During the last week we travelled to Taiwan, as it is relatively close to Okinawa. The only hitch was that we had to go back to Tokyo, then Narita, rather than flying directly from Okinawa. 

On our first day in Taiwan we headed off to the Taroko National Park and the Gorge, famous for its spectacular scenery and the marble rocks through which the Liwu River has cut its path.

This gateway marks the entrance to the Gorge. It is so steep sided that in many places the road passes through tunnels or clings to the sides of precipitous cliffs.

This pathway was cut into the cliff face to gain access to the hinterland, about 100 years ago, a time when Taiwan was part of the Japanese Empire. Now the pathway is part of a walking trail above the Shakadang River.

We stayed in a cabin at the Leader Village Hotel Taroko, which was remarkable for the number of wooden sculptures around the grounds. I thought this figure created from 'found' branches was quite delightful. This made me think about sculptural work in the Sogetsu School tradition, which however is always abstract rather than figurative.

*          *          *          *          *
I would now like to return to a few other rather striking works from the Exhibition in Okinawa.

This first, large work, is by Shiho Yoshida, the Head Mistress of the Ryukyu Omoro School. The wall piece is very eye-catching. It is made from short tripods cut from the branching sections of mitsumata  (edgeworthia chrysantha). These have been dyed pink and arranged in concentric circles, asymmetrically placed on a circular board. They are also graded in size. In front of this is placed a free-style arrangement using a variety of materials.

The second work is a seika arrangement of considerable technical skill.  The really challenging aspect of the arrangement is that all the stems are held within the finger grip of a pair of hasami (Japanese flower scissors). It was created by Midori Murayama of the Koryu Shoseikai School, Tokyo.

Lastly is a work by Tomoko Morishita, of the Sogetsu School and from Okinawa. This playful work has a vase floating above the table top. To me it seems to be pouring its contents out. The botanical materials are sansevieria, arum lilies, dancing lady orchid and gypsophila.

Greetings from Christopher
29th April 2017


In addition to all the ikebana, we also got to see the fantastic Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. A wonderful presentation of marine life from the seas warmed by the currents flowing north east in this part of the north Pacific Ocean.

This spectacular tank called the Kuroshio Sea has one 'glass' wall of enormous size. It is made from laminated acrylic plates and is 60cm thick.

Later, back in Tokyo, we caught up with the 'Growing Gardener'. I had seen him from a  train on the Yamanote line in 2011 and wanted to get a closer look. 

Last week I showed some photos from the Members' Exhibition at the Convention in Okinawa. Here are some more. 

This work is by my Ichiyo ikebanist and internet friend, Gail Newman, from the USA. Unfortunately, her allocated space was at the end of a table and therefore did not have a full-width white background.

Arrangements by Chieko Yazaki, Elizabeth Angell Emily and Karanikolopoulos can be seen on the Melbourne Chapter blog

Also waving the flag for Australia and New Zealand...

...Masae Ako, Sogetsu School, Sydney Chapter.

Ping Block, Sogetsu School, Sydney Chapter.

Kaye Pearson, Sogetsu School, Lismore Chapter.

Tomoko Hirano, Sogetsu School, New Zealand.

The following works are just a few that caught my attention and are by people unknown to me.

Kazumi Kagawa, Ryukyu Omororyu, Okinawa.

This by Monika Nussberger, a Misho-ryu practitioner from Switzerland. The arrangement was like an early Spring arrangement. In front of which stood 7 glass cylinders filled with water. They were arranged irregularly with gaps between some so that some of the materials appeared to be under water but were not.

A seika arrangement by Regula Maier, another Misho-ryu practitioner from Switzerland.

Doris Wong, Sogetsu School, Hong Kong. 

Unfortunately I did not record the name nor school of this cheeky work. Three slightly crushed cardboard cylinders bound with some vine and a single very small leaf blade, peeping from the back.

Chinara Munduzbaeva, Sogetsu School, Moscow  Two stainless steel suibans, with stainless steel triangles of the same depth and green leaves also in triangles of the same width. Some peonies for colour.

Clara Li, Ichiyo School, Shanghai.

This last work is by Tomiko Uesato of the Ohara School. I got to know of Tomiko, having met her sister-in-law last year when we were on a tour to Rajasthan. It is delightful that the shared passion for Ikebana creates unexpected opportunities for connecting with people from around the world. 

You might also want to check Emily Karanikolopoulos's blog.

Greetings from Christopher
22nd April 2017


This week of our travels began in Tokyo and finished in Okinawa, following our four days on the Nakasendo. We were in time for the last good week of the Cherry Blossom Season.

This photo shows a section of an extensive avenue of beautiful old trees in the Yanaka Cemetery above the Nippori station on the Yamanote line. Laurie and I had stayed in a Ryokan near the station on my first visit to Japan in 1992.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with Yukiko, the daughter of one of Laurie's students in his 1978 English class, and to meet her four-month-old son Riku.

