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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Ikebana Today No.70 (The Last Article)




I have been talking about the two Ikebana booms in Japanese history. The first one occurred in the late Edo period and its hit product was Seika, and the second one occurred in the Meiji & Taisho era and its hit product was Moribana. Both of them made Ikebana significantly easy to practice.

The third Ikebana boom occurred after the war. At the centre of the boom was Sofu Teshigahara (1900 – 1979), the founder of Sogetsu school. He criticised many aspects of traditional Ikebana, in particular the way Ikebana was taught. He insisted that Ikebana is art, an individual expression by each person and copying master’s works is not an artistic way of creating Ikebana. His approach was the application of Western modernism to Ikebana. Like many other examples of cultural transformation in Japan, his approach was to modify the new culture and preserve the old culture as you see fit. Although his approach was supported by a great number of people over the years, it has been criticised in many ways and I think an historical evaluation of his work will be made in the near future.

Actually, the Sogetsu school of Ikebana became more interesting for me after Hiroshi Teshigahara took over in 1980’s. However, I cannot talk about Hiroshi’s work here, because this series of essays has to end this month due to editorial circumstances at Dengon Net. I really appreciate the great support I have received from the publisher and editors of Dengon Net. I was so fortunate to be able to talk about anything I liked without worrying about readers’ feedback. Writing essays is really fun and an easy thing for me to do and I could keep writing much longer. But it may be a good idea to take a break here and look for a new direction. Thank you very much, staff and readers of Dengon Net. Thank you also Julie, my partner and Pat, my mother in law for checking my English essays for such a long time, over nearly ten years.

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Ikebana Today No.69



Ikebana booms in Japan were socio-cultural phenomenon. Looking into their history helps understand Japanese society better. I hope some will investigate them in a more academic context. Such research may also reveal the secrets of how to succeed in business. One of them seems to be simply providing innovative and attractive products responding to clients’ needs. 

I’d like to make a few comments on the Ikebana boom in the Meiji (1868 - 1912) to Taisho era (1912 - 1926) . Prior to this boom Ikebana was taught in private. Teachers did not set the tuition fees, and the students payed according to their financial situations. I sometimes think that might be a good system. I set my tuition fees rather low so that I can train as many competent qualified teachers as possible in a shortest period of time. However, I may change my approach shortly. Those who join the class because of rather cheap fees don’t usually complete the long journey of learning Ikebana. Setting fees low does not necessary help achieve my goal. Anyway, it was after this boom that a group lesson in a classroom was introduced with set fees.

Traditionally most Ikebana teachers were male. However, number of female teachers increased significantly during this boom. Reason? A large number of Japanese men died during the Sino-Japanese War (1894 - 95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904 - 05). Becoming an Ikebana teacher was attractive, but often one of the limited choices for some war widows.   

It is also notable that kenzan played a important role in this boom. It seems that it was invented during Meiji and had been reinvented after that. As I mentioned last month, Moribana was the hit product after Taisho era. Its easiness and popularity depend largely on kenzan.   

This is a work I made for my client at their home party. Rather unusual combination of materials made this work interesting. In April I’ll present a paper at the International Academic Forum in Kobe, and at a university in Romania. That must be a good time to see sakura.      

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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Keeper of Water: At the Lorne Sculpture Biennale 2018




Originally inspired by Daniel McCormick’s watershed sculpture, this project, a storm water filtering dam, is a small scale environmental sculpture using organic materials. It symbolises a desire to protect our waterways. The aim of this kind of organic dam is to slow, filter and cleanse the water (through sand bags, willow branches and charcoal) before it joins the river. Being made of organic and biodegradable materials, the sculpture would eventually become a part of its environment. This project encourage community members to join in production, learning how to recycle natural wastes to create a practical solution to environmental problems.

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Sunday, 25 March 2018

Sea snakes: Trash vortexes at the Lorne Sculpture 2018



Go and see Shoso Shimbo's floating & flashing sculpture, Sea snakes at the Lorne Sculpture Biennale, 17 March - 2 April 2018. Sea snakes is one of the two entries by Shoso and was supported by so many people. Thank you, Ming Loo, Hide Hanashima, students of Star of the Sea college, Shoso's ikebana students, David McKenzie, Graeme Wilkie and many more.       

