ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


Hanamai, Dancing Flowers

One of my favorite forms of ikebana is Hanamai, or Dancing Flowers. As mentioned in the previous blog, it was developed by the Fourth Headmaster, Natsuki Ohara. It is a form created for the modern age, expressing the sculptural beauty of the materials brought out by their interaction in three-demensional space.

Hanamai has no fixed rules as to the length of the stems, size, angle or direciton of the materials. The materials may approach, touch, overlap, mix, or interlace with each other to create beauty though harmony or though contrast. The basic standard is to use two materials, with three being the limit. It is a truly free-form of ikebana, simplistic in form yet complex in meaning.

Last year during a fall exhibition, I created a Hanamai work. I wanted to use pine as one of my materials, something that you don't see often in Hanamai. I went to a local flower shop a few weeks before the exhibition and talked with them about my ideas. They said that they would be sure and get some pine branches for me -- and they had a beautiful branch just perfect for Hanamai when the time came!

I also wanted to incorporate some of the beautiful fall colors that abound here during the season. I found a elegant branch of bittersweet with the red berries just beginning to open, showing their orange insides. And to add to the fall harmony, I included a white chrysanthemum.

The result, dancing flowers reflecting the feel of the season.

Hanamai    Pine, Bittersweet, Chrysanthemum
Front view from the left
Left Side View
Right Side View


Ohara School of Ikebana

Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, has been practiced for more than 600 years. Originally, an offering of flowers placed on a temple alter in honor of Buddha, ikebana has evolved into a highly stylized art form in which nature and humanity are brought together.

The first teachers and students of ikebana were priests and members of the nobility. But as time passed, separate schools emerged, styles changed, and ikebana came to be practiced at all levels of society.

What sets ikebana apart from western floral arrangement is its use of “empty” space and asymmetrical forms. A harmony between the materials, the container, and the place it is displayed is also important.

Unshin Ohara, the First Headmaster and founder of the Ohara School of Ikebana, developed a style of ikebana known as Moribana, arrangements arranged in shallow containers depicting a natural landscape. He also developed ways to arrange the Western flowers that had just begun to be imported into Japan. In 1897, the first exhibition of Moribana was held, and in 1912, the Ohara School was officially founded.

Unshin Ohara*
Arrangement of Moribana by Unshin Ohara*

Unshin was succeeded by the Second Headmaster Koun Ohara, who developed and established set techniques for Moribana. He held ikebana exhibitions in department stores and worked hard to promote Ohara School to the people of the time.

Koun Ohara*
Arrangement of Moribana by Koun Ohara*

The Third Headmaster Houn Ohara, created Rimpa Arrangements, which are based on highly decorative works of Rimpa paintings. He also helped to transform the school into a world-wide organization.

Houn Ohara*
"Objet" by Houn Ohara*

Natsuki Ohara, the posthumously named Fourth Headmaster, became ill a passed away while his father Houn was still Headmaster. He created forms appropriate for the new age, including Hanamai (dancing flowers) and Hana-isho.

Natsuki Ohara*
Arrangement of Hanamai by Natsuki Ohara*

The Fifth Headmaster, Hiroki Ohara, a recent university graduate, has just begun to take on the roles and duties of Headmaster.

Hiroki Ohara*
Large-scaled Arrangement by Hiroki Ohara*

My journey into ikebana began 10 years ago when I met my teacher during an English class. With weekly lessons and monthly tests, my ability as an ikebana artist has grown over the past 10 years. Join me as I continue my journey into ikebana and my life in Japan.

*pictures taken from Ohara School Of Ikebana Website