Keeping Flowers Alive: Ikebana

生け花 ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging.  I love that the root of the word comes from 生ける meaning alive or to keep alive.  With thoughtful arrangement one gives life to flowers. 

A few months back in April I was in Aoyama and Omotesando, two of my favorite areas in Tokyo.  Without thinking I ended up in Harajuku, a busy area filled with young locals and tourists.  I enjoy “people watching” but to get away from the hustle and bustle a bit (and since I hadn’t been to Meiji Jingu in 15 years) I walked over into the shrine grounds.

It was so nice to have this quiet space in the middle of all the craziness…  I happened to be there around sunset so they were preparing for the end of the day.  I’ll post some of those photos later but this morning I was reminded of the beautiful display of ikebana at the shrine for some reason…

I’ve never done ikebana but from what little I can tell, it takes a lot of practice and deep understanding of the Japanese culture and its aesthetics.  I read that the practice of arranging flowers at a shrine is done as a dedication to the deities to look at and to be entertained.  At Meiji Jingu, ikebana is dedicated four times a year: April 11 (Empress Shoken memorial), May 3 (spring festival), July 30 (Emperor Meiji memorial), and November 3 (Emperor Meiji’s birthday).  These arrangements were for the divine spirits (and as I was there in April, it was for the Empress), but I was delighted and awed to see them myself.

I could feel the subtle tension and movement between the branches…  See the differences in height, reach, and length between the two as if there is a flow of energy, a give and take?

IMG_4665The asymmetry and the spacial relationship is simple yet stunning…

IMG_4666 Doesn’t it feel as if these flowers are indeed alive?

IMG_4667Honestly, I couldn’t take my eyes off of these arrangements.  There were at least a dozen in display and I must have spent at least half an hour just staring them.

I think back to the year I spent living in Tokyo back in my early 20’s, and kick myself a little for not learning more about the Japanese culture and its traditions then.  Sure I was working and maybe I was too young…  ah, that was just the way it was.

I’m here now, so thankful and lucky to see all this beauty.

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