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Saturday, 10 March 2018

Ikebana Today No.68


I’d like to talk about the second Ikebana boom in the Meiji and Taisho era. Any boom occurs as a result of multiple factors. There is no simple explanation about their causes. However, it is clear that this boom occurred among young women. What did they want from Ikebana? We should look into their social conditions. But I have not come across any research about this potentially excellent topic. The following is, therefore, my own hypothesis.

Who were those behind the boom? Considering that the number of housewives (stay-at-home wives) increased only after the Taisho era, it was young unmarried women who took Ikebana as a training to become a housewife.

The Meiji government’s aim was to increase wealth and power of the State. In each household a woman was expected to be a good and wise housewife. Family law in the Meiji era made it difficult for women to choose other options. Marriage was in their best interest and it was natural for them to seek the best possible opportunities.

An important factor to consider is that womens' colleges were established in the Meiji era, and Ikebana and tea ceremony were often thought as unofficial subjects in many of them. As a result, the general perception was that intelligent ladies from women’s college can do Ikebana! People started to think that you are a lady if you can do Ikebana. Ikebana provided a better marriage opportunity for women. In other words, Ikebana was successful in gaining branding and learning it was a good investment.

There were some innovations in Ikebana that contributed to the boom in this period. The most significant was the promotion of Moribana by the Ohara school. Moribana is an arrangement made in a shallow container using Kenzan or Shippo. In essence, it simplified Ikebana. Its simple designs allow almost anyone to make Ikebana. In addition, it was suitable for the Western style housing that start to become popular that time and it allowed the use of new types of flowers that came from the West. It really focused on the enjoyable aspects of Ikebana. No wonder it became so popular! Even today, Moribana is the style that many Ikebana students learn first at Ikebana schools.

This is an arrangement I made for Hanabishi restaurant in Melbourne. I really enjoy working for this client. In March I will make 2 environmental works for the Lorne Sculpture 2018 and I’ll talk about environmental art at their conference. Lorne Sculpture is the largest outdoor art festival in Victoria and a number of international artists and researchers participate in this event. Please join us.
http://lornesculpture.com

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Thursday, 1 March 2018

Abstract of Shoso's presentation at the Asian Conference for Arts & Humanities 2018, Kobe, Japan


The ongoing destruction of our environment by man-made pollution continues to push the world toward catastrophic consequences. The roots of some of these problems are often traced to the rise of Western modernity as well as the Western attitude to nature, where nature is objectified and exploited as a resource.

In response, we are seeing the emergence of an eco-centric perspective in contemporary art. Environmental artists have been using various approaches from focusing on raising awareness to searching for solutions or setting out a plan for social transformation.

Some of them have noted that certain non-Western cultures could inform a valuable shift in aesthetic experience. In many Indigenous cultures, nature often centres the members of a group by providing boundaries of behaviour, as well as access to sacred realms of enlightenment. While the idealisation of Indigenous cultures has been condemned, embracing them in art practice has generated not only fasciation (e.g. Hayao Miyazaki & Haruki Murakami) but also effective preservation of nature.

Can ikebana, as an art form with its origin in ancient Japan, provide any insights for contemporary environmental artists in their efforts to transform values and aesthetic sensibility?

In the 16th century, ikebana was defined as the symbolic representation of nature. It developed into an art form encompassing spiritual training in the pursuit of the harmonious coexistence of human beings and nature, regarding humans as part of nature.

However, the ikebana reform movement in 1930’s under the influence of the Western modernism declared ikebana to be only a form of art. Contemporary ikebana is still under the influence of that reformation, but a re-examination of the traditional values of ikebana might bring it into line with the aims of environmental art.
https://acah.iafor.org/acah2018/#programme

At Hanabishi Restaurant, Melbourne

http://www.shoso.com.au
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Monday, 19 February 2018

Events Calendar


4 March 2018: Ikebana Workshop at Kazari. http://www.kazari.com.au/

17 March to 2 April 2018: Lorne Sculpture Biennale. Shoso was selected for the biennale.http://www.lornesculpture.com/index.php


21 to 25 March 2018: Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. Shoan and Akemi from Shoso’s class will exhibit their works at the Shop Window Design Competition. http://melbflowershow.com.au


Friday 23 March 2018: Shoso will talk about environmental art at the Lorne Sculpture 2018. http://www.lornesculpture.com/speakers.php


