In Japan, there is consistent and celebrated respect towards miniature plants that are placed in a household setting.
This is one of the aspects that is a highlight over in Japan, who as a culture idealized, guided and showcased a passion towards the conservation and preservation of nature in the most mundane of activities.
As cases in point, you can observe this “attention to detail” in the form of use of kusamono, shitakusa, and bonsai.
The kusamono (or “grass thing”) is a reference word for plant collections in a pot used as a decoration that acts as a stand-alone house plant.
The kusamono also has a strong presence when it comes to attracting attention and is usually made as a ‘display” that runs on a parallel with bonsai.
On the other hand, the shitakusa (or “undergrass”) is also a reference word used for pot collection of plants used as a decoration that specifically, works better to accompany the Bonsai.
The bonsai (or tray planting) is a reference word for miniature dwarf trees planted and grown in a pot, as well as being a decoration or ornamentation for houses and rooms.
The Bonsai, in particular, are often referenced a “dwarf-like” as different planting enthusiasts tend to control these small trees as close as they can by using different methods of planting or pruning to essentially, control the overall growth of the plants.
Bonsai, kusamono, and shitakusa are pot plant productions that are not only nature-based decorations but also a product of horticulture—but, what is behind the veil of fascination behind these plants?
Clues of Beauty Preference Found In The Ceremony of Ikebana
One of the most celebrated activities in Japan is known as ikebana and is recognized as a form of “flower arrangement”.
The ikebana treats something as mundane as “flower arranging” and addresses it with a reverence that comes as close as one can get to a highly sophisticated ceremony that deals with the cutting of flowers.
All types of individuals are able to take part in ikebana as a practice, but the majority of ikebana practitioners have been usually known to be females (at least traditionally).
The cutting process (no matter the practitioner) has an important decisive function, almost identical to the root of the word, “decision” which decides (to cut).
This gives an idea and impression that the “cutting process” and “decision making” are one and the same, making ikebana a ceremony that is done with great aspects of mindfulness.
During the process, slowly but surely, the ikebana practitioner will pick kneel down before the pot that contains the plant and cut certain areas of the plant.
Though it can be taken that the “cutting process” is a random process attributive to more subjective qualities (on a whim), this is not necessarily the case.
This is because the ceremony proper is done when the ikebana practitioner has found the necessary areas that need to be cut—varies from performance to performance.
The product of ikebana will usually be a pot of plant that looks “trimmed” compared to before the practitioner has done an ikebana process.
What the ikebana practitioner is looking for is an asymmetry (non-equal balance) in the overall product, which is reflective of how nature distributes “balance” among organisms.
The reasoning behind this is that the leaves and trees found in nature, are not symmetrical and the ikebana is a ceremonial activity performance that highlights that very observation.
It is with these “flower arrangements” that designer pot plant productions like bonsai, kusamono, and shitakusa also command certain respect and admiration that ikebana creations often do from an audience.
Though the above productions do not need ikebana, they share the goal of ikebana, accomplishing the standard of beauty that is preferred among the population.
Similar to the beauty found in paintings, putting such plants into categories of function like the bonsai¸ kusamono and shitakusa, makes them as workable tools for displaying an image or a spectrum of nature not always seen or grasped within the common household or within certain living spaces.
One of these painting ideas is the spectrum of the foreground, middle ground, and background.
And, like the above-categorized plants, these terms have functions in the production of imagery—attention seeking foreground, the theme based middle ground, and a detailed background.
In particular to the middle ground, which the bonsai can be categorized as, it fits and sets up the main topic or the core idea or the symbolic theme that will affect and inform the rest of the spectrum.
By putting the bonsai as a “middle ground”, Kusamono as “foreground”, Shitakusai as a “background”, this arrangement encourages an aspect or feature setup to the goal of overall balance manifested in the form of a painting, or house or room ornamentation—the foreground and background plants can be changed, the bonsai tree remains a constant.
Image Credit: Bonsai Penjing Files WordPress
The Kusamono and Shitakusha can then be geared more towards precious accompaniments for the bonsai and ones that highlight a thematic image one can associate with a “tree in a forest.”
The tree is the bonsai, all while being beautifully supported by Shitakusha and Kusamono—as kinds of leaves, branches, bushes, grasses, and other forest-based terms.
And all this bonsai, kusamono and shitakusa can enhance one’s household and be a reflection of nature within one’s living spaces.