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Saturday, October 27

Adachi Kagei School… An Evolution in Ikebana and in Art

My dear cousin called me out on being a slacking blogger. So hear I am. Guilted into getting back in the habit of writing. She was right that I have been spending my time doing papers. So technically, I have been writing up a storm. If you are interested in reading about the expression of Buddhism in Beat Generation prose or the relationship between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt which led to the start of the Cold War, I can happily oblige you with thousands of written words. Or perhaps the cup of tea you are more interested in is the artistic influence of the Arabs that resonates in Spain today. Or what about how art has evolved away from standard picture plane locked forms into something that resembles more theater-like representations and how many still revolt against much of modern art even being art. See… I have plenty of words to share, but I but just the brief explanation damn near put you to sleep.

Frankly, by the end of these past days of substituting and spouting off nonsense to my own professors, I have nothing to share in the creative writing department. I’m reduced to monosyllabic incantations like “wine” or “beer” where you are lucky if I even bother with adding that second silly word, “please.”

It has been fun in busy in the past weeks though, despite my lack of words to describe such. I survived my first Ikebana International event. This wasn’t the first for the chapter, but I was off gallivanting in Kauai for the first.

October’s event was an Ikebana demonstration of the Adachi Kagei School. There is a bit of sadness and happiness in the tale of this school. Adachi sensei is not the first sensei for the school. She was adopted by the first sensei and took up the art of the school under her adopted mother. In 2006, her mother passed away and she succeeded the name. That’s the sad part.

The happy part is how people feel about the new sensei, the daughter. She is very young, which pleases the Japanese greatly. You see, the Japanese culture is modernizing quickly and it is losing much of the beauty of its ancient culture as young people are not interested in continuing these ancient skills through their own education of them. This isn’t a blanket statement of the whole of young Japan, but it is sadly the case in a large way. I have been told that some young Japanese are even not learning how to use chopsticks and instead only know how to eat with Western silverware. I feel this may be a stretch, but it emphasizes the concerns that the elder Japanese population has about losing their beautiful legacy to culture.

Coming from the melting pot of the United States, I can appreciate their concerns. In America, we are such a new and mixed culture in comparison to this island nation that was isolated (voluntarily, but nonetheless) for so long. We, as Americans, encompass so many different cultures, that to actually express American culture is to honestly be accepting of just about any thing from any culture. And perhaps to add some of our famous boldness to it. Let’s be honest… we like it splashy. American culture simply does not have the simplistic beauty of one emphasis that many other nations have. Japan has such untouched beauty and such particular expressions in culture, it would be a shame for them to lose that as time continues to pass.

As for Adachi sensei, the Japanese women in our group are thrilled to see someone so young expressing this ancient art.

On the other hand, she is making some changes.

Like all art, Adachi sensei is evolving her mother’s Ikebana into something a bit more modern and innovative. The scale is getting larger. The expression is changing to more Western free-flowing styles. The current Adachi sensei studied environmental sciences in school. She now uses her Ikebana expression to show the beauty of nature in the hopes that the younger generation will appreciate the natural elements more and therefore work to protect them for future generations. It’s a beautiful message, but it is not where the school originated.

The Adachi Kagei school of the past was focused, like many older Ikebana schools, on the spiritual expression found in nature. Adachi Kagei uses specific materials of pine and bamboo with some other plant to form this expression. Water is also an important part of the art. Water gives live to everything in nature. Water therefore plays an important role in the creation of Ikebana in this school. Understanding nature in its relationship to space is a crucial element when creating Ikebana. Natural materials and non man-made materials used to be the only things found in this school, but the current sensei is changing this. In one of her creations at the event, she used wire and fishing string to help show the beauty of space. The whole concept of space alone is a newer experiment in the whole of the art world. Adachi-sensei is moving forward with this evolution in art.

For this demonstration, she actually created the stage around her as an Ikebana artistic expression. This creation was a massively scaled expression which she then created several smaller designs. It was as if she was emphasizing not only the Ikebana, but also her relationship to it on the stage and therefore expressing her place in nature.

