Photography by Kazuhiko Suzuki
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.
Flowers that express a Japanese sensibility
―Interview with Naoki Sasaki
In Japan, people have long felt a special affinity for the flowers associated with the tea ceremony. Unlike the sophisticated ikebana, these tend to be wild blossoms in simple arrangements that highlight their natural beauty. In this regard I feel that they are very Japanese. While growing up in the verdant countryside of Mie prefecture, I saw the beauty of unspoiled nature in the greenery around me. That is why I try not to detract from the inborn beauty of the flowers I arrange, handling each and every stem with care and respect.
The work shown on the top was inspired by the famous Wind God and Thunder God screen paintings. I arranged lichen-covered branches from trees growing near my studio in Mie with white and green flowers from Kochi prefecture—Easter lilies, lisianthuses, double-petaled Noble lilies, and more—in an asymmetric pattern that creeps, vine-like, across a folding screen more than 3 meters wide.
Japanese are known for their love of nature, and this extends to a preference for an imperfect, more natural look over things shaped by human hands. When exposed to this imperfect beauty, one experiences an indescribable sensation of attentive awe. I always create my arrangements with the idea of projecting this sense of beauty so intrinsic to Japanese culture.
Seasonality is also an important element of my work. In the work shown on the top, I have used ume apricot blossoms, the harbinger of spring. Japan is blessed with a profusion of flowers and plants epitomizing each season of the year, and I find that when I work abroad, I tend to have a smaller choice of flowers, not least those with seasonal associations. That always makes me thankful for the natural bounty of Japan and for the unceasing efforts of its flower growers to provide us with so many varieties of the finest quality. In these arrangements I’ve tried to express my gratitude to the flowers of Kochi and all of Japan. It is a great pleasure to introduce them to people around the world.
Born in Mie prefecture in 1967. Sasaki received the Golden Leaf award in the 2005–2006 edition of the International Annual of Floral Art, published in Belgium. He has supervised the floral displays at major international events including the G8/G7 summits held in Hokkaido and Ise-Shima, Japan. Publications include Naoki Sasaki: Japanese Contemporary Floral Art (Stichting Kunstboek, 2009).
For more information on Kochi, visit
For inquiries about Kochi’s flowers, email
This article is an excerpt from Kateigaho International Japan Edition 2021 Spring/Summer.