Thursday, 25 March 2010

This week's Ikebana

This week we practiced Nagere again. Balancing all the branches against each other and using hidden tricks to try and stop it all collapsing. Not fun for beginners but it does get easier the more you try.

Today we used a kind of branch I have never seen before and have also forgotten the name of but it was something like zou...

Anyway, I was very please with how my arrangement turned out.

Here is what I did:

Here is what my classmate did:

And here is what my teacher did:

Nice huh?

We also had a lovely treat for afternoon tea. It is shaped like an angel.

Friday, 19 March 2010

This week's Ikebana

A lot is going on here at the moment so have not been too good with the blogging recently.

Yesterday, I went to Ikebana as usual. This time we did another "many sided" arrangement.
I had a lot of trouble with this one which was kind of depressing after my last class which went really well. But that happens and one can't be perfect all the time and when I'm not perfect I am learning so that is a good thing too. This time I did my arrangement, pulled it all out and started again, showed my teacher who re-arranged everything for a third time. I had some points about the arrangement I wasn't happy with but didn't know what to do to fix it, but my teacher sorted that out for me and I didn't even have to show her which parts weren't right (which was most of it), she just knew. That's what I wanna be like. Someday...

Anyway here is what I did using some two toned tulips and some green stuff I don't know the name of - woops..

My classmate was away so here is the arrangement my teacher had in her entrance hall.

Isn't it beautiful!!! Something to aim for!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Plum blossoms

Today I had a date with my equivalent of a host mother, Mrs H. I never did a home stay in Japan, but if I had, I would have wished for a host mother like her. We met nearly 8 years ago now when I first came to Japan and she became my volunteer Japanese teacher. Our Japanese lessons have long since ceased but we still meet up as often as we can to chat and do things together.
She has given me very valuable advice over the years from: What to do when attending a funeral to how tasty dried sweet potatoes can be!
So today Mrs H picked me up and took me to a temple in our city that is famous for its plum blossoms. The plum blossoms come out about this time of year, about a month before the cherry blossoms. I love blossoms, whatever the kind so I was excited to go there again with her. We went one year about 3 or 4 years ago and this time, just like last time, we drove right past it and had to turn back. This time we were a bit too early as the blossoms wont be out for another week or so.

We were very disappointed but Mrs H is a very cheerful person and chats away to lots of people I would never dream of starting a conversation with. So as we arrived at the main temple there were some men there rethatching the roof of the one of the buildings.

So Mrs H started chatting to them and found out all sorts of information. Their skills are so rare that they had had to drive several hours to get there for the job. The thatching needs to be replaced every 10 years? or so but they do it bit by bit depending on where the insects and birds have been at it most.
One of the workers was particularly chatty and encouraged us to go in and burn some incense at the temple and then showed us the best place to get a view of the blossoms and encouraged us to ring the big bell.

So it was a good trip after all, despite the lack of blossoms.
Maybe next week the blossoms will be in full bloom, so I will have to go back.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Getting into the best Uni in Japan

Yesterday, Tokyo University announced the students that had passed the entrance exam. The TV cameras were there to film the occasion. Hundreds of hopeful students and their supporters crowded around large boards filled with the successful students' examination numbers. There was elation and tears of joy from those who got in. I have an ex-student who I know was trying to get in to this university so I watched with interest to see if I could spot her in the luck there though.
The show then brought in a current Tokyo University Student Talento (entertainer). As I may have said before, a Talento in Japan does not necessarily have any.
I didn't catch all of it but the student currently does some "talento activities" and when asked what she wanted to do when she graduated, she said she wanted to work as an actress or continue doing work as a talento....
Now I had to laugh as this got a rather bad reception from the others on the panel. Basically they were saying that if she was a student at Tokyo University she should be working towards becoming and astronaut, rather than another pretty face on TV.
Following this, they interviewed a student who had been accepted to Tokyo University, when asked what she wanted to do in the future, said she wanted to be an Announcer. Que more groans from the panel who say that you don't need any brains to be an announcer and aim a bit higher would you?!?! One panelist actually said that all the people he knew who had graduated from Tokyo University were weirdos....

So I am rather concerned after all this. Two students from Japan's "best" university and their dreams were to be on TV. *sigh*

Other interesting things I learnt yesterday include:
Many students find the lessons at Tokyo University too memorising the information necessary to pass the entrance test does not mean you are sufficiently smart to cope with the lesson material!
The number of male students still greatly outnumbers female students
When asked why they applied to Tokyo University, about 20% of students did it because it was a "challenge"
The number of people trying to get in to Tokyo is decreasing, even though the the number of students applying for university is increasing.

So what exactly is the process to get in? Basically you have to take a national examination and then go and sit an exam at the university. The people with the highest scores get in.

So commiserations to all those who didn't get into their first choice of university and Congratulations to those who did.

Friday, 5 March 2010

This Week's Ikebana

Yesterday was Ikebana day, one of the highlights of my week.

This time we did something I have never done before. It's called "narabu katachi", or "in a line style" but instead of the usual front view only, yesterday we had to make it so you could display it on the middle of a table and have it look nice from all angles. This is called "多面式”- many view style or something like that.
We used lilies, sweet peas and ferns. I was really stoked with how my arrangement turned out. Now the lilies are giving off a lovely scent which is filling my living room.

So here is what I made from the front:

and the back:

And here is what my classmate made.

This is how I have it set up at home. I finally have somewhere nice to display my flowers.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Doll's Festival

Today is Ohina Matsuri in Japan, a festival for girls.

Last week I posted a picture of the dolls at my Ikebana teacher's house. She has a grown daughter who has left home but she put them out for us anyway.

So today families all over Japan will be having a small dinner party. Yesterday on the news they were asking little girls what their mother was going to cook for them for dinner on Hinamatsuri night. The replies were various but mostly what children all over Japan love to eat: fried chicken, curry and hambagu. A traditional dish to be eaten is Chirashizushi. Sushi rice that is then decorated with colourful things like finely sliced omelet, fish egs etc. Puffed rice with a sugary coating in green, pink and white called Hina arare is also eaten.

Around here, people say that the dolls have to be packed away after the party is finished as soon as possible, or the girls will have trouble getting married when they are older (sounds like an excuse made up by mothers to get their living room back in order as quickly as possible, to me). Not sure if this is a nationwide idea or not though.

So I hope lots of little girls are enjoying having their "moment" today. The festival for boys is held on the 5th of May and called "Children's Day".

When I was young, I asked my father once, why there was a Mother's Day and Father's Day but no Children's Day. He replied that every day was Children's Day. Although I was not impressed with this answer at the time, I do agree with him now.