Melbourne Ikebana Festival, 7 and 8 September

Sunday 28 December 2014

Ikebana Today 31

In the previous issue, I mentioned that Professor Yamane pointed out 3 factors that contributed to the birth of Ikebana in the Muromachi period: the Aristocrat factor, the Shinto and Buddhism factor, and the Samurai factor.  

However, I cannot agree with his theory. I would like to focus on the contrast between Jomon culture and Yayoi culture. Jomon is the Japanese native culture related to Shinto. The Yamato clan gained power during the Yayoi period and established the Japanese nation in the 5th to 8th century with strong influences from China and other foreign cultures. Towards the end of Heian period (794-1192) the Samurai class gained power. 

Considering that they had a strong base in Kanto and Tohoku, far away from Kyoto, their culture was probably deeply rooted in the Jomon culture. I think the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate (1192) brought about a revival of the Jomon/Shinto culture. New Buddhism movements in that era, including Zen, are actually a Shintonization of Chinese Buddhism.

Based on my hypothesis, we could reinterpret Professor Yamane’s theory. We could suggest a contrast between the Yayoi/Aristocrat/Buddhism factor and the Jomon/Samurai/Shinto factor. Then, we could assume that Tatehana, the main stream Ikebana in the Muromachi period belongs to the former, while the new ikebana belongs to the latter. The new style of Ikebana, ikebana, was in opposition to Tatehana reflecting the strong cultural differences. New art does not develop naturally but can be understood as an opposition to the existing art.         

Now we can finally answer to the question: does ikebana mean to make dead flower alive or to make flower live longer? I will give an answer next month.

This is the work I made for the Lesley Kehoe Galleries during Mr Tomokazu Matsuyama’s exhibition in October 2014. Thanks to these large bamboo containers, my clients happily accepted my design proposal and they loved my work.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Christmas Wreath

This is a large wreath (about 70 cm diameter) using fresh flowers. To emphasise contrast in forms the number of colours were limited.

The controlled irregular design (inherited from Ikebana) makes this wreath so special. People keep watching this work enjoying the dynamic harmony.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Wedding Flowers in Spring

Hand-tied Bouquets for Bride maid and Bride. We were asked to combine complementary colours in a bouquet. It is a challenging request, but we mixed about 70% yellow and 30% purple to create strong impact and harmony. We also used three different types of roses (small, medium and large) to create dynamic order.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Ikebana Today 30

We have been thinking what ikebana (a style of Ikebana in the Muromachi period) is. It seems to mean making flower alive. Does it mean whether to make dead flowers revive or to make dying flowers live longer?

This is actually a really important question. Considering that so little is known and much research is needed in the historical of Ikebana, we may need to propose a bold hypothesis to answer to the question.

A highly regarded Ikebana researcher, Yuzo Yamane pointed out three cultural factors that contributed to the birth of Ikebana in the Muromachi period: aristocrat factor, Buddhism and Shinto factor, and Samurai factor. Combination of there factors are thought to have contributed to the development of Ikebana.      

However, I’m not satisfied with his theory. Assuming that Ikebana is related to the fundamental factors in Japanese culture, I have to propose my own hypothesis regarding the origin of Ikebana in the next issue. 

This month I would like to show my installation, the Sacred Tree that I made for the new arcade in Upper West Side, Melbourne in July this year. Although the idea of Shimenawa—a maker for a sacred space in Shinto—was behind this work, many commented that it was like a Christmas tree. I don’t mind about such interpretations.

Monday 24 November 2014

Friday 21 November 2014

Sunday 9 November 2014

Thursday 6 November 2014

Ikebana Today 29

We have been trying to find out the true meaning of the term, Ikebana. Ikebana literally means to make flowers alive. Sounds simple. But what does that really mean?

Making flowers alive could have two different meanings depending on whether it is alive or not before making arrangements. If the flower is dead, making it alive means to bring back to life. If the flower is alive, making it alive means to maintain its life. 

When someone first used the term, Ikebana, stressing that he is not simply making flowers upright like tatehana but making them alive, did he regard the flowers as alive or dead? It seems to be a small difference, but we often find something important by paying attention to such a small differences.  

Thinking about this may leaed us to much more profound issues about Japanese view on nature and art.

I would like to show you another commercial work of mine this month. This is an arrangement for a home party. Light colors of blue and yellow are working so well in this work. I used this image for free calendars 2015. Please download them from my website. 

If you are looking for a great Christmas gift for someone special, please consider our Ikebana lesson vouchers, which is also available from our website.      

