Thursday, January 17, 2013

Search for the place of origin of ikenobo, Part 1

I was prepared.

I knew I would have some time in Kyoto to search for Rokkakudo Temple, the birthplace of ikenobo, the style of ikebana I'm studying. I figured I could find it if I pored over maps and learned how to get near it on the metro. My ikenobo teacher, Dan dell'Agnese, is acquainted with Kyoto and told me that the trick is to find a small temple hidden by surrounding tall buildings. He said I could be right there and miss it.
So I studied the metro map, found the correct stop,  and invited two companions to accompany me, figuring that six eyes would be better than two. So Barb, Annie, and I followed the city map exactly and knew we were right where the temple should be, but, as predicted, we couldn't see anything but ordinary, modern business buildings. The Rokkakudo is decidedly not ordinary, being six-sided, with ancient, sloping tile roofs. So it should immediately stand out from everything else. It didn't.  However, two contemporary modern buildings did: a skyscraper with the sign in the above photo in its window saying  "Origin of Ikenobo Ikebana" and a Starbuck's. The sign told me we were near our target. A young woman was standing in the doorway of the Starbuck's ready, in welcoming Japanese style, to greet us with "Irasshaimase." I figured we should ask her for help and hope she understood the question. At least I knew, more or less, how to pronounce the temple's name. So we approached her, bowed, and I asked.

She smiled and pointed inside the Starbuck's. I thought, "She didn't understand the question. She just wants us to come in." Then I saw through the open door of Starbuck's a glass wall, and on the other side of that wall were tile roofs slanted in many different directions. Rokkakudo. Right there, on the back side of Starbuck's. But how to get there?

We hurried around the corner, and there it was. The picture above shows me standing by a weeping willow in the courtyard in front of Rokkakudo. Tied on the branches of the willow are slips of paper with fortunes and hopes written on them, among them one handwritten in English from me--that I would be a good student of ikebana.

Next door to the temple is a skyscraper office building that houses the headquarters of  the ikenobo school of ikebana. The sign I saw sits in its window. But the temple Rokkakudo is where it all began.


  1. I'm delighted to know about your blog--really lovely! I've just started to read a wonderful book published in 1951, Ikenobo School of Japanese Floral Art. It was purchased by my mom when we lived in Japan, 53-54, and it's still a marvelous resource. I look forward to more of your posts and to catching up with some earlier ones.

    1. Thank you for commenting! As a new blogger I'm eager to hear from readers. What a treasure you have in the ikenobo book your mom purchased in Japan. And perhaps you also have some memories of the time your family lived there.

    2. I was only 3 at the time, so most memories are from family discussions over the years of our time spent there. I'll soon be posting floral images from a book of the Ohara School so if you have any interest, you might visit the blog. (It is a collection of letters, diary entries and photos 1953-54 and although it is primarily a family blog, the images might be of interest.)