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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.


Heather Meadows said...

Nice post.

Evolution is bittersweet. I sometimes get depressed thinking about all the cultural beauty we're losing every day. But at the same time, it's so exciting to see the new culture emerge.

I guess the best thing we can do is appreciate and record the culture around us, so even if the traditions are lost, the knowledge will still be there.

(And by the way, I didn't find the descriptions of your history papers boring at all! I have always been a horrible history student, but I'm slowly coming to realize just how much of an impact historical facts have on the stuff I do like, like anthropology. Really they are inexorably tied to one another, but I always sort of glossed over the history part...)

Lisa said...

Thank you! And if it helps, if you are ever at a loss when attempting to put something intellectual together, feel free to post about wine and beer. I'd be just as happy with that dialogue...ok more so! I'm simple and easy to please!

Love ya!!