Summer Festival in Concord

    Clockwise from top left: Master Hideko Metaxas (in blue) and two assistants arranging an example of Rikka Shofutai; a free-style arrangement in honor of the victims and the philanthropists in the Tohoku Tsunami 2011; an Ikenobo sensei arranging a free-style display; Shoka (left) versus Rikka (right)

    Learn something new everyday. At the Japanese American Summer Festival in Concord this year, I absorbed an hour of Ikenobo ikebana art, which is really, really, really rudimentary, but at least now I know that the Rikka style involves nine elements, and the Shoka style three elements (heaven, earth and man).

    That day was also the first I’ve heard of the “Three Friends of Winter” sho chiku bai (pine, bamboo and plum), and this astonished me because 1. I’d never encountered any old Chinese things that my mom hasn’t told me about, and 2. it involves plum blossom, which is my name. There’s no way I wouldn’t know that my name is part of a trio that appears in Asian arts and folklores at lunar new year time. My memories must have been failing. 🙁 Anyhow, Nancy made a beautiful onigiri box that follows the sho chiku bai theme:

    Homemade sho chiku bai onigiri by Nancy Togami: white onigiri with aonori and sesame (sho), yellow onigiri with fukujinzuke (chiku), and pink umeboshi onigiri (bai)

    The rice balls, particularly the fukujinzuke ones (soy sauce pickles), go oh so well with the teriyaki chicken sold at the festival. For $5 you get a quarter of a chicken, either white or dark meat. I chose dark meat of course, a big juicy leg and thigh, but the white meat that Nancy picked also looked gleaming. Kenji-san went with 8 skewers of beef teriyaki for $8. We noshed while listening to the taiko drum performance. In the 110-degree heat, I tried not to stare at the kids swooshing their shaved ice, diverted my thoughts instead to the juniper and Japanese maple bonsai.

    Mom is an avid believer against potted plants and caged birds, and I don’t even support cutting grass. But these miniature trees are undeniably works of art.

    That said, if Mom and I were given one of these, first thing we do is removing the tree from the pot and digging it a nice warm hole in our front yard. 😉

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