ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


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!


Rhodea Japonica, an Ancient Ikebana Material

Since ancient times, rhodea has been used extensively in artificial leaf groupings of the greatest ingenuity in rikka and other floral styles. In the ikebana of the Ohara School, one-clump arrangements of rhodea in fixed leaf groupings appear in the Traditional Method in both the Landscape Arrangement and in the Color Scheme Arrangement, and both leaf groupings are governed by strict rules.
Rhodea is always composed in a single group of eight leaves -- en even number. This method makes the most of the plant's natural growth pattern and is the major feature that distinguishes rhodea from most other materials.
If one observes rhodea growing in pots and elsewhere, the leaves will be seen to grow symmetrically from the center of the clump, with opposing leaves emerging at about the same time. This growth pattern is represented by the application of the techniques of the one-clump method to create the best, most unified form with a fixed number of eight leaves.
It should be noted that in its natural state, rhodea produces leaves that emerge sideways to the right and left, and the plant's appearance as a whole lacks forward and backward depth. In a work of ikebana, this would not produce a very beautiful effect, nor would it allow for the addition of other materials. Thus, when rhodea is arranged, the leaves are grouped not according to their natural appearance, but lengthwise as if viewed in depth from front to rear. Consequently, in what is regarded as the parent grouping, the same number of leaves -- three in the rear and three in the front -- are positioned with their upper surfaces facing the center of the clump. At the side of this six-leaf grouping, two leaves represent the so called child grouping. Long, large leaves are used in the parent grouping, and small, short ones in the child grouping. The red berries of rhodea are positioned near the central area of the clump. 
In the Traditional Method in the Landscape Arrangement, rhodea is always composed in the Upright Style in the Near-View Depiction. Therefore, the groupings are created with leaves in their natural lengths regardless of the size of the suiban
--The Traditional Ikebana of the Ohara School, 
The Traditional Method in the Landscape and Color Scheme Arrangements
by Houn Ohara, Third Headmaster of the Ohara School 

As you can tell from the quote above from the book by Houn Ohara, rhodea has a long history in ikebana and is very specific in the way in which it is arranged. It is a winter material and can be used not only in the Traditional Method, but can also be used in a rimpa arrangement and also in a nageire arrangement. It is a refined material and looks gorgeous in it's arranged state. 

I was lucky enough to be able to do an arrangement this winter using the material. It is expensive (about $20 for 10 leaves and one clump of berries), and is getting harder to find here in Japan. Usually, it is used during the new year, but can also be used throughout the winter. A couple of weeks ago (yes, this post is a little late in getting up), there was one set of leaves and a clump of berries left over from the new year at the flower shop, and they were kind enough to give me a discount on them (about $10)! I was excited to try my hand at this very technical yet beautiful arrangement.

As mentioned above, there are set rules for the placement, length, and angle of the leaves. The position of the berries is also set. Following the rules produces a beautiful one-clump depiction of the material that gives a sense of movement within the container. The diagram below, also taken from the above mentioned book, shows the arranging method for rhodea and where to place each leaf within the shippo.

Using this as a guide, along with advice from my teacher, I was able to create a beautiful clump, although it took me about an hour to get everything correct! Needless to say, I was very happy when I was finished. After arranging the rhodea, I covered the surface of the suiban with club moss. It is important to cover the entire surface of the container with the club moss because it is winter and also because rhodea is in no way associated with being near the water. I was lucky enough to be able to use club moss that my teacher had used for an arrangement she did the week before. If I were to have had to cut and arrange all of the club moss, I would have had to spent another hour on the arrangement, which would have been fine with me; but I'm glad I didn't have to! Last, I used small chrysanthemums to finish the arrangement. A small group positioned at the base of the clump near the berries, and another small group used as the Object and its filler.

Rhodea japonica, small chrysanthemum, club moss
Near View, Upright Style

Here's a view from the side to show how the leaf group tilts forward to bring the viewer into the arrangement.

