Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. Like many Japanese arts, it’s subtle and simple, yet somehow extremely complicated. My friends and I have been practicing Ikebana, to some degree of success, every week since we found classes in our town in February.

Every week we bike twenty minutes to our teacher’s impeccable home.  Her garden has beautiful Japanese plants and a stone path and her house is full of beautifully displayed flowers, sliding paper doors, and tatami mats. As they enter the practice room, all the participants sit seiza – the Japanese formal way to sit, kneeling with your bum on your heels, and say hello.

We pick up our flowers and spend some time cutting and arranging them before the teacher comes and rearranges them, trying to teach us about the proper angles and heights in Japanese. After the flowers are properly placed, we draw them in our notebooks and pack up.

After the flower arranging part of the evening, we have tea and sweets with our teacher. She usually has green tea and some omiyage – treats from a different area of Japan, but sometimes we have matcha and wagashi – sweets made from red bean paste to counter the bitter taste of the tea.

Then we pay, sit seiza again and say thank you, and take our flowers home to arrange them again.

It’s all very formal and ritualistic, and I manage to screw it up at least once a week, especially since I am unable to hold seiza for more than a minute. I love the flowers and the people we meet, and look forward to Ikebana every week Next week is our last Ikebana class before we go home, and I am sad to say goodbye to the sweet people and the calming hobby.

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Shikoku’s beautiful flowers

One thing I will say about Japan’s erratic and frustrating climate is that beautiful flowers bloom all year long. It’s almost worth the physical discomfort and excessive rain. I didn’t know I had found so many wonderful flowers in Shikoku until I got back and looked at my photos. Apparently I am obsessed.

I tried to name the flowers, but I actually have no idea, so if you know what they are called, let me know!

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Hanami: Partying Japanese Style

In the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom, Japanese people flock en mass to fields with cherry blossom trees, lay down a blanket, bust out the BBQ and enjoy Hanami – or cherry blossom viewing parties.

On Saturday the JET program had a social Hanami party at Kokura castle, in Kitakyushu.

At the bathroom we met some Japanese people who invited us to join their party. Since they had really cute children in Anpanman sweaters and a magician, we couldn’t say no.

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Learning Ikebana

We found a place in Chikugo where we can go and learn Ikebana, the art of flower arrangement. It’s a traditional art that has been around for 500 years and although we don’t understand most of what the teacher says, it’s quite relaxing and interesting!

Here’s my first attempt.

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Bloom culture in Japan

White Plum Blossoms

In the spring when the cherry blossoms pop out, Japanese people have large “cherry blossom viewing parties” or hanami. While hanami season is not quite here yet, the plum blossoms are already sprouting and I think they are super beautiful!

Pink Plum Blossoms at Dazaifu Shrine


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