Monday, October 16, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hosoe Kodama, `doctor of flowers,' flourished to 106

Seattle Times staff reporter

Madame Hosoe Kodama was a "doctor" of flowers.

A practitioner of ikenobo, a Japanese art form of flower arrangement, Mrs. Kodama displayed her work at exhibitions and flower shows throughout the Northwest, and she earned "sokatoku," the field's highest scholarly degree.

Later, Japanese officials expert in flower arrangement granted her the title "madame" in honor of her lifetime achievements.

But as accomplished as she was in her own right, Mrs. Kodama worked to teach others how they might do the same.

"She was the foremost teacher in the state of Washington," said her daughter Nobie Chan of Seattle. "Her arrangements were huge and absolutely astounding."

Mrs. Kodama, founder of the Washington State Ikenobo School of Japanese Flower Arrangement, died from a stroke Oct. 5 at Providence Seattle Medical Center. She was 106.

Mrs. Kodama was born in Yamaguchi-ken, Japan.

As a child, she practiced ikenobo, the oldest school of ikebana floral arrangement, which has its roots in Buddhist tradition.

She came to the United States in 1919, sponsored by her sister who was living in Seattle.

She married Kinsuke Kodama in 1922 and operated a greenhouse business with him in Burien. After her husband's death in 1953, she continued to operate the business and also invested in several apartment houses.

"There were three things she always told her children, or at least, my son (Mrs. Kodama's grandson, Mark Terao)," Chan said. "Finish college. Take care of your mother. And you must buy real estate."

The third tenet probably was a response to Japanese tradition that did not allow women to own property, Chan said.

Mrs. Kodama's floral arrangements, for which she was best known, have been displayed at the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival, ikenobo exhibitions in the Seattle area, the Seattle Art Museum and the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

In teaching ikenobo, Mrs. Kodama emphasized traditional elements of the form, said Yoshi Erickson, vice president of the school Mrs. Kodama founded. Erickson emigrated to the United States from Okinawa in the early 1970s and continued her study of ikenobo here with Mrs. Kodama.

"Learn basics first, then after, you can do your own way," Erickson recalled Mrs. Kodama saying.

In addition to her work with the Washington chapter of the ikenobo school, Mrs. Kodama was a charter member of another group for flower arranging, Ikebana International, and she served on several boards and organizations including Nikkei Concerns, the Seattle Buddhist Church and the Japanese-American Citizens League.

In 1980, Mrs. Kodama received one of Japan's highest honors: the Emperor's Medal. Awarded by Emperor Hirohito, the medal honored her contribution to culture and the arts as well as her promotion of goodwill between Japan and the United States.

Later in her career, Mrs. Kodama stopped teaching beginning students, instead focusing her energy on teaching those who would go on to teach others. It was her hope that the tradition would grow here in the United States, Erickson said.

"Mrs. Kodama is gone, but spiritually we're connected and we can follow how she taught us," Erickson said.

Besides her daughter Nobie Chan, survivors include children Ben Kodama and Kriss Tanaka of Burien, Yuri Sata of Auburn and stepson Kinichi Kodama of Seattle; 18 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.

A funeral service is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Seattle Buddhist Church, 1427 South Main St., Seattle.

Frank Vinluan's phone message number is 206-464-2291. His e-mail address is

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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