The Ancient Japanese Art of Flower Arranging: Ikebana

The Ancient Japanese Art of Flower Arranging: Ikebana

Part of Ep. 2004 Whiffs, Wasps and Wonders

Ikebana is the Japanese art of arranging flowers in accordance with rules and principles set over many centuries.  The first Ikebana school was established in the 1500s, yet it continues to thrive today as an exquisite floral art.

Premiere date: May 12, 2012

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

SEGMENT #4: THE ANCIENT JAPANESE ART OF ARRANGING IKEBANA

 

Shelley:

The Ancient Japanese We are at Green Bay Botanical Gardens in one of their classrooms to learn about ikebana. I am with Kazuko Bressler who is on the board of directors for Green Bay Botanical Gardens and you are also an instructor in ikebana. Please, tell me what that is.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Ikebana is the Japanese art of arranging flowers in accordance with rules and principles set over many centuries.

 

Shelley:

So it's a very ancient art.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes, it is a very old art. We can categorize ikebana into three categories: basics, classics, and contemporary.

 

Shelley:

Give me a time line, where did this begin?

 

Kazuko Bressler:

The first ikebana school was established in 1500s, however the origin of that school goes way back into 6th century.

 

Shelley:

Wow. So they've had a long time to develop these rules and these styles.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes.

 

Shelley:

So classics would be the oldest?

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes, classics would be the oldest.

 

Shelley:

Well, you've got a number of arrangements here done by you and some of your students. So let's start out and take a trip through history.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes. The first arrangement here is called a Rikka. Rikka is consists of nine major lines with many helpers to enhance the arrangement. Actually this Rikka represents landscape of Tonko, China.

 

Shelley:

This is the very oldest style?

 

Kazuko Bressler:

A monk who went to Tonko, China to study Buddhism, he did not have a camera, so he came back, decided to create the flower arrangement to show the landscape of Tonko, China. And the tallest branch you can see is the tallest mountain. Cascading willow branches are the mountain range below that, and also the winter berry is another mountain. The center of the arrangement irises and mums and the greenery represents the village of Tonko. And then lines that goes to the front represent the river going into an ocean.

 

Shelley:

So this is all symbolism of a real place.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes.                                        

 

Shelley:

Wow, and it's beautiful too. Now this is also still part of the classic?

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes, this is called Nageire. Nageire means throw in flowers. It is very informal arrangement.

 

Shelley:

Okay.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

We put a lot of the emphasis on three things of material, the way they grow.

 

Shelley:

So burning bush, things that we might find in nature. Now are the vases themselves significant?

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes. The vases, like this vase is a thin and tall vase, we call Shin vase.

 

Shelley:

Okay. This one then is completely different. It's tall but it's not thin.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

No. It's opening is wider than a shin vase. We call it Gyo vase. This arrangement actually come from Rikka. It was created in 1700s and characteristic of this arrangement is that whole arrangement emerges from one point in the vase. And it has three major lines. Shin is the tallest line. Soe is the second tallest line. The short line is called Tai. And these three lines have a focal point that you can create triangle when you connect them.

 

Shelley:

Oh, so there and then there.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes.

 

Shelley:

Now, is that triangle the basis for all of the arrangements in ikebana?

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes.

 

Shelley:

Okay, I just discovered a basic premise. Okay, then we're moving into more modern styles of arrangements.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes. This is a late 1800s. This arrangement was created late 1800s,  when Paris exposition was held in Paris, France. The Japanese government was asked to present some Japanese culture.

 

Shelley:

Oh, wonderful.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

And so Moribana was created. Moribana means to pile flowers in a vase.

 

Shelley:

So more casual.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

It is very casual. And we create the miniature garden in a vase.

 

Shelley:

And this is a different container entirely than the other two we looked at. That's true. And opening is much wider and lower.

 

Shelley:

And what is this called?

 

Kazuko Bressler:

It’s called a So style vase.

 

Shelley:

This one, I really like. This is just beautiful.  I love the horse tails. 

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Yeah, next one is, we call this arrangement Freestyle. It was created after Second World War.

 

Shelley:

Okay.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Because there are modern materials coming into Japan by air. Also, the life style of Japanese are changing. And this arrangement you use light materials, and dark materials, airy materials. And you combine those lines, that airy material create the arrangement.

 

Shelley:

We should mention, these are meant to be viewed from the front and against a blank wall. We're back here just to help illustrate this. And now we're moving into modern times?

Kazuko Bressler:

Yes, this arrangement was created in 1970 by headmaster of Ikenobo school. This is a Shoka, like a classic shoka. When you see the arrangement it emerges from one point in the vase. However, we use more materials in this one.

 

Shelley:

Now you're allowed to be–

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Much freer than classic arrangements.

 

Shelley:

And the plants are beautiful and again we have that triangle happening. Yes. You know I really want to learn more about this. You hold a show at Green Bay Botanical Gardens in March. Yes. And we will also have more information on ikebana on our website.

 

Kazuko Bressler:

Thank you,

 

Shelley:

Thank you Kazuko.

 

 

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