With worldwide COVID-19 deaths now numbering over 4 million, greater than the population of the City of Los Angeles, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center offers an ikebana exhibit that returns the art to its origins as a temple offering.
Arrangements from three major Southern California ikebana schools — Ikenobo (池坊), Ohara (小原), and Sogetsu (草月) — will be on display during Obon season for two weekends at JACCC’s George J. Doizaki Gallery, Aug. 14-15 and 20-21.
The custom of placing flowers on altars began in the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan from China. Eventually, flower arrangement became more systemized beyond casual placement of flowers in a vase.
Ikebana, also known as kadō, pursues creativity, balance, harmony, and refinement through the arrangement of seasonal flowers, blossoms, stems, and leaves. Each ikebana school interprets the art differently, emphasizing different materials, containers, and styles. It is also closely associated with tea ceremony.
Ikenobo, the oldest and largest school of ikebana, was founded in the 15th century and is based in Kyoto. Izumi Minamitani, president of Ikenobo, Los Angeles Chapter, said, “The difference between flower arrangement and ikebana is, flower arrangement fills a space by adding flowers, but ikebana creates a space by cutting off pieces to keep one branch or flower alive.”
The Ohara school began after Western flowers began being imported into Japan, and is known for “moribana” style, which introduced the kenzan, a spiky flower holder into which stems are inserted.
Sogetsu breaks through the constraints of classical flower arrangement in terms of materials, containers, and styles, using all available materials in nature and emphasizing freedom of creation. Sogetsu is known for saying that ikebana can be done “anytime, anywhere, by anyone.”
Each school in the exhibit will be using rare, centuries-old hanakago, or woven bamboo baskets, from the Shin’enkan Foundation, a private collection. The art of weaving hanagako could take weeks or years to complete, and required a lengthy apprenticeship with a master artisan. There are currently only a handful of master artisans of bamboo weaving, designated Living National Treasures of Japan.
Hirokazu Kosaka, JACCC’s master artist-in-residence, said, “Because of the flowers and plants, this is a unique, transient show that looks different depending on when you attend. The flower buds will be closed at the beginning, but they will be open by the end of each weekend.”
The exhibit opening on Aug. 14 will feature a ceremony with priests from Koyasan Buddhist Temple, followed by a reception. Masks and social distancing will be required, and anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or experienced COVID-like symptoms within the past 14 days should not attend.
Founded in 1971, JACCC is one of the largest ethnic arts and cultural centers of its kind in the United States. It weaves Japanese and Japanese American arts and culture into the fabric of our communities. JACCC remains firmly rooted in Little Tokyo, providing a vital place to build connections between people and cultures, locally and internationally. Through inclusive programs and authentic experiences, it continues its traditions and nurtures the next generation of innovative artists, culture-bearers, and thinkers.
JACCC is located at 244 S. San Pedro St. (between Second and Third streets) in Little Tokyo. The gallery will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. all four days. The opening ceremony will be held on Aug. 14 at 1 p.m., followed by a reception from 1:30 to 4 p.m.
For more information, visit www.jaccc.org.