Ikebana is one of the traditional art forms of Japan. With a rich history of over 600 years the art of ikebana is continually evolving. Let’s learn about this fascinating art form and where it came from.
Ikebana is said to have started around 600 years ago with its origins in the 6th century. When Buddhism was introduced in Japan many new cultural practices began to emerge; one of these was ikebana. Part of the Buddhist rituals involved the offering of flowers placed on the altar of Buddha. Initially these offerings were very informal, either simply just placed there or with petals scattered around. Fast forward to the 10th century and in Japan these offerings had changed and were organised in a container. It was the responsibility of the priest of the Buddhist temple to organise the flowers and give the offering. One such priest in Kyoto grew a reputation for his beautiful arrangements and priests from the area went to him for guidance. The word ikenobo became associated with priests who arranged flowers in this way. The practice grew in popularity and in the 15th century became enjoyable to all, not just to those who were important.
Ikebana became more than just a practice of arranging flowers, it became an art form. Fixed requirements were decided for this art and texts were written on these requirements, the first beginning in 1443. Ikebana evolved to the world outside of the Buddhist temples. These ornate flower arrangements became a feature in traditional festivals and exhibitions were held displaying their beauty. The original, typical arrangement featured three stems representing heaven, man and the earth. One stem would be taller than the rest. The main Ikenobo school formulated the principles used in ikebana; rikka. Rikka arrangements displayed the seven principle branches used in typical ikebana arrangements. During the Momoyama period these rikka styles of ikebana were used as decoration. Through this time the religious and Buddhist aspects of ikebana declined and it became a purely decorative art. From this point and into the Edo period many different styles of arrangements became popular. Many schools teaching the arts appeared and each had their own individual interpretation and style on the classic arrangements.
Today ikebana is moving away from the more traditional schools of teaching. This diversification means that people who in the past wouldn’t have chosen this art will now be able to learn. Ikebana is also growing in popularity over the world and you can now buy ‘starter kits’ internationally to begin your experience with this ancient art of flower arranging.