Lovely for a Little While: Ikebana in Aoyama
By Cynthia Popper
On January 24, 2014
Simple, vibrant, lovely. Ikebana (生け花, “living flowers”) is the Japanese art of flower arranging. The practice relies on the concepts of negative space and harmony to create a small and fleeting representation of the universe. The instructors at the Sogetsu school in Aoyama described ikebana as “a connection between heaven, earth, and humanity.”
Sogetsu Ikebana School in Aoyama holds its International Class every Monday from 10:00 to 12:00, where newcomers can take a trial lesson and learn the basics. You can register online to reserve a space, or just drop in. (FYI: There was only a handful of students working when I attended.)
The fee includes the lesson and materials (tools, papers, flowers, and practice bases), and you can take your flowers home with you at the end of the lesson and try to re-create your masterpiece at home.
For beginners, the instructors at Sogetsu suggest a basic, upright moribuna arrangement (Japanese for “piled up”).
The structural framework consists of three main elements:
Shin: the longest branch, represents heaven. It’s placed upright and to the left about 15 degrees.
Soe: the medium branch, represents humanity. It’s placed toward the front and to the left at about a 45 degree angle.
Hikae: the shortest—usually a flower, represents earth. It’s placed toward the front and to the right at an approximate 75 degree angle.
Once the basic structure is in place, the jushi is added (subordinate stems). Leaves, stems, additional flowers are added to cover the kenzan (the floral needle point holder—we call them “ floral frogs” in the States).
A basic upright moribuna arrangement is deceptively simple to compose with your hands, but the trained eyes of the instructors really come through in the final product—even with the same materials and following the same pattern angles.
I think the biggest challenge is slowing down to understand the negative space in the composition… as well as knowing when to stop adding.
There’s something truly special about ephemeral art. I found the process itself incredibly relaxing. Studying the branches, watching the experts carefully trim leaves and wire stems. The studio has a full wall of windows with a peaceful, treetop view, so you’re working in tons of natural light.
One of reasons any craft hobby I’ve tried has ultimately failed is all of the stuff/mess/hassle that comes along with it, but at Sogestu everything you need is prepared for you—all of the tools, supplies, containers, and amazing flowers which you buy and take home to reassemble as you like.
No shopping, no house clutter: it’s your time and space to create something lovely for a little while. This alone is worth the price of admission.
Sogetsu Kaikan International Class
Mondays, 10:00 ~ 12:00
Trial class fee: ¥3800
The Sogetsu Kaikan
2-21, Akasaka 7-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8505