On weekends, Onaka’s classroom is filled with the enthusiasm of her pupils, who pour in one after another from 10 in the morning and into the evening hours. Some of them are men. Others are from Taiwan. Quite a few of them have children who also study under Onaka. When she's not teaching ikebana, Onaka makes everyone feel relaxed with her unpretentious conversation. But when it comes to teaching her pupils ikebana, the look in her eyes is all business. She immediately sees each student’s strengths and weaknesses and skillfully instructs them on what they need to work on.

 

Onaka studied at the Sogetsu school of flower arrangement during its early years, and, as one of the assistants of Sofu Teshigahara, the founder and head of the Sogetsu school, devoted herself to learning ikebana. Teshigahara was a sculptor, which is a rarity among ikebana masters. He was well-acquainted with various artists, which gave Onaka the chance to meet Salvador Dali. From photographers Ken Domon and Yasuhiro Ishimoto, she received guidance on creating works of art. She has traveled abroad on numerous occasions for teaching as well as demonstrating ikebana. Her first trips were during the era when restrictions were placed on carrying foreign currency. She once broke her right foot during a trip to Eastern Europe but still completed her engagement.

 

Beginning in her 40s, she became fascinated with iron and devoted herself to making sculptures. She was blessed with receptive artisans, and there were times when she worked the burner herself. She continued to hold solo exhibitions for her sculptures and ikebana works at Mikimoto and Wako in Ginza. Unlike ikebana, sculptures are created from scratch. Whether it's ikebana or making iron sculptures, she has strived to achieve the height of beauty.

 

The secret to good health is eating what you want. “Although I graduated from nutrition school during my training to become a wife, I care about nutirition little,” Onaka says while laughing cheerfully. This cheerfulness is most likely the secret to good health.

Senso Onaka

Senso Onaka was born in Matsue City in 1914. She has lived in Tokyo since the age of four. She is a graduate of Miwada Koto Jyogakko (Miwada Girls’ High School), Chiyoda City. In 1932 she became an apprentice of the Sogetsu school of flower arrangement. She has written several books, including Hana to Mizu to Hikari to (Flowers, Water, and Light); Hana Mugen (Inifinite Flowers); Hana Horaku (The Joy of ikebana); and Hana no Jishoh (Flower Time Bell).

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)