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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Shoso's Course at RMIT University


Shoso Shimbo will again teach  "Japanese Aesthetics: From Ikebana to Contemporary Art" at School of Architecture and Design, RMIT University from July 2015. 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. 
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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Ikebana Today 35



A style of Ikebana (general term), the ikebana in the Muromachi period seems to mean giving new life to the cut flower. In search of the meaning of life in the Japanese cultural tradition, we came to the issue which is at the centre of Asian philosophy. It is now clear that life means essence or Kami, the divine.    

A philosopher, Toshihiko Izutsu explains the issue in the simplest way in his great book, “Consciousness and Essence” (1983), using flower as an example. He notes a comment by Fugan, a Chinese zen monk, “Seeing a flower is for many people seeing it in their dream”.

What is really happening is that a person sees a flower as a substance, which is in tact a false image. If people realise that nothing has its substance, the whole universe would be chaos. The Asia philosophy gives a new order to the chaos. Flower as well as everything else is reborn as non-substantial entity. One is all. All is one. It can be seen as a mystic or religious perception of the world. I think I had better stop here, because I never have experienced it, a kind of enlightenment at the profound level.   

Anyhow, the term, ikebana has such a philosophical context behind it. In short, ikebana means to give flower new life, reviving it as non-substantial entity. This understanding actually gives freedom to interpret ikebana in many ways. We will look at how we could interpret ikebana in the next issues.

The image is my work for Hanabishi restaurant. Because I took the photo immediately after arranging flower, the colours of flowers are not so obvious. Once the flowers start to open, the arrangement looks different very day. I sometime notice that not many Japanese restaurants in Melbourne display Ikebana. Some restaurants display the western arrangements. I think Ikebana would be a better and cheaper option. Please contact me for a free quote.     

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Saturday, 2 May 2015


Friday, 1 May 2015

Ikebana Today 34


It seems that in the Muromachi period, some argued that, unlike tatehana, ikebana was used to revive or give new life to the flower. Obviously, many people seem to have understood that message instantly. What did the word, Ikasu or giving new life mean to them?

Probably the best way to investigate that is to look into the documents written around that time and define how the term, Iku or Sei (life) was used. However, my intention is to propose a hypothesis that could encourage discussion rather than conducting an empirical study.

Hideo Kobayashi has argued that in Shiki Masaoka’s approach in poetry Sei means essence or even Kami (the divine). If you can express Sei in language, you can create poetry. If you can give Sei to the cut flower, you can create ikebana. Both poetry and ikebana are looking at the same issue that is at the centre of Asian philosophy.    

It is fascinating for me to look into ikebana and its meaning in terms of Asian philosophy. However, such a complicated topic does not seem to be in fashion today even in the academic fields. I may discuss this issue in much more simplified fashion in the next issues.

This is a table arrangement for a round table. The design is more like a Western arrangement. As this was for a home party on the Australia Day, the main flowers are Banksia, expressing natural movement. For the background, I chose green and yellow, Australian colours.     

I am now going to be a regular contributor for LIVING NOW magazine. I hope you will enjoy my articles on Ikebana in that magazine as well.        

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