Thursday 23 October 2014

Friday 17 October 2014

Thursday 16 October 2014

Daily Meditation

I have been showing a series of my my ikebana works, Daily Meditation on our Facebook pages, and

From time to time the visitors to the pages ask similar questions, what do you mean by daily meditation?, or what do you mean by 'using left over materials'?

I make ikebana works almost every day. Making them is a daily ritual as well as meditation for me. I hope viewing them would be meditation for the viewers as well. So I named the series Daily Meditation.

As anyone working with flowers knows, there are always some left over flowers after lessons or after making commercial works. That's inevitable. Sadly we usually have to throw them away. However, I often save them from our rubbish bin and make another ikebana work. 

As discarded followers, they are always limited in quantity, quality and selection. With such limitation I can still make something interesting and I would like to share it on our Facebook pages.   

Monday 6 October 2014

Ikebana for Home Party

This is another example of our Home Party Package A: 1 medium arrangement with a give away container + 2 small table arrangements with a plastic container each.

Visit our Display & Delivery page for the details.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Ikebana Today 28

We have been trying to find out what Ikebana is. Historically ikebana was a style of Ikebana (Ikebana as a general term for Japanese flower arrangement). It was contradiction to Takehana, the main stream of Ikebana but it seems to have something essential about Ikebana. Then, what is the essence of Ikebana? 

Let’s  look at the word “ikebana” more carefully. The word consists of ike and bana. Bana means flowers. What is ike(ru)? The original form of ikeru is a verb, iku, which has three basic meanings: 1. to make alive, 2. to do ikebana, 3. to bury (plants), etc. The first one is the oldest and closest to the original meaning of the word. 

So ikebana originally means to make flowers alive. We could imagine someone was arranging flowers around 15th century in a new fashion thinking “I am not making flower upright like Tatehana. I am making flowers alive. Let’s call what I am creating ikebana”. We now have to think what does it mean to make flowers alive. 

This month I’d like to show you my Christmas installation, Magical Tunnel  commissioned by the city of Ballarat in 2013. It is covered with solar lights and people can walk through the illumination at night. My task was to recycle the Christmas decorations and wastes from the previous years. To recycle them I had to break them down into smaller units and rearrange them into a new form. That process was very similar to Ikebana, breaking down natural materials and rearrange them in a harmonious order. This work was chosen as the most popular Christmas art work by the people of the city.  

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Bridal Bouquet by Shoso

A wired bridal bouquet is light, easy to carry, long lasting and flexible in design. 

"Thank you so much for the beautiful flowers. I was so pleased and they had such a wonderful fragrance. Many many thanks."

Sunday 28 September 2014

Ikebana Delivery for Wedding

This is a sample of Large Ikebana for delivery with a give-away container. Shoso made this arrangement for a wedding reception. 

Shoso can set up a Ikebana display of any size on the site but some clients accept only delivery service.  This is the largest size for delivery.

Details: Display and Delivery

Wednesday 24 September 2014

A Table Arrangement for a Spring Dinner Party

A table arrangement (top) + a medium arrangement: This is another sample of our Special Home Party Package A. Please click images to enlarge.

Package A. 1 medium + 1 or 2 table arrangements (small b in our price list) $250 ~
Package B. 2 medium + 1 or 2 table arrangements (small b in our price list) $450 ~

Go to Display & Delivery page for more details.

Monday 22 September 2014

New Product: Mini Stage Flower

Would like to offer fresh flower arrangements to your guests at a budget price? Each arrangement has a special wrapping at the base to keep the flowers fresh and a Japanese paper overlay. Your guests will be impressed by these classy little bouquets. 
From $20 each, Minimum order 10.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Free Ikebana Calendar 2015

Download free ikebana calendar 2015 by Shoso Shimbo.
International Version with no holiday
Australian Version with Australian Holidays

Monday 1 September 2014

Ikebana Today 27

We have been discussing what Ikebana is. One of the interesting questions was why ikebana has become Ikebana. In other words, why ikebana, a specific style of Ikebana has become a general term for Japanese flower arrangement. Originally it was just a reaction against the authoritative styles such as Tatahena and Rikka.

While I was reading an article by Dr Inoue, some ideas came to my mind. One of the interesting findings in his article is that there was a big dispute over ikebana in Japanese history. Rikka masters (Ikenobo school), ikebana masters (other ikebana schools) and tea masters were all arguing that ikebana belongs to them but not to others.

