In this post I would like to tell you a little bit about spring in Tokyo but you may want to make a cup of tea before starting to read it as it is a long one.
The weather is still quite chilly with the occasional, very welcome breaks of sunshine but spring is definitely here. On my way to the subway one very cold, wet and windy morning, I came across these dear little daffodils. They're growing along the side of the footpath, they're only about 10cm high and the first to flower amongst the other daffodil plants. I felt they deserved the time to stop and photograph them so that I might share their beauty with you.
Of course, there can be no discussion of spring in Japan without mentioning the cherry blossoms or Sakura. The reason I chose to come this time of year was so that I could experience Hanami (flower viewing), something I've been wanting to do for a very long time. And I've not been disappointed.
Last Saturday the weather was beautiful so I went for a walk to a nearby park, from which emanated a great deal of noise and found that there was the Tokyo Outdoor Festival. Although they referred to it as The Outside Festival. There were stalls selling all sorts of things including an Australian one that was conducting wine tasting, promoting Australian Wines. There was also a stall promoting Australian Preserved Flowers, where a Japanese lady was demonstrating the use of such flowers.
But I digress, I went there to see the cherry blossoms up close. They are every bit as beautiful as I imagined but be warned, looking up as you're walking is dangerous! After the first stumble, I learnt to stop and then look up. There are many trees in full bloom and people everywhere stop to capture in photographs their delicate, ephemeral beauty. Hanami is a very special time for the Japanese. There are parties organized, special foods prepared and there is real passion when they speak about it. The shops are selling all types of sweets decorated in flower designs for gifts. Hanami is deeply entrenched in the Japanese psyche and I feel very privileged to be sharing it with them.
There is one thing, however, that detracts from the natural beauty of the cherry blossoms and the parks in general. People are using large, plastic tarpaulin in a very lurid blue colour spread under the trees, on which they sit. I had my photo taken with the cherry blossom tree far into the background in order to avoid the ubiquitous tarpaulin. I've included here a photo with the offending article as evidence.
On Sunday the weather changed and it was cold and wet and windy again. I spent the day indoors but in the afternoon I needed to take a walk, so I rugged up, took my umbrella and set out towards another little park. As a consequence of the wind and rain, petals and small sprigs of cheery blossoms covered the ground. I picked a couple of sprigs that had a bit of stem attached and brought them home to admire up close.
On the 28th April the very special event of Flower Thanks Day took place at the Sogetsu Hall. I initially intended to give this a miss but an email from Ms Takahira on the morning of the event made me change my mind. At the time I was at the laundromat and had to rush home, change and take the subway to the school. Made it just in time. And I'm so glad I did!
The ceremony began with the Iemoto making a flower offering in the centre of three tables, on which stood large metal containers holding oasis. Then, in order of seniority, people followed her example until all the containers were full. The last group to make this offering were those holding Komon and, as I sat watching them, Ms Takahira tapped me on the shoulder and told me that, since I too held Komon, I should join them. This was an unexpected honour and it made me feel that I truly belonged to the Sogetsu community, which filled the hall to overflowing.
And here I am leaving the stage
Following the Floral Offerings, there were a number of presentations of awards by Iemoto Akane Teshigahara. It was a lovely surprise for me to see the familiar name of Ping Block in the list of recipients of Riji certificates. Not only that, she gave the speech as the representative of her group. She did us proud with her speech as it was both eloquent and warm and, best of all, I understood it.
After a short interval, we watched the Graduation Demonstration by the 5th graduates of the 'Let's Try! Demonstration' course. There were 20 people who demonstrated in all but they did so four at a time on the stage. Iemoto made the introductions and spoke, I presume, about each work and also invited each of the demonstrators to speak. Sadly, I didn't understand any of it. Also, because I was sitting very far back in the hall, the photos I took are of such poor quality that they are not worth including here.
This is a very long post but I can't finish it without mentioning two delightful meetings I had, one with Emiko Chishima and the other with Kazuko Yano. Many of you will know these ladies from our Sogetsu group in Melbourne and Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter. It was so wonderful to spend an afternoon with each of these two warm and generous women, both of whom have gone out of their way to be welcoming and helpful to me. It is a great comfort to me, as I am on my own in a foreign land, to know that they are here and I can call them if get into any difficulty.
To those of you with the patience to see this post to the end, I say Sayonara once again, until next time.