Yoshiko K. LeSage

Ikebana, the art of flower arranging, has its origins in Buddhism as do most Japanese arts. Buddhism reached Japan by way of China and Korea about 540 A. D., and with it came the custom of offering flowers to Buddha. The literal meaning of Ikebana is “flowers arranged according to rule”. The original rules are said to have been set by the Emperor Saga in the early 9th century. By the 12th century, Ikebana was a well-established and popular pastime of the ladies of the Imperial Court. Then, in the 16th century, the priest Ikenobo founded the school of Ikebana which today still bears his name. The teachings of the school headmasters of that time, Ikenobo Senkei and lkenobo Senna, contributed to a fundamental awareness of the meaning of ikebana which continues to be taught and appreciated today.

The Rokkakudo Temple, located in the center of Kyoto is believed to have founded by Shotoku Taishi about 1,400 years ago. Priests who made floral offerings mornings and evenings to the Buddhist alter of the Rokkudo Temple lived near a pond (the Japanese word “Ike”), in a small hut called “bo”. For this reason, people began to call the priests by the name “Ikenobo”. Ikebana began with and was spread by Ikenobo, and from Ikenobo have come many famous ikebana masters. It was in the year 1462 when Senkei Ikenobo was described as “master of flower arranging” in “Hekizan Nichiroku”, the diary of a zen monk. The year 2012 was thus the 550th year since the name Ikenobo first appeared in historic records.

Yoshiko LeSage began her study of ikebana at age 16. She enrolled in the lkenobo Institute at Ochanomizu in Tokyo. After graduation, she spent fifteen years in the school’s research laboratory and also graduated from the Ikenobo Central Training Institute. She was an assis­tant professor at the Ikenobo Ochanomizu School. She was awarded the Best of School prize at the Ikebana International Show in Tokyo in 1963. The Ikenobo School sent her to New York City and to Lima, Peru in 1967 to present an ikebana exhibit demonstration and a workshop. She presented an ikebana demonstration at the Japanese Culture Center in Minneapolis, Min­nesota in 1975.

In 1976, she moved to San Francisco to join the Ikenobo Northern California Chapter, and in 2006 she was elected President of the Chapter. Yoshiko coordinated with the San Francisco Crocker Gallery in 2008 to make a flower arrangement display for each of their sculptures. She currently teaches ikebana at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple and also at her home. Twice a year she has exhibitions in the Bay area. In 2012 there was an Ikenobo 550th year anniversary celebration, and also the Northern California Chapter had a 50th anniversary celebration. At the celebration Yoshiko was presented with an Ikenobo Lifetime Achievement Award from the Headmaster.