Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement that has been evolving over seven centuries, it is also known as Kado (the «way of flowers»). It is an art form that has many different styles of forms that connects people, time and nature with the surroundings.
Ikebana is more than simply putting flowers in a container, it is a disciplined art form in which the arrangement is a living thing where nature, humanity, a sense of season and the surroundings are brought together.
The Japanese have always felt a strong bond of intimacy with their natural surroundings, and even in contemporary concrete-and-asphalt urban complexes, they display a remarkably strong desire to have a bit of nature near them. Foreign visitors to Japan are often surprised to notice that their taxi driver has hung a little vase with a flower or two at the edge of the windshield.
Nature is always changing. Plants grow and put forth leaves, flowers bloom, and berries are borne regularly and repeatedly throughout the seasons. Nature has its own rhythm and order. Bringing one's awareness into this and feeling the present are the first steps in involving oneself in Ikebana.
As a disciplined art form, Ikebana is not only for love of flowers and nature but also develops one's spiritual practice through the creative process and expression within certain rules of construction.
Silence is a must during practices of ikebana to be "in the moment", Muitanen, away from evil thoughts and purifying one's spirit by cultivating one's virtue and character. Thus, the spiritual aspects of Ikebana for practitioner are considered very important as well.
Kimono is traditional Japanese clothing and is generally worn at special ceremonies, parties and more recently during the New Year holidays. Generally, Japanese women wear western style clothing for their daily activities.
Kimono range from extremely formal to casual. The level of formality of a woman's kimono is determined mostly by the patterns of the fabric and colour. Silk is the most desirable formal fabric. Casual kimonos are made from fabrics such as cotton and polyester.
Young women's Kimono, Furisode have longer sleeves, signifying that they are not married and tend to be more colourful than the formal Kimono. A woman's traditional kimono may easily exceed US$10,000. A complete kimono outfit consists of the kimono, undergarments, obi, ties, socks, sandals and additional accessories that together can exceed US$20,000. A single obi may cost several thousand dollars. Old kimonos are often taken care of with special care so they can be refitted and handed over to the next generation, or they are recycled to bags and accessories. Kimono are taken care of nicely.
The spirit of Mottainai is practiced with Kimono as well. Mottainai is a Japanese word of embracing the sense of regret concerning the waste of resources and gain greater appreciation for what nature has provided. As for men's Kimono, it is usually one basic shape and is mainly worn in subdued colours. Formality is also determined by the type and colour of accessories, the fabric, and the number of family crests, knows as Kamon. Yukata is a form of the casual Kimono that is made of cotton. Yukata is worn in summer or as pyjamas and are also offered at Japanese hot spring resorts (Ryokan).
A deep connection between the Japanese and tea started between the seventh and ninth century. Tea came to Japan via China and Zen Buddhism was the primary influence in the development of the tea ceremony. The ceremony is called Chanoyu, Sado or simply Ocha in Japanese. It is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese powder green tea, called Matcha, which was considered precious medicine back in those days. Later, Sen Rikyu perfected the art of the tea ceremony.
Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all of one's attention into the predefined movements and bringing one's awareness to the present time with the guests and enjoying the moment together. The whole process is not about drinking tea only as it also it is about aesthetics preparing a bowl of tea from one's heart. One of the important teachings of the tea ceremony is Ichigo Ichie. The host of the ceremony and guests cherish the encounter in the tea room as one in a lifetime experience during that movement. The host always welcomes the guests with a gesture during the tea ceremony, to ensure that together they are having remarkable time.
To add a flowery loveliness touch to the tea ceremony, the tea is always served with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea.
(Courtesy/Japanese Embassy of Oman)