The Landscape Arrangement form is truly unique to the Ohara School of Ikebana. Respecting the seasonal characteristics and natural growth patterns of plants, an arrangement that expresses the beauty of a natural scene can be captured in the small confines of a container. Being able to do this takes years of practice and lots of skill. I still have a ways to go on my ikebana journey, but I am enjoying the "views" along the way.

I hope each of you are doing well in your part of the world!

Please feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to hear about your ikebana journey.


Amaryllis Ikebana, Remembering My Grandmother

Amaryllis always reminds me of my grandmother. 

She had a big  picture window in her living room with a big "table" in front of it (which was actually the old console of their TV with a cloth over it). It was filled with different potted plants. But my favorite were the amaryllis. She had all different colors -- red, pink, white, red with white spots, and I can even remember a yellow one. They always bloomed during the winter months, but she was good enough that she could also get them to bloom out of season.

For Christmas one year, she gave all of the grand kids a potted amaryllis bulb that we would have to water and could then watch grow. I loved watching the single stalk rise up out of the bulb and bloom in a colorful display of trumpets all around the top of that lonely, green stalk. I had mine for several years before I finally let it die. 

Now every time I see an amaryllis, it makes me think of her. She was a simple country woman who loved to garden and display her flowers on the table during the summer months. And I know she enjoyed the beauty of the amaryllis that she had in the picture window -- she had so many!

This last week, I did an arrangement using amaryllis and it made me think of her. 

I think she would like this arrangement very much.


Amaryllis and mustard flower
Upright Style, Traditional Method in the Color Scheme Arrangement

Do you have any special memories of your grandmother? Let me know in the comment section below.


New Year's Ikebana 2014

I have been off the blog world for a while.

I had gone home for my winter break for a month and was busy with things there. I had also left my camera in Japan, so I couldn't really take any pictures while I was home. I know that's not really an excuse, but . . .

Better late than never, here is my New Year's ikebana arrangement.

As in years past, I did an arrangement for my friends hanko shop window. Click here for 2012 and here for the 2011 arrangements. This year, I would be in America during the New Year, so I made an arrangement ahead of time that he could put in the window while I was gone. I left for America on the 22nd of December, later than normal. It would only be a week until it would be time to display the arrangement, so it should be ok. All of the materials I used keep for a long time, and my apartment would be cold while I was out. Everything should be ok, and it was! Yeah!

For the past couple of times, I did heika arrangements, arrangements in a vase. The space for the display is a bit narrow making it difficult to do a large work in the space. This year, I decided that I would do a hana-isho arrangement, one of my favorites (I know I say that about all the forms and styles -- it's just too hard to pick one!), the One-row Form.

He wanted something a little different, so I got five different square containers that are usually used in the New Year osechi box, food served during the New Year's Holidays which symbolize good luck and fortune. They might hold beans, different boiled vegetables, rice, different foods that can last through the holiday season. Of course this time, they didn't hold any food!

Above is a picture of a very gorgeous osechi box. Something like this would be well over $300! And the box itself, depending on what it is made from and how it is decorated, can also be very expensive -- $500 or more. 

Some of the food above include the following:

Datemaki -- Sweet egg roll mixed with fish paste, with a texture close to pound cakes. The rolls resemble scrolls which symbolize knowledge and literal talents.
Kamaboko -- White fish cake trimmed with bright pink colors resemble the rising sun. The pink color expresses happiness, and the white color symbolizes sanctity.
Kazunoko -- Salted herring row, at times referred to as "golden diamonds" due to its color.
Kuro-mame -- Sweet black beans, eaten to wish for a healthy year.
Tai -- Red sea bream, associated with the Japanese word "Mede-tai", which refers to happiness and joy.

**the above picture and explanations of the food were taken from the Japan National Tourism Organization homepage**

The above is not your typical box, but I thought it would be fun to show what a lavish one looked like.

