a very hasty redoing..



Sayonara until next time, Emily