Sogetsu Vancouver Branch
Celebrating 50 Years of Ikebana in Vancouver
Ikebana has a long and respected history in Japan. While the exact origins are unknown, it is thought to have come to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century. Many ikebana schools have spread thoughout Japan over the years, each with their own adherents. The Sogetsu School of flower arrangement, one of the largest and most modern in technique and outlook, was started in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara and was brought to Canada in 1963 by Mrs. Kiyoko Boycott. The Sogetsu Vancouver Branch was formalized in 1985 with Mrs. Boycott as the founding director. On September 28 and 29, 2013, members of the Ikebana community will be celebrating 50 years of Ikebana activities in Vancouver and the lower mainland.
To help celebrate these 50 years, Master Teacher Kika Shibata will perform a public Ikebana demonstration, in addition to conducting two educational workshops. A Saturday evening banquet is also planned to honour founding Director, Mrs. Kiyoko Boycott, and to acknowledge her immense efforts in promoting Japanese art and culture to all Canadians.
For more information, contact email@example.com or 604-461-7795.
Demonstration tickets are available on line at www.sogetsuvancouver.com/50-years. The demonstration will be held at the Segal Graduate School of Business (Simon Fraser University downtown), 500 Granville St. (at Pender St.) Vancouver. www.sogetsuvancouver.com
The Bulletin spoke to Sogetsu Vancouver Branch instructor Hollis Ho about ikebana in Vancouver.
Sogetsu Vancouver Branch is celebrating the 50th year of your sensei teaching ikebana in Vancouver. That’s quite an achievement. To what do you attribute this longevity?
The dedication of our Sensei, Mrs. Kiyoko Boycott. Mrs. Boycott is an extraordinary teacher. Her enthusiasm and devotion have propelled and sustained our Sogetsu Ikebana branch in Vancouver. Our branch activities are numerous and we report all activities to Sogetsu Japan, but Mrs. Boycott’s remarkable talent as a teacher is the mainstay to keep Sogetsu strong in Vancouver.
What are some of the activities that the branch engage in?
Over the past 50 years Mrs. Boycott has directed and encouraged members to participate in ikebana exhibitions throughout the Lower Mainland. Our largest ikebana exhibitions are the Vancouver Ikebana Spring Show and our Fall Show at Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens. Throughout the year we also display ikebana as various festivals, public gardens/spaces, art galleries, cultural events and Consular functions. Nearly all the displays by our members are done as volunteers and costs of materials are also donated. Our most recent ikebana display was at the Powell Street Festival. The general public really enjoy the viewing of ikebana. Our mandate is to create awareness and to share the ancient art of ikebana.
There are a number of ikebana schools, with five being active in the Metro Vancouver area – what sets Sogetsu apart from the others?
Yes, there are five practising schools here, and in Japan there are over 1000 different ikebana schools. Each school of ikebana shares the same philosophy based on the traditional concepts of ikebana – Heaven, Earth and Man in harmony – The Sogetsu School does not limit the arranger, but encourages individual artistic expression using natural and unconventional materials. The founder of Sogetsu, Mr. Sofu Teshigahara, was internationally recognized in art circles. He was a forward thinker who saw the artistic possibilities beyond the traditional forms of ikebana. He is responsible for bringing ikebana forward into the 20th century.
Fifty years ago, Vancouver was very different place than it is today. Japan and Japanese culture weren’t embraced as they are today. Has Sensei Boycott talked about what it was like in those early days?
Oh yes! Mrs. Boycott has many stories to share on those early days. Her first ikebana class had an overwhelming response and was held in the Steveston Buddhist Church. Over 60 people, men and women, registered for her first class! Her classes were in Japanese and English, and she wore kimono. Many of her early students are still members of our Sogetsu Vancouver Branch today – Satoye Kita, for example, who writes the Community Kitchen recipes for The Bulletin is a long-time student of Boycott Sensei. I must say that Satoye is very talented in ikebana! Mrs. Kay Sakata and Sally Hama, both in their 90s, are members of our Branch, and were Mrs. Boycott’s first students in 1963!
