Hiroki Ohara, fifth-generation headmaster of the Ohara School of Ikebana, assisted by Ohara Professor Akihiro Nishi, demonstrates the art of ikebana. Photograph by Eric Eakin


Once you see the floral creations of ikebana master Hiroki Ohara, you will never look at a bunch of flowers the same way again.
The Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art arranged for an ikebana demonstration by Ohara, headmaster of the Ohara School of Ikebana, in honor of four decades of the Ohara School chapter in Cleveland. “The Art of Ikebana: Japanese Flower Design” was presented in Gartner Auditorium.
“The Womens Council is an organization of 500 women that has been supporting the museum for 81 years,” noted Susan Larson, chair of the Womens Council of The Cleveland Museum of Art. “The flower committee is responsible for the floral arrangements displayed weekly in the north lobby of the museum. Committee members not only place the arrangements. They are there daily to see that the flowers are watered. So, it seemed like a natural fit for the committee to sponsor this beautiful event.”
Larson introduced Shindo Yusuke, the Consul General of Japan in Detroit, who traveled to Cleveland to view the ikebana demonstration. “Since ancient times, the people of Japan have had a deep appreciation for nature. The art of ikebana has developed from this foundation,” he said.
Ingrid Luders, grand master of the Ohara School chapter in Cleveland, added, “Today’s event celebrates two years of preparation to celebrate 40 years.”
An Ohara School ikebana demonstration is a cultural experience. It is performance art where the medium is flowers and plants, as well as contemporary art where the lines and forms of minimalism are shared by an understanding of and reverence for nature. It is a traditional art honed by centuries of spiritual meaning and created in an atmosphere of respectful quiet and calm.
Practitioners of Ikebana follow three leading principles: movement, balance and harmony, with line, color and material as architectural tools. As Buddhism took root in Japan, offerings, called kuge, emphasized simplicity. Typically, three flower stems or branches were used to symbolize the harmony between man, heaven and earth.
Scenes of ikebana first appeared on scrolls and drawings in the 13th century. Ikebana gradually began manifesting itself in Japanese culture as an art form in the 14th century, becoming a common practice. Many schools arose in Japan, each promoting stylistic preferences.
During the 19th and into the 20th century, the practice of ikebana began to reflect openness between Japan and western countries. Admirers worldwide now study the art form. The Ohara School of Ikebana Northern Ohio Chapter is one of the largest chapters outside of Japan.
The Ohara School of Ikebana, known as Ohara Ryu, is among the three leading schools of ikebana today. The school was founded in 1895 by Unshin Ohara. Hiroki Ohara, current headmaster of the Ohara School of Ikebana, followed a fateful path to become the school’s fifth headmaster. He was three years old when his father, Headmaster Natsuki Ohara, passed away. He was six years old when his grandfather died. He made his first flower offering as the fifth headmaster for the Ohara School’s 100th anniversary.
The Japanese art in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection has been an inspiration for students of ikebana and for demonstrations of floral art for 42 years. The first ikebana demonstration at the museum was in 1980 by Natsuki Ohara. Nine years later, Ohara School professor Kazuhiko Kudo was invited to give a second demonstration. Sponsored by the Women’s Council, that event raised the seed money for establishing the Women’s Council Flower Fund. Ohara professors Morishita and Nishi visited the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2012 for a third demonstration of arrangements. Headmaster Hiroki Ohara’s ikebana demonstration was the fourth of its kind.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Womens Council’s annual gift to the Cleveland Museum of Art.