Japan’s Secret Kingdom of Flowers:
From Kochi to the World―1

Photography by Hoshito Omija

Situated on the south coast of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s main islands, Kochi prefecture is becoming known throughout the world as a producer of top-quality flowers. Read on to learn how flowers, long a prominent part of Japanese culture, are putting Kochi’s name on the map.


Arrangements that make the flowers happy
―Interview with Akane Teshigahara

People everywhere love flowers and enjoy making their beauty a part of daily life. But the art of ikebana is not simply for display purposes. My grandfather, Sogetsu school founder Sofu Teshigahara, always said that flowers become human when you arrange them. In other words, the act of arranging flowers is an opportunity to look inward and find oneself.

No two flower arrangements come out exactly the same, even when the same flowers are used. Some people take pains to arrange the flowers just so; others are bolder. Some stick closely to theory and create very mainstream arrangements, while others overthink the process and fiddle endlessly with the flowers. The process and results are different every time. I have taught many students, and I feel that my grandfather’s words ring true. Flowers reflect what the person arranging them is thinking and feeling; they are a visible expression of our character.

At the end of 2020, an awesome sight greeted visitors to Sogetsu Kaikan in Tokyo. In the entrance stood a huge ball of brilliant gloriosas, 3 meters across, from Kochi prefecture. Japan’s flower industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. To support flower growers in Kochi, 5,000 stems of gloriosa were purchased through a crowd-funding campaign and arranged by Akane Teshigahara, headmaster of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana.

I believe that ikebana is an art form unique to Japanese culture that is not only about learning technique but also about experiencing personal growth and enhancing communication with others. Personally speaking, every time I arrange flowers, my focus is on how to make them shine. If you try too hard to impose your own personality on them, the flowers will suffer. Tamp down your ego and let the flowers in front of you guide your feelings. If you let the flowers speak for themselves, they will thank you for it.

In that respect, I feel that Kochi flower growers and I share something in common. When I gaze at flowers from Kochi, I can sense that the growers think of every part of the process—from raising the flowers to shipping them and seeing them put to use—as an integrated whole. They take pride in their work, cultivating flowers with quality and ease of use in mind, so arrangements will show them at their best. The extension of the stems, their even length, the lay of the leaves: each flower is of the highest quality imaginable.

Gloriosas, with their distinctive spidery petals, are among Teshigahara’s favorite flowers. This arrangement features two Kochi-grown varieties: yellow Lutea and white Caprice Rose, whose petals are tipped with pale pink. The arrangement has an air of relaxed yet lively motion that evokes spring. The setting here is “Heaven,” the serene indoor stone garden designed by renowned Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi that is in the first-floor plaza of the Sogetsu Kaikan building.

For the arrangement pictured above, I selected yellow and white gloriosas to create a light, spring-like mood. To add color accents I placed dark-purple lisianthuses near the rim of this blue vase, which I made myself. I hope that the flowers will be happy.



Akane Teshigahara
Assumed the post of the fourth Iemoto (headmaster) of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana in 2001, making 2021 her 20th anniversary at the forefront of one of Japan’s most celebrated schools of flower arrangement. A leader in efforts to breathe new life into the ancient art, she actively collaborates with artists in other fields. She also presides over the Akane Junior Class, which uses ikebana to teach children to be creative and independent.

Sogetsu Kaikan
7-2-21 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3408-1154
9:30 AM to 5:30 PM
Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays

For more information on Kochi, visit

For inquiries about Kochi’s flowers, email


[Continue to Part 2]

This article is an excerpt from Kateigaho International Japan Edition 2021 Spring/Summer.



2021 Spring / Summer

Inside Japan’s West