Ikebana Exhibition
Keiko Nakajima Robbins (far left), founding member of Okinawaís Ikebana International since 1956 and Ikebana teacher at the Kadena Air Base USO, explains the essence of ikebana flower arrangement to Manly Slough, assistant manager of bakery on Camp Kinser; Naomi Zayasu, president of Ikebana International Okinawa Chapter 10; and Junko Nozaki, assistant base records manager for the 18th Communication Squadron, at the 51st Ikebana International Okinawa Chapter 10 Charity Flower Exhibition. The event was held March 27-29 at the Okinawa Mitsukoshi Department Store in Naha, Okinawa. In October, the Ikebana International Okinawa Chapter and some students from the Kadena USO will go to the White House in Washington, D.C., for a flower demonstration and lecture. (U.S Air Force photo/Junko Kinjo)
Friendships blossom at Ikebana International

by Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon
18th Wing Public Affairs

4/6/2009 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The ancient Japanese cultural art of flower arrangement brought Americans and Okinawans together during Ikebana International in downtown Naha City March 28.
This was the 51st anniversary of Ikebana International which is celebrated in many countries with more than 270 chapters worldwide. The chapter here displayed art from over 140 members with the proceeds contributed to the Okinawa Prefecture Social Welfare Conference and the Okinawan Prefecture Green Promoting Committee. 

A well known "sensei" or teacher, Keiko Robbins, attended the event. She teaches ikebana to Americans and Okinawans at Kadena's USO. 

"Many people come to the USO to take my class," said Keiko Robbins. "We gather together through the beauty of flowers to make lasting friendships." 

Mrs. Robbins' student, Rebecca Matthews, said she started this more than a year ago for the cultural experience, but now she loves it because it relaxes her. 

According to the sensei, this creative expression is not merely putting flowers in a container, but creating a link with the natural surroundings. 

She added that the importance of Ikebana is to keep the flower arrangement "simple" because each flower has its own beauty and it's the only way to appreciate the arrangement as a living thing where nature and humanity are brought together. 

"What I want my students to learn from my class," said Mrs. Robbins, "is the enjoyment of the beauty of nature as we share our culture with them." 

Ikebana arrangements can be seen in shrines, temples and in homes today. 

"I truly enjoy having the flower arrangement in the house," said Ms. Matthews, "and it's a piece of the Japanese culture I can take with me and share with other people."