This year the Iemoto of the Sogetsu school, Akane Teshigahara, celebrated her 60th birthday. In Japan, turning sixty is considered an important milestone as it is the age in which a person celebrates Kanreki. Kanreki represents the completion of a lifecycle and the beginning of a new one. In essence, it represents rebirth or the beginning of a second childhood. The birthday celebrant is dressed in red, a colour which signifies a return to childhood. In Japanese, the word for baby is “aka-chan” (赤ちゃん), it translates as 赤 (aka) red, combined with the diminutive suffix ちゃん (-chan). In many Asian cultures, red is also symbolic of good luck and prosperity.
To coincide with the Iemoto’s Kanreki, the Sogetsu School of Ikebana organised several events. Due to social distancing guidelines, several face-to-face events were postponed, and, in their place, many online and virtual events were organised. The Sogetsu Monozukuri (Craftsmanship) Shop organised an Instagram‑based raffle, in which the prize was an iron vase specifically crafted for Akane’s 60th birthday. To enter the raffle, participants had to create a video detailing the process of creating an ikebana arrangement using a Sogetsu Monozukuri iron vase.
I asked my daughters if they wanted to participate in the raffle. They both agreed they would like to make an arrangement each. However, life doesn’t always go to plan and two days into summer vacation, my youngest daughter decided to hurtle, at full speed, down a very steep and bumpy footpath on her scooter. Needless to say, her physics experiment with gravity went awry and resulted in a trip to the ER and a plaster cast.
We decided to change our plan. Instead of creating an arrangement each, they would make an arrangement together. Over dinner we discussed what sort of material they would like to use, the design, and colour combinations. Inspired by an ikebana arrangement by Christine Donck‑Guelton, both my daughters agreed that they would like to use red balloons. My youngest daughter stressed that balloons are important in all birthday celebrations and they both decided on the colour red, due to its association with Kanreki.
On the morning of arranging and filming, we visited the flower wholesaler in Madrid, so my daughters could choose the flowers for their arrangement. At home, we prepared the flowers. The stems were cut under water and the underside of the chrysanthemum leaves were sprinkled with water. My daughters then got to work blowing up the balloons and tying them into knots. We made sure not to inflate the balloons too much, so that they could be manipulated without bursting.
The balloons were tied onto the metal vase and the flowers were added. Once finished, we quickly filmed a congratulatory message to Akane wishing her “Feliz Cumpleaños” (Happy Birthday) with kisses from Spain. With my daughters’ hard work finished, my work began. I spent the afternoon learning to use iMovie and creating a 30 second video. Once complete, and with my daughter’s final approval, we uploaded the video to Instagram.
When participating in any event, ikebana or otherwise, I always tell my daughters not to place any importance on winning. It is more important to just have fun participating. For us, the most enjoyable part of entering the raffle was about spending time together and doing something that we all enjoy. Although we had to change our original plan, creating a joint arrangement meant that we were all able to spend time together.
The raffle was drawn on 1 August, at 6.30am (CEST). To our surprise, we were one of the 20 names drawn from the raffle by Iemoto Akane Teshigahara. We were overjoyed to have won one of Sogetsu Monozukuri’s iron vases, but most of all, we were delighted to have had the opportunity to wish Akane a very happy 60th birthday.