Thursday, February 26, 2009


The other day my neighbor invited me to come and see her ikebana arrangement. She is an ikebana teacher and seems to go here and there all over Japan to teach flower arranging and also learn herself. She is a very community minded lady and every week she places a flower arrangement in the entryway of the local elementary school.

When I first came to Japan I tried taking a beginning flower arranging class but soon learned that I had no artistic abilities whatsoever and gave up quickly. These days with five cats in the house, flower arrangements, plants in general, don't last very long. I will put flowers in a vase and within a few minutes the cats have shredded the flowers or tipped over the vase. Too bad since a few flowers in the house about now would brighten up the place a bit.

Anyway, I visited my neighbor and was shown into the formal Japanese room devoid of any furniture but with a lovely Japanese alcove on one side of the room. And in the alcove was a scroll and my friend's beautiful flower arrangement. Now this is interesting. Not like normal flowers in a low Japanese dish, more like a small artistic tree sprouting from the corner of the room.

It seems that my friend had spent a week in Kyoto (the cultural capital of Japan) attending a flower arranging seminar by one of the more famous ikebana teachers in Japan and it had taken the whole week to make this arrangement. Now look at that. Doesn't that look like someone chopped off a branch and put it in a vase? Ah, looks can be deceiving!

This branch is a real branch but it has been severed in three major pieces and all the smaller branches and needle clusters have been removed. The major parts of the branch were then carpenter pieced and arranged in an interesting shape. Where each of the smaller branches were to go the arranger drilled holes and made a perfect fit so that the branches could be inserted and removed. And each of the needle clusters were also wired together, wrapped in tiny pieces of cloth that can be removed from the branch, dipped in water and then replaced so that the needles don't dry out.

With all the drilling and and making of holes my friend stabbed a hole in her hand and she was sporting a few band aids. Dangerous work this ikebana!

After the week of seminar the whole arrangement was dissembled and then boxed and delivered back to my friend's home where she re-assembled the whole thing again. With the removing of needle clusters she said the arrangement will last a month or more...

Think of the manicured Japanese gardens and the intricately wired bonsai. Part of the beauty of Japan is to work very hard to force pieces of life into shapes and forms yet make it look very natural.

With all the work that went into this one arrangement I appreciate God's artistic ability to form endless pieces of natural art!


Anonymous said...


love, love your blog.

read it every night before bed!

Anonymous said...


love, love your blog.

read it every night before bed!

Amanda said...

My mother was an Ikebana (we always called it 'sticky barmy'!) teacher. She had lessons, discovered she had a talent for it and went on to take more lessons and exams, becoming a Grand Master. She used to teach and demonstrate all over the UK. She also exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show, winning all sorts of medals. Her arrangements wee certainly very beautiful, stunning really, but I've always preferred a simple bunch of flowers stuck into a vase - just as well, as I can't do any thing else with them anyway!

Shasta said...

It is beautiful. We spend a lot of time cutting up beautiful fabric just to piece it together again, so I suppose that hobby is on the same level.

lj_cox said...

The arrangement is stunning in its place. I admire ikebana art, though I, like another poster, prefer simple flowers in a vase. That said, having seen your quilts I dispute your statement that you have no artistic talent whatsoever. Perhaps no talent for ikebana, but your artistic talent can't be denied.

Julie said...

That is truly amazing!

Katie said...

I admire the talent and the artistry but would never want to do it. I don't like bonsai either. A friend of Japanese descent asked me why and was completely startled when I said it was because the little trees look so tortured. :-)