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Mastering Basic Styles of Ikebana

by Reiko Takenaka

Learn the ikebana concept of shape and space through these three basic styles: Upright style, Slanting style and Cascading style.

In ikebana, the distinction between moribana and nageire can be generally seen in the kinds of containers used. Basins are used for moribana and vases for nageire, but the methods of arrangement are also different.

Upright Style (Moribana)

This is the most basic structure in ikebana. Moribana literally means “piled-up flowers,” which are arranged in a shallow container such as suiban, compote or basket. Moribana is so named because an arrangement in the wide-mouthed, shallow container suggests that the arrangement is a serving (moru in Japanese means “to serve up,” and is generally used on the occasion of filling a rice bowl, salad bowl, etc.). Moribana is secured on
kenzan, or needlepoint holder(s), also known as metal frogs.

Click either here or on the photograph at left to discover how this Upright style Moribana arrangement was created.

Upright Style (Nageire)

Nageire literally means “tossed-in flowers,” which are arranged in a narrow-mouthed, tall container without using kenzan, or needlepoint holder(s). Long popular, this style uses plant materials in their natural state, in containers such as those made of bamboo, or in water pitchers. Frogs are not used to hold the flowers, Instead, simple devices are made and fitted to either the material or container. Thus, this style and moribana differ in respect to the containers used and the method of holding material in place.

We often cut a garden flower and simply place it in a cup; this too is nageire. We can say that nageire starts with one-flower arrangements such as these. The basic beauty of nageire arrangements is present even in such simple arrangements.

Click either here or on the photograph at right to discover how this Upright style Nageire arrangement was created.

Slanting Style (Moribana)

The reversed arranging style can be also used depending on the placement of the display, or the shapes of branches. Choose branches which look beautiful when slanted. This style will give a softer impression than the upright version.

Click either here or on the photograph at left to discover how this Slanting style Moribana arrangement was created.

Slanting Style (Nageire)

Slanting style creates a gentle touch and flexibility. Here is an ideal composition for beginners of nageire.

Click either here or on the photograph at right to discover how this Slanting style Nageire arrangement was created.

Cascading Style (Nageire)

In this style, the main stem hangs lower than the rim of the vase. Choose a flexible material which creates beautiful lines balancing with flowers.

Click either here or on the photograph at left to discover how this Cascading style Nageire arrangement was created.

The side of an arrangement to be seen and appreciated is the side which appears most beautiful, or, in other words, the side arranged keeping in mind the direction from which the composition will be seen. Every arrangement invariably has such a side.

Until recently, the side of an arrangement to be appreciated has been limited to one, because ikebana developed within the confines of the tokonoma alcove of Japanese homes. Since feudal times, the tokonoma has been the spiritual center of Japanese homes, the place where scrolls, antiques, etc. were displayed. Although only a corner of one room, the tokonoma has played an important role in the formation of the style of Japanese residential architecture.

Virtually all flower arrangements were placed in the tokonoma, never in the center of the room or in another corner of the house. If a house lacked a tokonoma, a shelf or low platform served as a substitute, above which scrolls would be hung and on which ikebana could be displayed. Flowers in the tokonoma or on a shelf, due to the conditions imposed by the form and location of these places of display, appear most beautiful when seen from one direction — the front.

However, the Japanese way of living has changed completely. Japanese homes have been greatly modernized and the importance of the tokonoma has dwindled. Most important of all, ikebana is no longer limited to the tokonoma, but is now used to decorate any part of the house. Ikebana is now placed in the living room, or on a table so that all those seated there may enjoy it. Simultaneous with the popularization of decorating tables with ikebana has come the necessity to appreciate the arrangement from all sides.

 

— from Japanese Flower Arrangement: Ikebana Step-by-Step by Reiko Takenaka
© 1995 by JOIE, Inc., Japan

 

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