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Musings on Ikebana

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Literally translated, 'Ikebana' means 'to put in flower material', but its more fluid translation means 'flower arrangement'.

Historically, in the best room of a Japanese house there was a tokonoma (alcove). This acted as a focal point and within the tokonoma a picture scroll and flowers were displayed. Emphasis is on the form of natural life.

Like the drama which makes use of living men on the stage to represent various phases of man's life, Japanese flower arrangement represents various phases of nature by utilising flowers and other objects. In flower arrangement the actors and actresses are the flowers and trees and the stage is the vase.

The container for the arrangement should be discreet and tie in with the main flow of the piece. For instance, if a vertical arrangement is wanted, then a tall thin container would be ideal such as is used in Heika. Similarly if the arrangement is a horizontal one, then a low shallow oval or semicircular shape is utilised (as in Moribana).

Both Rikkwa and Ten-chi-jin styles are formal, while the Nageire style is free and natural.

Here the hanging Ikebana which is cascading is placed in front of the

Scroll. This enhances the realistic painting of nature creating a 3D

effect for the viewer, almost making the viewer a part of the environment.

Margaret Wolfe Hungerford wrote the idiom ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ in her novel of 1878, 'Molly Bawn'. It is this phrase that we still use in our language today. The Buddhist belief that there is beauty in imperfection can also be applied to Ikebana. Although there is an element of precision in displaying the plant material (making sure that there isn't any messy overlapping of branches, stems or flowers), a naturally bent branch or stem is rejoiced in as much as a perfect-looking specimen.