Fall 2017 Issue Featured News: Japanese Studies

Japanese Studies: Teaching the Art of Ikebana at W&M

Teaching the Art of Ikebana at W&M

 Kado (華道) Demonstration Impressed Attendees with “…the Beauty of Simplicity.”

Kado 1

On Wednesday, November 29th, from 5 to 6 pm in the Japanese house, Kado Instructor, Ryoko Vogel from Okinawa, Japan presented a hands-on exploration of what she has been teaching for 6 years─ the intricacies of Ikebana.

Ikebana is the art of flower arranging (華道) to heighten the appeal of a vase and to use flowers to represent heaven, earth and humanity. The tea ceremony and flower arranging have traditionally gone together, with the objective of expressing purity and simplicity rather than creating something of elegant beauty. Flower arrangement seeks to create a harmony of linear construction, rhythm and color in which the vase, the stems, leaves and branches are part of the art form as well as the flowers. (

Kado photo 2Harmony (和) is a key concept of Japanese culture, and is one of the many principles of Zen Buddhism, along with minimalism, contemplation, simplicity and emptiness. These are also the concepts inherent in Kado. Thus, the demonstration challenged participants to be mindful of Zen values as they created works of art that they could keep.

One surprised attendee commented that “Ikebana sounded simple initially to me, just about pretty flowers and putting them in random places, but in reality we have to think about aesthetics and where the style comes from.” But as they worked under the close guidance of their talented and patient instructor, participants discovered that “simplicity of design” requires unexpectedly challenging attention to details as well as close focus on and integration of Zen principles.Kado photo 3

Ultimately, their efforts resulted in extremely satisfying works of floral art that participants took home with them.  These floral embodiment’s of Japanese tradition and philosophy will serve as lovely reminders of the experience and of Kado. When the creations were done and the lively discussion had subsided, participants partook of complementary Japanese cakes, snacks and green tea.

*Ryoko Vogel is currently planning an Ikebana flower show next year in Virginia Beach at the Japanese Language House.