Last week’s post was about Tearai (てあらい/ 手洗い), so this week I need to start with い (i). I had a couple of suggestions for topics this week, including “izakaya” (居酒屋) and “irohauta” ( いろは歌) from a new reader, Lily. They are lovely suggestions, but I already covered izakayas in my A-Z of Japan series, and I’m afraid I don’t know enough about irohauta (a kind of poem) to write a decent blog post about them. Furo-chan also suggested I write about Ikebukuro, but I don’t have much to say about it right now. So, in the end, I decided to write about…
Ikebana (いけばな/ 生け花)
Ikebana is the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging, which probably came to Japan in the 7th century. Another name for ikebana is kado (華道). “Ikebana” (生け花) translates as “living flowers” whereas “kado” (華道) translates as “the way of flowers”. You’ll often see the kanji 道 in the names of the traditional Japanese arts, such as chado (茶道), the way of tea, and shodo (書道), the way of the brush.
Ikebana is something I’ve been aware of for a long time, and often observed, but don’t really know much about. Whenever I think about ikebana I always think of the scene in Lost in Translation where Charlotte is wandering around in the hotel and finds herself in an ikebana class. She observes, and is encouraged to join in, but seems a little mystified by it all.
Most weeks, there are ikebana classes held in the building where I work. I like to see all the participants coming in (mostly women, but not all), carrying their flowers and equipment. The building always smells beautiful, and there is something special in the air as the class create their masterpieces.
From what I can gather, ikebana is not as easy as it looks (actually, it doesn’t even look that easy to me!). Ikebana is much more than just sticking some flowers in a pot or vase; it has a very important spiritual aspect. Of course, the colours and types of flowers are important, as well as the balance and shape of the overall design.
Generally, ikebana is minimalist. The design itself is simplistic, and also the placement of the arrangement in a room.Ikebana arrangements are often placed in the tokonoma (床の間 / alcove) in a traditional Japanese house.
As I said above, I don’t know a lot about ikebana, but there does seem to be quite a bit of information about it out there on the Internet. Also, wherever you are living, I think you should be able to find some (fairly) nearby ikebana classes – at least in major cities. Ikebana, like many other traditional Japanese arts, is something which has gained considerable popularity outside of Japan. Ikebana International is probably the best place to start for any research you wish to do about ikebana or ikebana classes.
So, have you ever tried ikebana? I quite like the idea of it but, unfortunately, I’m allergic to some flowers so I don’t think it would be the right hobby for me.
Ikebana (いけばな) ends with な (na), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “na”. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below! And, don’t forget, no words ending in ん! (^_^)v