Over the course of fifty years she must have had many students go through the school – have many gone on to teach themselves?
Yes, that is her legacy. Mrs. Boycott has taught over 3,000 students during her 50 years of teaching and 79 have become qualified teachers. In order to become qualified, all students study under the set curriculum of the Sogetsu School in Japan. Mrs. Boycott applies for certificates for each student as they progress to teacher level. To become a teacher, each student must complete at least five years of study under a qualified sensei.
You have been studying under Sensei Boycott for many years – what makes her special as a teacher?
I have studying with Mrs. Boycott for 23 years. Ikebana has brought such positive values to my life and I will continue to study all my life. Mrs. Boycott is a gifted teacher who understands the genuine virtues associated with the practise of ikebana – it enhances one’s life in so many ways. Ikebana is a “way,” a path, and Mrs. Boycott has been masterful to lead many through the creative process. She is lots of fun too! In the past, Mrs. Boycott has led tours from Vancouver to Japan. Her Japan tours included ikebana study, and sightseeing around Japan to experience the entire Japanese cultural experience.
You are one of her students who has gone on to teach Sogetsu ikebana – what makes it rewarding for you?
I would have to say my students bring the joy and rewards of teaching ikebana. Each person brings their enthusiasm/creativity and desire to study to the classroom. Ikebana is more deep than learning Western-style, and I find it very rewarding to observe how each student will work through the basic principles of Sogetsu, and then develop their own style/relationship with the natural branch and flowering materials to create artistic forms using line and space. I am always learning and that is rewarding as well.
Younger people may be interested their Japanese heritage – why would they want to consider studying ikebana? What are the rewards, from your perspective?
There are many reasons why a person considers the study of ikebana. For me, I am sansei (my mother is nissei) and I have always been enamoured with all forms of Japanese culture. Ikebana is an enjoyable and valuable way to connect to my Japanese heritage. Many of our Sogetsu Branch members are issei and nisei, and knowing and learning from these women has been such an inspiration to me. I am grateful to my mother, Mrs. Boycott and all the men and women in our ikebana community for teaching me more about Japanese culture. I only have two students of Japanese descent, most are non-Japanese. I would like to see more sansei and yonsei take up the study.
Why do you think more non-Japanese are interested in the art form?
As Japanese cultural arts became more popular in the 1960s in the west, many non-Japanese have taken up the study of ikebana. There is no question that Japanese design has influenced the world as we know it. There is a simple beauty that is intrinsic in Japanese art/design. Many non-Japanese have embraced the art of ikebana – ikebana offers beauty, and many relate practising it to relaxation and peacefulness. I know my students love the meditative atmosphere in class where the focus is clear. Of course, who can argue against the benefits of touching and loving nature! Looking at our Sogetsu membership, we have members from 14 different nationality groups.
You are celebrating the 50th year with a two-day event and bringing in a master teacher to give a guest demonstration. Tell me about what you have planned and what people can expect to take away from it.
We are honoured to host Master Teacher Kika Shibata in Vancouver to celebrate our 50 Years! Kika-sensei is the director of San Jose – South Bay Branch and the West Coast Regional Director for Sogetsu North America. The two-day event will include educational workshops and she will perform a large-scale ikebana demonstration. Her demonstration promises to be dynamic, and she will use natural materials from our lush west coast. The theme of our event is “Metal, Wood & Water” and Kika sensei will incorporate these elements into her demonstration pieces. Her demonstration is open to the public – it is not only for ikebana enthusiasts, but for all persons who love art and nature. Gee, that sounds like every Vancouverite! The demonstration is only $35 and will be held in the beautiful Segal Graduate School of Business, SFU, in downtown Vancouver at 500 Granville St. at Pender. Seats are limited and we encourage to purchase tickets right away online at sogetsuvancouver.com/50-years. This is a very rare opportunity for Vancouverites to see a Master Teacher demonstrate the art of Sogetsu Ikebana.
Hollis Ho is an ikebana teacher and Chair of the 50-Year Event
Sogetsu Vancouver Branch