Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Special exhibition at Edo-Tokyo Museum

Visited the Special Exhibition on Ikebana-A Japanese Aesthetic through Time- An Exploration of Japanese Floral Art.
(after the special exhibition was over the descriptions were removed, now you can find the current exhibit's description)
What does one expect from such an exhibition. At least a real ikebana arrangement. But that was missing.
In the exhibit space they had examples of ikebana arrangements of different schools made out of wax or some other material. The names were in Japanese, I asked the attendant to read it for me, the kanji characters were not familiar, the person in charge came and said they did not think foreigners would need the translation. All other exhibits had both a Japanese and English title.
When the "expert" said the first school is Enshu, I asked which Enshu? Maybe that is why the English titles were left out!
There were several films well worth seeing, many manuscripts or copies of manuscripts important in the history of ikebana.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

For my friend, the end is the beginning of something new

This is a link to some ikebana pictures of arrangements by different schools at the Fair of Tokyo Founding Chapter on the 1st of December 2009.
One very stunning arrangement was that of Wafu School. Now I try to look at various schools more carefully especially after seeing their demonstration.
I also like the very simple arrangement by Yamamura Goryu using pine, two young branches of plum and "senryo" Sarcandra glabra, the design on the pale celadon vase was bamboo.
Unfortunately I got called away and did not take more pictures.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Self Expression

If someone does an ikebana arrangement it is a sort of self expression. An ikebana arrangement mirrors not only the person's character but the current mood.
In previous blogs entitled rock and roll, martial arts and ikebana, examples were given of one headmaster using rock and roll in combination with ikebana, and the other martial art movements in ikebana. Some schools will have music accompanying the master arranging, sometimes it may be very traditional Japanese music like koto, soft background music or a pianist on a grand piano playing classical music, poetry and calligraphy are also used to accompany ikebana.

Whatever helps and enhances someone's imagination and concentration.

When I see something, it gives me an idea to do an ikebana arrangement. For example after seeing windows in Chinese gardens it has always inspired me to make such an arrangement.
The window below is in the Summer Palace near Beijin with a window that has two different paintings on two panes of parallel glass. One painting is on the front glass and the other one on the back glass, framed by the same window and with a view on the lake.(see below)

My arrangement above for the 50th anniversary of Atsugi Kado Kyokai (Ikebana Association of Atsugi) was inspired by the windows in Chinese Gardens. I used a bamboo writing brush holder to hang a small bamboo basket with and arrangement.
In front was another arrangement with the same yellow butterfly orchids and cycad leaves in a glass bowl. The hanging basket also had green necklace and the glass bowl in the front Euphorbia milii better known as "Crown of thorns".
Flower holder: To hold the flowers in the transparent glass bowl, a glass artist, Mr. Murayama made from sahara sand a flower holder. The sahara glass becomes a beautiful pale green when turned into glass. Another window into the past of the desert when it was green.
A window in the Summer Palace

A window in the Chinese garden in the middle of Naha city, carved in the window are peonies.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Japanese Garden

Ancient Garden 8th-11th Century

This is what is written at the entrance of the Japanese Garden in Expoland in Osaka.
"Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden was originally constructed as an exhibit by the Japanese Government at the Japan World Exposition, 1970.
The Garden has an area of 26ha in a long, narrow shape, stretching 1,300 meters from east to west and 200 meters from north to south. It is slightly inclined from east to west. Taking advantage of this topographical feature, the Garden design takes as its main motif a stream running eastwards from a spring on the western edge of the Garden.
The concept of the Garden follows the theme of Expo '70, "Progress and Harmony for Mankind," with the stream symbolizing human progress and the passage of time. Japanese garden styles and techniques representative of each era, from ancient times to the present, are arranged chronologically from west to east along the stream. More than a showcase of gardens of various periods, the garden as a whole constitutes a unified garden with a contemporary touch.
The Garden is comprised of four sections an ancient garden section at the uppermost reaches of the stream on the western edge, a medieval garden garden in the middle reaches, a modern garden in the lower reaches in the mountainous area, and a contemporary garden at the lowermost reaches of the stream on the eastern edge, combining the tradition of the three other gardens with features of the present-day Japanese garden, which will carried over into the future"
Ancien garden 8th -11th century
Medieval garden 12th-13th century and 14th -16th century
Modern garden 17th-19th century

