ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


Summer Ikebana In a Vase

Summer is in full swing here in Japan -- it is hot and muggy most of the time, making for long days where you don't want to do anything because of the heat. I like the cold winter months much more than the hot summer months. But, it has not been that bad this year. The hot weather came later than usual, and I am happy for that.

In the summer, it's important to find ways to help keep yourself cool. One of my favorite ways is with a cool feeling ikebana arrangement. Just looking at an arrangement can help to cool you off, and you get to enjoy the beauty of the arrangement, too.

This week, for my weekly lesson, I did an arrangement in a vase. The Japanese witch-hazel has many large leaves on the branches. To achieve a cool feeling, you have to cut off many of the leaves and expose the beautiful gray/brown color of the branches. The leaves are a beautiful dark green and feel fresh and alive. Amongst the branches I inserted a couple of purple Chinese bellflowers. They rise up tall in the arrangement, showing the elegant line of the stem. To me, a purple and green arrangement always feels cool and refreshing.

Nageire, arrangement in a vase
Japanese witch-hazel, Chinese bellflower

In this arrangement, I have used only 3 branches of the witch-hazel and 2 stems of the bellflower; yet, it feels large and full of life. Paying special attention to the movement of the branches to show off their individual beauty and character is what makes ikebana special and different from Western style floral arrangements. Using fewer branches also helps to make the arrangement feel cool. The large space above the vase created by the curving branch of the witch-hazel stretching up toward the sky makes a beautiful space for the bellflower to be inserted. The tall bellflower in the space also helps to make the arrangement feel cool and refreshing. 

I thought it would be interesting to show a view from the side.

Here you can see how far forward it stretches. But, you don't notice it when looking at it from the front -- part of the magic of the Ohara School of Ikebana!

I hope you are staying cool in your part of the world. Maybe this will help to cool you off and make you feel refreshed.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below.


Early Summer Landscape Moribana

This week for my lesson, I did a Landscape Moribana arrangement depicting early summer near the bank of a pond. 

In Landscape Moribana, the arranger expresses the natural scenic beauty of the materials being used. Having an understanding of the natural growth characteristics of the plants, the environment, and the seasonal aspects of the materials is important when creating a landscape arrangement. The feelings and the creativity of the arranger are also part of the work.

In the front of the container, Spiraea thunbergii stretches out over the edge of the container creating the ground near the water’s edge. The bulrush rises up tall in the arrangement, leaning slightly forward, helping to bring the viewer into the arrangement. The bulrush is found naturally at the waters edge along the bank, so it is placed behind the Spiraea. In the back of the container, calla lily that has just begun to bloom peeks out from the white speckled leaves of the plant. The leaves of the calla lily stretch out over the surface of the water, helping to create the illusion of the flowers growing up out of a pond. 

Within the small confines of the container, three different spaces have been created — the ground, the bank, and the water. The large surface of the water helps to give the arrangement a cool and refreshing feeling, perfect for the hot days of summer. 

Spiraea thunbergii, bulrush, calla lily

I'll leave you with a haiku by the famous poet, Matsuo Basho, which I think is perfect for this arrangement.


furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

an old pond
a frog leaps
the sound of the water                                                      


Father's Day Ikebana, 2014

I wanted to make an arrangement for my dad for Father's Day again this year. He liked the arrangement last year, so I hope that he likes the arrangement this year, too.

I thought about what I could do, something in a container or something in a vase. Last year I did something in a container, but I did a very simple arrangement for him. I wanted to do something that felt a little more natural than last year, so I decided to do a landscape arrangement. He loves the outdoors. When I was little he took me fishing, hunting, and camping. So, I thought a landscape arrangement would be perfect.

I would love to have created a landscape of Arkansas, but I can't get any materials like that here. So, I created a Japanese landscape, but I think it could translate to America, too.

Realistic Landscape Moribana
Dodan-tsutsuji, Solomon's Seal, Campanula

I used Dodan-tsutsuji, a shrub native to Japan, some green Solomon's Seal, and the purple flower is Campanula. The branch that stretches out in the back is reflected on the surface of the water in the suiban and helps to create a cool feeling. The green and purple color combination also help to make it feel as if a cool breeze is blowing. I thought this might be something you would see on the bank of a lake or river. Maybe if you cast a line out, you just might catch a fish!

I hope my dad has a wonderful Father's Day and gets to do something fun and eat something good!

Happy Father's Day, dad.
I love you!


Mother's Day Ikebana, 2014

Last year, my mom loved the arrangement I did for her; so, I thought I would make her another one this year.

Her favorite color is yellow, so I chose some beautiful Oncidium. The small orchids are very delicate and bright looking. I thought something purple would look good with that, so I found some purple Alstroemeria. I wanted to do a Radial Form arrangement, so I needed some type of green to bring the arrangement together. I saw some Dracaena "Song of India." The bright green colors would look nice with the yellow and purple. There was also some Asparagus near the Dracaena that would add a nice contrast to the arrangement, so I picked out a few stems of that, too. The white container is an Ohara School of Ikebana vase called, Asuka. I love the big "belly" it has and the small feet that lift it up, making it look elegant.

Radial Form (front view only)
Oncidium, Alstromeria, Dracaena "Song of India", Asparagus

It's a happy looking arrangement that will put a smile on her face (and will probably become the screen saver on her computer!). I love the energy it has, stretching out to both sides, ready to give you a bright, cheery hug -- just like my mom!

Happy Mother's Day to a fantastic woman who always looks on the bright side of things and is there with a helping hand when needed. She has a great smile that is contagious and has never met a stranger. She supports those around her, often sacrificing her needs for others. She has always supported me in whatever I've done and is my biggest cheerleader. She is my mom, and I am proud to have her in my life.

Love you, mom!
Happy Mother's Day!


Ikebana Arrangements by My Students

I thought I would share some pictures of some of the ikebana arrangements that my students do during their lessons. I have a couple of intermediate students and many beginning students. I try to teach them according to their ability, yet give them a challenge each week during their lesson.

There is a mix of the seasons along with a mix of forms and styles.

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoy teaching!

Inclining Form

Inclining Form

Rising Form

One-Row Form

One-Row Form

Radial Form

Circular Form

Circular Form (from above)

One-Row Form

One-Row Form

Circular Form

Heika, Upright Style

Upright Style

Rising Form

Rising Form

Rising Form

Inclining Form

Inclining Form

Rising Form

Rising Form

Radial Form

Inclining Form

Inclining Form

Radial Form

As always, please feel free to leave a comment below!