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Sunday, 6 August 2017

Ikebana Today 61


Is Ikebana spiritual training? In the 16th century, Senno Ikenobo stated that practicing Ikebana might lead you to enlightenment. Many Ikebana practitioners see the truth in his words and Japanese in general seem to regard Ikebana as a kind of spiritual training.

However, it was Mirei Shigemori who declared in 1933 that Ikebana has nothing to do with spiritual training nor any moral teachings. Then, what is Ikebana? Shigemori regarded it as art. His movement is called the Shinko-Ikebana-sengen and it changed Ikebana significantly.


Actually Ikebana was transformed significantly in the Showa period (1926 - 1989). In the 1920s free style Ikebana was seen for the first time. This was a really big change in Ikebana history. Shinko-Ikebana Sengen began in the 1930’s. During the WWⅡ (1939 - 1945), Ikebana had almost disappeared from Japan. After the war, Ikebana suddenly became popular. In the next decades, an Ikebana boom occurred in Japan in which the largest number of people engaged in Ikebana in history.


These changes are all related. The perception of Ikebana as art rather than as spiritual training brought the Ikebana boom in the Showa period. This is most likely due to the influence of Shigemori. I’ll look into more what he was thinking of at that time.

Looking back, I feel that my view on Ikebana was also influenced by Shigemori. If I was convinced that Ikebana was a kind of spiritual training, I would have started it much earlier. I remember talking to one of my old friends about my doubt about Ikebana. Is it really worth doing? Will it take me where I would like to be? Wouldn’t I regret having invested so much time in Ikebana in the future? “As it is the way of flower, it will be good for you” “I suppose” Both of us were not so sure. I could not make my mind for a long time, maybe because of Shigemori.

On 18 August Dr Kobayashi will talk about Ikebana at the University of Melbourne. She is the president of International Society of Ikebana Studies.

I recently started a new project, The Salvos community fundraising through Ikebana workshops. By hosting our workshop, you can earn $200 and donate $50 to a charity. This is ideal for cafes, educational institutions, churches etc. Please check our website.

Please download free Ikebana calendars with this image from my website.


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Thursday, 3 August 2017


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Monday, 10 July 2017

Friday, 7 July 2017

Ikebana Today 60


I have been talking about what Ikebana is from various view points. A well supported definition of Ikebana is that it is a spiritual training. However, what it means is rather complicated. Zen philosophy may be helpful to understand Ikebana as a spiritual training, but as I mentioned in the previous issues, I have many questions about such an approach. Zen philosophy alone cannot explain all aspects of Ikebana nor Japans culture.  

As my previous essays suggest, thinking about Ikebana is closely related to thinking about Japanese culture. Also, studying history of Ikebana is actually studying about Japanese history. The rise of samurai class as political power affected Ikebana style and economical power of merchant class in Edo period also affected Ikebana. Ikebana as a part of the Japanese culture changes in accordance with it society.     

Let’s now consider Ikebana as spiritual training further. First of all, are we practicing Ikebana as a spiritual training today? If so, spiritual aspects should be included in Ikebana teaching, and we should expect Ikebana teachers to be highly virtuous. In my view, that is not the case, although, off course, there are so many variables. The point is that there is a reason for this. Actually the traditional notion of Ikebana as a spiritual training was strongly denied in the early 20th century.     

It was Mirei Shigemori who provoked a notion that Ikebana has nothing to do with a spiritual training. He influenced many Ikebana artists including head masters of Sogetsu school and Ohara school, the two of the three major Ikebana schools. As I mentioned before, Shigemori is one the greatest Japanese garden designers in 20th century. In fact, his garden designs inspired me so much that I decided to study about Japanese gardens and got a qualification as a garden designer. I’ll write a bit more about Shigemori in the next issue and then I’ll write about my thoughts on Ikebana as a spiritual training. 

In June I talked about Ikebana at NGV, and Dr Kobayashi, president of International Society of Ikebana Studies will also talk about Ikebana at the University of Melbourne on 18 August, 2017. Details will be on my website.  

This is a work I made for Hanabishi restaurant in city. Working to create regular displays has been a good training for me for many years.       


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Salvos Community Fundraising through Ikebana


Salvos Community Fundraising through Ikebana: Host Shoso Shimbo 's workshop at your venue.

Shoso Shimbo and his team can offer many types of ikebana workshops now. You may be able to earn more than $200 per hour and donate $50 or more to a charity by hosting our popular one hour workshop. http://www.shoso.com.au/p/workshop.html


Image: Ikebana demonstration at Made in Japan (South Melbourne)

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Monday, 19 June 2017

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Friday, 9 June 2017

Monday, 5 June 2017

Ikebana Today 59



I’ve been writing about my questions about a popular notion that Japanese culture is Zen culture. I also have a little question about Sado, the Japanese tea ceremony.

A renowned philosopher from the Kyoto school of philosophy, Shinichi Hisamatsu said, “ Wabi-cha (tea ceremony) was a religious revolution in Zen.” What he meant was probably that Zen was transformed to the tea ceremony when it was introduced from Buddhist temples to the common people. But I don’t agree with him.

