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Monday, November 9

Kadou Honnoji School Comes To Kencho-ji Temple

The new season for Ikebana International started in September, but my first program for the season was October's. Held at one of my favorite temples in Kamakura, it was a perfectly sunny and warm day as I rounded up my friends and drove us all to the Kencho-ji Temple. The meeting was to be held in the Hojo (main hall), where we had to remove our shoes before entering the sacred room. An image of the Shakyamuni Buddha looks out over the room from the alter area where Ikebana artist, Tenshin Nakano, was to arrange for us. Nakano-sensei is the son and grandson of famous flower masters of the Kadou Honnoji School of Ikebana, located in Kyoto. After college, he began to study flower arranging and now says of himself, "Ikebana is my life itself." His passion for Ikebana centers on arranging not to express his own ideas, but to do it for those that will be around his flower arrangements. He aims to inspire others, particularly the young, so they might understand how nice life is with flowers by creating arrangements of evolved, new styles from his family's school.

One of the things that always impresses me the most about younger Ikebana artists is their wish to pass along a love for flowers and arranging to the younger generations. In a world where technological advances easily infuse other cultures directly into our own homes, it is tremendously important that the most beautiful parts of our individual cultures not be lost in all this melding. Artists like Nakano truly want to pass along a love for Ikebana, an ancient and very important part of Japanese culture, to their fellow countrymen as well as to the world at large (he has demonstrated in such faraway places as Italy, India, Australia, China and the Ukraine). They see the importance of maintaining the past, but also realize that the past must be altered in some ways to accommodate for their ability to maintain a place in the future. While Nakano's background is in his father and grandfather's school, he shows a very wide range of the past, present and future in his arrangements.

While I am impressed with his vision for flowers and Ikebana of the future, what made the greatest impression on me was his actual demonstrating style. It was unlike anything I have ever encountered before.

The rules for the demonstration: no pictures during the demonstration and no talking or noise at all. This means no questions and no documenting his arrangement style except for my attempt to do it verbally. Nakano had two assistants, also students of his school. They took turns bringing out large scale plants and flowers for the arrangement, with each plant being displayed on its own. For example, one type of tree branch would be held up, all pieces together for Nakano to choose from, while the other varieties would be kept aside. Nakano would study each
branch and choose one. Very quickly, he would then begin to snip away, almost as if just snipping away whatever happened to be near his scissors, but in actuality, each move was very calculated. Usually when you arrange, you stand in front of the arrangement, the side of which the arrangement will be viewed. Nakano, however, has learned to arrange from the back of the arrangement. Somehow his mind's eye can adjust his vision to see the front and yet to create from the back... an impressive trait, if you ask me. He continued snipping away at his accelerated pace and quickly place each piece into its perfect positioning. His first arrangement was more traditional, with each subsequent arrangement becoming progressively futuristic. He created five in all, with one of those in the middle actually created by one of his students. I could see the progression of traditional to modern easily. Each arrangement was beautiful, but I must admit that it wasn't the arrangements that left their impression on me, but his style of creating and the message behind his work.

Once all the work was completed, we were allowed to ask questions. There were many... too many for me to recall. I was still wondering over his message and probably didn't have my mind altogether in those final moments. Sadly, my camera stopped working on this very day. A friend who had come with me had hers and did capture many shots from the day and those are what are presented here.

After all was said and done, we headed to the second floor for a bento box lunch and snack of mochi sweets. A silent auction was in progress, my favorite kind, so I did place a bid on a few items. One in particular really had my interest. I
do hate to keep bidding over others, but I was willing to do it anyway for this piece. I heard a comment as I stood off to the side that "Karen must really want this." I did. And it paid off. I came home with a beautiful, lacquered, wooden tray for only 1,200 yen. While I have no idea what I will do with it, I hope one day to have a bit more room that I can at least display it.

My friends and I took a short walk around the grounds of the
temple before we headed back to the car and home. It was the last time my one friend would join me at an I.I. program as she moves to her new home in Hawaii this very week. At least I have some place beautiful to visit, but going to these programs just won't be the same without her. For now, I will get ready for the next program in November. It should be a wonderful one, held in Tokyo at one of the embassies. More to come on that!

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