Hanashobu Display in Japan
|Improvement of hanashobu, which in the West is called the Japanese iris, was first undertaken in Japan, and there are now more than two-thousand named cultivars in my country. The development of hanashobu has been directly related to its display. To understand the development of hanashobu it is necessary to understand this relationship, which I shall explain.|
|Fig.2 Kumamoto indoor display|
There are three quite distinct types of traditional indoor display for hanashobu in Japan. The first I will describle is Kumamoto indoor display, which is practiced by the Kumamoto Mangetu Kai. Kumamoto is the name of reagion in south-eastern Japan on the island of Kyushu. The Mangetu Kai, which means "Full Moon Society", was organized for the development and appreciation of hanashobu, and its annual meeting was held at the time of the full moon in June.
The unique method of display in Kumamoto entails showing the irises in pots. The hanashobu bloom season in Kumamoto is frequently beset with heavy rains, which lead to growing the irises in pots. Gradually, too, rules were developed for the display for irises inside the house. Pods were about 24 cm in diameter, and flower stalks were about 90 cm in height (Fig.2). Seven to nine plants were arranged along the wall side of the main room. One or two irises were displayed in the tokonoma, a special alcove designed for displaying objects d'art, paintings and plants appreciate to the season. The irises displayed in the tokonoma had flower stalks smaller than those on display along the wall. To the Kumamoto Mangetsu Kai the inner sprit was more important than the form in the display. The heart of the display lies in the "selfless manner" in which the host serves the guests. Therefore, the host did not put stalks of his new varieties in the tokonoma, a place of great ritual importance in Japan. Likewise, when the host arranged the potted irises along the wall of the room, he put the guest's varieties in the center of the row.
When the guests appreciated the irises, they sat upright and bowed to them. This marked their respect for the flower. Next, the guests stood up and examined the shape and size of the style arms. They liked large and strongly formed style arms, and very much disliked small or poorly formed style arms. Because they believed that the flower's "mind" is in the style arms, being in the center of the flower, the style arms must be large and "right" as the heart of a human being should be.
After appreciating the irises on display, guests talked with the host about cultivation and the shape and color of irises on display, but there was no "flower contest." Thinking that each variety has its own personality and virtue, the individual characteristics must be respected. Competition would be disrespectful.
These Kumamoto irises devotees liked the arched flower form, which resembles the shape of Mt.Fuji. This was because they viewed the iris from the side, rather than from the top. Improvement of their varieties was directed to the creation of varieties suitable for display in a Japanese style room. We call their irises the "Higo type" after the old name of Kumamoto. Varieties of the Higo type are especially well liked by many Japanese hybridizers.
|Fig.3 Tokyou dwarf plant disply|
| The second
type of indoor display I will address is the Tokyo dwarf plant indoor display.
This is a method of pot culture and display devised by Mr.Ichikawa about 1930.
Mr.Ichikawa used a flat pot about 30 cm in diameter and 3 cm deep to cultivate
and display hanashobu. Usually ten to twenty rhizomes are planted in the pot
during bloom season. The following year these plants will bloom seven to
The essence of the art of this unique method of cultivation is in skillfully controlling grows. The amount of fertilizer and water are carefully regulated, and the pot is moved in response to seasonal and weather changes. Care is taken to protect against disease and insect pests.
To totality of flowers, leaves and pot produce a natural elegance of form pleasing to the eyes. The ability to succeed with this method can be said to spring from the resourcefulness of Mr.Ichikawa who, in his love of nature beauty, tried to bring it closer to his life.
The suitable varieties for this method of display are not miniature types with smaller flowers, but rather smaller growing Edo and Ise cultivars. Undoubtedly this form of display shows the influence of bonsai. At present Mr.Noboru Kobayashi, who lives in Tokyo, avidly cultivates and displays his irises in this way.
|Fig.4 Ise indoor display|
| Ise, is the
distinct in central Honshu where the Grand Shrines dedicated to the ancestors
of the imperial family are located, and which has close ties to Kyoto. A unique
type of hanashobu and a unique type of iris originated in Ise, and this is the
third type of indoor iris display I will discuss.
At the beginning of the 20th century, cultivation of irises for use in the unique Ise display was rather widespread in the Ise district. Popularity of this display style declined, however, and it seems that it is no longer practiced in Japan. As a result, many details of the Ise display remain unclear. Fortunately, the late Dr.Hirao illustrated the Ise style in his book Hanashobu(Kashima Publishing Co.,Japan,1959). Moreover he provided a short comment about Ise display in another of his book, The Japanese Iris(Asahi Shinbun publishing Co.,Japan,1971). (For those who have access to this book, it is noted that the comment is, regretfully, written only in the Japanese language.)
In the Ise style, potted flowers were displayed in front of a folding screen or a curtain in a Japanese style room(Fig.4). Twenty-seven plants were arranged in three ranks, nine plants in each rank. The person making this display gave great care to flower color, and the height of the flower stalks and leaves had to be about the same. A low screen in front of the first rank was used to hide the pots in which the irises were growing.
Upon viewing and appreciating an Ise display, a guest would say to the host: "All the falls are sufficiently drooping downward." These words were the highest form of praise one could give to an iris display in Ise.
The unique "Ise type" of Japanese iris was developed for this display. All Ise irises are single, the height of the flower stalks and leaves are about the same, and the falls droop downward. I think that the characteristics of Ise varieties, even more than those of Higo varieties, were influenced by the fact they were developed for indoor appreciation. Consequently, Ise varieties have shorter flower stalks than Higo varieties. Usually they are 70 to 90 centimeters in height. The shortness of stalk was one of the reasons the potted plants needed to be put on a flower stand for display.
Japanese Mind and Hanashobu