There’s a lot going on in the world today. So instead of a normal blog post on one story, today’s posting has three different stories. That’s thrice the fun for you Hawaii Herald faithful out there.

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It’s no secret that Japan and rice have a long-standing relationship. But they also play an interesting role in the global rice crisis – which by the way, seems to be under control now. Kenji Hall in BusinessWeek seeks to answer an intriguing question: Why does Japan, which produces massive amounts of rice, import the staple food from all over the world? And, what does it do with its humongous stock pile? Fascinating stuff.

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Ikebana, or the Japanese art of flowering arranging, is a pretty common practice here in Hawaii. But that’s not the case elsewhere in the United States. In Pacifica, CA, however, 88-year-old Kinsui Saiki, the top flower arranger in Northern California, is teaching her students the time-honored tradition. Says Jane Northrop of the Pacifica Tribune:

In Saiki’s class last week, two students, Judy Sullivan and Susanna Choy anxiously peered into buckets full of flowers and foliage and made selections for their arrangements only to have Saiki veto their suggestions. One flower was too dark and wouldn’t contrast enough with a brown maple branch. Another choice was nixed because the two elements don’t go together in nature. Finally, with materials in hand, they met back at the kitchen table.

Leaves were removed from the flowers and greenery two and a half inches from their bottoms. The stems were dipped in a solution to preserve the flowers. Their bottoms were cut and shaved while submerged in a bowl of water to seal off the bacteria. Next they were snipped again to allow the flower to take in water while it sits in the arrangement. The Japanese arrangements last three weeks, much longer than American table flowers.

The arrangement items are placed all in a straight row on the kenzan, but because they are different heights and textures, they fan out in zigzag directions. The arrangements must face the sun and flowers are turned to do so, sometimes clipped if necessary. Branches are bent to face the right direction.

With Saiki’s guidance, Sullivan created a traditional “shoka shimputai” arrangement using just three elements and Susanna Choy created a more modern version of the traditional arrangement with more elements. Both employed the same principle that tall must balance short. Sullivan used elements that represented a contrasting back balance, a flower in the valley and a mountain. The arrangements reflect the natural growing form of the plant materials. Students cannot use anything unnatural, such as wire or a stapler.

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Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, the 2008 MLB season opener and an exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It is evident that the Red Sox’s relationship with Japan runs deep, but this has cemented it: The Sox, in conjunction with the Japan Society of Boston, have announced a Youth Baseball Exchange Program that will allow youngsters from both Boston and Japan to visit each other’s countries through baseball. The program will take 12 boys, ages 12 to 14, from Kyoto (Boston’s official “sister city”) and Chiba and 12 boys of the same age from Boston. Play ball!


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