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Friday, March 20

A Koryu Shoohkai School Demonstration

Yesterday had born another gorgeous spring day, perfect for the day I had planned. My drive to Kamakura Park Hotel for an Ikebana International event brought me along the Zushi and Kamakura coastline and, although Mount Fuji was obscured by haze, the blue green waters filled with wind surfers was still enough to make the scenery magnificent. Our March program for I.I. was for a historic demonstration in the Japanese Ikebana world. You see, the demonstrator, Riou Semba comes from the Koryu Shoohkai School, a school that recently lost its Iemoto (or headmaster) due to the premature death of our demonstrator’s father. When a school loses its Iemoto, generally there is someone who has been groomed for some time to take their place. That person was yesterday’s demonstrator. The historic part of the day was that this demonstration would most likely be his very last prior to being named the tenth Iemoto of the Koryu Shoohkai School at the beginning of April, when he will be renamed in tradition to Rihou Semba III.

Of course, it is well known that Japan carries a special love for its sort of unofficial national flower, the cherry blossom. This being spring in Japan, many areas are already seeing the cherry blossom blooms. In honor of this flower, Mr. Semba chose to use this special flower to create works of art the likes of which I have rarely seen. Before he began the demonstration, he did begin with a presentation he had specially prepared for our Kamakura Chapter, which was to pay homage to his father and the more traditional roots of his school. Using illustrations he found in an antique book dating from 1776, Mr. Semba spent much time recreating these designs and showing us the results, allowing us all to see that they are still fresh ideas in today’s contemporary world. At the end of the presentation, he began his work with three different cherry blossom blooms. The first piece had already been done and had taken him eight hours the day before to prepare. This piece was sitting on the far right of the stage when I had arrived that morning. My untrained eye had observed it and taken the curving willowy nature of the branches to be natural. To my shock, Mr. Semba explained that those curves had actually been created from the long branches he held in his hand by taking tiny wedge slivers out of certain points until the branch curved gracefully in its current position. Let me explain… we are talking solid tree branches here… that have been cut and bent just so to create something even more magnificent than the cherry tree already looks. If this had been me trying to manipulate those branches, I would have accidentally snapped the branches off at all the worst places when trying to bend them.

Mr. Semba then worked on the middle design again showing the graceful curve for which his school is famous for. I guess that curve is best illustrated in the other work of art he had also done the day prior, using pine branches in bamboo containers that all curved in the exact and perfect way as the next one. One last piece was created by three ladies of which I didn’t entirely hear, but I am guessing that they are all sensei in his school. He described this piece in its most traditional form… as a work of art that demonstrates a mountain. The blooms at the top would only be just emerging. The blooms in the middle would be fully opened. And the branches at the bottom of the mountain where it is warmest are already displaying the greenery of leaves.

Sadly, at this point I had to leave. My babysitter was ever so kind to watch Kimono Pipsqueak for me, but with kids of her own, I didn’t want to be an inconvenience on her time. There was to be a Japanese calligraphy demonstration next followed by a four-course French lunch to round out the day’s program. Instead, I picked up my wee one and decided to treat myself to some ribs from the Chili’s restaurant on base before heading home. It was a treat that even KP was fortunate enough to join when one rib jumped from my hands, only to land sticky side down on the child, splattering barbeque sauce across his face and over his head. Perhaps it was a good thing I didn’t stick around for the fancy lunch. I was surely dressed up, but proved once again that you just can’t take me out.


Anonymous said...
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Roxane said...'s so sweet that you shared your ribs with the Pipsqueak!

Funny thing: Despite loving Japanese food, each summer when we visit Japan, at some point in our trip we miss "American" style food and the kids and I will hit up the local Outback Steakhouse for a bloomin onion and ribs...

Kimono Karen said...

I completely understand! No one can resist that stinking blooming onion!