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?
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.