What Is Ikebana: Facts On The Japanese Art of Flower Arrangement

What Is Ikebana: Facts On The Japanese Art of Flower Arrangement

Ikebana translates to the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It is also known as known as kado, which means “the way of the flowers.”

This 500-year old tradition of arranging natural materials – including flowers, twigs, freshly cut branches, berries, seeds, grass, or vines – has been pursued until today in modern-day Japan, not only as an art form but also as a way to meditate the changing of seasons and time. There’s a strong spiritual context to ikebana, and it’s also frequently used as a representation of birth and death.

The History Of Ikebana

Ikebana can be traced back to the Ashikaga Period (1338-1573), along with the ancient Japanese tradition of tea ceremony. During this time, early versions of ikebana flower arrangements were always high and pointed upward toward heaven to symbolize faith.

According to sources, the beginning of ikebana can be credited to Ononon Imoko, who was a diplomat from China and who returned to become a modest monk living near pond or ike. Dubbed as “the master of flower arranging,” he started going by the name Ikenobo Semu. The Ikenobo School of flower arranging, which was founded in 1462 and located in Kyoto, Japan, was named after him.

Flower Arrangement For Men And Women

Ikebana knows no gender. In fact, even the most fearsome Japanese samurais were said to have practiced ikebana as a relaxing hobby.

However, in the 19th century, young Japanese women were told that if they master the art of ikebana, they’ll have higher chances of marrying a good husband and becoming a good housewife and mother.

Types Of Ikebana Flower Arrangement

The Ikenobo School of flower arrangement teaches three primary ikebana styles. These include:

  • Rikka (Standing Flowers) – This is the oldest ikebana style, which was first used in the Muromachi period sometime in the 15th A rikka ikebana is inspired by nature’s disarming beauty, particularly that of Mt. Meru, which is a mythical mountain in Buddhist cosmology, symbolizing the universe. In rikka, trees stand for mountains, while grasses and flowers represent water.

    Rikka Shofutai is the formal version of this ikebana style, which most experts consider outdated. Rikka Shimputai, on the other hand, is the modern version. It was only introduced by Ikenobo’s present Headmaster Sen’ ei Ikenobo in 1999.
  • Shoka (Living Flowers) – Shokka is all about the shusshoor the one of a kind character or beauty from within a plant.

Like rikka, there’s also a shoka shofutai (which has been done since the Meiji period) and the more contemporary shoka shimputai without a set form.


Other prominently used ikebana styles today are nagarie (throw in) and moribana (piled-up).

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