Medieval garden

Monday, 19 October 2009

Rock and Roll, Martial arts and ikebana 2

The old schools or Koryu schools of ikebana are connected to martial arts.
October in Kenzoji temple in Kita-Kamakura, Ikebana International Kamakura chapter held their meeting. First there was a demonstration in the hall in front of the altar.
The young headmaster, who came from Kyoto, followed the steps of his father and grand father.
A very slight young man but with a lot of force in his dramatic movements during his ikebana performance which can be compared to an exercise in sword fighting. I can imagine young samurais after battle trying to relax by bending flowering branches of cherry blossoms. One slightly slashing a branch closing his eyes and raising the branch above his eyes close to his forehead and with a determine gesture bends a branch.
This is what I was actually seeing, but the samurai was a modern young man with a diamond stud in one ear and a fashionable belt with his sharp ikebana scissors in lieu of a samurai sword.
Everyone was silently watching.
At the end pictures were allowed.

Autumn tinted leaves of a classical arrangement of heaven, earth and man in a diamond shaped bronze container with legs.

Modern arrangement in a black rectangular container.
Material: Iris leaves and antherium flowers

The arrangement below depicts the dragon painting on the ceiling of one of the biggest wooden buildings in Japan, Kenchoji temple

Rock and Roll, Martial arts and ikebana

The title rock and roll, martial arts and ikebana, do they have a common factor?
You might think they have nothing to do with each other.
In September Ikebana International Tokyo Founding Chapter had their first event and the headmaster was following his mother so it was the second generation of the school.
He showed us how his first memories of being taught ikebana he would split an aspidistra leaf.
The second arrangement using a Chinese cabbage was very pretty, however I am not sure I would like to have it hanging around my house for too long.
Then cutting Monstera leaves and arranging them with equinox flowers (higanbana) a pink flower that grows next to rice fields when the rice is ready to be harvested.

Monstera leaves with amaryllis flowers arranged in clear square containers. The 1st headmistress of the school in the background.
Several arrangements followed with at the end some of the students performing and the main singer whose ikebana name includes the word "rock", to reflect his role as a rock and roll artist.

The present headmaster working with background music from a rock band.

I was really surprised that such music could fit the mood of ikebana, but incredibly it did and it was an enjoyable experience everyone walked off with a lighter step, still mentally dancing to the music.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Ohara School, Machida Chapter's 30th anniversary

Here are links to pictures of the preparation and various steps behind the scenes of the anniversary preparations which was held in July.
The first day was preparation of two rooms in a hotel. A special group of people came to set up the rooms

Final preparation on the morning of the opening day
Final day and cleaning up

Another Ohara School chapter was celebrating their 30th anniversary in Tachikawa in Tokyo and I went to see it. Some of the container were the same as the ones we had in the Machida Chapter exhibition as the containers are on load from the Ohara School.
Both Chapter presidents are students of Professor Kudo.

Saturday, 10 October 2009


Hiroki Ohara, the present and fifth headmaster of the Ohara School had this huge seasonal arrangement in a basket at the Takashimaya Department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, during the yearly exhibition of the Ohara School Tokyo Chapter.
The first moribana exhibition was in 1897 and in 1912 the Ohara School was established by Unshin Ohara. He was succeeded in 1916 by his son Koun who developed teaching techniques for moribana.
Houn Ohara the third headmaster took over from his father in 1938 and under his leadership the school became internationally known.
His famous ikebana exhibit in September 1945 just after the end of the war was followed in November of 1945 by a joint exhibition with the Sogetsu headmaster in Kobe.
Houn's son Natsuki was born in 1949, he became headmaster designate in 1972 but unfortunately passed away in 1992. His legacy to the school is the very elegant style of Hanamai or "flower dance", and Hana-isho a style that is suitable for contemporary houses.
At this month's exhibition in October it was interesting to see the use of modern furniture and artwork from many countries as a backdrop to the Hana-isho exhibits. In the same way as I learnt many things from Japanese flower arranging concerning what can be used in combination with what and what should be displayed at a certain season, the same can be applied for other cultures and these new styles will encourage cultural exchange and mutual understanding for the coming generations.
By exporting ikebana, interesting containers and concepts have been imported and have been incorporated in ikebana. In some ways I was rather disappointed with this trend but I can see that it is necessary to arouse interest in the younger generation, and from there the original styles will also be appreciated.
Ohara School 5 generations:
1st Headmaster Unshin Ohara
2nd Headmaster Koun Ohara
3rd Headmaster Houn Ohara
4th Headmaster Natsuki Ohara
5th present Headmaster Hiroki Ohara
My rendition of Hanamai

