Friday, September 21, 2012

So I joined Ikebana International!

A few weeks ago, our military base's spouse group circulated an announcement about Ikebana International.  The Kamakura chapter of this organization has been looking for more involvement from our base's spouses.  Hoping to get a few new ladies to attend the monthly meetings, the Ikebana International rep also included a calendar of events.  Since I've been a floral designer since my senior year of high school, the organization's name alone caught my attention; once I took a look at  the awesome events listed, I immediately filled out the registration form and excitedly sent in my membership payment.  Yesterday was this year's first meeting, which took place at Kamakura's Kotoku-in Temple!

Kotoku-in Temple is kind of famous.  The temple complex houses one of Japan's two, most famous Buddhas.  We're talking an ENORMOUS Buddha that dates from the 1200s.  I've taken just about every one of our visitors here. We don't have giant buddhas in the States, and visitors are easily impressed.  

We arrived- on a slightly cooler morning than we've had in months- at Kotoku-in's gates. A small path, fenced with bamboo, directed our steps to the private residence of Mrs. Sato.  Mrs. Sato is the wife of Kotoku-in's head priest. She graciously hosts several of the Kamakura Chapter's meetings each year in her exquisite home.

We passed over a swiftly flowing stream...

and slid open the garden door of Mrs. Sato's private entrance.

I'm used to entering Kotoku-in Temple, on the other side of the wall, through this entrance.

It was hard to stay on the stone path when there were so many exquisite features of the residence's garden to admire!

The Buddha himself.
A gate to an inner garden.  The blue tiles symbolize heaven.

Once I finally managed to make it through one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens I've ever seen, I joined the other American and Japanese ladies congregating inside Mrs. Sato's residence. 

Ikebana International is not a teaching organization.  Rather, it is, first and foremost, dedicated to the appreciation of Ikebana, or Japanese flower arranging.  Other cultural events may also be included in each of the various chapters' schedules of events.  Thursday's event was a talk given by Mme Olga Kamaldinova, the wife of an ambassador to Japan, to promote understanding of her own native country- Kazakhstan.  

Mme Kamaldinova's talk, given in English and translated into Japanese, was fascinating.  I had no idea that Kazakhstan is such a beautiful country!  She brought examples of traditional clothing, dolls, and other, various handicrafts to visually accompany her talk.

We had a delightful time listening to the speech, asking questions about Kazakhstan, taking a group photo (Of course! This is Japan!), enjoying a catered lunch, and buying raffle tickets for a charity bazaar sponsored by the Kazakh embassy.  I actually won something!

Of course, since this was an Ikebana International meeting, scattered about the expansive room were elegant, seasonally appropriate flower arrangements.  They were stunning.  I think I shall declare my first Ikebana International meeting a resounding success and can hardly wait for October's event to get here!

 Ikebana International has many chapters in Japan.  These include the one in Kamakura, as well as a chapter in Tokyo (the founding chapter), Fukuoka, Okinawa, Nagoya, Kyoto, Saitama, Hiroshima, etc.    For my readers outside of Japan, get excited!  There are also chapters scattered across the globe, including the United States.  Chapters are located all over the country.  Mobile, AL (Mari, this one's for you!), San Diego, CA, Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL all have chapters.  Visit Ikebana International's website, for a complete list of chapters and membership information.  If you live near Kamakura?  Hurry and sign up!  October's meeting is on the 18th and will feature a ikebana demonstration by Rishi Otsuka, the headmaster of Koryu Katabami-kai, himself! 

 Disclaimer:  I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate.  However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong.  Please let me know if something needs a correction.  Thank-you!