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Japanese culture day

Posted on: 8th November 2013 | Category: Boarding life, Etiquette and cookery, Special events

Two former Surval students, one a Master (Sensei) of Ikebana (or Flower Arranging, with two colleagues who were respectively Masters of Calligraphy and the Tea Ceremony, visited the school on Monday, 4 November, for an absorbing presentation attended by 24 older girls and teaching staff.

The Art Room was transformed with a quasi-temple atmosphere which, as one entered, immediately conveyed a sense of stillness and inner peace. All those present were drawn into this Zen-like mood. The art, materials, and ritual of fine flower arranging were explained first in Japanese and then in English translation. We learned how great consideration is given to respecting the plants as former living things,of the connection of the arranger with nature, and how the message is conveyed through the creation of the arrangement and the arranger's spirit. What we witnessed was more meditation than ‘flower-arranging’ in the conventional sense. Every vase, tool, and utensil is especially hand-made to exacting standards of quality in deference to the plants and flowers as extensions of living nature

Calligraphy was equally carefully demonstrated. We were shown various brushes and the ink, all made from natural products, and the Sensei inscribed the characters that signify 'Live in the Moment'. The rapid inscription is indeed based on many years of learning and practice as an apprentice to the Sensei. The girls then willingly and joyfully took part, joining the Master and copying out their own names in Japanese characters on the special paper.

The girls also joined in the ritual of the tea ceremony, which similarly derives from ancient Chinese traditions. This Sensei, who came to the art through his architectural design practice, carefully prepared and explained the process, using the finest handmade utensils (beautiful in their simplicity) as each girl was served in turn with tea derived from powdered leaves renowned for their restorative qualities.

The afternoon culminated in a 'lottery' with each girl receiving a characteristic handmade Japanese gift and a representation of their name written on handmade paper by the Calligraphy Sensei. The natural affinities of the three elements demonstrated, indeed of everything about us, and the encouragement to all of us to make best use of the opportunities given us ‘in each moment’,  were strands that will remain with all who attended this memorable afternoon.

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