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Meet Yumi Rakers of Japanese Freindship Garden in Balboa Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yumi Rakers.

Yumi, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My first exposure to the art of Ikebana was when I was in 7th grade. I had to take an Ikebana class for my middle school’s extra curriculum in Japan but never appreciated it until I came to the US. I was ignorant to know our cultures’ beauty and richness when I was very young.

When I visited my friend’s house in Pittsburgh, PA for the first time, I was so impressed by seeing her Ikebana arrangement. It was so simple yet so beautiful and powerful. It made me want to learn more. Since then, I’ve studied it seriously and with passion.

The past 33 years I have been teaching, giving demonstrations, workshops and continue to studying Ikebana. Since I moved to San Diego 2003, I’ve been teaching at the Japanese friendship garden every Tuesday as well as teaching from kindergarten to middle school children during summer camp program.

I’m so grateful to teach at the beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. Before my class starts and open to the public, I walk through the garden. It’s quiet, serene and very peaceful. It’s my quiet moment and a short meditation. Some say there are no seasons in San Diego but I notice little change in each trees and plants every week I go there. Tree are needed to trim and prune from time to time, when gardeners trim branches, digging some of the roots out, and cutting bamboo, I collect them and use for my class or my projects. Sometimes the gardeners laugh and say “who needs those”? yes, I need them!

It’s great pleasure to see how students grow and expand their artistic creativity once they start to learn Ikebana. At the beginning, everyone says they don’t have any creativity but they surely would develop their artistic talent while taking classes. I encourage them to see and experience different art forms too; such as painting, pottery, welding and glass blowing. I don’t know what they bring to class and what they are going to do in each class, so it’s a challenge for me too but lots of fun. When they create nice one, I am so happy.

Has it been a smooth road?
Japanese are usually accepting of a teacher’s criticism with polite grace and try to fix as teacher recommends, but some can’t. Most of us are proud of what we create, so some don’t take critic easily. Each of us has a different aspect of beauty, when I think it’s beautiful but will not apply to others, right? I think Rose is beautiful but some don’t like it… etc.

Getting materials are hard in some areas. I used to live in east coast and Midwest, during winter few of flowers are available from store, bare branches and pines from own yard.

When my class got a budget cut from Poway Adult class after 3-4 years of teaching was little disappointed since I live in there, it was nice to teach locally.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
What is art of Ikebana?
Ikebana is a three-dimensional composition by using plant materials; flowers, branches and leaves at the same time it produces space. Water is essential since they are live materials. When an arrangement is placed in the room, it can change the entire atmosphere of the room/place. Just a few flowers and branch can create it beautifully.

Ikebana means “to arrange flowers” or “fresh/live flowers” n literally. We sometimes call it as “Kado” in Japan; the way of flowers. It has more than 800 years of rich history. Japanese appreciate seasons and natures.

I’m a teacher at Sogetsu School of Ikebana. Sogetsu Ikebana can be created anytime, anywhere, by anyone in any part of the world using any kind of materials. Nowadays, people travel from one country to other so that world becomes smaller and smaller. We can’t get the same kind of materials like we get in Japan, so wherever we live we use local plants materials. Ikebana reflects the person who arranged it. I love to create Ikebana using woods, bamboo, palm and unconventional materials. My students are not only local but some are from other countries who love to create their own art.

What were you like growing up? Personality wise, interest wise, etc.
I’m very content, happy and peaceful what I’ve been doing. Other than Ikebana, I do yoga and Mediation daily. In Ikebana, one theme calls “Ikka-Ichiyou” which means “one flower and one leaf”. While we do this arrangement, we eliminate all unnecessary stuff as much as possible, or I say remove all the clutter and leave one important thing, so in Ikebana one flower and one leaf to create beautiful Ikebana. It is total mindfulness; we forget everything while we create. It’s meditation using plant materials.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 2215 Pan American Rd E, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Photo: (619) 232-2721
  • Website: www.niwa.org
  • Email: yusorake@cox.net

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