Day 24, Mar 23, Returning to Minamisoma

March 11, 2011. I was on a flight above the Pacific Ocean. My plane was originally scheduled to land in Tokyo at around 3pm. I did not make it, though. The Tokyo flight was delayed. I was detoured to San Francisco on my way to Taipei. I barely missed the earthquake.

I went to Taipei for my solo exhibition. The show opened the next day. The title was “Improbable Waves.” The main image was a painterly animation of stormy blue waves. For the audience and myself, the connection to the tsunami was uncanny. My close colleague, James Nakagawa, was also having a show in Taipei. We counseled each other about our concerns for his mother and my sister, both living in Tokyo.

These dots may not be related. They do seem to form a path, however. Sometimes it felt like an experience from the past life. A fortune teller once said the metaphor of my chart is an island. I am bound to make circles.

I made another circle today by returning to Minamisoma, the starting point of my walk. I went to see a friend. Atsunobu Katagiri (片桐功敦) is an Ikebana master from Osaka. He has been working on a project inside the 20 kilometer radius of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. He collects flowers and debris around there, and turns them into Ikebana. He does it both on location and in a local museum. In the museum, he combines the work with pre-historic potteries from Jomon Period. The work connects the current event to the land and its ancient past.






I told Katagiri my project in Tohoku was almost like scripted by fate. He felt the same way about his. His father was in the biggest plane crash in aviation history. Katagiri was 11 years old. Their blood type is RH negative. He was rushed to the crash site in case his father needed it. No one survived. He witnessed a gruesome sight. As a teenager, Katagiri was lost. He moved to the US for a number of years. His family runs an Ikebana school for many generations. He returned and inherited the school when he was 25.

Katagiri grew up around Ikebana but never really practiced it back then. He had to teach himself by books. “You don’t get to ask questions when ‘you’ are the master.”, he said. I think his father guided him in some way, though, just like the way he was brought here. His father died at the age of 41, a year presumed by Japanese to be dangerous. Katagiri turned 41 this year. He chose to make peace with his past by coming to a place riddled by tragedies. The work is a ritual. We share a deep kindred spirit.



Note: Ikebana is the art of floral arrangement in Japan. The lower image was taken from Katagiri’s project catalog.


Japanese translation by Michiko Owaki    日本語訳:大脇美智子

3 thoughts

  1. Very interesting story… your path of life does seem to make circles and resonate with other people who also has a strong sense of fate. Your journey in Tohoku has always made sense to me, but it does so even more now. I am truly glad and feel lucky to be a (very humble) part of your project, Arthur. By the way, I love both of the images of Master Katagiri’s ikebana pieces. The theme of his exhibition and his vision (of creating beautiful pieces from debris and flowers he collected in the area) also resonates with the philosophy of Ikebana – to capture/represent the ethereal beauty of the mortality of life and nature.

  2. It gave me goose bumps when I read this post. What a compelling story and it’s very well told. It often seems that dramatic events connect people in an unexplainable way. When looking from a cosmic perspective, though, we are all connected energetically. And people with the same vibe, often expressed with the same intention, resonate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *