Eikou Sumura

Eikou Sumura

Ikebana Artist


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on October 2007

Q&A Eikou Sumura 2

How did you get involved in teaching ikebana to foreigners?
In 1991, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan sent me to Eastern Europe to demonstrate the art of ikebana. During my visit, the ambassador told me that ikebana is popular and appreciated overseas as a traditional Japanese art form, and he would like more people in Japan to know about it as well. He encouraged me to teach the craft to both Japanese and foreigners. Since then, sharing the joy and beauty of ikebana has become my mission. I see my salon, Ikebana Atrium, as a place where people meet Japanese culture through ikebana.

Do you see differences between Japanese and foreign students?
Foreigners seem to interpret ikebana as a traditional art form without any bias. Young Japanese in their 20s and 30s are similar since they are not as familiar with ikebana as the older generations. Ikebana is a way of self-expression, and I personally don’t think it matters whether you are Japanese or not. People can arrange flowers according to their own individual spirit—that’s what ikebana is all about.

Has ikebana changed over time?
In the same way that people have acquired modern lifestyles, ikebana has also evolved and changed over time. Some schools have been active for more than 600 years, and ikebana has constantly been infused with new ideas and styles. For example, ikebana was traditionally displayed in the home, but now it has also become a tool to decorate public spaces. In line with the times, ikebana has integrated new elements to its original form, while respecting tradition, like many other Japanese traditional arts/culture.

Could you tell us about any interesting projects you’ve worked on?
I have been arranging flowers at the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel in Shibuya for about six years. It’s inspiring work, as I have the opportunity to communicate with hotel guests and visitors. One day when I was working on a piece, an overseas guest came up to me and said that he changed hotels just to see my arrangements. I was so happy when I realized that my message—and, in fact, a part of my soul—was passed on to him through the flowers I arranged.