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Ikebana: The Art of Flower Arrangement

Japan is home to beautiful culture and traditions on literature, music, and visual and performing arts. The culture of Japan continues to evolve and spread throughout the world not just on neighboring countries in Asia. One of the oldest forms of traditional art in Japan is Ikebana.

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It is a more complex type of flower arrangement compared to others. It requires almost three to five years to completely learn the skills and creativity needed to make a complex Ikebana. It is practiced by almost 15 million people in Japan.

What is Ikebana?

The literal meanings of Ikebana are “the way of flower” and “giving life to flowers”. It came from the word “ikeru” (arrange or give life to flowers) and “hana” (flower).

In the early years of Buddhism in Japan, Ikebana was not recognized as a form of art but as a form of worship offering for Buddha. During the 15th century, the oldest school of Ikebana, Ikenobo was founded by a Buddhist priest. Each school has different specialties and interpretation on the Ikebana styles and pattern. During the times of Emperor Saga, Saga Goryu School focuses on Seika, Moribana, Shogonka, and Shinshoka. As time passed by, a lot of Ikebana school emerged like Senkei-ryu, Yoshin Goryu, Misho-ryu, Ohara-ryu, Sogetsu-ryu, and Kaden-ryu. Until now, there are still schools that primarily teach Ikebana. In fact, there are about 3,000 Ikebana schools in Japan today.

The beauty of Ikebana

The first created type of flower arrangement in Ikenobo was “Rikka” which means standing flowers. This type of arrangement is not just a regular flower arrangement. Each branch represents the seven beauties of nature namely, ryou (peak), gaku (hill), rou (waterfall), shi (town by the water), bi (valley), you (sunlit side of scene), and in (shady side of scene). Following Rikka, other styles of Ikebana evolved in the 17th century and during the tea ceremony, Seika or Shoka, Nageire, and Jiyuka.

As compared to Rikka, the branches of Shoka represent the beauty and uniqueness of the plant itself. It only has three branches rather that 10 branches namely, ten (heaven), chi (earth), and jin (human). Nageire style consists of stems forming a triangular branched arrangement. Jiyuka style is a free-style type of arrangement even non-flower materials can be used as additional designs.

Ikebana today

In the 20th century, new styles of Ikebana developed like the Moribana upright style, Moribana slanting style, Nageire upright style, Nageire slanted style, and Nageire style. Among these Moribana styles, Moribana upright style is considered as the most basic style. It can be arranged in a basket, compote or a bowl of glass, or shallow vase. The simplest Nageire style is the Nageire upright style. The reason is that a Nageire upright style could be made with just a single flower and it does not need frogs for it to hold the flowers upright. In fact, it literally means “thrown in”. It can be placed in a narrow-mouthed or tall container. Generally, Ikebana can be categorized into two of the most popular styles, which are Moribana shallow vase type and Nageire tall vase type.

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