yellow hibiscus
Yellow Hibiscus, Hawai'i State Flower  Honolulu Chapter 56


Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging, originated over 600 years ago as part of the Buddhist ritual Kado, the way of flowers, or offering flowers to the spirits of the dead. In the 15th century ikebana emerged as a distinct art form and was no longer limited to religious purposes but could be enjoyed by all classes of people. Today there are many different schools of ikebana in Japan, which have developed their own philosophy and set of principles and techniques regarding flower arranging. (Please check the Ikebana International website for a more comprehensive history.)

In 1956, Ellen Gordon Allen, a U.S. general’s wife who was stationed in Japan, founded Ikebana International in Tokyo. The purpose of this organization was to unite people of the world through their mutual love of nature and the enjoyment of ikebana. Their motto is ”Friendship Through Flowers.” Today, the organization encompasses more than 60 countries, with a membership of approximately 8,500 people.


In January 1961, Pearl Jensen, another military wife and friend of Mrs. Allen, arrived in Hawaii. She attended an ikebana exhibit at Shirokiya Department Store and met local arrangers from Enshu, Ikenobo, Koryu, Ohara, and Sogetsu schools. Along with several ikebana teachers and other military wives, she was instrumental in forming the first Ikebana International chapter in Honolulu. She was the first president to preside over the new chapter at a meeting at the Reef Hotel in September 1961.

The mission of Ikebana International is to promote mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and other countries through the study and practice of ikebana and other related arts. Through exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops, community service projects and other activities, Honolulu Chapter 56 of Ikebana International seeks to:

  • Educate the public about ikebana by teaching and promoting its history, development and importance in Japanese culture
  • Promote cultural understanding and appreciation of this ancient art form
  • Encourage others to consider learning and practicing ikebana and thus perpetuating this important aspect of Japanese culture for the future

Over the years, the Honolulu Chapter has carried out its mission by holding special exhibits at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Kahala Mall, Liberty House, Honolulu Orchid Show, and at Honolulu Hale’s Splendors of Ikebana. In 1995, the chapter hosted the 13th North American Regional Conference, welcoming 250 members from the continental US, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico and the Pacific Rim.

Honolulu Orchid Show

Community service is also an important facet of the Chapter’s mission to educate and spread the appreciation of ikebana. Projects have included providing arrangements to Washington Place, the Japanese Consulate, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Lyon Arboretum, Bishop Museum, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai`i, Moiliili Community Center, and Liliha Library. Members also have conducted classes or given demonstrations at various venues such as the University of Hawai`i, Roosevelt High School, Pearl City High School, the Veterans Center at Tripler Hospital, Leahi Hospital, Tokai University, and the Joint Military Spouses’ Conference at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base.


In 2002, the chapter began classes for children 5-15 years old. Currently two teachers offer such classes. (Please see Comunity Service for more information on these classes.) Two years later, this Honolulu website was launched to allow more people to access information about our chapter including a membership application and pictures of our current activities.

The Honolulu Chapter 56 celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2011, titled “A Golden Celebration of Ikebana: 50 years of friendship through flowers,” with a gala luncheon, floral exhibition, and workshops featuring guest artist, Mrs. Kika Shibata, Riji, from the Sogetsu School in California.

We hope this overview has inspired you to further explore the joys of flower arranging through our thriving and welcoming organization. For questions or more information, please contact us at

Aug 2014