Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bonsai, Ikebana and Fish Banners

On Monday, we went to the Japanese Festival for the first time in years. I was a picture-taking demon the whole time, so you, my friends, are in for at least a solid week of posts about the festival, Japan, the people at the festival, the food at the festival, you get the idea.

Today's installment has to do with the natural world, and how it's traditionally manipulated within ancient art forms of ikebana and bonsai. And fish banners. Must not forget about the fish banners, about which I posted on my other blog.

While we were walking around the bonsai display, we speculated on the origins of the tradition and guessed that it had something to do with a lack of space. We were wrong. According to this site, it's a horticultural tradition of creating an aesthetic masterpiece out of a tree. It originated in China and was adopted by Japanese Buddhist monks, and from there, it spread to the elite. Here's an informative quote, also from that site:

"In an ancient Japanese scroll written in Japan around the Kamakura period, it is translated to say: 'To appreciate and find pleasure in curiously curved potted trees is to love deformity.' "

Ikebana, on the other hand, is both the art of arranging flowers and other plants, as well as the coming together of nature and humanity. Similarly to bonsai, arrangements are displayed as works of art, it has a spiritual aspect to it, and it's done by both men and women.

As I mentioned on Buildings and Skies the other day, the fish banners (koinobori) are carp, which swim upstream and therefore represent strength and perseverance. They are hung during festivals, but also on Children's Day, which was called Boy's Day until 1948, when the government declared that girls should also take part in expressing gratitude toward their mothers. My recollection is that girls are given sets of dolls representing the emperor's family, and one carp for the mother, father, and each boy in the family is flown outside the home.


  1. So, what time do you get up to write? And, what time do you go to bed, then?

  2. The answer to both is the same: early!

  3. Love your photography! Looks like a beautiful day.


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