30 March 2018: Shoso will conduct an Ikebana demo as a featured presenter at the Asian Conference on Arts and Humanities 2018, The International Academic Forum, Kobe, Japan. https://iafor.org


9 May 2018: Ikebana to Contemporary Art starts at RMIT Short Courses.
http://bit.ly/1IFmuyl


12 May 2018: Ikebana Workshop at Made in Japan.
https://www.facebook.com/MadeInJapanAustralia/


21 September to 6 November 2018: Biennale of Australian Art. Shoso was selected for the biennale. http://www.boaa.net.au

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Friday, 16 February 2018

Learning Ikebana with Shoso in 2018


Learning Ikebana with Shoso in 2018

a. One (or two) hour workshop will be held at Made in Japan in South Melbourne, Kazari in Prahran and other organisations. Details will be announced in our News page or Facebook. Like https://www.facebook.com/ikebanaaustralia/ for the latest news.

b. Short Course. Japanese Aesthetics: From Ikebana to Contemporary Art at RMIT Short Courses has 4 intakes in a year. http://bit.ly/1IFmuyl

c. Certificate Courses. Shoso helps you obtain Ikebana certificates and a teaching diploma that allows you to work as an Ikebana artist. All classes are held in Murrumbeena.  

http://www.shoso.com.au/p/tuition.html

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


e. Customised Ikebana workshops. Private or group workshops can be organised according to your needs. http://www.shoso.com.au/p/workshop.html

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Monday, 5 February 2018

Ikebana Today 67


How has contemporary Ikebana became what it is now? It might be timely to briefly revisit the history of Ikebana. This time I’ll focus on the social conditions of the Ikebana booms in the history of Japan. Ikebana booms occurred at three times; in the late Edo period, in the Meiji era, and after the war. Why did Ikebana become popular at certain points in history?

The simple style Tatehana first appeared in the Muromachi period (1336 - 1573). Tatehana gradually evolved into the Rikka style, which reached its peak in the early Edo period. Up to around this period, Ikebana was practiced by limited number of people, mainly upper class members of the society. The majority of people could not afford to do Ikebana due to the fact that society was unstable. 

But Japan experienced an exceptionally peaceful time in the Edo period, when there were no major wars for about 260 years (1603 - 1868). No other nations have enjoyed such a long period of peace in human history. Generally Japanese people regard the Edo period as a dark period of feudal society prior to the Meiji Restoration that modernised Japan. However, the Edo period was a really special period when the Japanese economy and culture developed significantly due to this social stability. 

It was probably during the Edo period that Japanese common women first began to enjoy leisure activities. One of their interests was flowers. Unfortunately, however, typical Ikebana that time was Rikka, a sophisticated but extremely complicated style, which normally requires a few days to create. Naturally ordinary women could not afford to spend that much time.

Then, someone bravely simplified Rikka and developed the Seika style. All you need to create Seika is to fix three main branches or flowers, representing earth, heaven and people, and create an asymmetrical triangle. This was a simple but elegant new style of Ikebana. It was a phenomenal success, creating a large number of Ikebana students and new schools. That was the first Ikebana boom in Japan. The lesson is to identify a new need, develop a product to meet it, and your business will succeed. Actually each of the three Ikebana booms has its own special style to sell.

This year I’ll talk about environmental art at the Lorne Sculpture and at the International Academic Forum in Kobe. I have been selected as featured presenter at the Kobe conference. Very challenging!


The image here is my work for reception of a clinic. If your business requires high quality flowers weekly, please contact us. 

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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Ikebana Today 66


Under the influence of modernism in Western art, Ikebana changed significantly in the 1930’s and Ikebana is still under that influence. What was the focus of the new Ikebana movement in the1930’s?

The new Ikebana movement did not intend to deny everything about Ikebana which began in the 15th century with the establishment of Tatehana. Among the people involved in the new movement, it is not clear whether there was agreement about what and how much to change the traditional Ikebana. For instance, Sofu Teshiganaha (1900 - 1979), the founder of the Sogetsu school was looking into a rather small, but important aspect of Ikebana. He criticised the traditional Ikebana, particularly in between the Edo and Taisho periods which made too much of copying in creating and in teaching Ikebana. He commented that such an approach was not “artistic”. Here is an important point in finding out about his idea of “art”. I’ll discuss more about this later.