I got the chance to do some 'baby wrangling'.

*          *          *          *          *
On Tuesday we flew to Okinawa for the 11th Ikebana International World Convention which ran from Wednesday to Saturday.

While out walking I was fascinated by the large number of tetrapods and this example of what looks like a 'guerilla' art attack. 

The conference provided an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones as well.

I was pleased to meet a passionate orchid grower, ikebanist and fellow blogger Lyn. Her blog is called Orchids and Ikebana.

Lyn is a member of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana and a member of the Philadelphia Chapter of Ikebana International. Above is her arrangement in the conference exhibition. She has used alium, monstera leaves, statice and a peony. 

There were demonstrations by ordinary members of Ikebana International as well as the Iemotos, head-masters, of seven of the schools. Each school has its own characteristic style. 

This is the final grand work of the Iemoto of  the Ohara School.

Above is the work of the Ichiyo School.

And this was the final work of the Headmaster of the Sogetsu School, Ms Akane Teshigahara.

The last village we visited when we were traveling along the Nakasendo was called Narai. This area is a centre for lacquer-ware and I was able to buy an interesting vase. It was made from lacquer-covered linen over a pulp base. I was able to use the vase in the member's exhibition at the convention.

These were my materials, a smallish philodendron leaf and some red alstroemeria flowers. 

I began by doing the work of a caterpillar... 

...removing the fleshy part of the leaf so that only the stem and ribs remained. I then drew the ends into a knot making a 'cage'. 

The finished arrangement had three stems of alstroemeria flowers partially contained within the 'cage'. The vase is placed at a slight angle and the space at the mouth of the vase and within the arrangement is clear. I would have like the arrangement to be slightly lower; however, I wanted to have only two lines arising from the mouth of the vase.

Greetings from Christopher in Okinawa
16th April 2017


Last weekend  some friends took us to the Aichi Prefectural Ceramics Museum. The first section was of Japanese ceramics. Then there was a section of Korean, followed by Chinese ceramics. The museum also had examples of early pottery from Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam and central America. For me this was a couple of really indulgent hours. 

There was a chronologically arranged display, with the earliest vessels being large Jomon period pots from 3000 BCE.

Also, to my delight, a lovely, simple vase by Hamada Shoji.

*          *          *          *          *

At the beginning of last week we travelled to Kyoto where we caught up with Trish and Alan, friends from Victoria. Trish suggested we go to the temple at Kurama in the hills north-west of Kyoto and walk there from the village of Kibune. The walk is marked 'easy' on the Inside Kyoto website. However, I would not recommend it to anyone with knee problems or a history of heart condition. The climb from Kibune village to Kurama was a long almost continuously ascending staircase.

This photo shows the short staircase up to the shrine at Kibune.

Alan, Trish and Laurie in the shrine forecourt.

At the beginning of the climb, still looking spry.

Amazing old vines along the way.

I thought this blossoming tree at the Kurama station looked particularly spectacular.

The blossoms were so recently opened there was not a petal on the ground.

Back in Kyoto Trish also recommended a visit to the house museum of Kawai Kanjiro

Kawai was one of the four founders of the mingei (folk-art) movement at the beginning of the 20th Century. It is the most beautiful and comfortable house, built with traditional techniques, that I have come across in Japan. The house is in the area just down the hill from Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto. It has not been modernised and to my surprise has very generously proportioned rooms. 

At the back of the house there is a large climbing kiln that was used in the early part of the 20th century, as well as a smaller kiln. The old work studio has a number of works by Kawai and a display of what I think must have been part of his personal collection. All works in the mingei style.

The principal ground floor room looking on to a courtyard garden is of generous proportions and has a warm peaceful atmosphere.

Later while walking  on a street in the area below Kiyomizudera Temple, another perfect blossoming cherry tree...

...and this postcard picture view further along the same street. It is the Yasaka-no-To pagoda at the Hokanji Temple. Previous pagodas on this site had been destroyed by fire. This was last rebuilt in 1440.

*          *          *          *          *

Here is Laurie beginning the climb up the steep street of Magome, the first town on our four-day walking tour along the Nakasendo.

What can I say...?

We finally arrived at the top of the first pass, after almost three kilometres of continuous upward slope. 

Two days later we climbed to the Torii-touge Pass between Yabuhara and Narai.

This was not quite what we expected.

          *         *          *          *          *

When I first came to Japan in 1992 I took ikebana classes with one other student. 

This week's ikebana was hastily put together in her house with apricot blossom from her garden and a pine branch gathered from the roadside. Thank you Junko and Takashi for your hospitality.

Greetings from Christopher
8th April 2017