Styles of Ohara School of Ikebana English



Hana-isho is divided into two categories: Basic and Advanced. The first step is to master Basic Hana-isho, a simple type of ikebana that can be created and displayed anywhere.
Hana-isho has the following special characteristics:

  • It is a free kind of ikebana that even beginners can arrange easily.
  • It is not merely for mastering ikebana techniques, but can be adapted to everyday life, since it is suitable even for small rooms or spaces.
  • The compositions are simple and beautiful, and you can enjoy expressing the beauty of color combinations, form and the seasons.
  • With Hana-isho, you are able to display fully your individuality, because you can arrange the principal and auxiliary stems freely according to the characteristics of the materials.





Unshin Ohara founded the Ohara School in the middle years of the Meiji Period, when Japan opened itself to the influence of Western culture. He created the Moribana Style, which later led to the School’s introduction of the Landscape Arrangement.
Until that time, almost all works of ikebana done in bowls or vases were arranged vertically in a “standing” form. This ancient vertical style was characterized by numerous limitations and so many strict, detailed rules that it was impossible to enjoy arranging flowers freely. However, by the time of the Meiji Period, large quantities of Western flowers had begun to be imported and cultivated in Japan. Life styles had also begun to change, so the ikebana that had developed from the past no longer suited the actual circumstances of everyday life.
At that time, Unshin Ohara originated a style of ikebana which incorporated the new Westeren flowers. His arrangements were suitable not only for the tokonoma alcove of traditional Japanese architecture, but for the new Western-style rooms of the period, such as drawing rooms and entrance halls. Furthermore, he originated a new style of ikebana that gave full play to the creativity of the arranger. The new style was called Moribana.
Moribana was subsequently adopted by most other ikebana schools and has now become the mainstream of the entire ikebana world. Thus, Moribana, originated by Unshin, became the forerunner of all modern ikebana. Compared with the vertical or standing styles of ikebana of the past, in Moribana, flowers are “piled up” (moru) in flat plate-like containers. Most works of Moribana use containers called suiban.
In addition to Moribana, the forms of ikebana of the Ohara School include Hana-isho , Heika , and Hanamai. Hana-isho is a form of ikebana that can harmonize with the contemporary spaces where people live and work, and gives ample scope to the arranger’s own individuality. There are both Basic and Advanced forms of Hana-isho. Beginners start with Basic, the most elementary stage, and what they learn at this stage is not only the elementary knowledge and techniques, but the fundamentals of Ohara ikebana as a whole. Heika is ikebana arranged in a tall vase with narrow mouth, and Hanamai is ikebana that expresses the three-dimensional, sculptural beauty of plants.



Landscape Moribana 

This is a type of Moribana in which natural landscapes are represented in the limited space of flower containers. There are two methods: the Traditional Method and the Realistic Method.
a. Traditional Method
This is a technique to express the beauty of scenery using limited materials, and arranging methods prescribed for these materials while observing their natural growth.
b. Realistic Method
This is a technique to express scenic beauty by understanding the natural growth, environment, and the seasonal aspect of the material, and by mixing in the subjectivity and impressions of the arranger.
In this kind of ikebana, the artist expresses scenic beauty through an understanding the natural growth characteristics of the plants, the environment, and the seasonal aspect of the materials. It also includes the subjectivity and impressions of the arranger.
Also, Landscape Moribana may be divided into three views: Far, Middle and Near. The Far-View Depiction takes tall trees as its main subject, and may depict a tall, densely wooded forest at the foot of a distant range of mountains, a large tree towering over a field, a huge, aged pine tree along a sea cost. In the Middle-View Depiction, the focus moves closer to scenes of dense growth, with smaller trees becoming the major theme and low shrubs used as the chief materials. In the Near-View Depiction, the point of view moves in even closer to flowers and grasses blooming at the base of trees and other scenes portrayed as if they actually exist before one’s eyes.



The word Hana-kanade is made of two kanji characters:
花 (hana) 奏 (kanade). The first character means flower; the second means to offer or dedicate. To be more precise, the character 奏 (kanade) is a compound ideograph formation, a kanji made up of meaningful parts. It is originally composed of three shapes: a shape of germinating plants, a shape of two hands offering something, and a shape suggestive of stepping forward.
This meaning of the character 奏 (kanade) can be associated with kuge, or
Buddhist floral offerings, one of the original purposes of ikebana. Kanaderu, the verb form of Kanade, generally means to play music with musical instruments, or gather voices and sounds to make music. Hana-kanade thus can be interpreted as ikebana compositions that students render by making the materials echo each other.

Hana-kanade is a three-dimensional arrangement that expresses the beauty of mutually crossing principal stems that move inwardly from their insertion points.The combination is made purposefully to express the beauty of the color, form, and season. 




Hanamai expresses the beauty of plants brought out by their mutual interacting in three dimensional space.
There is no distinction between main material and auxiliary materials. Compared with the set floral styles of the Ohara School, Hanamai does not have fixed rules as to the length of stems. In fact, there are no rules governing the size, angle, or direction of materials. To capture the sculptural beauty of the materials, themselves leads naturally to the expression of three-dimensional beauty in Hanamai. Therefore, it is necessary to take a flexible approach and develop a good eye for the colors, forms, and textures of the materials. Different materials may approach, touch, overlap, mix, or interlace with each other to create beauty through contrast or through harmony. The basic standard is to use two materials, while three materials would be the limit.




Where as Moribana was originated and developed by the Ohara School, Heika, literally “vase flowers,” is part of the ancient historical tradition of ikebana. Unlike Moribana, which is done in flat containers, Heika is created in tall, deep containers like vases and pots. The essential difference between the two is the way branches are arranged and fixed in position. 



Rimpa Arrangement


 This is the type of ikebana that is based on the designs of highly decorative paintings of the Rimpa school, which flourished during the Edo Peiord.  The goal is to capture in ikebana the decorative qualities of floral materials and the overall design effects typical of Rimpa works of art.  To this end, the unique characteristics of of plants are exaggerated or reduced. For the most part, materials used are those found in Rimpa paintings.  Mastery of the Rimpa Arrangement depends upon knowledge and study of the original works of the Rimpa school artists.  



Bunjin Arrangement


An important development of nageire, “tossed or thrown in” arrangements, was bunjin-bana or literati arrangements. These were created by Japanese intellectuals who also practiced poetry, cacalligraphy and painting.  The word bunjin refers to retired Chinese scholars who led simple lives, enjoyed poems and paintings, and collected curious natural objects like oddly shaped stones and dwarf trees.  Japanese bunjin were strongly influenced by this aspect of Chinese culture. They collected unusual Chinese containers and other products from China. Their arrangements were free of any rules or regulations, and were often created for literary gatherings or tea parties, where ikebana was part of readings and musical performances. Displays of flowers were accomplanied by fruit, rocks and small metal or ceramic sculptures of insects. 




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