One of the things I make sure to do when I visit Japan is to go to an Ikebana exhibition. This time I found one at a department store in Kobe. I belonged to the Ikebana Club at university and I am always keen to see them displayed though I discontinued taking lessons of Ikebana.
Japanese flower arrangement is called either ‘ikebana’ (to let flowers live) or ‘kado’ (the way of flowers). What is the point of difference compared to Western flower arrangement? Japanese Ikebana is supposed to be looked at from the front, whereas flowers in a vase Western-style point to all directions. As are all kinds of traditional art in Japan, such as swordsmanship and tea ceremony, Ikebana is a philosophy as well as a form of artistic expression. Three main branches or flowers show Heaven, Earth and Person between them, tilted in a certain angle to maximize their beauty.
Started as an offering to Buddhist alters, Ikebana was established in Muromachi period (1336 – 1573), but nowadays it has a number of schools with styles from traditional to ultra-modern – some are quite like installation in modern art. One essence of a piece of Ikebana work is that it is not permanent – it is displayed, and then is discarded because branches and flowers die. Some people question its validity as an art form because of its temporary existence, but others think this transiency is the core of its philosophy.
In the photos I took in the exhibition, you see both traditional and ‘avant-garde’ styles, or a mix of them, using all kinds of materials both Japanese and Western. Please enjoy the variety, and of course the sheer beauty of flowers, while they are at their best.