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Title: Ikebana  
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Subject: Culture of Japan, Japanese festivals, History of Japan, Bonsai, Japanese art
Collection: Decorative Arts, Ikebana, Japanese Crafts, Japanese Words and Phrases
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Ikebana arrangement by Yoshiko Nakamura, created for a Cherry Blossom festival.
A Japanese hanging scroll (kakemono) and ikebana

Ikebana (生け花, "living flowers") is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, also known as kadō (華道, the "way of flowers").


  • Etymology 1
  • Approach 2
  • Spiritual aspects 3
  • History 4
    • Schools 4.1
    • Evolution of styles 4.2
    • 20th century styles 4.3
    • Culture 4.4
    • International organizations 4.5
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8
    • Organizations 8.1
    • Artists 8.2


"Ikebana" is from the Japanese ikeru (生ける, "keep alive, arrange flowers, living") and hana (, "flower"). Possible translations include "giving life to flowers" and "arranging flowers".[1]


More than simply putting flowers in a container, ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Contrary to the idea of floral arrangement as a collection of particolored or multicolored arrangement of blooms, ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis toward shape, line, form. Though ikebana is a creative expression, it has certain rules governing its form. The artist's intention behind each arrangement is shown through a piece's color combinations, natural shapes, graceful lines, and the usually implied meaning of the arrangement.

Another aspect present in ikebana is its employment of minimalism. That is, an arrangement may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interspersed among stalks and leaves. The structure of a Japanese flower arrangement is based on a scalene triangle delineated by three main points, usually twigs, considered in some schools to symbolize heaven, earth, and man and in others sun, moon, and earth. The container is a key element of the composition, and various styles of pottery may be used in their construction.

Spiritual aspects

The spiritual aspect of ikebana is considered very important to its practitioners. Silence is a must during practices of ikebana. It is a time to appreciate things in nature that people often overlook because of their busy lives. One becomes more patient and tolerant of differences, not only in nature, but also in general. Ikebana can inspire one to identify with beauty in all art forms. This is also the time when one feels closeness to nature which provides relaxation for the mind, body, and soul.


The precise origin of Ikebana is unknown. The offering of flowers on the altar in honor of Buddha was part of worship. Ikebana evolved from the Buddhist practice of offering flowers to the spirits of the dead.[2] The first classical styles of Ikebana started in the middle of the fifteenth century; the first students and teachers of Ikebana were Buddhist priests and members. As time passed, other schools emerged, styles changed, and Ikebana became a custom among the Japanese society.


There are hundreds of schools and styles that have developed throughout the centuries. Amongst the most notable are:

  • Ikenobō, which goes back to around 1500 CE during the Muromachi period and is considered the oldest school. This school dates its beginnings from a priest of the Chōhō-ji in Kyoto, who was so skilled in flower arrangement that other priests sought him out for instruction. As he lived by the side of a lake, for which the Japanese word is 'Ike' "池", and the word 'Bō' "坊" meaning priest, they are contracted by the possessive particle 'no' ”の” to give the meaning, 'priest of the lake', 'Ikenobō' "池坊". The name Ikenobō became attached to the priests there who specialized in these altar arrangements. This school is the only one that does not have the ending -ryū in its name as it is considered the original.
  • Saga Goryū school dates back to Emperor Saga, who reigned from 809-823 CE. The main seat of this school is at the Daikaku-ji in Kyoto, which is the former residence of the emperor. The school has five principle styles, namely Seika, Heika, Moribana, Shogonka and the newer style Shinshoka.
  • Senkei-ryū was founded around 1669 by Senkei Tomiharunoki.
  • Yōshin Goryū developed during the Edo period.
  • Mishō-ryū began in the beginning of the 19th century. It was founded by Ippo Mishōsai (1761-1824) in Osaka.
  • Ohara-ryū was founded in 1895 by Ohara Unshin. Japan was opening towards the West at that time, so new styles were developed.
  • Sogetsu-ryū was founded in 1927 by Teshigahara Sofu. He continued the development of the popular flat-dish Moribana style into the freestyle Jiyuka.
  • Banmi Shofu-ryū was founded in 1962 by Bessie "Yoneko Banmi" Fooks.
  • Kaden-ryū was founded by Kikuto Sakagawa in 1987 and is based on the Ikenobo school.

Evolution of styles

Patterns and styles evolved so that, by the late 15th century, arrangements were common enough that they were appreciated by ordinary people, not just the imperial family and its retainers.

Ikebana in the beginning was very simple, constructed from only a very few stems of flowers and evergreen branches. This first form of ikebana is called Kuge (供華).

