CONTRIBUTED BY MARY RICHARDSON
Are you looking for an artistic and cultural outlet in Okinawa and more interaction with local nationals? Ikebana is the perfect way to achieve both goals.
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, originating nearly 500 years ago. Today it is recognized as one of Japan’s distinct arts and is actively taught in schools and demonstrated on television.
Unlike the overflowing bountiful flower arrangements you might find in the States, Ikebana stresses a minimalist approach. Oftentimes the artist puts special emphasis on other parts of the flower besides the bloom, such as the curvature of a stem or the combination of leaves. In addition, the stems are placed inside the vase according to specifically prescribed angles. Overall, they are examples of art incorporating natural elemental beauty.
Along with other Americans and Japanese, I have been taking Ikebana lessons at the Kadena USO. Our sensei is Keiko Robbins, who hails from mainland Japan and has been practicing Ikebana for decades. Every week, she brings different fresh flowers and sits with each of us individually to provide a mini-lesson on that day’s arrangement. This is especially helpful for the students like me, who have less experience and intuition about how to create an arrangment.
These are a few of my pieces over the past few weeks…
I really love how we work with a variety of flowers and textures, including some that I have never even seen before. Moreover, Sensei Robbins incorporates the seasons and holidays into our designs. I’m looking forward to creating something new and original for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.
In addition to the classes at the Kadena USO, there is also the possibility of joining the Ikebana International Society, which meets monthly at different locations around the island. In the spirit of holiday, this month our group hosted a Halloween luncheon and party with excellent food and opportunities to make new friends.
Ikebana has been one of my favorite outlets living here in Okinawa. I love bringing home an arrangement of fresh flowers once a week that I made, and I’m excited to sit side by side with new Japanese friends and get to know them better. Won’t you join in?
Classes are offered at Kadena USO on Mondays, Thursdays, or Saturdays from 9:30 am to 11:00 am, with students coming and going according to their own schedule. That is, you don’t have to be there exactly at 9:30 or stay until the end since we’re working at own pace. Cost for four classes is $75 per month for flowers and instruction. You will also need to buy a vase, scissors, and frog (center prong to fit inside vase)