Let’s think about the Japan Festival in Melbourne as a case study. This is a good sample of cultural transformation. A: Japanese festival + B: Australian ways of cultural events = C: Melbourne Japan Festival as a new culture. A new culture is almost always a combination of an original culture and other cultures.

Hisamatsu’s comment can be simplified as; A: Zen + B:? = C: tea ceremony. I don’t think Zen can be transformed to other forms without any other influential factors. Seemingly, a tea party, a new culture from China at that time was supposed to be B, another cultural factor. However, we need to be aware that tea parties were almost gambling activities for the Japanese at that time.

I wonder whether someone would try to transform a gambling occasion to a sophisticated interpersonal performance like a tea ceremony. Would anyone try to transform for instance mah-jongg to a spiritual ritual today?

This is only my hypothesis but a model of the tea ceremony may be one of the Shinto rituals related to eating and serving; A: Zen + B: Shinto rituals = C: tea ceremony. However, I cannot provide any evidence that Juko Murata (1423 - 1502), a founder of the tea ceremony was associated with Shinto. Although he was believed to be a Zen monk, very little is known about him.

My hypothesis may be weak in this case, but it is fascinating to review various aspects of Japanese culture from a Shinto perspective. I think Shinto deserves much more attention in Japanese studies.

This is a work I made for a clinic reception. It was a bit hard to add water to the containers, but they said, “don’t worry, we will ask one of our surgeons and he will water them using his syringe"

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Thursday, 1 June 2017

Winter is the time for Ikebana



Ikebana Workshop at Chotto, Fitzroy & Ikebana in School

a. One hour workshop will be held at Chotto, Fitzroy and Made in Japan, South Melbourne. Details will be announced shortly. Like https://www.facebook.com/ikebanaaustralia/ for the latest news.

b. Short Course. Japanese Aesthetics: From Ikebana to Contemporary Art at RMIT Short Courses starts from 16 August and 25 October 2017. http://bit.ly/1IFmuyl

c. Certificate Course. Our new term starts from August. Early bird discount rate ($160 for 10 sessions) is available for all the past students (not just for continuing students) only this time. The past students means those who have done Shoso’s certificate courses, RMIT courses, or one hour workshops. This is a great time to come back to Ikebana, if you have been taking a break from it. Other terms and conditions apply. http://www.shoso.com.au/p/tuition.html

d. Ikebana in School. Ikebana workshops for secondary students.  http://bit.ly/ikebana-in-school

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Thursday, 11 May 2017

RMIT University Short Courses



Shoso teaches  "Japanese Aesthetics: From Ikebana to Contemporary Art" at RMIT University Short Courses. It will be available for anyone (not just for RMIT students). This class will take participants on a journey to explore the theory of Japanese aesthetics through practical exercises. 

Image Above: The first lesson starts with a video, discussion about design elements & principles, and making a basic style Ikebana. 

Image below: Free style Ikebana using leaves only at the second lesson. 

The students will make sculptural & 2D works from the 3rd lesson.  

Next terms will start from 16 August 2017 & 25 October 2017 
Please book early.http://bit.ly/1IFmuyl

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Thursday, 4 May 2017

Ikebana Today 58




I’m going to add more to the list of questions about the notion that Japanese culture is Zen culture.

4. It is commonly accepted that the foundation of Japanese religious consciousness is ancestor worship. It is generally taken care of by Buddhism and various rites of passage, including weddings, are taken care of by Shinto. However, such a division was introduced only in the Edo period (1603 -1867). When Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 6th century, it was probably perceived as a sophisticated and trendy religion. Nevertheless, it was probably Shinto that took care of ancestor worship, the foundation of the spiritual life of the Japanese. Such a foundation has been maintained throughout the Japanese history until today, but it is easily concealed by other religious veils such as Buddhism.

5. The original Zen, introduced to China from India, was very different from the Zen practiced in Japan today. Zen in Japan is very similar to Shinto in many aspects including its goals, attitude to nature and, in particular, aesthetics. 

Although I have not explained anything properly, I sometimes imagine that the Japanese may have been practising Shinto under the veil of Zen. I further imagine that the perception of Japanese culture as Zen culture may be wrong. Such a notion might have been propaganda prompted by Daisetz Suzuki, Kyoto School of Philosophy and the Japanese government. Probably they wanted to ignore Shinto as the foundation of Japanese culture. 

First, it is hard to investigate Shinto anyway. There are not sufficient reliable introductory documents about Shinto. In addition Shinto was highly political before the war. It must have been inconvenient to present Japan as a nation of Shinto in the international community after the war. However, Shinto thoughts related to politics before the war or right wing extremism were abnormal parts of it.

In considering Ikebana in relation to the Japanese spirituality, Shinto perspectives are necessary rather than those of Zen. My proposal is that Japanese culture is fundamentally Shinto culture. While it seems to be common sense historically, surprisingly few people publicly advocate such a notion.

This is a commercial Ikebana work using a branch found on the roadside. Natural wastes are often our resources.

I’ll take a part in Arts Learning Festival in Melbourne with some international artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto in May.

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Monday, 1 May 2017


Thursday, 27 April 2017