Last Tuesday Laurie and I came to Japan for a few days. We arrived at the beginning of Cherry Blossom season and took a day trip to Nagoya to visit an old friend of Laurie's.

What we did not expect to see from the Shinkansen was sleet, then snow on the ground at Shin Yokohama. Above is a photo I took of the front page of the Japan Times, which reported snow falling in the Shinjuku Ward of Tokyo.

A couple of days later we went to Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula. This is the port town where Commodore Matthew Perry confronted the Japanese government in 1854 demanding the opening of the country to the outside world, effectively ending the isolationist policy of the Tokugawa Shogonate.

Spring was definitely in the air and the sun shone beautifully on the fallen camellia blossoms.

A couple of days later we confronted the old and the new at the Hama-rikyu Gardens on the edge of old Tokyo Bay,...

...and shared an ohanami picnic, under the cherry trees, with our friends Joe and Chiyomi Gayton.

The principal reason for our visit to Tokyo was to attend the 'Flower Thanks Day' ceremony at the Sogetsu Head Quarters for my promotion to the Riji Certificate. 

My colleague Pat MacKie, from Brisbane, was the only other Australian promoted at this year's celebration.
We were invited to place a flower offering at the beginning of the ceremony...

...including our guests.

Here is Laurie adding his flowers...

...and a group photo of the teachers promoted to Riji Certificate with the Iemoto, Akane Teshigahara. 

Following the ceremony a party was held in the Head Quarter's Lounge...

...and the chance for a personal photo with the Iemoto.

This week's Ikebana photo offering is the Bamboo installation that was in the Stone Garden 'Heaven', the Head Quarter building's exhibition space.


Greetings from Christopher, in Tokyo.
24th March 2018


At my class in Melbourne last week, Kyoko's exercise was an arrangement of 'Massed Expression'. It is an interesting, varied and difficult exercise because the mass must be created by the ikebanist and not simply using  the way the material grows. For example a large hydrangea flower, which has a lot of mass, would not qualify for the exercise. 

Kyoko used an unknown, straight-stemmed, branch material with small, slightly-pointed, elliptic leaves on the left, and four straight stems of 'Pinappple Flower', Eucomis on the right.

Kyoko has successfully cut the leafy stems into short sections and then arranged them so that they make an undulating mass with the leaves pointing in different directions. The mass of Eucomis is composed of four stems which are no longer visible.

For my Torquay students I had set the exercise of an arrangement of 'Autumn Grasses'. All of the students gathered materials growing near their homes. The three arrangements have a distinctly different feel in spite of using similar materials in a naturalistic manner.

The curving line in Val's arrangement reminded me of the Rimpa style of painting. 

Helen has divided her arrangement between fresh material on the left and dry on the right.

Kim created a very open, quite tonal, arrangement with attention to space.

At my teacher's class in Melbourne, I was amused that the exercise was to make an arrangement in a glass vase, having just done so the previous week in the Ikebana International Exhibition. The materials are familiar from last week's posting. However, on this occasion I have used minimal materials and added some cumquats to give a texture and colour contrast.

I placed the cumquats in the bottom of the vase and then braced a spent agapanthus head across the middle of the vase. To extend the design I have placed the second agapanthus stem outside the vase to create a strong line and an interesting space. It was fun to watch the cumquats rise and be held by the submerged agapanthus flower head as I added water to the vase.

On Friday of this week an exhibition of prints by Jörg Schmeisser was opened at the Geelong Gallery. These works on paper are a future bequest from our collection that are being publicly shown for the first time. In fact it is the first time we have seen them all in one space. 

Laurie purchased the first work in 1979 following the year he spent in Nagoya, 1978. They constitute one of the factors that lead me to begin my study of ikebana when we spent 4 months in Nagoya in 1992. If you are near Geelong they are on display until 27th May. 


Greetings from Christopher
18th March 2018

Click the link to Ikebana International Melbourne March meeting.


As I mentioned in my last posting, the Melbourne Chapter of Ikebana International held an exhibition in the foyer of an office block during the week. I was the curator of the exhibition, assisted by Chieko Yazaki and Sally Wilkinson. Of course, such an exhibition is only possible because of the contribution of the many members of the Chapter and their assistants. 

I have been advised by my senior mentors that a curator should only contribute a very simple arrangement if they are going to participate in an exhibition they are curating. I am not there yet, but getting better at 'simple'.

I chose agapanthus for my subject material as it has only just finished flowering, but has not finished being a fascinating and versatile material. One of the joys of ikebana is the way in which we are invited to regard botanical materials in all their parts and phases of life.

I posted the photo above, of an ikebana arrangement I made for a friend using agapanthus flowers, on Christmas Eve. In this arrangement the focus is clearly the upward reach of the flowers on their long stems and spaces created.

When agapanthus has finished flowering the stems harden and large numbers of seeds are produced. At this stage of its life it takes on a new spiky appearance if the seeds are removed and being only green it looks decidedly fresh. As an exhibition material it has the added virtue of holding its colour for a long period and not wilting.

This was my ikebana for the exhibition. My intention was for the work to be seen from all around. However, for the purpose of photography, I have placed a shoji screen at the back. I have massed forty-eight stems tightly together to create a large strong vertical column as the principal line. In a separate glass vase I have submerged a single late-season flower that I found growing at the edge of the creek. Between the two vases I have created a mass of flower-heads that visually connect the two elements. 

In this view the space between the two vases is clearer. This arrangement is probably not really 'simple'. However, I was able to prepare the vertical column in advance and bring it as a finished element to be installed in the venue.

I hope you will enjoy these photos from the Bourke Place Exhibition.

Greetings from Christopher
10th March 2018


Today is the third day of Autumn and there are end-of-Summer changes in the garden. This morning, after a cool start to the day, we are expecting 31C before a cool change.

The sun was silvery bright on the water as we walked along the cliff tops toward Bells Beach.

This view is of 'Winkipop', east of Bells Beach...

...and this is Bells Beach looking west. I was surprised just how many people were surfing. Then I remembered we are in the period prior to the Easter 'Bells Beach Surfing Classic', which has drawn competitors from around the world for over 50 years.

In the garden some of the 'Bella Donna' lilies amaryllis belladonna are fully open, while others in more shaded places are just coming up. I am hoping to have time to use them in some ikebana before they finish flowering.

In the meantime my students in Torquay were making arrangement incorporating drift wood this week and I was struck by the use of pink flowers, similar in tone to the Bella Donna. 

Val massed some pink Sedum from her own garden in a small deep blue bowl.

Kim used one small unidentified pink flower, pale blue plumbago and a bleached piece of driftwood.

He also made a second arrangement with a sinuous branch to which he added some small lilies that repeated the shape of the wood.

In my Geelong class the students are completing some of the exercises from the new Book 5, of the Sogetsu curriculum.

A couple of weeks ago the subject was to make an arrangement using a 'cross bar' fixture. This technique is particularly suitable for light materials and works well for a horizontal arrangement as can be seen here. Ellie has used a beautifully curved stem of rose hips extending to the left and a shorter stem projecting forward, partially covering a cluster of white flowers. The cross bar allows the principal stem to rise in an elegant curve without touching the side of the vessel.

My colleague Emily has some delightful photos and information about Kookaburras in her garden as well as photos from her ikebana class.

If you are in Melbourne this coming week, try to visit the Ikebana International Exhibition in Bourke Place foyer, on the corner of Bourke and King Streets.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd March 2018