School Ikebana Teachers across North America Gather in Chicagoland for
• The 18th North American Ohara Teachers Association (“NAOTA”) Conference
was held between June 9 and 12 in Lisle, and the Chicago Chapter of the
Ohara School of Ikebana, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year,
hosted the conference.
• As part of the evet, Ami Kudo, the First Degree Master Instructor of
Ohara School of Ikebana from Japan, demonstrated 10 arrangements in several
distinct styles in front of the gathered members and guests at the Morton
Arboretum on June 9.
• Ikebana has been developed, refined and practiced for
more than 600 years, according to Russel Bowers, the event’s MC and a
NAOTA member from Massachusetts.
• Ikebana originated from flower offering at Buddhist temples in Japan
and its original forms were established by Buddhist monks. Over the centuries,
it evolved into an art form to be practiced along with tea ceremony and
calligraphy. Eventurally, Ikebana became accessible to the general public
and became an everyday part of Japanese life, Bowers said.
• The Ohara School of Ikebana was founded in the late 19th to the early
20th century by Unshin Ohara, a gifted sculptor and Ikebana artist. He
was the first to develop the shallow container method, bringing a radical
change to the centuries-old practice of using tall vase-style vessels.
• In his remarks, Japanese Consul-General in Chicago
Naoki Ito congratulated the Chicago Chapter for its contribution to making
the art of Ikebana flourish in the Chicagoland area.
• The Chapter, in its 45th year, was hosting the NAOTA conference for
the second time since 2010.
• “My best wishes for a continued success of the Ohara Chapter in this
area, and for an increasing number of people across North America to appreciate
the beauty of the art of Ikebana, thereby increasing the number of fans
of Japanese culture,” Ito said.
• Meanwhile, President of the NAOTA Ingrid Lüders thanked
the association members, supporters and the Chicago Chapter President
Annika Au for their time and effort in preparing this “exciting event.”
Flower Arrangement Demonstration
by Ami Kudo
• Studying Ikebana since 1972, Kudo is currently the
president of the Ohara School’s Kenbi-kai and a board officer of the Japan
Ikebana Association, while holding a position as an executive member of
the Ohara School’s Tokyo Chapter and an associate professor of the Council
of Ohara Professors.
• The “piled-up” flowers, called “moribana” in Japanese, is the distinct
style of the Ohara School that separates itself from all other Ikebana
• As Japan opened up to the rest of the world in late 19th century, a
wide range of unknown flowers were brought in from the West, typically
with shorter stems and more colorful than the indigenous flowers, according
• These new flowers were not a good fit for the traditional flower arrangement
styles of “Rikka” (upright style) or “Seika” (simplified Rikka). The Moribana
style was created to utilize those shorter, colorful new flowers in the
art form, using shallow vessels.
• Moribana has two types: one using multiple kinds of flowers for color
scheme (color scheme moribana); and the other based on the idea of creating
a miniature landscape on a tray (landscape moribana).
Color Scheme Moribana
• Kudo advised to use flowers of different shapes when
using multiple kinds of flowers together.
• Unlike the Western flower arranging, Ikebana uses an asymmetrical form,
avoiding flowers of the same height or an even distance between them.
This propensity for asymmetry is part of the Japanese aesthetics that
is often well pronounced when contrasting Japanese gardens with those
of the West, said Kudo.
• Landscape Moribana aims to represent a landscape and
uses plants and flowers that grow in the same season and environment.
• Although it aims to “depict” natural scenery, this type of arranging
actually represents “half fiction, half true,” Kudo said.
• Five different kinds of flowers may not grow side by side in a tiny
patch of land in reality, but Landscape Moribana creates an arrangement
based on imagination that such a scene might exist – adding a portion
of reality such as the plants’ heights relative to each other.
• This type of Moribana first prepares the background, recreating the
environment in which the flowers grow. Natural conditions - the angle
of the sunlight, the direction from which the wind comes, the height of
the tree branch blowing in the wind - are expressed as an image in the
form of ikebana. With that in mind, plants are arranged to depict the
natural scheme of things, such as the way they grow tall where they get
a lot of sun, and the flowers blooming between tree branches remain small.
• Kudo presented two arrangements in this style: one representing an image
of natural landscape, and the other depicting two flower patches, each
on both sides of a river.
• In the Ohara School, each headmaster has developed
a new style of expression that reflects their time.
• The Bunjin style was developed by the 3rd headmaster Houn Ohara, inspired
by the classical Chinese poetry and art. This style prefers to use flowers
in odd numbers such as three or five, but four is also allowed after the
tradition of “Four Noble Gentlemen” in Chinese art.
• Kudo demonstrated an arrangement in the Bunjin style using four kinds
of plants, including lotus and bird of paradise flower.
Rinpa Style (from the Rinpa
School of art)
• An original creation of the Ohara School, the Rinpa
style is a decorative expression in Ikebana in the tradition of the distinct
art style of “Rinpa.”
• Originated in the late 16th century Japan, Rinpa is represented by painters
like Tawaraya Sotatsu and Ogata Korin and is known for depicting simple
natural subjects such as birds, plants and flowers, specifically irises.
(“Irises,” Ogata Korin’s famous folding screens, are registered as a national
treasure of Japan.)
• Following the style of the famous iris paintings, where the purple flowers
look as if they are peeking through the thick green leaves, Kudo presented
a gorgeous arrangement of irises, peonies and hydrangea in a long, shallow
Hana-isho (basic free style)
• This style was popularized by the fourth headmaster
Natsuki Ohara and features a distinct, spreading form using a compote-style
• At the close of the demonstration, Kudo presented two
arrangements in her own free style. One was a heavy, dynamic creation
in a uniquely textured upright vessel, consisting of almond branches and
several strains of beads-like flowers flowing down like a waterfall.
• The other was a series of tall, thin vases of white lyrics and refreshing
green leaves, vividly contrasted with reddish brown plants.