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Misako Ito

When Misako stepped into Guangzhou in the summer of 2012, she was surprised to find bougainvilleaflowers, were ubiquitous on the city's footbridges. In the extremely hot city, the flowers were taken care of beautifully and astonishingly. The scene impressed heras the first image of the city.

Guangzhou reminds her of her hometown – Tokyo, another similarly international metropolis with diversity. "I was born and bred in Tokyo," Misako relates. "Different districts of the city have unique streets – natural beauty, commercial centers, electric appliance streets and anumber of parks. I never feel bored in Tokyo."

"Guangzhou is a beautiful city full of flowers in four seasons. New buildings are built up every day. I believe people living in places among the greenery and flowers have peace and comfort in mind. Natural beauty brings calmness and the sense of consideration to others. I think Cantonese are peaceful and kindly. They plant flowers and the amenities make the city more amiable and livable. I also believe the denizens of the city are growing up in Guangzhou with kindness and happiness. That is the reason why a lot of passengers offer theirseats to those in need on public buses."

Misako enjoys strolling in the old downtown. "I love to go to the flower shops nearby," she says. "However, appreciating flowers in the parks is much more delightful than in the shops. Free parks in the surrounding area such as Martyr's Park have a lot of trees and flowers. I go with my husband some times. We also love the Dongshan region. Various potted flowers are placed on the balconies of the European old-school style villas,very beautiful!"

Flowers are very important in Japanese life. Misako shows the patterns on her kimono full of cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums. "We use seasonal flowers to express our feelings in different seasons," she explains. "We give carnations as gifts on Mother's Day. During the New Year, pine trees and fresh flowers are ready at home. On Girl's Day on March 3 everyyear, cherry blossoms are placed together with dolls for wishing girls to grow up healthily and happily." Japanese bring fresh flowers for respecting their ancestors. "My mother passed away when I was 20," says Misako. "Each time I remember the mokusei aroma at my mother's tomb. So I miss my mother whenever Itake in the aroma of mokusei."

Misako shows the flower patterns on her kimono

Japanese live in a world of flowers. It is thought Chinese Buddhists worshipped the gods by offering flowers on the altar of Buddha. Later the Japanese developed the culture of flower worship and invented Kado which means "ways of flowers" in Japanese.

Japanese Ikebana, "the art of flower arrangement," evolved from the Buddhist practice of offering flowers to the spirits of dead and started the first classical style by Buddhist priests. As other schools emerged and developed later, Ikebana became a custom amongJapanese society.

Misako has studied Japanese Ikebana for over two years. Inside the consular residential apartment in the Garden Hotel, Misako has created a Japanese Ikebana on a table near the wall. The red flowers and pink lilies are strewn about on the wood. Misako explained theIkebana is appreciated on both sides and in the front.

Bougainvilleas on the footbridge

More than simply putting fresh flowers in a container, Ikebana is a disciplined art form emphasizing the other areas of the plant, such as stems and leaves, rather thanjust floral arrangement of blossoms.

"I have tried to use the Chinese elements such as bamboo baskets, wooden baskets or Chinese pottery as containers," Misako says. "I believe different cultureshave affected Ikebana, making it more free and diverse."

After studying the Sogetsu School, a very free style of flower arranging, for approximately two years, Misako stopped professional learning and focused on her self-learning and practice. She joined the Ikebana International Association when she was living in Malaysia. In Guangzhou, Misako shares her artwork among the consuls' spouses and her Chinese friends.The Guangdong Flower Culture Association has linked her with the community through the hobby. "They held an exhibition in the lobby of the Garden Hotel when I had just arrived in Guangzhou," she says. "I was surprised and happy to see such a large number ofpeople interested in flowers."

(By Jessie Huang)
Editor:Lynus Tan
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