Pair of Japanese cultural treasures speaking at UI this month

Pair of Japanese cultural treasures speaking at UI this month

CHAMPAIGN — Two prominent Japanese cultural figures, including a "Living National Treasure of Japan," will give talks and demonstrations at the University of Illinois this month.

Senko Ikenobo, headmaster designate of the 555-year-old Ikenobo Ikebana School of Floral Art — the oldest school of floral arranging in Japan — will be at Japan House's fall open house on Saturday and do an ikebana demonstration at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday. She is the 46th generation of the Ikenobo family, and she will become the first female head of the school in its 555-year-old history.

Noted basket artist Noboru Fujinuma will give a talk about his artwork on Oct. 25 at Japan House. Fujinuma received the Living National Treasure title given to those who are important preservers of Japanese culture.

"To have these two incredibly important figures in Japanese culture here at events that are free and open to the public is amazing. In Japan, people wouldn't even have this access. It's an incredible opportunity," Cynthia Voelkl, assistant director of Japan House, said in a release.

The Illinois Prairie Chapter of the Ikenobo Ikebana Society of America applied to have Ikenobo visit for the chapter's 20th anniversary. Each year, the headmaster and headmaster-designate visit two chapters in the U.S. or Canada for a significant anniversary, said Jeanne Holy, president of the local chapter.

Ikebana, or the art of Japanese flower arranging, began with the Ikenobo Ikebana School of Floral Art five centuries ago. The idea is not to re-create the shape a plant had in nature, but to express the distinct character and beauty of each plant, including the changes made to it by the forces of nature, such as wind or insects.

The local ikebana chapter is a community group, not a UI organization, but it holds monthly workshops at Japan House and participates in Japan House events. Ikebana "is not just flower arranging, but also a philosophy and discipline, like judo or aikido or tea ceremony," Holy said.

The organization worked with Japan House to schedule public events for Ikenobo's visit:

— A free presentation at 11 a.m. Saturday at Japan House's open house, which will also include tea ceremonies and garden tours.

— A free exhibition of ikebana floral arrangements by Ikebono and members of the local chapter in the foyer of the Foellinger Great Hall at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, from 5 p.m. Friday through 9 p.m. Sunday.

— A screening of the movie "Hana Ikusa," or "Flower and Sword," by the local ikebana chapter at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Art Theater in Champaign. The film, in Japanese with English subtitles, tells the story of the Ikenobo school in the late 16th century.

— An ikebana demonstration at 2 p.m. Sunday at a ticketed event at Krannert Center.

Fujinuma, the basket artist, will give a public talk on his artwork at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Japan House. It will be followed by a tea ceremony performed by Shozo Sato, the founder of Japan House and a professor emeritus of art and design. The event is free and open to the public.

Fujinuma also is giving a sold-out Chabana basket workshop at Japan House on Oct. 24. A Chabana basket is used to hold a flower arrangement created for a tea ceremony.

Fujinuma's work will be part of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection," through Feb. 4. He'll give a demonstration at the museum on Saturday and is also speaking at the Art Institute of Chicago during his U.S. visit.