Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Today I'd like to tell you about some serendipitous occurrences. But before I do that, I would like to draw you attention to a feature on the right hand side under 'Links' called 'Exhibitions'. I will be using this space to post a lot more photographs than I can include in the blog. Also, for those of you who don't already have it, there is a link to Christopher James very successful and professional blog, 'Roadside Ikebana.' To access just click on either link.

The International classes by their very name mean that people from all around the world come for lessons in Ikebana and because most of them speak English it's easy to carry on a conversation. And, being far from home, when I hear people speak in the Australian accent, I have to go and talk to them. And, invariably, they are also pleased to find an Australian in such a Japanese environment.

During one such lesson an American gentleman approached me and asked me if I was from Melbourne. His name is Michael Beeblebender and we'd met during a workshop we had with Yosh. He and his partner were part of a group visiting during Hanami (cherry blossom time) and had included an ikebana lesson in their tour. Among them was also Jennie Sterling, who has spent some time in Australia is well known to some of our members. Below is Michael's lovely freestyle arrangement.

Last week, as I was walking through the subway station, a Japanese lady came up to me and asked if I was Emily. Because my memory has been known to be unreliable, I assumed we'd met and that I'd forgotten. Not so. She told me she is a Sogetsu member and that she'd heard about me from Christopher James and that has been following my blog. Her name is Takako-san and, clearly, she recognized me from photos in the blog. We exchanged pleasantries and we're looking forward to seeing each other in class. Ordinarily, this type of meeting would not be such a big deal but for me, a foreigner in this beautiful city it was a very big deal.

Last Monday after class I had arranged to meet my friend Kazuko to go to an Ikenobo exhibition. I finished before her and, having some time to kill, I went into the Japanese Handicrafts shop near Sogetsu Headquarters just to look around. They have some exquisite works there, most of them  unaffordable to me.

Just inside the door was an elderly man working with clay at a potter's wheel. Bonus! thought I and moved closer to watch. Another gentleman, who was also watching, brought a chair for me and I sat mesmerized at the old man's handling of that clay. He worked with such ease that it belied the fact that it requires a great deal of strength as well as skill to work on the wheel. Having tried it once, I know just how hard it is.

I found out later that his name is Akika Nagahashi and he comes from an area very close to Fukushima. More people were drawn into our little circle as he made various items such as cups, bowls, jugs etc. and placed them on display around the wheel. Then, because he ran out of room, he proceeded to squash together all his pots. There was a great collective gasp from the audience when he did that but he seemed completely unperturbed.

He then moved to another table on which were paper, brushes and ink and proceeded to paint prancing horses in various positions and gave us all one painting as 'presento'.

A man of many talents.

There was a table full of his works for sale and I bought some cups, which I can only describe as double layered. The photo below shows the outer layer from which are cut the heart shapes and the inside layer is intact. By this time, Kazuko had arrived and acted as interpreter for me and was able to tell him just how much I admired his work. He seemed genuinely pleased and I felt an instant fondness for this gentle, shy man.

Unfortunately there is also great sadness in this story. Just before we left, he showed us photographs of two rooms full of smashed ceramic pots of all descriptions.. They were the result of the great earthquake of three years ago but that's not all. He is in his seventies and doesn't think he will ever be able to return to his home because the area is still contaminated.

Akika-san, me and Kazuko-san

At the time, I, like everyone else, was horrified and deeply saddened by the tragedy that took place in Fukushima but seeing the sadness in that old man's eyes brought it home to me in a way that all the television news in the world could not.

Kazuko and I then went to the Ikenobo exhibition. At the entrance we were greeted by a number of officials, most prominent amongst them was Senior Professor Yuzan Nakano. I was introduced to him by Kazuko, who explained that I am the recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon scholarship. He seemed very pleased to meet me because he knew Norman Sparnon very well as they had both studied under Yuchiku Fujiwara of Ikenobo. Below I have included a photograph of his stunning arrangement at the exhibition, having received permission from him to include it here. There were so many arrangements I would also have liked to include but, without permission from the exhibitors, I can't.

Before I came here, a friend, Anna told me that she was hosting a lovely Japanese lady by the name of Atsuko Hoshino. When Atsuko-san heard about my impending visit, she asked that her details be given to me so that we could meet here and she offered to be of help to me. I found this an extraordinarily kind and generous gesture towards a complete stranger.

And, true to her word, she organized a lunch date at a lovely restaurant, very close to where I live, despite the fact that she and her friend had to travel an hour to get there. She brought with her Ikuyo Goto, whose English is more fluent that Atsuko-san's and who acted as an interpreter. It was a very enjoyable four hour lunch but poor Ikuyo-san had to work very hard interpreting from English to Japanese and back thus, falling behind on eating.

From left - Ikuyu-san, Atsuko-san and me

We agreed to meet again before I leave and I'm really looking forward to it.

Homelessness is as much a problem here as it is around the world. In Shinjuku, where I'm staying, there is a large park where many homeless men and the odd woman have staked out their territory. Also, some have made their 'home' under the overpass, which protects them somewhat from the elements. They keep to themselves and cause no problems that I can see. They certainly don't beg.

One such gentleman caught my eye because he had a cat with him. On closer inspection I saw another and then another. It turns out he has nine cats. Yes, this is not a typo, he has nine cats living in a large box with wheels. They are all on a leash but they are fat and healthy and appear very happy. I took Vicky, a passionate cat lover and owner, to see them and we were struck by the cleanliness of the 'cattery' and the cushions on the chairs on which they were lounging. I, also, have a cat and I know how cat hair gets everywhere and how much effort is required to remove them. I was so impressed by this homeless cat owner that I gave him a donation to help with feeding them. A few days later, I saw a young caucasian couple also engaging with the cats and then the man counted out some money and gave it to the cat owner. I suspect this is how he is able to afford to feed them.

I don't know who is happier here - the cat or Vicky.

Bye for now,

1 comment:

  1. Emily, it was such a pleasure meeting you at headquarters. I am so enjoying your blog. It is now a part of my weekly blog reading along with Christopher's. Warmest regards, Michael