The small boxes that I bought are what are placed inside of the larger boxes to separate the food. For all five, I think I paid less than $10. Very cheap for a container if you ask me!

I wanted to use traditional New Year materials, which can be found at any flower shop and even in the grocery stores. The end result, a large arrangement that cold fit into the narrow display space.

New Year's Arrangement 2014
One-row Form
Young pine, painted bamboo, ping-pong chrysanthemum, colwort (ornamental kale),
Sarcandra glabra, New Year decoration

And here it is in the shop window.

A modern take on a traditional New Year arrangement.

I hope that each of you who reads the blog had a wonderful and relaxing New Year.
I wish each of you good health and prosperity in 2014!

Here's to a year filled with beautiful and inspiring flowers.


Fall Ikebana Exhibition 2013, Part 2

On Sunday, November 10, and Monday, November 11, I took part in the annual prefectural fall ikebana exhibition. The weekend before, I and two of my students took part in the city-wide exhibition (click here to see that post), so I have had a busy couple of weeks. But they have been great busy!

About a month ago while at the flower shop getting flowers for one of my lessons, I noticed some very nice, large dried leaves. I asked if they were special order for someone, but the staff said that they were actually left over from an exhibition held in October. That meant I could use them if I wanted to, but I had to think about it. Because they were so big, I would need a large container, and I didn't have any. So, my search for a container began.

I looked around at different second hand shops and even an antique type store, but I couldn't find anything. I asked my teacher if she had any large vases, and just my luck, she did! With that vase, I could use the leaves. Yeah! The next time I was at the shop, I saw that the leaves were still there and immediately bought them. Now, I just had to figure out what to put with them.

I thought I would like to another Bunjin styled arrangement, but it would be difficult to find materials to go with the leaves. One day at my lesson, I noticed that my teacher had a beautiful, old piece of lichen covered persimmon laying out in the corner of her yard. She had been through her garden cleaning things up, getting ready for the winter season, and she had put the old branch (one she had used about 10 years ago) in the pile to be thrown away. I asked if I could use it, and she said yes. I had another material for my arrangement. (When searching for materials, I look everywhere to try and find the perfect materials to use -- while driving, while walking, in the school yard, around the school, around my neighborhood, everywhere!)

I thought that some pine would also go nice with the arrangement, so a friend and I went for a little drive up in the mountains to search for some pine. We finally managed to find some, and after climbing up the tree to get to it to cut it off, I had some pine. Now I needed something to go in the front of the arrangement to give it a focal point.

I went to several different flower shops in several different cities looking for some unusual flowers, but I had no luck. I thought I could also use a potted plant, so I went to several different garden centers and found some huge ornamental cabbage plants that would be perfect. Everything was coming together.

Last, I thought it would be nice to give it a little color, so I decided to add some green chrysanthemums to the arrangement. They would give the arrangement a nice pop of color and help to fill out the space of the work. They would also help to give the arrangement a bit of a fall feel to it.

After a couple of weeks of planning, I finally had my arrangement completed.

Dried Sterlizia augusta, pine, lichen covered persimmon, 
ornamental cabbage, chrysanthemum "Anastasia"

It may be hard to tell from the picture just how large this arrangement is, but the ornamental cabbage in the front is about a foot wide! The large leaf probably stood up about three and a half feet out of the container. This is the largest ikebana arrangement I have created, and I think it turned out very well (if I do say so myself!).

Here's a picture of it from the left side so you can also see how far back it stretches.

It was a dynamic arrangement, and I think I captured the feeling of fall and the coming of the cold winter ahead. This was something that I don't normally do, and people noticed that. I saw these leaves and knew that I had to use them somehow. Since they are dried, I can use them again. Yeah! I thought they would look nice if they were gold-leafed. I could use them in a Christmas or New Year's arrangement, but that won't be this year.

Click here to see the arrangement I did for the spring exhibition.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment below or share the post. Also feel free to +1 the post.

Happy Fall!