Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A day in Kyoto, beginnings of ikebana

Japan, October 2012. I had a day to spend as I wished in Kyoto. I wanted to see two places important in the beginnings of ikebana and its particular, oldest style known as ikenobo. One of those places was Ginkaku-ji or the Silver Pavilion (pictured below), one of a group of buildings constructed as a retirement home by Yoshimasa, the 8th Ashikaga shogun (1443-1473). How it came to be called the Silver Pavilion when it is not silver at all is another story, but it is important in the history of Japanese culture for several reasons, only one of which I mention here. (I urge you to read Donald Keene's book, Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion to learn much more). AshikagaYoshimasa was a complete failure as a shogun, but he had good taste--in buildings, paintings, gardens, and flower arrangements--which greatly influenced the development of Japanese culture.

The Japanese people had always admired and valued the beauty of flowers and other plants and had made floral offerings at Buddhist temples (see previous 11/9 entry on Nikko), but it was not until Yoshimasa's time that flower arranging had come to be considered an art form. Yoshimasa enjoyed several arts, and his palace at Higashiyama (the location of the Silver Pavilion) was decorated with floral displays.

According to Donald Keene, the "oldest surviving account of someone arranging flowers at the court is dated April 20, 1476." It was then apparently called "standing" rather than "arranging" flowers and was probably done in the rikka style, an early form of ikenobo invented by Senkei in 1462.

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