The word ‘Ikebana’ (活け花) refers to Japanese traditional flower arrangement, a very distinctive, historical yet disciplined art form, which dates back to 7th century ancient Japan. It focuses on the natural shape and beauty of lines, shape and form, and often employs a minimalist approach that exudes a unique and simplistic beauty, although I will never claim to be an art expert.
Ikebana forms part of a diverse and rich art scene in Japan, comprised of both natural and figurative beauty. Even in my local area of Koto-ku, Tokyo you will find a balance between traditional and contemporary museums, art events and range of galleries rich with life and aesthetic appeal. Included in this plethora of artistic venues, you will also find the Earth Plus Gallery, located in the quieter and lesser concrete suburb of Kiba. It is home to an art gallery, photo studio, function area, bar and more, providing a place for art enthusiasts and newbie’s alike to explore and appreciate the wonders of modern art.
The gallery also serves as a venue for a range of events, fortunately, one being an Ikebana function I was graciously invited to, simply called ‘Sake with Flower’. An event name, that while grammatically incorrect, through its imperfections provides the impression of fresh Japanese flavour and appeal that is difficult to resist.
The Main Event
Naturally, being my first time to attend both this type of event and venue, I invited some company for a morale boost, to serve as a drinking partner and provide a different perspective on the some of the art pieces we would eventually be viewing. Upon arrival at the entrance of the Earth Plus Gallery, we were greeted by a bright and cheerful event organiser, a girl named Akane, who checks both of our names off the list, and gradually ushers us into the main hall of the venue. As a note, attending this type of event requires RSVP, so I recommend reserving a place before arrival.
As she leads us inside to the main area, she begins to give us a welcoming introduction, at first pointing out the 3 kinds of Sake, then canapes that would be available to us during the event. She also took the time to explain the theme of the event and how the Ikebana performances would work throughout the night. Inside the main area, there were about 40 or so people switching between the centre table piece holding a range of finger food or helping themselves to the Sake serving area that would keep us liquified for the rest of the night. After about 15 minutes or so, Akane took the microphone and gave her bilingual introduction, both in English and Japanese, to set the scene for the next 2 hours. She then introduced the main performer, who made her way to the first display set.
Sayaka, who has been refining and mastering her Ikebana skills for the past 10 years, took to the stage and began her first performance for the evening. Beginning in her early days of Junior high school, there was something exquisite about her technique, a delicate balance of finesse and form was evident in her flower selection, and a certain amount of precision and perfection applied to her trimming and placement of the various vines and offshoots into each vase. Her experience was clearly apparent upon the completion of each work, represented in a minimalist beauty combined with impeccable symmetry and form.
As the night moved forward, each performance became more interactive and her confidence began to grow, she started to invite the crowd closer in for a better view and more intimate experience of each piece she created. At one point in the night, she also invited one of the ladies serving sake to assist with flower selection to complete her final piece, which only added to the entertainment of the night as they conversed about which flower was most appropriate.
In between each performance, we had the opportunity for unlimited refills of sake, filled up on some of the food on offer or chatted with other attendees who decided to join the show. There seemed to be many people from a diverse range of backgrounds and interests, and it was good to see such appreciation of an art form which has lasted the ages. The event also had its fair share of foreign attendees, including myself, to demonstrate the international appeal of both the event, venue and the host.
As our time came to a close, I began to realise how well lubricated I had become. The idea of 飲み放題 (Nomihoudai), which means ‘unlimited drinks’ or bottomless cup, is not new in Japan. Especially popular for fans of Japanese ‘Nihonshu’ (日本酒), or ‘Sake’ (酒), as we like to say in English, which also means ‘alcohol’ when used it in the context of Japanese. Many people appeared quite merry, as everyone had been enjoying 3 selections of their specifically chosen fine Japanese rice wine, which all had very different yet distinctive flavours. In particular, I found myself returning to bottle no. 2, which was a little strong and quite sweet making it especially refreshing.
As soon as we decided to leave the venue and move onto our next watering hole, we found ourselves being warmly escorted by both the host and main performer to the door. They proceeded to thank us for our time and Sayaka was also able to provide some basic insight into her Ikebana experience thus far, including flower selection process and vase placement, which was all new knowledge for me and quite fascinating. In terms of both quality of alcohol and artistic appreciation, both my friend and I found ourselves highly impressed and eagerly anticipating the next event …
Sake with Flower event info:
Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/sakewithflower/?hl=en
Earth Plus Gallery details:
Opening hours: weekdays (excl. Mon) 11 am to 7 pm, weekends (incl. Fri night) 11 am to 10 pm.
Address: 3-18-17 Kiba, Kotoku, Tokyo 135-0042
Or find the bar on google maps here.
Telephone: 1F 03-3630-1655 / 2F 03-5809-9949