History of Kenzan
Various techniques are used for holding the stems in place in a vase. Matagi kubari (a forked stick of a natural wood) and Komiwara (bundle of rice straw) were mainly used in older times, and these kind of technique were handed down to present day. Nowadays a kenzan is frequently used as you might know its convenience.
It is said that the kenzan was first used on the late Meiji or early Taisho era (around 1910AD). A lot of people claimed as its inventor of the kenzan, but the true inventor is unknown.
In a biography of Choka Adachi who once studied Ikenobo and later founded an ikebana school of his own, is written, "on around Taisho 3 (1914), he devoted himself to improve kenzans".
As stated above, it is assumed that the kenzan came into existence on late Meiji period, was improved on Taisho period to become close to the present form.
Choice of a suitable kenzan is important for a good ikebana work
The kenzan has an important function as holding the stems in place. The appropriate choice of the kenzan suitable for the size, shape of the vase and the plants leads to a good ikebana work.
However, it might be hard to choose a suitable kenzan, because there are various kinds of the containers and kenzans.
You can see below for the know-how about the choice for a suitable kenzan.
01Choose the size
The number attached to the name of each kenzan as "#○○" indicates the size (diameter) of the kenzan in centimeters. Please note that the diameter is of the metal stand (bottom) of the kenzan, but NOT of the part which the spikes stand.
Measure the width of the edge of the container to choose a suitable kenzan.
One is supposed not to look into the container on appreciating the ikebana. However, a too bigger kenzan spoils the ikebana work even though it is arranged nicely.
A portion between the edge of the vase and water surface is called "mizugiwa" (water's edge). To display the overall ikebana beautifully, it is necessary to make the mizugiwa neat.
A kenzan has the important function to make the mizugiwa look nice. One needs to decide the size of the kenzan in enough consideration of the quantity of the plants and size of the inserting portion of the stems, etc..
02Choose the level of the kenzan in a vase
The position of the tip of the kenzan is supposed to be 1.5 centimeter below the edge of the vase.
(P. 31 of "Ikenobo Rikka no Manabikata vol. 1" and in P. 114 of "Hajimete no Ikenobo Ikebana Nyumon")
*Nowadays taught as 2 centimeters below the edge of the vase, at the Ikenobo Central Institute of Ikenobo Headquarters
03Choose the shape
Round kenzan is normally used, and there also are several shapes of kenzan, "rectangle", "funagata" (navicular or boat-shaped) and "oval", etc..
In rikka and shoka, round kenzan is used most often. In jiyuka, one need to choose the suitable kenzan which matchs the shape of the container, like the photo shown above.
04Choose the type of the needles
The kenzans are roughly classified as, "for woody plants", "for grassy plants" and "for both woody & grassy plants".
Normal kenzan used often is for "woody plants". Comparing to the "woody plants" kenzan, the needles are thickly spread on the "grassy plants" kenzan. The quantity used varies depending on the size and shape of the kenzan. Nomally, approximately 370 pcs. are used on "for woody" and 610 pcs. on "for grassy".
The needles on the middle portion of the "both woody & grassy plants" kenzan are strengthened. And, the needles on its sorrounding portion are thickly spread for the grassy plants.
05Choose the shape of the base
The base of the kenzan varies in shape, flat or funnel-shape with a nonslip rubber cover, etc..
Flat-shaped kenzans are suitable for suiban (basin) style containers, or containers with a kenzan holding disk. Funnel-shaped kenzans fit the containers which the inside cavity is taperning downward.
There are some kenzans which a stabilizing post can be attached. You can stabilize the kenzan by inserting the post in pebbles spread inside the container.
*the post is sold separately for some kenzans (some come with the kenzan itself).
*the post cannot be attached to the kenzans which has no hole on the back.
06Choose the color of the needles
The color of the kenzan is classified into 2 types, general brass yellow and bake-coating black.
The brass yellow needles may be noticeable on the black pebbles.
Thought there is no set rule for the color of the kenzan, the black one is highly recommended if you would like to make the kenzan less noticeable.
There are several other methods to hold the stems!
Several other items, other than the normal kenzans are used for holding stems as shown below.
Komiwara pastic straw
Mainly used in classical rikka or tatehana style.
Matagi forked stick
Mainly used in shoka style. Douwa ring or ishiana are used in combination depending on the form of the container.
Oasis Floral Foam (water-absorbing sponge)
- Easy to use for the ikebana beginners.
- Suitable for moribana style, bouquet, decoration flower, etc..
- Wide variety of colors.
Tomekko brush kenzan
This extra-fine brush kenzan (sold exclusive by Nihon Kadosha) enables to hold very thin stems as you like, which cannot be held in any ordinary kenzan. And, the height can be adjusted by inserting a mikiashi stick (ultra S, 6mm) to the hole on the back.
Polycarbonate resin wire (Nekko Net) and aluminium wires, etc..
How the kenzans are manufactured.
The kenzans sold at "Karaku" are all hand-crafted with the greatest care. Let's take a look at the manufacturing process.
1. Inserting the needles into each hole on the board. The board varies in size depending on the size of the kenzan in production.
2. Preparing the basement of kenzan after all the needles are inserted. A peculiar casting mold is set around the needles.
3. Pouring the smelted lead into the mold. Can you imagine what is being manufactured just by looking at only this photo?
4. Removing from the mold using a spatula after the lead solidifies. A heavy work!
5. The lead at last takes off from the mold! The lead has many needles inserted and you can now easily recognize that the object is kenzan.
6. Filing the surface of the lead to prevent the injury by any raised edge.
7. Completes by attaching a nonslip rubber cover around the basement of the kenzan. As shown above, each kenzan is handmade carefully one by one. In ikebana, it is recommended that the kenzan itself should be less noticeable. The kenzans are what is called "behind-the-scenes-work".
Kenzan handy goods
Here are some handy tools for caring & supporting kenzans. The kenzans can be made last longer by appropriate care. Uncared-for kenzans may spoil the plants in ikebana. How is (are) your kenzan(s)?
Kenzan Needle Rake
Rake and remove the scraps of plants jammed among the needles.> See the item
The pad protects the surface of the vase from scratch by the kenzan, in addition to preventing slipping of the kenzan.> See the item
Kenzan Needle Straightener
Straighten the needles that are bent due to the hardness of wood materials.> See the item
Vase Stabilizing Sinker
The sinker stabilizes the container without using pebbles. Furthermore, it makes the kenzan itself stable by hooking each tip of the sinker on the needles.> See the item
Kenzan Raising Rubber Mat
The set of rubber mats works well in case a kenzan holding disk cannot adjust the level of the kenzan properly. 3 pcs. set of the rubber mats of different thickness.> See the item
Handy for carrying a kenzan. To protect the kenzan itself and its sorroundings.> See the item