ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan



This past weekend, I attended the yearly fireworks festival in Hanamaki.

In most towns and cities, fireworks are held during the summer months close to a river or lake. Here in Hanamaki, the display is held next to the Kitakami River that runs through the city.

My friends and I arrived about an hour early to make sure that we got a good spot to view the fireworks. We ended up being on an embankment along the river that was the perfect spot. We were able to lie down and look up into the night sky and enjoy the fireworks.

The show was about an hour and 45 minutes long with around 7,000 fireworks shot up into the air. Along with the usual shapes, this year we were treated to boxes, cats, sunflowers, hamburgers, smiley faces and hearts. Unfortunately, I didn't take any video of those.

Here are a couple of short videos that I took using my cell phone. I hope you enjoy them!


Okonomiyaki -- Japanese pancakes

A couple of weeks ago, a new restaurant opened up here in Hanamaki. The city I live in is large population wise, but not that large when it comes to a variety of restaurants or things to do. So needless to say, I was very excited about the new restaurant.

The restaurant is an okonomiyaki restaurant called Dohtonbori. What is okonomiyaki? Well, the easiest explanation would be a savory Japanese pancake with different ingredients added to the batter. The word is derived from okonomi meaning "what you like" and yaki meaning "grill."

There are two main types of okonomiyaki -- Osaka-style and Hiroshima-style.

Osaka-style is the most popular and can be found throughout Japan. Shredded cabbage, eggs, green onions, and often some type of meat are mixed into the batter. At this restaurant, you grill the okonomiyaki yourself at the table on a very hot griddle. It makes for a fun time!

In the other style, Hiroshima-style, the ingredients are layered instead of mixed together like the Osaka-style. A thin layer of the batter is smoothed out, and on top of that, cabbage and thin strips of pork are layered on top. Off to the side, you grill some noodles, which are then added to the top; and to top it all off, a fried egg. This one is a bit more complicated to make -- timing is important -- but I must say, this style is my favorite.

Take a look at some photos I took when a friend and I went to check it out. It was delicious.

Disclaimer: The photos aren't the best. I was trying to hurry in between each step and take the pictures before the stuff burned!

The ingredients for the Hiroshima-style okonomikayi.
Over the thin layer of batter, shredded cabbage and pork are added.
The okonomiyaki turned over to cook the cabbage and pork.
While the cabbage and pork are grilling, off to the side, noodles are grilled with a sweet sauce.
An egg is then fried with the noodles and the cabbage and pork added on top.
The whole thing is flipped over once again and. . .
The finished product!
The half on the right has okonomiyaki sauce, dried seaweed, katsuobushi flakes and mayonaise.
The one on the right has the okonomiyaki sauce only -- my side.
Osaka-style okonomiyaki with cabbage, green onions, and pork.
Also Osaka-style with three typs of onions and pork.
The finished product, without the sauce.
I forgot to take a picture because I was enjoying eating it so much!
The cute mascot of the restaurant -- a tanuki or Japanese raccoon.


10 Years of Ikebana

10 Years of Ikebana.

Sometimes I can’t believe that I have been studying ikebana for that long. What started out as a way to learn more about Japan and it’s culture has turned out to be part of my daily life. It has become part of my personal culture.

To celebrate my ongoing journey of studying ikebana, my teacher and I decided that we should have an exhibition. I knew that I would do more than one arrangement, but how many? Five? Eight? Ten? Ten seemed like the perfect number (10 years of ikebana -- 10 arrangements), and I could show the variety of styles and forms that Ohara-ryu has to offer. My teacher also invited her other students to participate, and 21 people volunteered to join the exhibition, each of them doing one arrangement each.

After a couple of months of preparation, the big day arrived. Several different newspapers and the local NHK news came to report on the event. With all of the publicity and word of mouth invitations, over 450 people came to the exhibition held on June 12-13. Neither I nor my teacher expected that many people to come, so we were very happy with the turnout!

Doing 10 different arrangements at one time was a new experience for me. I worked the night before for about 4 hours and the morning of for about 4 hours. I had also done some work the week leading up to the event; but because the flowers are living, I couldn’t do the arrangements too far in advance. It was a great experience, but I think that next time, one arrangement will be enough!

Have a look at what I did:
Rising Form   Calla Lilly, Green Ball, Leather Leaf
Inclining Form  Anthurium, Orchid, Fern
Upright Style  Hosta, Chrysanthemum, Prairie Gentian
Slanting Style  Enkianthus, Peony
Bunjin Arrangement  Loquat Tree, Casablanca Lily, Hydrangea
Rimpa Arrangement  Japanese Iris, Hydrangea, Song of Solomon, Japanese Maple, Aster
Landscape Moribana, Realistic Method  Cactus, Sand
Zokei, Sculptural Arrangement  Styrofoam
Hanamai  Allium, Monstera, Dried Kiwi Vine
One-Row Form  Moss
Zokei, Sculptural Arrangement  Paper Cups

A local TV program also came to document the exhibition and interview me about why I started to learn ikebana, and what I want to do in the future. Click here to view the video of the program -- sorry, but it’s all in Japanese.

(Maybe you noticed that there are 11 pictures? The last picture of the paper cups is something I did a few years ago. I wanted to show it, too. So, actually, I did 11 arrangements.)