Charm of Kado : Japanese Flower Arrangement

“Kado” refers to flower arrangement mainly with plants, which is one of Japanese traditional art.

Through arranging flowers and plants of each season, you can “enjoy arranging” with appreciation of its beauty, and “enjoy looking” at the arrangement.

Kado presents four seasons and Japanese aesthetic feelings, which makes you appreciate Japanese nature and culture.

In the West, there is the similar art form arranging plants, called flower arrangement, which focuses on gorgeousness by filling the space with flowers.

Also, by placing flowers in multiple directions, you can enjoy flowers’ faces from 360°.

On the other hand, Ikebana (arranged flowers) presented by Kado, create one harmonised space with clear division between main flowers and supporting ones along with some branches, leaves and algae.

It differs from schools, but most of the works are arranged based on one fixed viewing point and one-sided.

It is the aesthetic sense traditionally grown in Japan that the beauties lie in the curb lines of nature, gaps between plants apparently missing something, asymmetry.

Getting to know about Kado makes you realize the charm of various traditional art of Japan.

The History of Kado

The beginning of Kado was at the time of Buddhism introduction to Japan. It is strongly said that the origin was Kuge (offering of flowers) at Buddhist services even today.

The completion of currently mainstreamed Kado was in the middle of Muromachi period(1336-1573), which came from Kuge by monks of Rokkakudo hall (Choho-ji Temple) in Kyoto.

In Rokkakudo hall, there is a pond, which was the start of establishing of the temple.

The hall was called “Ikenobo” because it was built beside the pond (pond is calldes “Ike” in Japanese), which linked to the name of the famous Kado school “Ikenobo”.

The Kado at that time had detailed rules to offer for gods and Buddha, but as time goes by, it changed to express freely and amuse viewers.

One of the biggest turning points was civilization and enlightenment, when the culture, and plants and flowers were imported from the West in the Meiji period(1868-1912).

With this change, the arrangement method with a big plate-like vessels called Suiban was developed not only using vases and bottles to include western flowers.

Thus, Kado has been changed its form flexibly to the trend to keep developing itself as art even today.

Main Kado Schools

Kado has various schools and each works based on the former’s ideas and theories on arrangement.

As each school expresses their characteristics, they sometimes collaborate and have exhibition together to refine each other.

Here is main Kado schools.

- Ikenobo
- Ohara-ryu
- Saga Go-ryu
- Sogetsu-ryu
- Misyo-ryu

Ikenobo

As mentioned, Ikenobo is the school, which continued long since the origin of Kado.

It has big featured styles, “Rikka (standing flowers)”, “Shoka (live flowers)” and “Jiyuka (free flowers)”, which is the free arrangement from traditional forms.

Those styles have brought a wide range of art works.

It has the long history, but it challenges the new to introduce Kado to younger generations, such as having performances by young handsome Kado artists called “IKENONBOYS”, getting a part of the movie “Hana Ikusa (Flower War)” starring Mansai Nomura as Senko Ikenobo, the former schoolmaster of Ikenobo in the Muromachi period.

Ohara-ryu

In the middle of Meiji period, Unshin Ohara, one of the disciples of Ikenobo, started Ohara-ryu.

It had a huge influence on other schools by developing the style of “Mori-bana (filling flowers)”, which uses Suiban (a plate-like vessels).

The schoolmaster of Ohara-ryu is young and passionate about updating information following the trend, by posting eye-catching stylish photos of works on instagram, making and appearing on YouTube official channel as such.

Saga Go-ryu

As seen on its name, it is said to originate from Emperor Saga.

It has the headquarter at Daikaku-ji Temple, where Emperor Saga used to have his palace.

The characteristics of the Imperial-family-originated temple can be found in the names of classes and titles.

Sogetsu-ryu

Sogetsu-ryu respects especially the free way of expression beyond the tradition.

Sofu Teshigahara, the former schoolmaster, resisted the arrangement method that is format-oriented, and started his own school separated from his father, who is also the Kado artist.

It also expanded its creative activities to paintings and calligraphic works, sculpture and other areas.

Those attitudes show its focus on individuality.

By the way, the famous Kado artist on the media, Syogo Kariyazaki, used to learn Kado at Sogetsu-ryu, who now expresses the free and unique world by flowers.

Even today, he teaches at his own Ikebana (flower arrangement) school based on the curriculum of Sogetsu-ryu method.

Misyo-ryu

Misho-ryu is known to have many factions, but its origin came from the lessons based on geometric theory by Ippo Misyosai, the former schoolmaster.

His son, Koho Misyosai, the second schoolmaster, was assigned in charge of flowers at Daikaku-ji Temple, which had big influences on Saga Go-ryu.

The Basic style of Ikebana

The lessons and theories differ from each school, but there are common elements of basic structures on arranging flowers.

The main thing is to separate clearly the functions of flowers; main, sub and supporting.

The names of each functions vary from each school, such as “Shin (main)”, “Syushi (main branch)” and so on.

Generally, the arrangement starts from fixing the length of the main, which is the longest, and add the sub to create the space to place flowers.

Other supporting flowers are arranged in the space defined by those two to add colors.

Normally, only the same flowers are used, not including different flowers on one work.

Needless to say, this structure is not always applied especially on the flexible style of arrangement, but many schools teach this as the basic to learn Ikebana.

The Tools of Kado

Flower Vessels

Containers to place flowers.

On arranging flowers, you always put a plenty of water first.

The kinds of flowers vessels are mainly vases, bottles, and bowls.

For beginners, the special vessels developed by each school are used for practice since some types are hard to handle with, especially vases and bottles.

The one of characteristics of Kado is to be particular about colors, forms and sizes of vessels to design the arrangement.

Flower Scissors

Scissors to cut flowers.

Scissors are one of essential tools like flower vessels since it is very important for Ikebana to decide the length of flowers and cut off branches.

You can use stationary scissors or kitchen scissors, but it is better to have the ones only for flowers in order to cut firm braches.

Kenzan (Pinholder)

It is necessary to arrange Mori-bana (filling flowers).

The sizes and the shapes differ, but it is to fix the directions and angles of flowers by a plenty of pins, which is essential especially for beginners to create the form of a work as designed.

The tool to hold flowers is called as “Hana-dome (flowers pin)” and has various kinds, but nowadays this Kenzan is the most popular.