The Slanting Style

What is Moribana?

For almost 250 years, until the middle of the 19th century, Japan cut itself off from contact with the outside world. During this period, not only ikebana, but the traditional culture as a whole reached a peak of extraordinary refinement and maturity. But this was followed by a time of stagnation, and finally, of decadence.

However, beginning in the mid-19th century, Japan opened its doors to the outside world. European and American culture seemed to flood into the country, and ikebana was strongly influenced by this epoch-making change. For example, many new floral materials – species of flowers and plants from the West that Japanese had never seen before – became available in quantity.

There was a widespread feeling that new forms of ikebana were required to meet the needs of such an age of dramatic changes. The times were ripe for a bold innovator who could breathe new life into stale traditions, and Unshin Ohara, was that person. He originated Moribana, literally “piled up flowers,” a totally new form of ikebana. Traditionally, all materials had been gathered and arranged tightly at a single point. Unshin introduced the concept, unprecedented in the history of ikebana, or arranging materials over a plane. He developed a low, wide container called a suiban in which materials could be positioned freely and with a greater sense of depth. This innovation is universally recognized as the birth of modern ikebana.

Hiroki Ohara, (2015) Ikebana for Everybody, Ohara School, Koyosha Inc., Japan

The quote above, taken from the recently revised textbook from the Ohara School of Ikebana, Ikebana for Everybody, shows how the first Headmaster, Unshin Ohara, challenged and changed the ikebana world. It took some years before other ikebana schools accepted this new way of arranging materials and called it ikebana. Now, many other schools of ikebana have Moribana forms, all thanks to the innovation of Unshin Ohara.

In Moribana arrangements, there are three principal stems: the Subject, Secondary, and Object. These three stems form the basic framework of the arrangement across a plane. The other stems, Fillers, are added to highlight and bring out the beauty of the three main stems.

There are three types of Moribana styles:
1. Upright Style (Chokuritsu-kei)
2. Slanting Style (Keisha-kei)
3. Water-Reflecting Style (Kansui-kei)

Slanting Style (Keisha-kei)
Subject length – container’s diameter + depth
Secondary length – 1/2 of the Subject
Object length – 1/2 of the Subject

Positioning of Materials
First, draw a square within the circle representing the round container and mark the four points where the square touches the rim of the container as A, B, C, and D.

Next, join points A and D to form an isosceles triangle, ABD. This will be the area where the arrangement will be composed.

However, as you can see, points A and B are in a straight line when viewed from the front. This would make the stems inserted at these points overlap and ruin the beauty of the stems. So, we need to alter point B. Divide line AB into 5 equal lengths.

Now draw a new line from point D through the closest 1/5 point from B. This becomes a new point, B’. Connect the new point B’ to A, and you have a new triangle, AB’D. Now, all three points of the triangle are different and do not overlap.

If the container is too large or you are using few stems, this new triangle will be too large. So, you will have to move the D point along the circumference of the container to form a smaller triangle. NOTE: points A and B’ never move, only point D.

On the kenzan, it is easy to create this triangle. In the back left corner, move over about a finger’s width (blue dot). This will be point A (red dot). In the front left corner, move slightly back, about a finger’s width. This will be point B (red dot). The front right corner will be point D (red dot). This triangle, ABD, creates the perfect placement for your three principal stems.

Placement of materials
The Subject is inserted into point B and leans down 70° to the front and then swings 45° to the outside edge.
The Secondary is inserted into point A. It leans to the left rear and should look as if it about 1/2 the length of the Subject.
The Object is inserted into point D. It tilts down 50° to the front and then swings 30° to the right.

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