Thirty years ago, the Kanagawa International Foundation came into being with the laudable aim of promoting Japan’s cultural and artistic aspects to its region’s audience. KIF set up the Minami Circle, which three decades later is still working in the interests of international friendship.

“A former Minami Circle president said that the circle provided the means for all the members to learn about different cultures and values. Another Japanese president said she had learned more about the culture of Japan through the circle’s foreign members than she had ever known before,” says Sakiko Kamata, newly elected president. “The warm friendships among the members continue even after foreign members return to their home countries.”

Kamata spent her early years in Osaka. Initially, she wanted to be a flight attendant. “Even in those days I had some specific ideas about cultural exchanges with people of other countries,” she said. She was accepted by Japan Airlines.

One particular memory of her flying days has stayed with her. “I was on duty from Tokyo to Anchorage for a flight that was carrying some of the Imperial Family,” she said. “I had to arrange flowers for them. I had been studying flower arrangement, but when I had to do those special arrangements I felt I wasn’t good enough. So I took up studying ikebana again.”

After her marriage, Kamata moved with her husband and young children to the U.S. “During our stay, our small daughter spoke English very beautifully,” she said. “My husband and I decided to try and keep her English fluency, and when we came back to live in Yokohama we enrolled her in St. Maur’s International School.” Her daughter, now embarked on a nursing career, wants to return to America to take a master’s course.

Kamata found atmospheric Yokohama to be a comfortable, family-friendly town, proud of its history and its presentday amenities. She continued ikebana, choosing the styles of the Koryu and Ichiyo Schools. Both of them, she said, opened the way to releasing “the personal expression of the flower lover’s heart.”

Kamata became a teacher of ikebana at Yokohama’s international schools and clubs, happy to have a mix of students from different countries who were aware of “simplicity, beautiful lines and the use of space. Harmony and balance make people calm,” she said.

“The Minami Circle holds monthly meetings, which reflect our diverse activities,” Kamata points out.

The circle has a spinoff of a dozen hobby groups that range in interest from choral singing through outings, language classes in Japanese, English and Chinese, to handicrafts and mah-jongg. Kamata is a leading figure in the ikebana hobby group.

“This group meets twice a month and is very popular,” she said. “Skill and creativity flourish. Ikebana is an art that can be appreciated anywhere. Our members who leave Yokohama use the different flowers in their home countries as ikebana has inspired them. It’s very exciting for me to have so many students in Yokohama.”

As she takes on the presidency for the Minami Circle, Kamata leads a committee dedicated to making plans for the future. She said, “Our Welcome Party, with a show and buffet lunch, will be held at the Hotel Monterey in Yamashita Park on Friday, Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.”

Putting a firm international stamp on the Welcome Party will be the celebrated shakuhachi flutist John Kaizan Neptune, an American now residingg in Chiba. Neptune, believing “the older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune,” brought to Japan’s bamboo flute the innovation of a jazz background.

For luncheon details and reservations contact Sakiko Kamata at (045) 954-2832 or by E-mail at k-sakko@mbj.nifty.com

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