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A Japanese Floral Artist Cultivating Roots in Taiwan (TAIPEI Quarterly 2024 Spring Vol.35)

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Post date:2024-03-11


TAIPEI #35 (2024 Spring)

A Japanese Floral Artist Cultivating Roots in Taiwan

Author Joella Jian
Photographer Salon Flowers, Mike Sung

fs-1▲The last name Mine, pronounced as "mi-ne," means "the mountain" in Japanese. This is a funny coincidence since the floral artist particularly likes mountain plants. (Photo・Salon Flowers) 

Takako Mine (嶺貴子), a resident of Taipei for 13 years, has witnessed much beautiful scenery during her time here. The catastrophic Tohoku Earthquake in 2011 frightened Takako and her family, so Takako's husband determined to immigrate to Taiwan with his wife and child, if only for a short while.

Giving up the newly established floral business in Japan, Takako took her three-year-old daughter to embark on an adventure in an unfamiliar land. From knowing virtually nothing about Taiwan to setting down roots in Taipei, she has become something of an expert on the capital's most beautiful spots.

When asked about the most attractive aspect of Taiwan, to Takako it remains simply the people. In contrast to the tension, pressure, and fast pace of Tokyo, where she was born, and New York, where she attended art school, Taiwan is notably calmer, as people consistently respond with a smile, saying, "It's okay, take it easy," demonstrating uncommon consideration for each other. This relatively relaxed atmosphere makes her feel warm and cozy.

In Takako's childhood, there was a flower shop across the street from her home. After school she would gather leftover oral materials to play with at home. When visiting the park, she would casually pick flowers and leaves as part of her daily routine. The natural forms of flowers greatly influenced her later creations. 

As Takako grew up, lifting her head to see flowers, plants, and trees around her dispelled any anxiety or fear of unfamiliar environments. Naturally blessed and healed by the plants, she felt calm, relaxed, and comfortable. This is how she heals herself, and it's a blessing we'd like to share with you today.

Salon Flowers

When living in New York, Takako found that its floral industry was thriving. Fresh flowers were available in various places such as grocery stores and organic markets. In Japan, buying flowers is convenient and the Japanese constantly purchase flowers for themselves, family, and friends, as one of the simple ways to invite joy in life. Thus, Takako hopes to bring this beautiful custom to Taiwan, highlighting the power of flowers to bring aesthetic delights to our daily lives.

fs-2▲▼A nice flower arrangement is a great home decor to add a sense of freshness. (Photo・Salon Flowers)
It was with this cultural difference in mind that Takako established Salon Flowers in Taipei, aiming to introduce the practice of flower giving into Taiwan. The emphasis here is not on buying a large quantity of flowers; rather, individuals can select a few favorites, creating personalized therapeutic items and adding a touch of vibrant color to their busy lives. Takako hopes that Salon Flowers will become a platform where friends who share a love for flowers and plants can gather, learn, and exchange ideas.

For example, gladiolus and goldenrod are seen as the flowers of worshipping in Taiwan, but they are actually quite popular and can be used for various occasions in many other countries, including Japan. Takako hopes her students can view flowers from a fresh aspect.

Making Masterpieces with Native Plants

People may have the misunderstanding that there are only various varieties of tropical plants in Taiwan, but Takako highly appreciates the diverse selection of flowers Taiwan has to offer, from low-altitude plants to alpine vegetation. "Since Taiwan is surrounded by the sea and dominated by the mountains, it is easy to obtain mountain and coastal plants," says the floral artist. "An array of flowers and plants can be seen in different seasons."

fs-4▲Takako is especially fond of Taiwanese indigenous plants, and often incorporates her Japanese arrangement style with them. (Photo・Salon Flowers)

Due to the changing climate and a wide range of altitude, Taiwan produces a lot of unique indigenous plants like golden rain trees and paper-bark trees. "They are all my top choices!" Takako says. "I prefer using them for flower arrangement to the imported ones." She even incorporates Taiwanese indigenous weeds and wildflowers into her floral design.

For this reason, Takako enjoys treasure-hunting in Taipei's large flower markets, such as the Taipei Flower Market (台北花市) in Neihu and Jianguo Holiday Flower Market (建國假日花市), right in the city's heart. Jianguo Holiday Flower Market showcases many locally grown indigenous plants, along with myriad potted plants, cut flowers, wildflowers, orchids, and a wide variety of flower arrangement materials.

As for her trade secret, Takako points out that seasonal flowers are the freshest and most long-lasting. "When selecting flowers, you can choose the one in response to different solar terms of the four seasons," she says. "For example, Lemmon Marigold and Sweet Pea are great home decorations in spring, and it is just delightful to see them blossom in their seasons!"

Spring Walk in Taipei

Springtime in Taipei manifests in colorful blossoms and greens. "The blossom of Sweet Peas by the roadside will remind you that spring is in the air," says Takako. She loves the vibrant flowers of the season, including cherry blossoms, mountain marigolds, Thunberg's meadowsweet, and more, as the dazzling colors bring vitality to the city.

fs-5▲Brimming with all kinds of flowers, spring is a lovely season in Taipei, during which Takako likes to stroll. (Photo・Mike Sung)

When the weather is nice, Takako enjoys strolling through various botanical corners of Taipei. In particular, Taipei Botanical Garden (台北植物園) features a variety of exotic flowers and plants, including a lotus pond and areas dedicated to succulents, ferns, palms, poetry, and folklore. The landscape and scents in the garden change with the seasons. The garden was also an important research site during the Japanese era, preserving experimental plants from Taiwan, Japan, China, and Southeast Asia — totaling around 2,000 species.

A Healing Lifestyle

Takako also recommends that our readers visit their neighborhood flower shops and give them a go. During your leisure time, select your favorite flowers and plants to bring home, and place them in suitable locations. Additionally, consider cultivating some herbal plants on the balcony. When you return home from work, you'll be greeted by the lovely greenery and simultaneously embraced by their delightful fragrance, as if they silently comfort and accompany you in releasing the day's fatigue. Finally, you can peacefully drift into sleep amid the sweet aroma.

fs-6▲Flower arrangement works as a self-healing session for Takako and many flower lovers. (Photo・Salon Flowers)

"You can always carve out a little time to care for your favorite flowers and plants," Takako says. "Pruning leaves, cleaning pots, changing the water, and rearranging them are simple actions, yet they help refocus our minds, pulling us out of the hustle and bustle of life." Takako sees this as a form of self-care, and a healing moment created exclusively for oneself. 

This spring in Taipei, let's follow in Takako's footstep and bring a little beauty into our lives, bit by bit!


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