Ikebana is a three dimension figurative art. It is also known and described as Kado, an expression which attempt to change the given space by composing plant materials such as seasonal flowers, branches, leaves, and grasses. Since most of ikebana are made of plant materials with life, both of temporal and spatial restrictions are imposed to those who make an ikebana. These restrictions really draw a sharp contrast between Ikebana and any other artistic expressions. How the unique beauty and vitality of plants be maximized, a few elements by trimming parts ultimately be harmonized and stood out―――. When gazing at plant materials intently to make an ikebana, you are going to face to silence deeply and spiritually. The work reflects your personality and feeling naturally if you put your thought into plants by the creation with materials you meet only once in a lifetime. Finally the only one ikebana by your own will appear beyond the routine form.
The Origin of Ikebana
Japanese traditional art Ikebana has been handed down from the teacher to the student over a long period of history. Although it is not certain where ikebana originated, most commonly mentioned are Yorishiro and Kuge.
Yorishiro is a part of Shinto rituals. In ancient times people believed in Shinto gods would come to tall tree or huge rock, so they held up some evergreen branches high and tried to invite Shinto gods. Kuge is one of Buddhist action which came from China with arrival of Buddhist teaching. Monks offered flowers to statues of the Buddha. It would appear that these two customs had developed into ikebana. Since we do not have enough historical materials about the origin, it is so difficult to determine it. However, the interesting thing is that the origin of ikebana may evolve from the fear or pray to Mother Nature and existence beyond knowledge.
The Development of Ikebana
Although Japanese people have been familiar with nature and loving plants since long ago, the styles of ikebana we see today were perfected in the Muromachi period (1338–1573). At that time traditional Japanese way of drinking tea and Noh arose. Also paintings, architecture and gardening culture had developed greatly and a particular space called “oshiita” was created in mansions and temples. It was an origin of tokonoma, which means an elevated alcove in a traditional Japanese room, people decorated this space with a flower vase, an incense burner and candlestick. Gradually the style of flower arrangement to decorate oshiita had been appearing. Additionally an architectural style called shoin zukuri was born in the middle of 15th century. It has special facilities which include tokonoma, chigaidana and shoin. The idea to decorate rooms or gardens with plant materials had been developed by the various ingenuities to garnish this new style architecture shoin zukuri. Until then, flower arrangements were put at the portable place, now they were placed at the specific space tokonoma and the style of ikebana had been evolved to form gradually. In this way ikebana became to be intended to appreciate separating from religion. At first ikebana was an accomplishment for people in high places like samurai. In the Edo period ikebana spread among ordinary people and it had changed the style in steps. In addition many schools were created in the process. Ikebana was male-centered culture until then, it had attracted widespread popularity because it opened the door to women in Meiji period.
The Modern Ikebana
After Meiji period, Japanese life style has been changed dramatically. In particular, house unit were westernized and the home without Japanese room or tokonoma has increased after World War II. In accordance with this housing situation, ikebana has leaved “tokonoma” and is placed various space. Also the materials we use for ikebana has been changed. In Japan the four seasons are very distinct, so traditionally people pick the seasonal plant materials for ikebana to enjoy a sense of the season. Now that the distribution of plant materials is easier by the development of cultivation and transportation, we can get a various plants that we could see only particular season before. Besides ikebana evolves from the just an ordinary room decoration to the display for commercial space or events. Therefore ikebana is required to play a role as a living creation suited to the times as well as a traditional art.
The Tools of Ikebana
Ikebana which separate from religion arose from tokonoma as a beauty of form. In the course of development, a unique tool called Kenzan was made up. It is an iron flower holder which surface was covered with needles all over. You can fix branches or flowers wherever you want among the needles.
Now the stages for ikebana continue to propagate and expand to public and outdoor space. In this situation we sometimes use chain saw or drill. Also we use floral foam which is ordinary tool for western style flower arrangement when we display ikebana at the commercial space. In terms of containers, we can use not only traditional flower bowl, pot or vase but also various containers or something. Furthermore we even compose of plant materials without container. In that sense we can say that the only one tool you need for ikebana is a pair of scissors.
Practice and Schools
If we say ikebana is a three dimension figurative arts with plant materials, it is natural that whoever can create it freely. However, to complete ikebana as an art work, you have to have extensive knowledge of various plants and master the technique to finish up the work. Also absolutely you need the ability to figure out the space or the great discipline to sophisticate your expression. To get the inherited secret of ikebana, the guidance of a teacher is needed. Today there are more than 300 schools of ikebana in Japan, each school keep up their unique form or values. In any school teachers give students lessons, they impart the attitude towards to plant materials to finish up the work, or the mind of desire for truth as well as techniques of ikebana.
Sogetsu Textbook 1,2,3,4
Sogetsu Curriculum 教えるため・学ぶために
Sofu Teshigahara Kadensho
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum Artists' Gardens Botanical Recollections