While flower arrangement for many people in the West consists
of symmetrically arranging flowering plants in a vase, Japanese
Ikebana (literally 'flowers kept alive') is a lot more complex. There
are many schools, of which the most popular are Ikenobo, Sogetsu
and Ohara. There are also different styles depending on the school and
the plants and vase used.
Rikka style. Arranged by Sen'ei Ikenobo Headmaster, Ikenobo School
Shoka shinputai style
Ikenobo is the oldest school of ikebana, founded by Buddhist priest
Ikenobo Senkei in the 15th century. He is thought to have created the
rikka (standing flowers) style. This style was developed as a Buddhist
expression of the beauty of nature, with seven branches representing
hills, waterfalls, valleys and so on arranged in a formalised
way. The present 45th-generation head of the school is Ikenobo
Sen'ei. The school is based in the Rokkakudo temple in Kyoto,
believed to have been started by Prince
Shotoku. Among the priests and aristocrats, this style became more and
more formalised until, in the late 17th century, the growing merchant
class developed a simpler style, called seika or shoka. Shoka
uses only three main branches, known as ten (heaven), chi
(earth) and jin (man) and is designed to show the beauty of the plant itself.
Another old form of ikebana is nageire, used in the tea ceremony.
The first of the modern schools was formed when Ohara Unshin broke
from the Ikenobo school in the late 19th century. The Ohara
school generally uses moribana (piled-up flowers) in a shallow, flat container. The school was
started at a time when Western culture was heavily influential
in Japan and the moribana style made good use of Western plants.
But it was still a formal style. Influence from the artistic movements
of the early 20th century led to the development of jiyuka
(free-style) arrangement. Despite all the changes, ikebana was
still only for the upper class.
In the 1930's and then more so in the postwar period, interest
in ikebana became much more widespread. Ikebana schools opened
which attracted people of all social classes. During the occupation,
many wives of US servicemen took up the art and later helped it
spread abroad. Led by Teshigahara Sofu, founder in 1927 of the Sogetsu
school, zen-eibana or avant-garde ikebana introduced all kinds of new materials,
such as plastic, plaster and steel.
Today, there are about 3,000 ikebana schools in Japan and thousands
more around the world. The Ikenobo school alone has some 60,000
teachers worldwide. Ikebana is practised by about 15 million people
in Japan, mostly young women.
Ikebana can be roughly divided into two styles - the moribana
shallow vase style and the nageire tall vase style. The Sogetsu
school uses a series of kakei (patterns) for each style
so that even the beginner can quickly
create their own arrangements. As an example, let's look at the
moribana Basic Upright style.
Kakeizu for the arrangement shown on the left
(copyright Sogetsukai Foundation). The photo shows the frontal
view as in the illustration.
The shushi are the three main branches - the shin (truth)
branch, the soe (supporting) branch and the hikae
(moderating) branch. The arrangement of these branches and the
kenzan or spiked metal holder are drawn in a simple diagram, called
a kakeizu. The kakeizu shows a frontal and overhead view of the arrangement.
After examining the kakeizu, suitable branches or flowers are
chosen for the shushi and trimmed if necessary. The stems are
cut to correct lengths according to set formulae. The kenzan is
placed in the vase and just covered with water. The sushi are
fixed to the kenzan in order and according to the kakeizu.
Jushi or short supplementary stems are added to support the shushi
and give depth to the arrangement. Finally, the composition is
examined and any finishing touches applied.