Discovering Ikebana: The Beautiful Simplicity of Japanese Flower Arranging

by Ekua on February 17, 2010 in general travel

About a year ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to go to an ikebana show in Golden Gate Park with her. I had no idea what she was talking about. She wasn’t quite sure of the details either, but she told me that it was Japanese flower arranging. I was intrigued.

More and more I see that a gaudy and jam packed flower arrangement style is gaining popularity for weddings and other events. It often makes me cringe. I feel that in this modern world, so many things that are naturally aesthetically pleasing are warped to the point where it takes away from their original beauty. Being a flower lover, I was interested in seeing a different approach and I agreed to go.

I was thrilled the day of the show when we entered the Hall of Flowers building and were surrounded by creative embodiments of beautiful simplicity. Some of the characteristics I saw and appreciated about the ikebana arrangements that day were:

  • thoughtfulness and a personal perspective
  • inspiration drawn from the natural shapes and lines of plants or flowers
  • attention to space and not using more than needed to express a point of view
  • making use of what’s around by incorporating found objects
  • an apparent appreciation for the natural world

There were different schools of ikebana showing their designs at the event. After awhile, we were able to study each arrangement and guess which one the designer belonged to. Though every school has a distinct style, the outcome of each design is purely the expression of the arranger’s creativity or emotions. In some, you can get a sense of the arranger’s inspiration.  Looking at the overall shape of the design, you might notice that elements of one flower or plant are mimicked in the placement of others.

Some of the designers explained that a portion or all of what they used for their arrangements was from what they found in their own garden or in a park. By the time we left the show, my friend and I were already planning to take up ikebana (someday) and were keeping our eyes open for ikebana worthy materials in Golden Gate Park as we walked back to the car.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Carina February 18, 2010 at 9:59 am

Beautiful! What an intriguing concept and one I knew nothing about. Thanks for sharing!


Ekua February 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

No problem 😉


Lauren Quinn February 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm

How funny! My mom has been studying Ikebana for years, at SF City College. She’s pretty damn good too. She’ll totally get a kick out of this!


Ekua February 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Oh I didn’t know City College had Ikebana. Does she present her arrangements at shows or is it just for fun?


Mary R February 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Lovely photos Ekua! Are you inspired to take classes now? I have been taking classes for about 6 months and it’s one of the most relaxing hobbies I’ve ever done. I look forward to it each week and I always have a fresh fragrant arrangement in my house. It’s also fun because I learn about new flowers I never even knew existed


Ekua February 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I’m definitely inspired to take classes, but I don’t have the time right now! I am trying to focus my free time on writing and music at the moment. But it’s something I could definitely see myself doing further down the line.


floreta February 23, 2010 at 7:29 am

japanese culture is so intricate to me.. and i don’t know a lot about it! i’m not really a flower girl. i mean, no one has ever sent me flowers in past relationships cos i’m not a girly girl and i don’t like them. but this, i can get behind. especially for a wedding! a buddhist wedding! wow.


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