Notably, in the period from Edo to Taisho there were two Ikebana booms in which the number of Ikebana schools increased significantly. I’ll summarise the characteristics of those booms in short soon. They would help not just to understand the overall history of Ikebana but also the crucial points of Sofu’s argument. After the second World War what occurred was the third and the largest Ikebana boom in which Sogetsu and Ohara, the major powers in the new Ikebana movement, as well as Ikenobo, played important roles.

The image here is the work I made for Koko Japanese restaurant at the Crown Hotel during Christmas and New Year last year. I have been asked to create displays for them again this year. I hope you will have a chance to see my works there.

I am going to participate in the Lorne Sculpture and the Biennale of Australian Art this year. I will be exhibiting the second and the third series of my environmental art following my award winning piece, Whale’s Stomach, at the Yering Station Sculpture Exhibition 2017. I hope you will enjoy them.

My course at RMIT Short Courses, Japanese aesthetics: From flower arrangement to contemporary art will start again from 14 February 2018.

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Sunday, 24 December 2017

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Events Calendar


December 2017: Shoso’s Ikebana display at Lesley Kehoe Galleries. http://www.kehoe.com.au

26 December 2017 to 3 January 2018: Shoso’s Ikebana display at Koko, Crown Melbourne.


14 February 2018: A new term of Japanese Aesthetics at RMIT starts. http://bit.ly/1IFmuyl


4 March 2018: Ikebana Workshop at Kazari. http://www.kazari.com.au/


17 March to 2 April 2018: Lorne Sculpture Biennale. Shoso was selected for the biennale.http://www.lornesculpture.com/index.php
At their conference Shoso will talk about "Environmental Art as Public Art: Beyond an Instrumentalist Perspective" http://www.lornesculpture.com/speakers.php


30 March 2018: Shoso will conduct an Ikebana demo as a featured presenter at the Asian Conference on Arts and Humanities 2018, The International Academic Forum, Kobe, Japan. https://iafor.org


May 2018: The International Floral Art 2018/2019 will be published from Stiching Kunstboek. Shoso’s work will be included. http://www.stichtingkunstboek.com/en/book/detail/5043/international-floral-art-20162017

21 September to 6 November 2018: Biennale of Australian Art. Shoso was selected for the biennale. http://www.boaa.net.au


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Friday, 8 December 2017

Ikebana Today 65


The New Ikebana Movement in 1930’s changed ikebana significantly. Ikebana came to be influenced by the Western Modernism Art Movement. How can we see ikebana today in the context of the international contemporary art? There are many topics to be considered.

1 What was the nature of Modernism Art Movement? When it came to Japan, why was the idea of Ikebana as spiritual training rejected?

2 How did the Modernism Movement change Ikebana?

3 The focus of contemporary art has moved from Modernism to Post Modernism. Should Ikebana keep focusing on the ideas of Modernism? Shouldn’t it shift its focus to Post Modernism?
4 Can Ikebana be a part of the Post Modernism art movement? Can we create contemporary art with ikebana?

5 Do we need to re-evaluate the traditional aspects of ikebana that were rejected by the New Ikebana Movement? How do ikebana practitioners with non-Japanese cultural backgrounds see the traditional aspects?

My recent sculptural work, Whale’s Stomach was an attempt to answer question 4. It won the Arnold Bloch Leibler Prize 2017 at 17th Annual Yarra Valley Arts / Yering Station Sculpture Exhibition. It was a mixture of ikebana elements and non-ikebana elements. I was particularly conscious of the process of creation. Ikebana has taught me that there is a moment when a flower arrangement becomes a work of art. When I reach that point, my work starts to tell its own story.

In making this work, I first made an object with various plastic bags. But the colours of the bags were so diverse that I had to cover the whole object with some large blue plastic wrapping sheets I found on a building site. The colour of the blue is so symbolic and effective. Only when you look closely do you notice the many plastic bags inside.

The next step was to wrap the structure with chicken wire. But I was still not happy. When I took the surface of the chicken wire and created the wrinkles, I realised I'd reached the point where my work started to tell a story. I spent about 3 hours just before installation to create organic patterns on the surface.

I’ll mention this work again sometime in a different context. In particular, this is a good example of the difference between ikebana and contemporary sculpture.

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Monday, 4 December 2017



Thursday, 23 November 2017