ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


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!


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.