About Ikebana - History


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The origin of Ikebana stretches back over 500 years. The oldest Ikebana manuscript, "Kao irai no Kadensho" dates from 1486. The famous "Senno Kuden" manuscript, by the founder of the Ikenobo School of Ikebana, was written in 1542. Since this time, many styles have appeared, disappeared and developed.
Traditional Rikka Arrangement in Tokanoma People have long appreciated beautiful flowers and arranged them in vases. However, in Japan, the way of arranging flowers and plants has been carefully systematised and this is called ‘Kado’.
When Buddhism was introduced to Japan in about 538A.D, monks started to arrange flowers to decorate the altars of temples. In the Heian period (794-1192), appreciating flowers in a vase unrelated to religious worship also became popular. There are number of novels, essays and poems of that time which describe the aristocracy enjoying flower arranging and admiring arrangements of flowers.
In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), the Samurai (elite warrior class) wrested the power of government from the aristocrats and brought great lifestyle and fashion changes into the whole of Japanese society.
Tokonoma At this time it became fashionable to create a Tokonoma, a small sacred alcove, in a zashiki (Japanese room). The Tokonoma would contain a flower arrangement, incense and a candle.
It is because the space is an alcove, that traditional styles of Ikebana are designed to be viewed only from the front.
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In the early 16th century, people changed their attitude toward flower arranging. They did not wish just to put flowers into a vase but to enable the arranger to imbue the arrangement with some meaning or personal expression. This approach forms the basis of Ikebana. Indeed, Ikebana is often taught alongside the philosophy of universe.

From the late 13th to 15th century, the aristocrats and monks gathered at the Tanabata festival (festival of the star Vega, the seventh day of the seventh month) where they competed in flower arranging contests. Rokkakudo
According to writings of the time, the two master arrangers were Ikenobo Sengyo and Ryu-Ami. Ikenobo is the name of the buildings within the temple called Rokkakudo in Kyoto, considered the birth place of Ikebana.
In the late 16th century a more complex and complicated system of arrangement was developed. Originally known as "Tatehana", Rikka style was established as the most formal style of Ikebana arrangement by the Ikenobo school.
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Rikka was mainly used for ceremonial occasions. The less formal Nageire style, which did not require complicated rules, represented the natural beauty of flowers. This style was preferred by the majority of ordinary people. This evolved into a new style of flower arrangement, called Shoka style, although it took long time to develop.

Shoka sanshu-ike

Many other schools of Ikebana started to appear during this, the Edo period (1603-1868). In 1820, Ikenobo Senjyo established the orthodox Shoka style. He wrote "Soka Hyakki" ("Hundred principles of Flower Arrangement") and edited another founding work, "Heika Yodo-shu" (Instructions on Classic Flower Arrangement).


During the Meiji period (1868-1912) Ikenobo styles were perceived as too staid and conservative. The Meiji Restoration (1868) brought the influences of western culture and this helped the modernization of Japanese flower arranging. Many masters of Ikenobo School tried to tackle this constricting conservatism of traditional flower arrangements.
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This resulted in more modern styles of arrangement such as modern Nageire, Moribana, modern Shoka and Rikka being introduced, largely in the Taisho period (1912-1926).


Rikka Shimputai H





Following World War II, Japan was again greatly influenced by western styles. This brought great changes to Japanese life styles, for example, Tokonoma are rarely seen in modern apartments.


Ikebana has since become regarded by many as art form.  This has inspired more freedom and resulted in the birth of

Free Style of Ikebana.

free style ikebana


In 1977, the current (45th) Head Master of Ikenobo School, Ikenobo Sen’ei, divided Shoka style into two: Shofutai which is traditional; and Shimputai in which the arranger can be far more expressive. Similarly the most formal, traditional Ikebana style of Rikka was also clearly divided into two styles in 1999.

It is said that in Japan, there are about 3,000 (and growing) different schools of Ikebana currently in existence. However, Ikenobo School has the inherited traditions of the earliest Ikebana masters and continues to develop traditional and modern styles of Ikebana.


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