This weekend, the Vancouver chapter hosted Ikenobo Headquarters special visiting professor Daiji Miura Sensei. The first day was entirely devoted to the study of Rikka. In the morning Sensei gave a lesson on Rikka followed by a demonstration during which he arranged first an essentially classical Rikka, composed principally of branch material such as maple and willow for four of the nine main parts (called Yakueda in Japanese). In the rest of the arrangement he used grass and flower materials such as heliconia, trachelium, iris leaves, asparagus fern, hypericum and mums. The second arrangement could be called a modern Rikka, composed of mostly grass materials: monstera leaf, New Zealand flax, trachelium, heliconia, asparagus fern, hypericum, mums and a calla lily leaf. Basically the same materials we would be given to work with in the afternoon. The picture shown here is that of my own arrangement.
The Rikka form is widely recognized as the most ancient style of Ikebana arrangement. Some consider it might have originated as far back as the 6th century when tall arrangements were used on both side of Buddhist altars. Most agree however that it saw its most important development between the 15th and the 17th centuries. It was a form of arrangement often practiced by priests, warriors and nobles. Some of the classical rikkas may have reach heights of 40 feet or more. The modern rikka, however, probably averages around 3 feet in height and would normally be almost as wide.
The rikka is a very complex arrangement, and even in its basic form it is composed of nine elements called yakueda to which we can add ashirai as supporting elements to give body to this form. The elements are comprised of different flower or branch material that both complement and contrast each other. The rikka has been said to represent a landscape complete with mountains peaks and hills both far and near, cascading waterfalls, the countryside moving into the village as the river flows to the ocean at the very bottom of the arrangement. The original landscape would have been the sacred Buddhist mountain known as Shumisen represented in floral arrangements offered in Buddhist temples.
The Rikka is still widely practiced in Japan to this day. It is not only one of the most beautiful types of arrangement but also one of the most important for any arranger who wishes to develop a high degree of technical proficiency, a proficiency which will be evident in all other forms of Ikebana arrangements, including freestyle. I was fortunate enough one year to participate in a workshop in Kyoto at the time of the Autumn Tanabata Exhibition. Hundreds of Master Arrangers from all over Japan participate in this most important exhibition and one needs two or three days just to be able to see everything. It is an enriching and exhilarating experience. Arrangements vary in size from the miniature to the gigantic 20 or 30 footer. The Rikka probably accounts for 30 or 40 percent of all arrangements on display. Prizes and distinctions are awarded at this all Japan Ikenobo Ikebana Judged Competition and Miura Sensei, who was teaching us this last weekend, is a three-time prize-winner at this event.