Our mission at Yume Japanese Gardens is to acquaint you with the cultural heritage of Japan, in all its depth and richness. Our expanding museum plays a large role in this, with rotating and permanent exhibits of old and new Japanese art and handicrafts. These range from displays of hanging scrolls and wood block prints to fans and kimonos, as well as of ceramics, metalwork, and sculpture. Check here often to stay abreast of our varied offerings.
Vase Variations: The World of Ikebana Vessels
Our newest permanent exhibition offers a unique window into Ikebana, the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging.
Ikebana arose about 550 years ago, born of placing flowers at altars in Buddhist temples. Unlike Western flower arranging which focuses on blooms and blossoms, Ikebana gives equal weight to texture, form, and structure, and to stems, leaves, and branches. And not least to vases – designed and mindfully chosen on the basis of their materials, size, shape, finish, and color to heighten the contemplative, Zen-like nature of a traditional Japanese floral composition.
From the first containers made of iron, Ikebana vases have evolved as the art of flower arranging spread from the Japanese nobility to commoners. Various schools of Ikebana also developed, pursuing differing arrangement principles. The vases used in all of them share a purity of purpose designed to complement but not compete with the creations they hold.
The vases on view at Yume are drawn from our collection of more than 200 Ikebana vessels, the largest and widest-ranging such holding in the United States. Many are more than a century old, others are contemporary, and most are handmade by Japanese artisans from bamboo, bronze, lacquer, clay, or glass. They illustrate an amazing breadth of design and materials, and accompanying photographs of flower arrangements show how they are used in the different schools of Ikebana practice.
Mingei: Old Japan on Hand
The human touch in folk crafts in Japan was largely brushed aside by the country’s rapid modernization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In response, there has arisen a folk art preservation movement called mingei. It focuses on the beauty in objects created by average people that are practical and used in daily life.
Our permanent exposition, “Mingei: Old Japan on Hand,” shows the movement to be a distinctly Japanese appreciation of the traditional. Mingei challenges narrow definitions of art by focusing on utilitarian items made by their everyday users, rather than on refined works from professional artists.
The collection includes objects spanning more than 200 years. Among them are a straw barrel and porcelain cups to store and drink Japanese rice wine, or sake, and brushes tipped with deer, horse, rabbit, or squirrel hair to draw calligraphy and make ink-wash paintings. You’ll find garments, too – kimonos and obi sashes – as well as a rustic iron hearth and traditional hasami, or sewing scissors, forged by an ironmonger from a single piece of steel and reflecting the skills of sword makers applied to a household item.
With “Mingei: Old Japan on Hand,” we celebrate nameless creators who used materials as common as themselves – stone, ceramics, textiles, paper, bamboo, lacquer, and wood – to make functional things that are humble, but nonetheless of value, because they preserve the sense of the personal in an era of mass production.