ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


Ikebana Classes

For the past year, I've been teaching a small ikebana class once a week. I started out with three students, a woman from Ireland and two Japanese women who live here in Hanamaki. After the big earthquake and tsunami, sadly, the Irish woman decided to go back to Ireland, so I've been teaching the two Japanese women since March.

It has been a wonderful experience for me. I teach the classes in English, but Japanese slips in every once in a while. Sometimes it is easier to explain something in Japanese, and sometimes it is easier to explain something in English. Explaining why we do something the way we do has been the biggest challenge.

Here in Japan, the typical teaching method would be to do what your teacher says and not question why -- Why do you cut the flower short? Why does the branch lean out to the left? Why is the flower pulled down to that angle? Why do you put a short flower here? Why is the large flower placed low in the arrangement? and the list goes on and on. . . 

I think that being an American, I have always been taught and encouraged to ask, "Why?" Now that I look back on when I first started to take ikebana lessons, I'm sure I was quite the headache for my teacher with all my questions about "why"! But, I learned a lot by asking why, and I think my teacher also learned a lot by having to explain the reasons why.

I've really enjoyed teaching the two women. They have both grown over the past year and make some very beautiful arrangements. They don't ask a lot of "why" questions, probably because I explain why before they have a chance! Once in a while, they ask a good question that I really have to think about and explain to them. I think it helps them, and it also helps me as a teacher.

I have decided to try to teach a few more classes starting this fall. I have a year under my belt and feel more confident in my ikebana teaching ability than when I first started out. Eventually, I would love to be a full-time ikebana teacher, but that dream my take a while to achieve. I think starting out slow, like I have, I will be prepared when that day comes.

On October 2, I am going to have a small English ikebana event. I've rented a room for the day and will teach two introductory lessons, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Hopefully, the people who come to the event will enjoy the lesson and want to continue with me. A friend of mine made a wonderful flyer, and I've order 1,000 of them to put in one of the local papers. In a city of around 80,000 people, 1,000 isn't that many, but I think it will be a good start. If I get one person to come, I will be happy. If 20 people come, I will be very happy, but my knees will probably be shaking, too!

*If you are interested in the lesson, please contact me at the address on the right side of the page by September 30.


The Essentials

What do you need to get started doing ikebana?

Here are a few of the basics.

From left to right, are floral wire, bamboo skewers, a sprayer/mister, floral tape, and some scissors.

The floral tape and wire are used sometimes to bind things together or add some extra support to stems. The bamboo skewers are used when doing ikebana in a vase. And the sprayer is used to spray the flowers -- of course, if you had just a regular spray bottle, that would work, too. And lastly, the all-important scissors. Ideally, you would have two pair -- one pair for cutting branches or hard materials, and one pair for cutting flowers. If you use the same pair for everything, the blades will get dull quickly because of cutting through the hard branches. Investing in a good pair of scissors and cleaning them after each use will prolong the life of the scissors.

These are just a few of the containers and vases that I have. I didn't realize I had so many until I got them out to take the picture, and I still had more that wouldn't fit on the desk! I have amassed them over the past 10 years, and most of them are around $20 or less.

Here's a close up of the left side of the desk. The diamond shaped container in the lower left hand corner is the basic container for Ohara-ryu. It is the first container that I bought and still use today. The black vase on the left is the basic vase for Heika, flowers arranged in a vase. The two large round containers are also used often, both for Hana-isho and Moribana. The yellow vase in the foreground was a birthday present from a couple of friends this year. I used it in the previous post to do Hanakanade.

The small, brown vase in the front-middle is one that I made a couple of years ago. The charcoal gray vase behind the one I made is part of a set that I use for Hanamai (my favorite style). It looks a little like the mouth of a dolphin or some sea creature -- I call it my dolphin vase. 

The white vase in the back is the basic vase for Hana-isho, and I use it often, too. The long, beige colored container in the foreground is used for One Row Form and for Hanamai. It was also a birthday present from some friends several years ago. And the list goes on and on . . .  In Ohara-ryu, anything can be used as a container -- a coffee cup and saucer, a favorite bowl or plate from your kitchen, a wine glass, anything goes. (Try not get distracted by my red couch in the background. But, did you notice the paper cups? I did that as a Zokei work and put lights in it. It's now a light in my living room.)

And last but not least, here we have the kenzan and shippo holders. The kenzan (my grandmother always called them frogs; why, I have no idea), or needle-point holder, are used in the containers. You insert the stems of the materials into the kenzan, which holds the flowers up or out at an angle. As you can see from the picture, there are many different sizes and shapes. Depending on the size of the container and how many materials you use determines which kenzan you should use for your arrangement. The shippo in the upper right hand corner, a traditional metal holder with partitions, is used when doing landscapes or when using large branches.

At the very least, you need some scissors, kenzan, a container, and of course some flowers.

Do you have everything you need to get started?