Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This morning on NPR's Morning Edition I heard a story about microbrewing beer in Japan, in a brewery that used to specialize in sake (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/09/18/161147806/japanese-sake-makers-shake-off-tradition-try-brewing-craft-beer). The following quote caught my attention: "Making sake is like judo or flower arranging – you're judged by how well you stick to the rules; there's no margin for improvisation."

First, note that the speaker, a Japanese brewer, refers to flower arranging (ikebana) in the same sentence with judo, and that alone tells you something about the place of flower arranging in the culture. But it's also important to note that he refers to the rules of ikebana, a facet of the art that is off-putting to some.

Whereas sake makers are breaking free to produce microbrews, people taught to follow the rules of whatever style of ikebana  they learned are now free to produce floral arrangements called (what else?) free-style ikebana.

So if you think you wouldn't like to learn ikebana because it has strict rules, please know that freewheeling, free-style arranging is available to all. But here's another side of the story: I actually prefer, as a novice ikebana and ikenobo practitioner, to learn the rules. They don't feel like restrictions to me. I feel that I'm learning how to put into practice an aesthetic I admire. How can I learn to produce a design that looks like ikenobo? By learning the rules behind the appearance. After I learn them well, then I'll be free to free-style.

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