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Flowers Infused with Autumn Moonlight

Cultural Quintessence

Japan In-depth

Kateigaho International Edition

Flowers Infused with Autumn Moonlight

Toshiro Kawase's flowers are not the standard ikebana: They are the antithesis of arrangements bound by school, style, or form. They are indeed portraits of Japan in flowers. On autumn evenings, moon and flowers and people harmoniously blend in the blue twilight. The moon seems to descend from the heavens and dwell in flowers. Kawase captures the mood of such autumn evenings.

Moon Over the Fields

Container: bronze vase with chrysanthemum crest of the Imperial family; originally from Sento Imperial Palace.
Arrangement: superb pinks (two varieties), cardinal flower, aster (three varieties), toad lily, enbisenno (Lychnis wilfordii), Japanese thistle, Japanese spiraea, shimobashira (Keiskea japonica), balloon flower, eupatorium, mizuhikiso (Antenoron filiforme), patrina, wild strawberry leaves, eulalia grass, Japanese pampas grass, and more.

Descending into Paradise

Container: a Kiseto-ware vase.

Toshiro Kawase

Born in Kyoto in 1948, Kawase earned a degree from Nihon University College of Art and did graduate work in theater and film in Paris. Returning to Japan in 1974, he developed his own approach to flowers based on tatehana (standing flowers) and the nageire (throw or fling) style. Among his books are Inspired Flower Arrangements (Kodansha International).

photographs by Tadayuki Naito
flowers by Toshiro Kawase
cooperation from Hatakeyama Kinenkan

Harmony in Fall Flowers

The poetic sentiment of autumn flowers is not ikeru (to make live), but rather, as our ancestors have taught us, "to let live as nature intended." It is not a matter of artificially creating form, but of being guided by the soul of each flower. Through picking and gathering, the form of the flower is revealed. We begin by placing the shortest ones in the vessel, and gradually build height, from bottom to top, as they appear in the fields. Our gaze spontaneously rises, and when we lift our eyes high in the sky, there hovers the moon.
For the Japanese, who feel deep affinity for grasses, a field of pampas grass is an archetypal scene. Someone raised in the city, for example, will be overwhelmed with wistful nostalgia upon seeing a field of grasses. It is as if such a scene were imprinted on our DNA. And we have a similar sense of appreciation for the moon, admired as a gift from heaven.
Autumn wildflowers of all colors placed in a single vase will be harmonious. Spring wildflowers are different; they are short, young, and fresh, and have little to distinguish them. Some definitely conflict. But the timeworn flowers of autumn have grown tall and lanky. Some are deformed, some discolored, some worm-eaten. These characteristics give them individuality. While their differences are prominent, seen collectively, the strands of color weave a tapestry that has a perfect harmonious beauty.
This is, I believe, why the Japanese continue to love and portray autumn fields.
—Toshiro Kawase


Moon Over the Fields

While graceful and willowy in appearance, autumn flowers are very self-assertive. Pampas grass also looks wispy, but is actually quite obstinate. Thus, as Toshiro Kawase explains, to arrange several varieties is as difficult as getting a group of women to agree. But proper arrangement yields unparalleled beauty. Wildflowers are best arranged so they look as if they have just been picked from the field. Here, however, because the vessel has court origins, they are arranged with a dignity in keeping with the container. A generous misting enhances the presentation, suggesting dew on a natural field landscape. Paired with the age-tarnished silver-leafed moon in the Musashino (plains) folding screen, they create the aura of an autumn field indoors.


Descending into Paradise

Pure white lotus blossom rises from lotus pod and vase, round like the full moon, frozen in time. The lotus becomes a large, white butterfly resting its wings, or the moon goddess descending into a vase she has mistaken for the moon. Japanese regard the moon as sacred. Thus the lotus, the symbol of Buddhist paradise, is most appropriate.
When Japanese hold moon-viewing gatherings, they always offer flowers. Standing flowers are said to be landmarks for the moon goddess descending from the heavens. At seasonal Japanese festivities, people enjoy eating, drinking, and singing with these spirits that reside in nature.




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