12 Hours on a plane from Newark to Tokyo, I had just awakened from a NyQuil induced coma. A speckled hand attached to one of the few original surviving Flight Attendants still able to fly the unfriendly skies handed me a customs form, an immigrations form, and asked, “Moving to Japan? You’ve got to sign up for an Ikebana class? You’ll love it!”
“Sounds great!” I lied.
And so began 8 months of harassment to enroll in Ikebana.
Ikebana- the art of using flowers, along every other part of the plant, in a very clean arrangement. Not limited to the lone act of dumping multitudes of flowers by varying color schemes in a vase, space is a crucial element and must also be incorporated in the design. Ikebana is practiced in silence so that reflection and the attainment of zen may be achieved.
When’s the last time you made a stick bend unnaturally and float serenely in a bowl without falling over? Sounds like a recipe for a giant fit followed by stomping and
The first two weeks in Tokyo were a blur of orientations, but somewhere along the acclimatization process a blonde woman appeared with a course guide. Encouraging me to “dive in and meet people” she pointed first to the Ikebana courses. Plural. Wouldn’t building my social network be thwarted by the silent environment I reasoned? In terms of non-verbal communication, I have mastered several negative postures conveyed through facial contortions expressing anger, disgust, dismay, and complete exasperation when directed at the Offspring which usually illicit varying levels of reaction, however, I’ve never thought about expanding my repertoire in order to build an actual positive relationship based on facial expressions alone.
Anyway- How could I reach a zen state while wrestling with climbing vines determined to climb my arms not my vase? I’ve stuck a few flowers in vases before- large numbers are required in order for them to stand erect- how does one accomplish this with just one or two and a branch here or there?
After a couple more months in Tokyo, I’d met several people, and realized I was one of the few who had not partaken in at least one Ikebana class. If any of you move to Tokyo, and elect not to participate in Ikebana, don’t tell a soul for Hell hath not fury like an Ikebana class scorned. Leagues of Ikebana supporters descended upon me.
To which, the Ikebana aficionados decided to whet my appetite with a thorough explanation of several forms which would most certainly pique my interest:
I appreciate Ikebana for its beauty and simplicity but I certainly don’t want to ruin it for everyone else by actually doing it myself. Even if I am the only ExPat that hasn’t taken a class…Really- it’s better this way.
This has been a good lesson for me. Although I appreciate the art form, I don’t want to learn how to do it. I still like the same types of activities- I just do them here- in the Japanese way.