A traditional art form, Ikebana refers to the Japanese technique of flower arranging. Also known as Kadō, Ikebana means “living flowers” and beyond art, it is regarded as a form of meditation, focused on contemplation. At its core, Ikebana concentrates on the flowers, but it also takes note of their leaves and stems. Additionally, there is an emphasis on their arrangement style, paying special attention to the overall shape and lines.
History of Ikebana
Ikebana has a long history that dates back to the sixth century when Buddhism came to Japan from China. Buddhist priests would give offerings to Buddha, often in the form of flowers. The earliest recognition of a flower arrangement was made by Ikenobo Senkai. In the Shinto tradition, plants carry a spiritual essence and create connections to deities. The intentional arrangement of flowers was therefore a meaningful offering. This first special arrangement of its kind was called tatehana.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that Ikebana gained popularity and momentum in Japan specifically. With the constant influence of Buddhism, designated Ikebana schools opened in Japan and the process of flower arranging became less religious and more secular, finding popularity in aristocratic homes. It was not long before it became a decorative feature in Japanese homes. Ikebana is done in complete silence, with a focus on the practice itself, and keeping a sense of calm. There is a specific method and aesthetic to the flower arrangement that is all part of the process and experience.
Practicing Ikebana Today
Ikebana is practiced all over the world, with thousands of schools around the globe. In Japan, the three largest and most notable schools include Ikenobo, Sogetsu, and Ohara. While the schools still focus on the historical and traditional methods, there is also a modern element of incorporating personal expression into arrangements. All these follow the traditional forms but many have evolved with new ideas and modern approaches.
Where to Practice Ikebana in Japan
A special way to connect to this traditional Japanese art form is to practice Ikebana firsthand. Finding the balance between flowers and space and integrating the beauty of the seasons is part of this unique and authentically Japanese experience. Both Ohara and Sogetsu offer classes. Prices and schedules may vary so it is best to check directly with the schools.
7-17, Minami Aoyama 5- chome,
2-21, Akasaka 7-chome,
Yanesen Tourist Info and Culture Center
Offers a 90-minute course
Yanaka 3-13-7, Taito Ward, Tokyo