Styles of ikebana changed in the late 15th century and transformed into an art form with fixed instructions. Books were written and Sedensho is the oldest one, covering years 1443 to 1536. Ikebana became a major part of traditional festivals, and exhibitions were held occasionally.

The first styles were characterized by a tall, upright central stem that had to be accompanied by two shorter stems. During the Momoyama period, 1560–1600, splendid castles were constructed. Noblemen and royal retainers did large decorative Rikka floral arrangements that were the most appropriate decoration for the castles.

Traditional Shouka.
Jiyūka (Free style arrangement)
Free style Ikebana
Free style arrangement

The Rikka (standing flowers) style was developed as a Buddhist expression of the beauty of nature. Key to this style are seven branches that represent elements of nature:[3]

  • ryou – a peak
  • gaku – a hill
  • rou – a waterfall
  • shi – a town by the water
  • bi – a valley
  • you – the sunlit side of the scene
  • in – the shady side of the scene

When the tea ceremony emerged, another style was introduced. The style used for tea ceremony rooms was called Chabana. The Chabana style is the opposite of Momoyama style and emphasized rustic simplicity. The simplicity of the Chabana in turn helped create the Nageire or “thrown-in” style.

Nageire is a non-structured design which led to the development of the Seika or Shoka style. The style is characterized by a tight bundle of stems that form a triangular three-branched asymmetrical arrangement which was considered classic.

Seika or Shōka style consists of only three main branches, known as 'ten' (heaven), 'chi' (earth), and 'jin' (human). It is a simple style that is designed to show the beauty and uniqueness of the plant itself.

Jiyūka is a free creative design. It is not confined to flowers; every material can be used.

20th century styles

In the 20th century, with the advent of modernism, the three schools of ikebana partially gave way to what is commonly known in Japan as Free Style.

Upright Moribana
Upright Moribana arrangement
Slanting Moribana arrangement.
Ikebana arrangement
  • Moribana upright style is considered as the most basic structure in ikebana. Moribana literally means “piled-up flowers” that are arranged in a shallow vase or suiban, compote, or basket. Moribana is secured on kenzan or needlepoint holders, also known as metal frogs.
  • Moribana slanting style is the reversed arranging style that can be used depending on the placement of the display or shapes of the branches. Branches that look beautiful when slanted are mostly chosen for this arrangement. This style gives a softer impression than the upright style.
  • Nageire upright style is arranged in a narrow-mouthed, tall container without using kenzan or needlepoint holders. Nageire literally means "thrown in". This is a simple arrangement that can contain just one flower and does not use frogs to hold the flower(s).
  • Nageire slanted style presents a gentle touch and flexibility. It is ideal for ikebana beginners.
  • Nageire cascading style arrangements have the main stem hanging lower than the rim of the vase. A flexible material will create beautiful lines balancing with flowers.


Ikebana is shown on television and taught in schools. An example of a television show that involves ikebana is Seikei Bijin (Artificial Beauty). The story incorporates the importance of natural beauty. It was also mentioned in We Love Katamari for PS2.

International organizations

The oldest international organization, Ikebana International, was founded in 1956.[4]

See also


  1. ^ The Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary, Charles E. Tuttle Company, ISBN 0-8048-0408-7
  2. ^ IKEBANA SOGETSU History of Ikebana | Know Sogetsu
  3. ^ Forms of Ikebana |
  4. ^

Further reading

  • Ember, M., & Ember, C. r. (2001). Countries and their Cultures. New York Pearson Education, Inc. Retrieved July 30, 2008, from NetLibrary (UMUC Database) .
  • Fairchild, C. (2006). "Keiko's Ikebana: A Contemporary Approach to the Traditional Japanese Art of Flower Arranging." Library Journal, 131(1), 111-113. Retrieved July 30, 2008 from Academic Search Premiere (UMUC Database) (AN 21303368).
  • Leaman, O. (2001). Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy. London: New York Taylor & Francis Routledge. Retrieved July 30, 2008 from NetLibrary (UMUC Database).
  • Okakura Kakuzo, 'Flowers' in The Illustrated Book of Tea (Okakura's classic illustrated with 17th-19th century ukiyo-e woodblock prints). Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. 2012. ASIN: B009033C6M
  • Flower Arrangement: The Ikebana Way. Dr. William C. Steere ed., Shufunotomo Co., Ltd. Tokyo, Japan, 1962
  • The Art of Arranging Flowers. Shozo Sato, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York, undated. Library of Congress Number 65-20323

External links

  • Pictorial guide to Ikebana styles
  • Ikebana Wiki


  • Ikebana International


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