Ikebana: the beauty of Japanese flower arrangements


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What is Ikebana?

Ikebana (meaning “to arrange flowers” or “to bring flowers to life”) is a long cherished Japanese flower arrangement method. It is a profession that values ​​meaning, precision and symbolism at every step of the process.

Ikebana is also closely related to Chabana, the term used to describe the traditional flower arrangement found in every Japanese tea ceremony. It is definitely not something for those who are naturally impatient, but if you want to learn how to achieve inner peace and calm in your life, it is definitely worth a try.

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The roots of Ikebana are a bit hazy because it’s been around for so long, but there are two generally accepted origins of crafting:

The first has something to do with the design of Japanese houses. The aesthetic of Japanese construction generally leans towards neutral and muted colors, but there is usually a space in the house that is an exception to this rule. Known as the tokonoma, it was a special space reserved for a precious object belonging to the inhabitants of the house. It also included a parchment and Japanese flowers.

The content of a tokonoma was usually changed with each season, and changes in both the decoration and the flowers used would influence the design of Ikebana as we know it today.

Japanese man arranging flowers

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The other origin can be traced back to the country’s native religion, Shintoism, where regular flower offerings were placed in shrines all over Japan. Other theories include Buddhist influence (which was imported from China around the time the first Ikebana arrangements were recorded), or simply a way for devotees to express their gratitude to spirits or to other gods.

What flowers can you use in Ikebana?

Traditional Ikebanists will often use Ikebana flowers native to their specific region in Japan, or flowers that have meaning with the season in which they bloom. There is a lot of latitude with the flowers you can use, depending on what type of arrangement you want from your Ikebana.

A vase of Ikebana arranged flowers in a Japanese style bedroom

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It is helpful to think of a painting when practicing an Ikebana arrangement. Instead of paint, you use flowers – and instead of using a canvas, you use a vase. Each element should be placed in exactly the right place, and you should always consider the meaning of each flower before putting them all into one arrangement.

Flowers and plants that ikebanists often use include:

  • Chrysanthemums
  • Bamboo grass
  • Peach branches
  • Narcissus
  • Lilies
Japanese Ikebanist arranging flowers

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If you don’t have any of these flowers, don’t worry! A big part of what makes Ikebana so special is finding the unique meanings and symbols inherent in your own region. Many modern Ikebanas use flowers native to their own countries, and some can even be made from other crafts like origami!

Ikebana tutorials

While it’s best to take a book written by a long-time Ikebanist, most of them haven’t quite been translated into English. Fortunately, there are many videos from talented designers who can show you the process and philosophy behind Japanese flower arrangements:

Desiree Casteljin

Ikebana Tips by Junko

Gordon lee

They all explain the basics of Ikebana very well, while also offering tips and other ideas that you can use to make your own arrangements.

Where can I find Ikebana supplies in Australia?

A traditional Ikebanist arranging flowers

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Ikebana may have started in Japan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start your own flower arrangements at home! There are a few companies in Australia that offer everything you need to get started with Ikebana:

Plus, if you want to be more creative in your arrangements, you can always visit your nearest florist and / or pottery store and work from there! An important part of Ikebana is also to be creative.

Conclusion

More than a pretty way to arrange flowers, Ikebana’s values ​​are patience, precision and the search for meaning in the midst of chaos. If you’ve ever wanted to take a moment to stop and smell the flowers (and maybe do a bit of arranging while you’re at it), try an Ikebana arrangement or two. You can be pleasantly surprised by the results!

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