Even though ikebana was counter cultural, probably it was so popular that everybody wanted it. Because it was so popular, ikebana has become Ikebana, a general term. That is a quite convincing hypothesis but now we have to ask a more important question: why was ikebana so popular? It might have something special that Tatehana or Rikka did not have. That might be something to do with the essence of Ikebana. We have to think more about the nature of ikebana.

This is a sample of a small arrangement of our home party package, which consists of a small arrangement, table arrangement and medium arrangement. Using my client’s  colorful container, I chose to use rather simple and clean combination of white and green.   

I am going to teach “Japanese Aesthetics: From Ikebana to Contemporary Art” at RMIT University from October this year. Please check the details.

Reference: Inoue, Osamu (2011). Chabana and Nageirebana in the early modern times: Their differences and similarities.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Sunday 10 August 2014

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Friday 1 August 2014

Ikebana Today 26

We have been examining this huge question, what is Ikebana? We have been trying to find how the word, Ikebana came about historically. I assumed that ikebana (a style of Ikebana) was created in contrast to Tatehana and Rikka, the mainstream styles of Ikebana. 

In answer to my question about the origin of ikebana Dr Osamu Inoue (Vice president of International Society of Ikebana Studies, Kyoto University of Art and Design) sent me his paper, “ Chabana and Nageirebana in the early modern times: Their differences and similarities.” It is a brilliant work and suggests that my assumption about ikebana was right to some extent.

However, the origin of ikebana is too complicated to talk about in this essay. There are so many definitions of ikebana in Japanese history. One thing we do know is that in the early modern era ikebana was in opposition to Tatehana, the style of flower arrangements mainly for ceremonies. In Tatehana, the main stem tends to stand upright at the centre of the arrangement. Some people felt that the style was too rigid and too artificial. It was a wish to create something more naturalistic that motivated the development of ikebana. 

At the base of the long history of Japanese Ikebana philosophy is the opposition between Tatehana and ikebana, between artificial and naturalistic, and man and nature. These opposing ideas led to a deepening of the philosophy of Ikebana. The result was a unique Japanese art form with a rich aesthetic.

Ikebana means to make flowers alive, which can be achieved through respecting how they are in nature. If you manipulate flowers too much, you are not making them alive. I’ll discuss this point further sometime soon. 

This is the work I made for Hanabishi restaurant in Melbourne. They always prepare interesting materials for me and I was given yuzu this time. I hope you will enjoy my Ikebana works as well as the beautiful dishes at Hanabishi. 

This is the third year we run Ikebana Gallery Award for the Ikebana students all around the world. It seems to be popular with the number of page views over 50,000. We will publish the result in August. Please visit our new website.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Artists Emerge at WTC

Shoso Shimbo was selected for a sculpture exhibition, Artists Emerge @ WTC curated by MARS Gallery.

When: Wednesday July 16 to Sunday August 24, 2014Where: The WTC atrium, The World Trade Centre, Siddeley St, Melbourne Admission: Free

Saturday 5 July 2014

Ikebana Today 25

In the last issue, I presented a hypothesis that the term Ikebana may have been created in contrast to Rikka, the main stream of Ikebana. Notice that I am using Ikebana in two different ways here, Ikebana as a historically specific style of Ikebana and Ikebana as a general term for various forms of Japanese flower arrangement. I’ll use ikebana for the former and Ikebana for the latter in this article.

Does my hypothesis have any grounds? Kobayashi (2007) states that Rikka was established in the early Edo period (1603-1868). In that case, the term ikebana may have appeared in the early 18th century when many textbooks on Ikebana were published.

I consulted with Dr Kobayashi and Dr Inoue, president and vice president of the International Society of Ikebana Studies, I feel as if I am getting tutorials from two of Japan’s top Ikebana researchers. If you are interested, please visit isis’s site and join the society or purchase its journal.    

Anyway, their advice was that ikebana appeared much earlier in Japanese history. It already appeared in one of the first Ikebana textbooks, Sendensho (1445). I need to rectify my hypothesis a bit. The term, ikebana may have come about in opposition to Tatehana rather than Rikka. If so, what does that mean?          

This is a welcoming flower for a private residence in Melbourne. The focus was the marvellous movements of the Bottle Brush branches. As the main feature was the branches, I did not use many flowers for this arrangement. Otherwise, it would lose its sophistication.   


Kobayashi, Yoshiho (2007). Hana no Seiritsu to Tenkai. Kyoto: Izumi Shobo.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Thursday 26 June 2014

Friday 6 June 2014

Ikebana Today 24

What is ikebana? Let’s look into the word itself, Ikebana. When did people start using it? They needed to invent the word to describe something that could not be described using existing words. What was happening?  

