The Way of Flowers
For the Birkenstock / Tekla campaign, Ben Beagent captured the collection in dream-like states in Japan, where stillness can be found even in hectic surroundings.
As part of the campaign, flower artist Yohei Inoue was invited to create ikebana-style arrangements, echoing the quiet reflection that served as inspiration for the collection.
Here, he recounts his appreciation for nature, how Japan’s landscapes inform his work and the importance of capturing honest beauty.
Japan has a long-standing tradition of animism and a belief that god inhabits all things, including flowers. There has always been a strong worship of nature and flowers have been deeply connected to the Japanese people since ancient times. They serve as offerings to the gods. I consider them vital to Japanese culture.
I began working with flowers about 20 years ago. I was working in an interior goods store and visited florists in Tokyo often. During those visits, I noticed flower arrangements that changed my idea of what a flower shop could be. It sparked my interest, so I started working at one in Tokyo.
Then in 2020, my partner, the artist Tomohiro Muramatsu, asked me to recreate a coastal scene as a plant installation for his exhibition. I was often asked for vibrant colours, unique designs or unconventional flowers, but never to recreate natural scenes. It was a refreshing request.
I walked along the coastline many times and observed the scenery of the sandy beaches. As I thought about how to recreate it, I realised that this was the world I truly loved. It had been a long time since I'd felt so aware of nature. I felt like I was returning to my roots.
The success of the installation strengthened my and Muramatsu’s desire to combine art and flowers. We opened our shop in Kamakura, a famous coastal town in Eastern Japan, in January 2023. Behind it, there is a studio where Muramatsu paints.
I try to use seasonal plants that are native to Japan, but I only really have one rule: arrangements must have a natural appearance and no part of it can look out of place. I incorporate elements that feel right together, even if they don’t exist together in the natural world. What is important is that their combination is harmonious.
The style that currently influences me is nageire, which originated from Sen no Rikyū, a 16th-century tea master who was instrumental in the development of ikebana. It is a formless style that captures the scenery found in the wild in a vase. It is more natural and unstructured, reminiscent of the simplicity and tranquillity of wabi-sabi.
In my arrangements, the main character is always the plant itself. I want to let go of the self and embrace the inherent beauty of the plant exactly as it is, unadulterated and natural. Not only flowers, leaves and roots, but insect-eaten leaves, sunburned leaves and withered forms. I value the inherent beauty and dignity of things as they are. I feel that this simplicity resonates most deeply with me.
My inspiration comes from the beauty encountered in the natural scenery and landscapes of Japan. I spend a lot of time walking in the mountains, fields and by rivers, taking photographs. I want to preserve the beauty I feel there as much as possible. It moves me.
That's why the ability to discern beauty is so important. We don't just capture scenery, we create beauty that touches the heart.
Flowers are not just meant to brightly decorate your home, they should suit situations and places. I aspire to create bouquets and arrangements that evoke these landscapes. But above all, I wish to make flowers that you can feel.
Yohei Inoue owns and practices out of his store Kamakura Rokusho. His work can be found on Instagram.