There are many schools and styles of flower arranging in Japan, some traditional, some modern, some based on the western style of flower arranging. There are also quite a few famous flower arrangers who have hundreds of followers and have written books on different shapes and combinations that you can make with flowers. The flower world has become quite charismatic.
When I first came to Japan, one of my Japanese friends suggested we take a flower arranging class together. I thought this was a great idea! Every week we would go to the class and the teacher would hand us a bundle of flowers and we would follow her arranging instructions using a low dish and a steel needled block to poke flower stems into. We also had special steel scissors. After a couple months though, I decided I wasn't really cut out for flower arranging. For one, the sweet elderly teacher would give me a flower and I'd poke it into my block and she would come along smilingly and remove it and place it another way saying that I had to put "the face" of the flower looking a certain way. I absolutely couldn't understand what the face of a flower was. I also asked lots of questions like how long the flower stems should be, what angle should the stems be from each other, how far apart should the flowers be spaced and furiously scribbled in a notebook with lines and arrows pointing here and there. The teacher smilingly suggested I forget numbers and concentrate on the "faces".
The idea was that after class, we would go home with the flowers hopefully arrange them again in our own low dish and steel block and have a breathtaking display to put in the Japanese alcove that all Japanese houses have for displaying flowers, scrolls and artistic pieces of pottery (the tokonoma). Unfortunately, my flower arrangement never looked anything like what the teacher had made at the flower arranging class and besides I lived in the back room of the center where I worked and didn't have a tokonoma or anything except a corner of a sink. My flower arranging days didn't last very long.
Even today, though I have a tokonoma, I use it for practical purposes like a place for a bookcase and file cabinet. No art displayed anywhere. And though I've tried my hand at brightening the room with flowers (just yesterday someone gave me a gorgeous bouquet!) the cats like to eat the Baby's Breath and other small blooms and leaves, so flowers get pretty ragged quickly in my house.
The other day I visited a friend who has recently started studying flower arranging and again I think how nice it is to have fresh flowers gracing one's home. Hmmm. No, Tanya, don't start another hobby! But this arrangement was calling to me. Look at that big yellow flower in the center. I asked the name and my friend said it was called a "Pincushion"! No wonder I like it!