Museum adds Ikebana floral program to Yasui recognition days

As a complement to events honoring the life work of Minoru Yasui, born in Hood River 100 years ago, The History Museum of Hood River County presents a Japanese floral arranging program on Monday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m.

The austere dignity of Japanese floral design harmonizes with the distinction garnered by Yasui through his fight to secure dignity for all.

Four events honor justice advocate Minoru Yasui

Here is the rest of the schedule of events honoring the legacy of Minoru Yasui:

• Oct. 18-19 — Hood River Library will display Yasui’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Oct. 19 — The library will unveil a permanent Minoru Yasui legacy stone on the library lawn at 4 p.m. A centennial birthday reception will follow the unveiling.

• Oct. 18 — The Columbia Center for the Arts will host “Vision and Vigilance,” 7-9 p.m., with readings from “Citizen Min,” followed by a discussion. The evening will feature introductions by Maija Yasui, a staged reading of excerpts from the play “Vision & Vigilance” by Yasui’s granddaughter, Holly Yasui, based on the activist life of Min Yasui, a panel discussion by local community group leaders, and a community discussion and exchange of ideas.

• Oct. 19 — Columbia Center for the Arts and Gorge Owned will also host the world premiere screening of a film by Holly, “Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice.”

For his contribution to social justice causes, President Barack Obama awarded Yasui, who died in 1986, the highest honor a president can bestow on a civilian: The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Yasui was posthumously recognized for his sustained protest of the illegal internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

However, as Hawaiian Senator Mazie K. Hirono noted, Yasui was also honored “for the continued lessons we learn from his courage and lifetime of advocating for civil rights, providing legal assistance to Japanese American and immigrant communities, and building bridges between communities of color.”

The Japanese school of floral design, known to many as Ikebana, has a long multi-faceted history reaching back into ancient religious and ceremonial practices. (Ikebana is in fact only one of several well-defined traditions within Japanese floral design.)

With roots in sixth-century Japan and fully developed there by the 15th century, Ikebana is the exquisite art of floral arrangement.

The word Ikebana can be translated to mean “giving life to flowers” or more loosely “flower arrangement” or “arranging flowers.” However, the art form celebrates not only blossoms, but all the components of the plant world, giving prominent roles to leaves, stems, and branches.

This highly sophisticated floral construction is appreciated for its asymmetrical balance; emphasis on the form, texture, and expressive line of just a few plant elements; and its intellectual restraint.

Phyllis Danielson, noted practitioner of Japanese floral design, will lead the class. She will be joined by local floral designers from the Odell Garden Club, who are themselves Ikebana specialists: Norma Curtis, Jackie Shaw, Margaret Taylor, Judy Wakamatsu Wols, and Chyoko Watanabe, as well as Garnet Ascher of Portland, who will each create a floral arrangement at the museum. Danielson will also present a demonstration on Japanese floral design.

Her presentation begins at 1 p.m.; there is no charge for this program.

In conjunction with the Yasui commemorations, the Hood River Valley Evening Garden Club has sponsored the design and execution of an artful landscaping project at The History Museum.

The Garden Club has adopted one of the beds on the museum grounds, funding its renovation.

Formerly a dirt patch with the odd rock, the bed now is punctuated by the spare forms of miniature boxwoods, a lace-leaf maple, a Hinoki cypress of dancing shape, and a “river” of raked stones.

Following in the Japanese spirit of the poet rock at the museum’s entrance, the newly designed bed also speaks of a renewed bond between the museum and the area’s garden community. The museum thanks members of the Garden Club for their generosity, and to Heidi and Mike Nastasi who did the heavy lifting.

Minoru Yasui was born 100 years ago in Hood River, on Oct. 19, 1916. The film will cover Yasui’s childhood in Hood River in the early 1900s, his World War II constitutional test case challenging the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, and the wartime experiences of the Japanese American community. The 50-minute film will be introduced by Yasui’s daughter, Holly, and will be followed with comments by Peggy Nagae, Yasui’s attorney when he re-opened his World War II case in 1981. Holly Yasui, Nagae and Doolittle will then field questions and comments from the audience.

After the war, Yasui moved to Denver where he continued to fight for the rights of all people. In the 19070s-80s he spearheaded the national movement for redress: an official apology and reparations for Japanese Americans imprisoned in the World War II camps. In 1983, he returned to Portland to reopen his wartime case in the US District Court of Oregon. Yasui died in 1986 and was buried in his beloved hometown of Hood River. In 2015, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Baraka Obama, which was followed by a unanimous passing by the Oregon Senate and House to designate March 28 as Minoru Yasui Day.

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