Did you know making an ikebana flower arrangement can be faster than making a cup of drip coffee? A traditional Japanese floral art that dates back to the 7th century, ikebana, or 生け花, can be highly disciplined; it originated in temples as a way to present flowers at an altar. But over the centuries, ikebana has evolved to include hundreds of schools and styles.
One of them, nageire, essentially means “to toss”—as in choosing just a single long branch of a flower and tossing it in a tall upright vase.
Before practicing nageire, or any style of ikebana, one must first observe the whole shape of the selected plant, flower, or twiggy to decide the best length for the arrangement. Setting aside this observation time is a crucial of the process! After this step, the plant is simply cut and tossed into a vase.
Recently, I tried making an ikebana arrangement in this style. It was very surprisingly quick; I needed just three seconds to finish the arrangement.
Here’s how to did it:
- Go out for a morning walk to pick a little twiggy. No need to think about “what kind of…”. All natural sticks and flowers have one-of-a-kind shapes.
- Prepare an ordinary recycled bottle.
- Take a deep breath to compose yourself.
- Toss the twiggy into the bottle.
Traditionally and technically, nageire is actually considered difficult for those who are not accustomed to the tradition—since one has to find the right way to hold a branch or twiggy so that tossing it results in a pleasing arrangement. The motion requires spontaneity, but a very important aspect of all ikebana arrangements is that they cannot be redone.
In my experience, however, after taking a little time to compose a quick ikebana arrangement I always have a fresh air and eye. It is similar to meditating.
Even if you have a busy schedule, you can find three seconds to spare to enjoy this part of Japanese culture. And furthermore, you don’t need to take lessons, go flower shopping, or prepare some particular good. You need just three things: one flower, one vase, and one hand. It is a quick, calming way to start your daily routine.
If you like the sound of nageire and ikebana, or want to explore Japanese floral arts further, find our Ikebana Flower Petal Vase—which has a kenzan, or “spiky frog,” already secured in its base to prop up your blooms—in the Food52 Shop.
Mika Horie is a photographer and visual artist based in Kyoto and Ishikawa. She specializes in photo printing on washi paper that she makes herself, using traditional methods.