Tuesday, January 13
By the third morning in Japan, the Fellows were able to effortlessly navigate the Tokyo subway system to Shinjuku Goyen National Garden. This incredible garden is famous for its rich history of kiku (chrysanthemum) culture and we were privileged to spend time learning from the masters behind this kiku operation, Mr. Yutaka Matsui and Mr. Kodai Nakazawa.
This green oasis in the middle of busy, crowded Tokyo is home to an annual kiku festival featuring seven display beds of chrysanthemums, each bed with its own set of symbolism and traditions that dictate color, cultivar, and placement of each mum.
As we toured the gardens, we were able to observe first-hand some of the thorough attention to detail demonstrated not only in kiku but in all of traditional Japanese horticulture.
In the afternoon, we took our first baby steps in the world of ikebana, a traditional form of Japanese flower arranging. At the Sogetsu Center, Ms. Kiri Teshigahara, grand-daughter of the founder of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, welcomed us and gave us an introduction to the rich history and art of Ikebana. After watching a skilled demonstration by Ms. Koka Fukushima, the Fellows tried their hand at Sogetsu Ikebana. Although we began with the same materials, each arrangement slowly took on the personality of its creator.
In an effort to authentically experience local culture, the Fellows rounded out the afternoon with a trip to a traditional Japanese wagashi (confections) shop. One of the cakes we tasted has been made from the same recipe since the 1700s. Tradition never tasted so good!