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The word ikebana means "to give life to flowers" and thus the purpose of Japanese flower arrangement is to arrange cut flowers and grasses in a way which artistically recreates their natural setting. The art of flower arrangement was originally introduced to Japan from China and the peak of refinement was reached in the early 15th century. Many schools, old and relatively new, perpetuate this tradition today and ikebana is an essential accomplishment for the well-educated Japanese bride.
The oldest school is that of lkenobo, which traces its history back to the 7th century. In this school, arrangements fall into two categories : rikka (standing flowers) and nageire (thrown-in flowers, applied to arrangements in tall vases). It was from the rikka style that the most basic elements of the art were drawn, the triangle of three branches: shin (up-standing), soe (supporting) and nagashi (flowing).
Shodo, or the practice of calligraphy, developed as an art form in the 7th century on the basis of the Chinese karayo calligraphic style. From this evolved the purely Japanese style (wayo) and many other sub-styles, all of which must be mastered by the modern Japanese calligrapher. The oldest surviving examples of Japanese calligraphy are copies of Buddhist scriptures and poems.
Some of the most beautiful examples of Japanese calligraphy have been written in sosho script, notably the commentaries on picture scrolls such as the Genji Monogatari Emaki. In this case the calligraphy flows across a background of paper painted in colours and gold (karakami).
This item relates to a phenomenon of Japanese life, the great exodus from the cities which takes place twice a year – at New Year and Obon – as people return to spend the holiday in their native towns or villages. At such times, every form of long-distance transportation is full to capacity. The regular facilities of stations and airports are over-whelmed by great numbers of people waiting patiently and not-so-patiently for vacant seats. This photograph shows a temporary shelter against the cold set up in a Japanese station at year-end, 1967.
In old Japan it was customary for people to go out of the towns in springtime and hold banquets under the trees. In the middle ages, cherry blossom parties became regular events; singing, dancing, eating and drinking, writing poems were all part of the occasion. Even today, crowds of people flock to places noted for their cherry blossom and hold parties beneath the trees. Yoshino in Nara Prefecture and Ueno Park in Tokyo are favoured places for cherry-blossom viewing (ohanami).
Cherry-blossom (sakura) is a shortlived flower and in Japan it symbolizes the impermanence of things, hence its importance in a culture heavily influenced by Buddhist philosophy.
The contents of this site are excerpted from THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF TIME CAPSULE EXPO'70(March 1975). Please note that company and organization names may differ from those of the current ones.
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