Hanamai by Professor Kudo

Friday, 2 October 2009


Recently, I had some delicious jasmine tea, with only fragrant leaves. I was used to drinking tea with jasmine flowers in it. The smell of jasmine reminds me of summers in Egypt where jasmine garlands are everywhere. We also had a climber on the house and now in Japan I have the same but it flowers in May.
It is probably not a very popular flower for ikebana but here are two arrangements using a bowl, that I found is also used as a fish bowl in China and I used a shell to keep the flowers in place.

Egypt exports jasmine oil and flower essence to France, apparently one ounce costs more than an ounce of gold. A famous perfume called Joy has jasmine as its base.
I find the smell very pleasant and relaxing. As it is not the season for it now, its fragrance can still be enjoyed by drinking jasmine tea.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Free style with Bittersweet vine

Arrangement with my teacher's container
Material. 2 aspidistra leaves, 2 cosmos flowers and 2 branches of bittersweet vine*

My ikebana lesson this Friday was after a busy week including a long day in Tokyo on Thursday. I heard a lecture entitled “From the waters of the mountain to landscape” by Mr Augustin Berque who received the Fukuoka prize of 2009. He explained the word Shanshui, as it is pronounced in Chinese, in Japanese it is pronounced Sansui, which is a combination of two Chinese character meaning Mountain and water and was first used as a combination on the 3 day of the 3rd month in the year 353 in the 40 poems written in the Orchid Pavilion.

This talk dealt with the beginning of appreciating landscape and how this has affected our way of living now.

At the moment I am reading the book written by Ken Follet “The Pillars of the Earth”. In the past living in a city is where civilised people lived with a wall surrounding their city. Outside were the outlaws.

Once landscape was appreciated houses, castles and estates were built with a “view” or surrounded by landscape gardens to improve the view. Landscape ikebana is one step further by bringing the view into the house or “tokonoma”, the special alcove in a Japanese house where one displays objects of art and flower arrangements.

Back to my lesson, my teacher had a choice for us of either doing an arrangement in a basket with autumn flowers and plants, a rimpa arrangement or a free style.

I usually would have opted for one of the first two, but wanted to relax so I did the free style.

At home I used another container, a present from Mrs.K, Professor K’s wife.

Same material in a different vase, at home.

Nowadays we are free to live where we like. We can live in the suburb to enjoy the landscape. In the lecture the role of the use of the car to seek the landscape and thereby unwittingly destroying it was an interesting point.


Side view

* Bittersweet vine, Ilex, is not popular as it can destroy trees.

Are we the same as bittersweet vine ?


References: Orchid Pavilion

Mr. Augustin Berque:

Friday, 18 September 2009


To answer my friend's question to why I called my blog cyclamen.
Cyclamen is maybe the second flower I loved. It meant picnics under olive trees in Lebanon and us children (at that time) picking cyclamen flowers that grew wild and smelt so good.
It does not seem to be a very popular flower used in ikebana. I have used it for my arrangement during the Ikebana International world convention in 2006 and also as in the picture of my blog.
During the world convention, I had no time to take a picture myself as I was very busy.
Then I used white cyclamen that looked like butterflies to me.
Here are pictures of my other arrangement during the autumn festival celebrating the 10th anniversary of Morinosato citizen's hall, last autumn 2008.
The container is a small rectangular flat container.

On the right side is a stone with moss on it.
Material: Pine, Japanese Pieris, Sasa bamboo, cyclamen flowers and leaves, moss.

I just love these delicate flowers as well as the heart shaped leaves.
Nowadays there are many bigger varieties, but I always like the small one with the soft fragrance.

One of the larger potted plants with one very interesting 2 toned flower.

Cyclamen planted under bamboo

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Happy Birthday this Monday

Happy Birthday Professor K. I remember the day you asked me if I would like to go to a Japanese flower arranging lesson.
Your secretary was happy to accompany me and translate for me. I had just arrived in Japan and was surprised that such an eminent Professor would even bother to ask a young researcher like me.

So thanks to you, I had my first ikebana lesson that Friday afternoon. On Monday morning after the departmental meeting your secretary asked me to go to your office. You had something to tell me. I was quite worried.