Now perhaps you are thinking I am way out there. It could be that the art class I am currently taking is affecting me more than I know… trying to determine what is art in this world. Lately, I have really been trying to see the evolutions of the idea of ‘what art is’ every where I go. The possibilities grow every time I turn around. Adachi sensei simply helped me to further open my eyes to more possibilities. And she gave me a fresh perspective on the traditional beauty and how it is merging with modern expressions in Ikebana.

So here I find myself now happy and sad. I’m happy that art can evolve in such creative ways and happy to be able to experience that evolution. And yet I am sad because I wonder if Japan and its rich heritage are indeed losing its audience and its traditional roots… only to eventually disappear forever.

Tuesday, October 9

Oktoberfest-ivities in Yokohama

Who can say no to hops and foam? Certainly not I. When some friends mentioned that there was an Oktoberfest in Yokohama this past weekend, I immediately went into fret mode on how to get my midterms done and still have the time to go get my drink on. As the afternoon slipped away on Saturday, and I came to the answer my last essay question, my well-involved answers slipped away with the lowering sun as I rushed to finish. As a friend diagnosed, I have serious senioritis. I just couldn’t care less how good that last answer was in the face of the festivities that lie dead ahead.

We were on the train by 4 and at the Red Brick Warehouse in Yokohama by 5, where taps flowed freely with German goodness. Of course, attending an Oktoberfest in Japan is not quite the same as anywhere else. And why should it be? I have come to enjoy the idiosyncrasies of the culture here. In other instances, the manipulation of American holidays is enough to give me a genial laugh, but this was the first instance that I got to see another culture twist into a Japanese amalgamation.

Like any good Oktoberfest, there was music! Okay, the first group was a Japanese gospel group of which we stood there and tried to figure out if they were singing in Japanese, German or English. Only by moving to the front of the stage did we determine that it was Engrish (the union of the Japanese and English languages… and not always so good… but the effort is appreciated). Of course, the language wasn’t the only thing that threw us off with this group. Shouldn’t there be German singers? Or at least German singing?

Not to disappoint our Fest experience, the second group was indeed those drunken stomping Germans. I tried to take a picture of this, but honestly I was having my own sobriety issues and couldn’t hold the camera too straight at this point. Perhaps it was the chorus line that I joined to dance around the room, clanking glasses and gulping down mouthfuls with every other step, that caused my pictures to suffer the shambles.

Besides beer, music and dancing, there was also sausage! One cannot leave out the sausage when there is a hearty hefeweizen in hand! Of course, one also cannot tell you if that sausage was a form of brat or what. They were quite good, although small in stature for the typically substantial German sausage. There was sauerkraut on the side. Please do not get me wrong… I love Japan and the food here… but these people no nothing of a good sauerkraut. Bland, bland, bland. I actually had to make pork and sauerkraut at home the very next day, just to remove the tasteless from my memory. But the intention was good.

All the components of a good Oktoberfest were represented… with that Japanese spin that has made my experience here so much more. After stopping for late night munchies (the sausages totally didn’t cut it), we made the very last train home. By the next day, we would all be given a firm reminder of why we don’t drink the good stuff too often.

Sunday, October 7

Japanese Peculiarities #1

Well, this isn’t really the first peculiarity I have noted while living here in Japan, but this is the first time it occurred to me to reveal and document these instances in any sort of order. Am quite slow at times.

Anyway. So the story goes…

On Friday, I was sitting in front of my computer from sun up to sun down. Late morning came and the doorbell rang. Not expecting anyone to stop by, this was quite a surprise. Fortunately, my sister-in-law recently sent a webcam as birthday gift, which ensures that I now sit in front of the computer adequately clothed and even now consistently bra’d. On this day, this was a help indeed.

Skipping speaking into the intercom as I noted that my guests were Japanese and I hardly felt like a conversation in broken English on said device, I went straight to open the door. After confirming who I was, the man and woman introduced themselves as being from the water company. Several months ago, we had paid the same bill twice in one month. We had been sent a notice a while back telling us to have someone who speaks Japanese call their office to fix the problem. This project was given to KH, who of course let it slide to the bottom of his pile at work. Thank goodness in Japan, they realize that my husband may just never take care of it. These two had come to pay me. At my front door. Pulling out the exact yen… down to the penny yen and handing it over to my hot little hands.

Now that kind of service, my dear friends, is something you ain’t never gonna’ see in America.