Monday, 2 April 2012

Ikenobo lesson 1, 2 & 3

I felt like it was the first day of school again, finding my way to the Ikenobo International School of Kyoto. Today I would receive my very first lesson in ikenobo, one of the 2000 schools of ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) existing in Japan. Thinking the language barrier would provide me with some interesting situations, since my teacher doesn't speak English and I don't speak Japanese...
Nakaji-sensei (my teacher and President of the Ikenobo chapter in Kyoto) seems a formidable women, but very friendly. Lucky for me there was already one other student in class, speaking some English. Without her I would have been at a complete loss.

Starting, there are three styles of Ikenobo: first you learn Free style, then Shoka, then Rikka. The last one being the most difficult, traditional and strict (For a Rikka example see the last picture on the left). I wanted definitely to learn Rikka, but it seems I'll have to live in Kyoto for years to come, to learn this style, in stead of a few months…

Each lesson every student get's their own bunch of flowers from the teacher, depending on the style she or he want's to arrange. A wall full of ikebana vases at my disposal, I chose one to my liking. Half the work was done, since the container is very important with free style arrangements. My assignment was: 'shape the arrangement to the image in your head'.

The first two stems I put in the kenzan (metal base with pins to put the flowers on) and placed them off centre. I like off centre. But, it was pointed out, you have to begin with the flowers, not the leafs. And you don't put the main stems off centre, but in it. Ok, got it.

Next try I was quite pleased with the result, using half the flowers I got. Only, the lady next to me told me you have to use everything. Ok, next try. All the materials in the arrangement, I was sort of pleased with the result. An upright arrangement, in a wide bowl. But this was not 'up to standard' as well...

I learned that my arrangement was to mirror the form of the container, the bowl. So the lines of the arrangement had to be shaped 'round' as well. Ok, got it now. Third try, I placed the stems more fan-like and the sensei liked it a bit better to my relieve. But now the flowers leaned to much to the back she said. Like it would topple any moment. So, Nakaji-sensei set herself in front of it and showed how a real ikenobo arrangement is shaped.
Well, let's say it takes time. Years, no decades, probably!

Lesson two the flowers suited me better and the arranging was easier that way. The concept for the arrangement I called 'Equinox' since it was March 20th, the date that marks the turning of the seasons. The left of the arrangement depicting 'winter', the left 'spring' and in the middle 'the Equinox'.  My sensei found the arrangement to show 'genki', energy in Japanese. I think it's quite a compliment.

The third lesson I came up with the concept 'Maiko hiding in the garden' (a maiko is an apprentice geisha). The red dahlia representing the red lips of a maiko, I put it in between the big leathery leafs, so the red does not show when looking at the arrangement straight. Only looking at the arrangement from above, you see the red flower. I think my sensei at least likes my sketches an maybe even the arrangement since she did not change much about it's appearance, except adding the purple flowers. And who knows, maybe the 'way of the flower' will reveal itself to me in the coming months bit by bit.


  1. very exciting Chrissie, nice story. You have to have a lot of patience and a lot of time to learn it the right way. Succes

  2. Thanks mum! :) xxx