On 20 September 1998, a flower market and an exhibition of work by amateur artists, which had been organized by the municipality, was held in the marketplace of a French city suburb a few kilometers from Paris. In between the plants and flowers exhibited were several tents. In one of them, rows of bonsai produced by local people were exhibited. In another, origami lessons were being given. The audience was so large that half of them could not see the teacher, who was folding the colored papers rather quickly. The same was true of the tent in which demonstrations of ikebana were taking place. The French master and his assistant, who both belonged to one of the three biggest schools of ikebana, as it was written on their happi (workman's livery), used scissors with such dexterity that in a few minutes branches of autumnal plants were displayed in bamboo or ceramic containers.
This small local event included three components of Japanese culture, without any emphasis on this particular link. In other words, they were not associated with some cultural exchange between the two countries. Bonsai, origami, and ikebana were introduced as mere ways of entertaining oneself; the exhibition of home crafts was simply a part of this small event, and French masters (not Japanese masters coming from Japan) were introducing them to this local audience. Such an event shows how deeply some living aspects of Japanese culture have taken root in France.
Despite its small scale, this event shares common features with those organized through international concerns. Japanese cultural events sponsored by the Japanese embassy, other governmental agencies, and many private organizations are increasing all over the world every year. These cultural events happen on so-called Japanese Days, Japanese Weeks, or even a Japanese Year. However long, they bear common features associated with their content. Knowledge of traditional handicrafts, from origami to the making of dolls, and traditional practices, which often include chanoyu1 and flower arrangement, seem to be the main representatives of this conception of Japanese culture in foreign countries.
We may ask why the official culture, i.e. the one sponsored by municipalities in Japan that act as sister cities of cities elsewhere in the world and by the Japanese embassy in foreign countries, is so dedicated to these forms of artistic