Hello, I am Shoichi Maebara. Today I’d like to share with you what I do.

I am involved in a project called the “Zenkoku Koukousei Hana Ike Battle” (All-Japan High School Flower Arranging Battle). Flower arranging? Battle? This is a string of words that you probably aren’t used to hearing together.

If you’re wondering what it is, teams of high school students freely arrange flowers for 5 minutes, with two members per team. They compete based on how they arrange the flowers while they are battling, and also on the finished piece.

In preparation for the finals to be held this summer on August 19 and 20 at Ritsurin Garden in Kagawa Prefecture, qualifying rounds are now being held in nine places nationwide.

I went to the orientation for the Kinki Competition, and there I was, a 30 plus year old man having butterflies in his stomach seeing high school students prepare.

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Because the goal of this project is to cultivate the next generation of flower lovers, the project goes beyond the framework of the school of ikebana and flower arranging, thus it was structured in a way that high school students can freely participate.

Presently, those who conduct ikebana flower arranging are getting older, and there are less of them each year. A culture and tradition that Japan has been cultivating is in danger. In addition, this also hurts those in the flower industry – this is a serious issue for florists, flower markets, flower farmers, potters who make vases, and craftsmen who make tools used in ikebana. To stop this, we used the idea that arranging flowers is fun and not difficult for high school students as an opening – we adopted the idea of flower arranging as a battle that’s similar to sports.

I was in a culture-related club during my middle and high school years, so I am quite envious of this festival-like activity of (present) culture clubs. I don’t think I experienced the joys of youth with my club mates like this…I don’t remember having fun, but I’m sure that I enjoyed my youth somehow…I think.

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I’m sure many people think that ikebana flower arranging is difficult. In the beginning, I thought so too.

However, this competition gives importance on attracting the viewer. The judges are the audience. It’s quite simple – if you can delight the audience, you win. If you abide by your feelings, you can try arranging through what’s in your heart. In addition, the two people in a team can try making a simple arrangement with flowers and plants of the same color, they can also make the flowers’ direction uniform, and they can incorporate innovative ways of attracting people. Depending on strategy, the good team wins.

Moreover, to cultivate people who love flowers, judging criteria also include the treatment of flowers and the actions done on them, flower vases, and the handling of tools carefully.

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The orientation for the Kinki Competition was held at the Kyoto Wholesale Flower Market, which is also the venue for the competition.

The competition coaches are professional flower artists. The students are also using vases that are several times larger that what they’ve been using, and also receive various advice from the pros.

The Kinki Competition will be held one month after the orientation I attended. I’m excited to see what kind of growth these high school students will show after a month.

I am also hoping that the next generation of flower lovers will be cultivated from among these students!

Oh the joy of youth! I’m jealous! I wonder what the outcome of the Kinki Competition will be.

Entrance to the venue is free. Please do drop by if you can. For details, please access the Zenkoku Koukousei Hana Ike Battle  website (in Japanese).

 
▼Back issues about Shoichi Maehara
Flowers that Bloom Only Once in its Plant’s Lifetime
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