Actually the word, Ikebana is really complicated. Historically, the first form of Ikebana was called Tatehana, standing flower. It became Rikka, which is in a sense the most sophisticated style of Ikebana, and is still practiced today particularly in the Ikenobo school. Rikka also means standing flower and the name reflects the form of arrangements made in this style.

Tatehana means to make lying flower (cut flower) vertical. That’s all. But Ikebana means to make dying flower alive. The focus is on something deeper than the superficial forms.     

It is also worth noting that in the beginning Ikebana was not a mainstream of style of flower arrangement, which had moved from Tatehana to Rikka. I suppose that some people felt the need to create a new word, Ikebana, as a way of criticising the major styles at that time, claiming that they were making flowers alive rather than simply making them stand up. 

Considering that Rikka was supported by samurais, aristocrats, and even emperors, naming a style “Ikebana” could be seen as an implied criticism of those in the upper classes, or even of the hierarchy itself. Imagine how radical it was to criticise flower arrangements appreciated by emperors. 

However, this is all just my hypothesis. I’ll talk more about the word, Ikebana in the next issues, based on the advice from the top Ikebana researchers in International Society of Ikebana Studies (  

This is the work I made for the exhibition of Mr and Ms Hoshino at Lesley Kehoe Galleries in December last year. Ms Hoshino’s container was extremely challenging to work with but I felt relived to know that both artists were happy with my work.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Friday 2 May 2014

Ikebana Today 23

What is Ikebana? It may take a while to come up with a good definition.
Let’s start by looking at an official definition by Kojien. Ikebana is “making a decoration for a room by inserting branches, leaves and/or flowers cut from plants into a vase with water.” It is so simple but don’t you think that something essential is missing in this? We will come back to this definition at another time.

However, note that it points out the following three important factors in Ikebana. 1. It uses materials taken from plants. 2. It gives water to the plant materials. Plant material, containers, and water are the three essential components of Ikebana. 3. It is a decoration. This is a functional aspect of Ikebana. Therefore, good Ikebana means good decoration. I think it is important to start from this kind of basic definition in order to explore further what Ikebana is. 

This is one of the works I made for “Passage,” a collaborative Ikebana performance with Yumi Umiumare as part of Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria. While I was making two large works, Yumi danced about the passage from this word to the other world for one hour. 

Ikebana literally means to make flowers alive. We cannot make living flowers alive. That is not logical. We can make only dead flower alive. Ikebana is to give new life to cut flowers, which are in a sense dead flowers. The process of creating Ikebana is a metaphor for the spiritual passage, which our performance was all about. I’ll talk about this aspect of Ikebana more in detail sometime soon.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Ikebana Today 22

Let’s consider the relationship between art and Ikebana. More specifically, did Ikebana really become a form of Western art during the Ikebana boom after the war?

We need to review briefly the historical background to answer this question. After the Meiji restoration, the concept of fine art was introduced to Japan. Some Ikebana artists tried to develop Ikebana into an art form. Note that there was a general trend to Westernize Japanese culture and society at that time. This trend became even more prominent after the war. The transformation of Ikebana into art was supported by a great many people and resulted in the great Ikebana boom.

As I mentioned before, this phenomenon is a really interesting case study in cultural transformation. Changes in Ikebana reflect the changes in Japanese society and culture including spiritual orientations. 

Before discussing further about the relationship between Ikebana and art, we need to clearly define Ikebana and art in this context. First, what is Ikebana? There are many definitions of Ikebana but most of them seem to be too personal or too abstract to be useful for critical thinking. I may need to present my own definition to be able to move forward. I’ll talk about what Ikebana is from the next issue.

This month I would like to show my work for the office opening event of Olympus Australia in February 2014. It was a great cultural event with many renowned Japanese artists and performers invited to entertain. With beautiful golden screen at the back, my work has to be strong.

Monday 31 March 2014

Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show 2014

This work Frame is part of a larger interactive project, Showcase 2014, designed specifically for the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show 2014. Showcase has a physical element in this work here, and a virtual element on Facebook. 

Shoso invites you to complete the virtual element by uploading a photo of you and your friends with Frame as a background. To be part of Showcase 2014, stand outside the exhibit and take a photo using Frame as a backdrop. Then follow the instructions below to upload your best photo. Check the ShosoMIFGS Facebook page the next day to see your contribution to Showcase 2014. 

It took us three days to set up the work and many of Shoso's students volunteered to help set up and break down. Thank you Jo, Emalia, Angeline, Jennie, Risa & Akemi for your great help. Without your help, we could not complete the work in time.