Spring is here! And what better way to celebrate it? Flowers!!! It is the time of the year when flowers start to bloom here and there. I always look forward to the nice spring weather here in Japan. Flowers bloom almost everywhere – gardens, parks, roadsides, etc.
For the past weeks, I have learned some significant flowers used in various Japanese celebrations welcoming spring. First of which is the Suisen or Japanese Narcissus. This flower is famous especially during the early times because it is one of the few flowers that bloom despite the cold winter.
Sometime in mid-February, our Ikebana sensei taught us how to arrange the Narcissus using traditional techniques. While watching her remove the sheath or the white thin cover of the stem, I felt that I might not be able to do it because it was so delicate. But to my surprise, I was able to succeed! After removing the sheath, we were asked to rearrange the leaves and the flowers. It was like giving a new form to the plant without visible changes. Three- five stems were arranged in one straight line as if you are looking at a single plant. I also tried to modify the directions of the leaves to add an illusion of the wind by adding some pressure as I pull across the leaves using my fingers.
After that, we used ume or plum blossoms for an arrangement in celebration of Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) on the first week of March. Hinamatsuri is celebrated by displaying dolls placed on an stair-like altar inside the house. According to my Japanese friends, parents pray to these dolls and ask for good blessings for their daughters. Plum blossoms are used because of its light pink color which is also a color symbol for young girls. Likewise, the flowers are in full bloom during this time.
Sakuras have been a symbol for Japanese spring for more than a century now. Everywhere, thousands of sakura trees were planted along the roads and in the parks. During the last week of March and early weeks of April, these sakura trees are in full bloom which gives a very delightful feeling especially when the petals fall like snow. I am still waiting for the time when our class will use Sakuras or cherry blossoms for our Ikebana. For the meantime, I was lucky to have access to the early sakuras that have already bloomed in the hotter parts of Japan.