There you were standing at the door and then proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to take off one’s shoes before going into a Japanese house. Also, never to put my feet on the ground where the shoes are and then ….I was stifling a giggle of relief and disbelief.

This was over 30 years ago and I still go to my ikebana lesson on Friday afternoon.

Thank you Professor and happy birthday for this Monday.

My ikebana arrangement at the 30th anniversary exhibition of the Ohara School Machida Chapter. A 2 liter bottle to indicate the size.

My arrangement in the middle seen with others in the corner for natural arrangements.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Ohara School, a brief introduction 2.

In the last blog I wrote a brief introduction to the Ohara School.
I had two questions: one from a friend asking what I meant by styles showing water.
The other question was in the comments about Houn Ohara's exhibition after World War II.

To answer the first question, in the past ikebana arrangements were made in copper container or other vases in an upright style. With moribana in a shallow container a larger surface of water can be seen.

Rabbit ear iris, pinks and St. John's wort with the water surface showing
At a workshop on the 14th of June 2009.

So as was said before the 1st Headmaster of the Ohara School, Unshin Ohara introduced the moribana style.
The second Headmaster Koun gave lessons in a classroom using a blackboard to explain. He also had a radio program. He introduced many innovative ways of teaching.
Now, to answer the second question, the third Headmaster Houn made a big arrangement in the show window of Daimaru department store in 1945, just after the end of the World War II. It was with the back ground of the painter Kakuzo Inoue. The material was a fig tree charred from the war, upside down with the roots at the top and with red flowers. The arrangement was significant by giving hope and lifting up the spirit of those who saw it.
His student Mrs. Ellen Gordon Allen received her certificate in 1951. After leaving Japan, she came back and founded Ikebana International in 1956.
Houn Ohara was good friends with other flower masters, especially the Headmaster of the Sogetsu School.
One way of securing flowers in a shallow container is by using a pin holder (kenzan), another way can be done using a holder called shippo.

Rabbit ear iris and cow lilly

Closer view of the shippo holders

Friday, 28 August 2009

Ohara School, a brief introduction.

Upright style.

I follow my friend's blog for Happy Monday and always enjoy it. Now for the past few posts it has been on different ikebana schools. As I belong to the Ohara school, I am writing something, although I usually find it more interesting to know what others think of it, so please comment if you like.
For an Ohara School person to describe the school in one sentence, I would say that it was the school that introduced the moribana style. Moribana, is a word that a newspaper reporter used when he first saw an exhibition by Unshin Ohara, to describe a new way of arranging flowers in a low flat container. It means piled up (mori), flowers (bana). The Ohara School website
This style was started by the founder of the Ohara School Unshin Ohara at the beginning of the Meiji period when foreign flowers were first being imported into Japan.
The use of the flat containers allowed other styles to develop the natural style and styles that will show the beauty of water.
of Shimane a prefecture on the side of the sea of Japan, there is also a beautiful lake, Shinji lake (Shinji ko), this influenced his arrangements.
Now for a simple arrangement.
I bought a triangular pinholder, kenzan, to arrange the flowers after a workshop in Osaka this summer. I just used a bowl for Chinese noodles.

Step 1.

Step 2 Notice the main stem is slightly placed forward.
3 days later
Thistle, 2 pink roses, gypsophila(baby's breath)
To give a three dimensional feeling the second rose is placed lower.

For me ikebana is like painting a three dimensional painting with real flowers. Unfortunately this cannot be well seen in a two dimensional photograph.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Women Professors in Japan

I was at the meeting of French scientists in Japan, Scienscope and heard the invited speaker who is a Japanese lady Professor who got her degree outside of Japan.
Obviously I am very naive because I applied to many of the new positions that have been made available at Japanese Universities for foreign researchers and educators in science as Professors or equivalent positions.
I asked if there were any non-Japanese women in such positions, but there weren't any. The percentage of women in top positions is around 10%. Interesting as it seems to be so in many countries.
After years I asked why I was not accepted, I got the reply that I was too old, before that it was "too young". My husband was encouraging me to pursue my hobby, he probably knew the situation but didn't want to discourage me.
Now my eyes are open, and in a way I don't feel so bad.

Friday, 19 June 2009

My first blog

Everyone is blogging, it is sort of like thinking aloud or writing a diary.