Flowers in Fukushima

Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement, has never really interested me. I suppose I had always subconsciously considered flowers as something women do. Men, I supposed, did rocks and weeds.  But not for the first time, I was mistaken.

Manmade ikebana was on display in a photo exhibition in Iwaki this weekend. The theme of the exhibition was Fukushima’s post-tsunami landscape. The atmospheric location was a half-abandoned department store. The photos, printed on Japanese paper, were hung up on grey concrete walls in dark, oddly-shaped rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor. One room was dedicated to the work of ikebana photographer Atsunobu Katagiri.  Some of the photos were startling, a red rose placed in front of a stack of crushed cars, a bunch of flowers in the middle of an abandoned, weed-covered railroad.

I remembered a line I read recently in the manga version of the Book of Tea about finding beauty in the everyday. With some things, it seems impossible to find anything beautiful. Perhaps finding beauty in the destruction of the tsunami is impossible. It can only be placed there, like with the arranged flowers.

I told my Japanese friend about the exhibition. He then introduced me to rebel flower arranger, Nakagawa Yukio. Judging from this video, he appears to be more flower-butcherer than flower-arranger, but at least he is trying.

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