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The Ikebana Shop introduces authentic Japan to Halifax

'We try to keep it authentic, in the sense that if you walk into a Tokyo gift shop, you will see the same kind of things,' Ferdinand Ballesteros said
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Ferdinand and Miyako Ballesteros, partners at the Ikebana Shop, with their HalifaxToday.ca mugs.

When Ferdinand and Miyako Ballesteros first moved to Halifax, Miyako knew she wanted to continue teaching ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging she had been practicing for over 20 years.

Yet as she began introducing her new community to the technique, a problem presented itself—people in Halifax didn’t have access to the specialized vases, pin, floral clippers and other supplies necessary for the practice.

“We decided that we have to bring in our own supplies, so that’s kind of how we became the Ikebana Shop,” Ferdinand said.

Ferdinand and Miyako Ballesteros are partners in the business, and this week’s midweek mugging recipients.

Despite the name, the Ikebana Shop offers more than just supplies for floral arrangements.

“We thought, we’re bringing in these things from Japan, might as well bring in other nice things from Japan, and so we extended that to more pottery, Japanese incense, Japanese tea,” Ferdinand said. “The idea is to introduce authentic Japan to Halifax.”

Located at 6417 Quinpool Rd., the store also has an upstairs studio space for Miyako’s ikebana workshops.

Classes are kept to a small group of six, so Miyako can tailor the course depending on skill level. Those interested in the workshops can sign up via phone or email.

“It’s not scheduled as a course, [with] week one, week two...it’s a your own pace, so beginners can come, and there might be a person there for the twentieth time as well,” Ferdinand said.

Ikebana is seasonal and uses many different types of plants.

“We use not only flowers, but branches, whatever you see in your backyard,” Miyako said.

The class often attracts retirees looking to gain a new skill, and Western florists curious about the Japanese style.

Miyako said seeing first-time students become excited by ikebana is her favourite thing about teaching.

“Some people, it takes time to really like it,” Miyako said. “[They] try five times, six times, then — ahh, now I understand.”

“It’s a cultural difference in mentality, in terms of learning,” Ferdinand added. “Normally, people will ask something like, how many weeks or how many courses do I take before I become a master? In ikebana, there is also some sort of ranking, but the real way of thinking is that it’s a process.”

The store has gained a following online as Canadians and Americans seeks out items that can be difficult to find in North America.

Ferdinand said some of the store’s best-sellers are tea, which they get directly from Kyoto, and the Japanese incense.

“We try to keep it authentic, in the sense that if you walk into a Tokyo gift shop, you will see the same kind of things,” Ferdinand said. “If you want a taste of Japanese culture somehow...you can come here.”

Along with the traditional aspects of Japanese culture, the shop also has more modern products including anime toys, hair accessories and books about Japanese living.

Ferdinand said one of his favourite things about the shop is the opportunity to speak about Japanese culture with customers that come in.

“It’s a very small shop and everything here, they’re all chosen by us, so each one is very personal. There’s a story behind this thing … so when people are really interested, we can talk about it,” Ferdinand said. “It’s just great to make that connection.”




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