Consulate-General of Japan in Houston


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Remarks by Consul-General Nozomu Takaoka
at Ikebana demonstration and Japanese culture exhibits
on February 3 , 2015

February 3, 2015

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

In the past year and a half that I have lived in Houston, I have learned that this city is constrantly in a process of producing a happy marriage and perfect combination of economic prosperity, cultural beauty, and international diversity.  I am glad to recognize here today prominent Houstonian ladies who are making precious contributions in their own way to this unique “Houstonian process”: Ms. Bonna Kol, President of Asia Society Texas Center; Ms. Linda Toyota, President of the Asian Chamber of Commerce; Ms. Darlene Hirasaki, former-President of the Japan America Citizens League; Ms. Donna Cole, ex-President of the Japan-America Society of Houston, known as JASH; and  Mr. William Weiland, Vice President and President-Elect of the Japan-American Society of Houston; Thank you all for your presence today.

                JASH is going to host the Japan Festival this year on April 18th and 19th in Hermann Park. There, you can enjoy ikebana, traditional fair food, tea ceremony, martial arts demonstrations, and more.  I would like to thank Hermann Park Conservancy, represented today by its Executive Director, Ms. Barbara Jo Harwell, for kindly extending their generous support every year.
                Today, it is lucky for us that we don’t have to wait until April to experience one of Japan’s most well-known arts: Ikebana.  The ikebana artist can never create the same piece twice, encouraging us to enjoy the moment and to make the most of our time. Therefore, the kindness of Ms. Barbara Crowe, the President of Ikebana International, and its members to come to my home today to demonstrate the delicacy and spirit of flower arranging and to let a few guests try ikebana for themselves, should be most appreciated.

In addition to ikebana, you will also be able to sample Japanese sake later and enjoy the great display of  Japanese dolls in the salon. Now we are already witnessing the coming of spring, the most beautiful season in Houston. In Japan the beginning of spring is marked by March with spring festivities such as Hina Matsuri. Traditionally, on March 3rd we celebrate Girl’s festival, in which parents prepare traditional, elaborate dolls for their daughters to bring them happiness and good fortune.  The dolls are dressed to resemble the Japanese Imperial Court.

                Hina matsuri began in the medieval Heian Period, among the aristocrats who could afford it.  As time went on, this tradition spread across the nation as Japan enjoyed a peaceful and prosperous period during the 17th century, during the Edo Period. In order to prevent excessive luxury, the Tokugawa Shogunate decreed that each hina doll should not be larger than 8 inches tall. This resulted in further elaboration in creating beautiful and detailed dolls that we have on display today.

                Mrs. Lillian Bonner has generously shared her collection of antique kokeshi dolls which she has been collecting for over 50 years.  Thank you, Lillian. Kokeshi dolls are another distinct style of Japanese dolls which comes from the northern part of Japan, often in rural areas.  In the winter months, when snow prevented laborers from working outdoors, they carved kokeshi dolls from wood to provide their children with something to appreciate.  Although they have very different origins, both hina and kokeshi dolls are very recognizable and beloved symbols of Japanese culture.

                Lastly, I would like to welcome our special guests, the distinguished members of the Consular Ladies Club, the CLG.  My thanks goes to Mrs. Cathy Millar, President of the CLG, and wife of the Consul General of the United Kingdom, for extending our invitation to so many lovely and diverse guests.  Through my wife I have learned that the CLG represents the best combination of cultural beauty and international diversity, from friends from various parts of the world as well as from the Honorary Consulates society in Houston.

Before inviting Ms. Crowe to start the demonstration I ask my wife to say three sentences:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming. I am very happy to have you all here today.  After the Ikebana demonstration, I’d like you to enjoy sake tasting and lunch with some hina matsuri festive flavor.  Please enjoy yourself.  Thank you.