Yoshiko Niibayashi knows her blooms. She has been manager for 12 years of Floro Flower Palette, in the Asakusa theatre district. She graduated in agriculture then trained in flower arranging in the Netherlands. A bit incongruous-sounding, right? Japanese woman learns ikebana at Dutch school. But flowers are so plentiful there, and cheap, she says. And I like their ike in Holland – that is, the ike in ikebana – the living presentation.

You came for the Spring special, 630-yen for five flowers, choose from daffodil, iris, fresia, tulip, sweet pea, anemone, others. There are also potted plants. Yoshiko points across the pedestrian mall at a rack of flowerpots outside an eatery. She says, There’s not much public greenery, so shitamachi people love to put plants on the street.

Actually, most of our sales are online, she says. We’re right near the theatres. People want to send flowers to the rakugo storytellers, the comic theatre, the strip theatre.

Yoshiko’s colleague is Sanae Yuuki. These days we stock a lot of imports, she says. You see, we’ve got spring flowers in winter, and in spring we’ll have summer flowers.

Sanae has recommendations for you. On another day she tells you, Those roses might look good. But they’re a couple of days old. You should buy flowers Monday and Friday afternoons. The deliveries come in the mornings.

flower girls out

But roses are most popular, she says. They’re a bit expensive, but that’s what people go for. And we’re just off Hoppy Dori, she says, the street of outdoor taverns. People drinking, lovers, people having affairs? I don’t know! Maybe! They come and buy flowers. She points to a spray of little white blossoms. That kase miso, baby’s breath, that sells well, she says.

The good thing about working here, says Sanae, is that so many customers are buying gifts. And I’ve worked at other places, you know, I’ve only been here two years but I’ve sold flowers for 19 years. I like helping arrange gifts.

Yoshiko says, Yes that’s right. And I’ve sold flowers since I was 22. And we’re both 37 and not married! Hard to believe isn’t it! Hahaha! We can’t explain. But we have our flowers to talk to. Yes, you can print that. And yes, a girl who sells flowers would make a marvellous partner.