Vase Variations: The World of Ikebana Vessels

Our new permanent museum exhibit 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

Fall Enchanted Evenings

Venture into the Gardens after dusk and immerse yourself in the bewitching glow of candle- and lantern light, accompanied by evocative recorded traditional Japanese melodies played on bamboo flute, the koto (the 13-stringed national instrument of Japan), and the shamisen, or Japanese lute.

This fall our Enchanted Evenings take place from Thursday, October 25 to Monday, October 29. Stroll Yume’s paths from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, in search of haunting perceptions of a landscape that you can sense, but not readily see. Admission is $15 per person.

Parking for this event is restricted to the lot inside our main gate on North Alvernon Way and to East Justin Lane, one half block south of the Gardens. Parking is NOT permitted on East Hampton Place, immediately north of Yume. If you park on a residential street, please be mindful not to block our neighbors’ driveways.

Tea Ceremony

Take part in one of Japan’s most distinctive rituals on Saturday, October 27 and see why refinement and subtlety are by-words in Japanese culture. In traditional kimono and following canons of etiquette established nearly 1,000 years ago, a master of “The Way of Tea” will prepare and serve you a cup of matcha, or powdered green tea, and a traditional Japanese sweet to nibble. The elegant art of the ceremony, the reverence with which it is performed, and the emotional effect it produces will leave a deep and lasting impression on you.

The ceremony will be held at 3:00 pm. Because this is among our most popular events at Yume, advance reservations are required to attend. Please RSVP no later than Oct. 20, to, with your name, telephone number, and the number in your party. The cost is $15 per person, plus regular Gardens admission. Members of Yume Japanese Gardens pay only the ceremony attendance fee. If you must later cancel your reservation, please notify us as soon as possible, so that we may accommodate others who wish to participate. Not intended for children under 15.

For this event, please park in the lot behind our main gate on North Alvernon Way, or on East Justin Lane, one half block south of Yume. Parking is NOT permitted on East Hampton Place, on the north side of the Gardens.

Fall Ikebana Floral Festival

Enjoy dozens of signature floral compositions highlighting the wide breadth of flower arrangement styles in one of Japan’s most cherished art forms, during our Fall Ikebana Festival.

As we do each autumn, we are again opening the Gardens to the talented adepts of five different schools of Ikebana practice. The result: elegant floral displays throughout our grounds and museum that capture the harmony, discipline, and refinement of traditional Japanese flower arranging.

This year the Fall Festival runs from Tuesday, November 20 to Wednesday, November 28, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, when Yume will be closed. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children under 15.

Be sure to combine your Festival visit with a walk through our newest museum gallery, featuring a permanent display of selections from our collection of more than 200 Ikebana vases and vessels – the largest in the nation. Made of bamboo, bronze, lacquer, clay, and glass, some are more than a century old, others are contemporary; all are carefully designed to complement the Zen-like spirit of the flower arrangements they hold.

Festival parking is available in the lot inside our main gate on North Alvernon Way and on East Justin Lane, one half block south of the Gardens. Please DO NOT park on East Hampton Place, immediately north of Yume.

Calligraphy Workshop

The delicate art of classical Japanese calligraphy is at heart a practice of Zen-like physical and spiritual engagement, once reserved for emperors and nobles. Now you can lose yourself in its deep appeal during an absorbing hands-on seminar with nationally-known calligraphy artist Yoshi Nakano. This two-day workshop takes place Saturday, November 10, and Sunday, November 11, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.

Born in Japan and a graduate of the Art College of Nagoya, Nakano has been practicing calligraphy since the age of seven. He has exhibited award-winning traditional, contemporary, and abstract ink brush work in shows in the Northeast and Southwest, and his drawings are in private collections in New York City, Chicago, Santa Fe, Tucson, and California.

Under Nakano’s guidance, you’ll produce Japanese calligraphy in which the interplay of carefully meditated strokes of black ink on white rice paper fosters a dynamic oneness of body, mind, word, and medium. More than simply making art, you’ll become part of the very art that you create, and which you can take home to display.

All course materials are provided, and the cost of the workshop is $115; Gardens admission is not included. Participation is limited to a maximum of eight students. Reservations are required; please email no later than November 5.

Advanced Sogetsu Ikebana Workshop

One of the most popular schools of traditional Japanese flower arrangement is paradoxically modern: Sogetsu, which emerged in the 1920s. Since its development, Sogetsu has become a favorite among arrangers who prefer a broader palate of plant materials and a more free-flowing style of floral composition than permitted in classical schools dating back to the origins of Ikebana 550 years ago.

We are very pleased to offer a special workshop this fall that goes beyond and significantly enriches our usual classes in Sogetsu techniques. On Sunday, November 18, participants will have the chance to perfect their flower arranging skills and nourish their inventiveness in advanced instructional sessions led by Ping Wei, one of most creative and imaginative Sogetsu artists practicing in the Southwest today.

Born in China, Ping Wei moved to the U.S. in 1992. He took up Ikebana in 2003, and is a teaching diploma holder certified by Japan’s most prestigious group of Sogetsu instructors, the Sogetsu Teacher’s Association of Tokyo. Achieving such expertise requires years of learning and passage of rigorous examinations under the scrutiny of the highest masters of the art, combined with deep study of the philosophical principles that make Sogetsu a subtle, sensitive, and meditative vehicle of self-expression.

Our workshop consists of two sessions. The first begins at 10:00 am; the second at 1:00 pm. They may be taken separately, for a fee of $40 each, or you may join the full-day workshop for $70.  Because these sessions build upon each other, we suggest that you attend both; by the end of the day, you will have acquired deeper insight into the union of sophistication and simplicity that is Ikebana – and you will have created at least two breathtaking arrangements to display to your family and friends.

Fees are payable in class by cash or by check made out to the instructor and cover all materials used in the workshop. Admission to the Gardens is not included. Advance registration is required by November 11; please email indicating which session(s) you plan to attend.

Learn Ikebana!

If you have marveled at the floral arrangements in our Ikebana exhibitions and wished that you could make such striking displays for your home or as gifts for family and friends, consider enrolling in one of our Fall 2018 flower arranging classes. They are educational, entertaining, and will acquaint you with a quintessential and cherished element of Japanese culture.

Born some 550 years ago in the practice of decorating altars in Buddhist temples with flowers, Ikebana is much more than a simple expression of creativity like the Western custom of putting pretty blooms in a vase. A disciplined and meditative art form with deep-rooted rules, it bestows special benefits on those who practice it: inner peace, and harmony with nature, both while creating an arrangement and when contemplating it later.

As a living tradition, Ikebana has evolved into a number of major schools over the centuries. We offer classes by certified instructors trained in Japan in the techniques of the Ikenobo and Sogetsu schools. Ikenobo is the oldest school and emerged in the 1550s. It specializes in a time-honored classical manner of arrangement. Sogetsu developed in 1926 and makes use of a wider range of plant and other materials to achieve a style that is more fluid and free-form.

There is a $35 instruction and floral materials fee for Sogetsu classes; Ikenobo classes cost $25. Fees do not include entry to the Gardens, and are payable to the instructor by check or cash in class. Advance registration is required: please email specifying which classe(s) you wish to attend.

Sogetsu School Classes: 
October 21   10:00 am
November 25  10:00 am
December 16  10:00 pm

Ikenobo School Classes:
October 7  10:00 am
October 9  6:00
November 11  10:00 am
November 13   6:00
December 2  10:00 am
December 4   6:00 pm

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 new museum gallery and its 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.