Atsuko Bersma was born in Yokohama, Japan, and started taking ikebana lessons at the age of 11. Since 1970, she has combined her studies with teaching Sogetsu-style ikebana in the various places she has lived around the world. Sogetsu, the most modern among the major ikebana schools, emphasizes creativity. Atsuko founded the Ikebana International Hana Chapter of Belgium and was its first president (1996-2000). She also became chairperson of the Sogetsu Azalea Study Group in Belgium (2001-2009).
Also known by her flower name of Tonsen, she has conducted many demonstrations and workshops in Japan and throughout Europe. In March 2003, she received the prestigious Sogetsu Overseas Award for the spreading of ikebana around the world. That year as well, she made stage arrangements for classical music concerts at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels.In October 2005, she held a one-month solo exhibition at the Maison Cauchie in Brussels to commemorate the centenary of that classified Art Nouveau house.
In 2007, she received the Sogetsu 80th anniversary overseas commemorative award in Tokyo. In October 2010, she celebrated her 40 years of teaching and the 20 th annual exhibition with her students at Belgium’s National Botanic Garden near Brussels. This year, she held her 29th exhibition there, and in 2020, she hopes to hold her 30th exhibition and celebrate her 50th teaching anniversary.
She has also produced three calendars, for 2004, 2005 and 2012. The proceeds of this latter work went to fund three projects for the victims of the Great Eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. In addition, she performed a demonstration in Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture, in April 2012, for the victims.
As part of the celebrations for the 150 years of friendly relations between Japan and Belgium, she performed a liaison function for two years between the Sogetsu School in Tokyo, the Japanese Embassy in Brussels, the organizers of the prestigious Floralies flower-festival in Ghent and the Sogetsu organizations in Belgium and The Netherlands leading up to the two week presence in Ghent of Sogetsu’s Iemoto (Head Mistress) Akane Teshigahara in April 2016.
In April 2017, she received the Sogetsu Overseas Honour Award on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Sogetsu Ikebana School. In October that year, at her annual exhibition, the Japanese Ambassador to Belgium presented her with a commendation award from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ikebana International European Regional Conference was held in Bruges in August 2018. She was in charge of the protocol for that event, which saw the participation of over 200 enthusiasts from over 20 countries, including Japan.
In 2019, she was invited to do a demonstration at the prestigious Hachiman Shrine in Kamakura, Japan, for the Ikebana International Kamakura Chapter. On November 3, Culture Day in Japan, she was awarded the Imperial “Medal of the Rising Sun with Gold and Silver Rays” for her contribution to Japanese Culture, specifically for founding the ikebana International Hana Chapter of Belgium.Photo © Yoshiko Terada