What is ikebana?
Ikebana is the world famous Japanese floral art. Ikebana means- ikeru (生 け る, keep alive) and hana (花, flower). Possible translations are giving life to flowers and arranging flowers. It is also called kadō (華 道 or 花道) – the way of the flowers. Contrary to the art of flower arranging in the Western world, where the quantity of flowers is of prime importance, Japanese flower arranging is more than creating a beautiful composition. Attention is also paid to the lines, asymmetry, space, contrast and harmony.
The origin of ikebana lies in the ritual flower offerings to the spirits of the dead in Buddhist temples. These offerings date back to the 6th century, when Buddhism was introduced in Japan. Buddhism originally came from India and arrived in Japan via China.
Ikenobo is the oldest and largest Ikebana school in the world. This school has existed for more than 550 years and marks the beginning of the construction of the Rokkaku-dō temple in Kyoto. This temple was built in 587 by Prince Shōtoku, who was looking for a place to practice Buddhism at a pond in Kyoto. In the 7th century, Ono-no-Imoko, an official envoy, brought the practice of placing Buddhist flowers on an altar from China to Japan. He became a priest in the temple and spent the rest of his life arranging flowers. The original priests of the temple lived on the edge of the pond, for which the Japanese word Ike 池, Bō 坊, connected by the particle no の makes the word Ikenobō 池 坊, priest of the pond. The name Ikenobō, granted by the emperor, became attached to these priests who specialized in altar arrangements.
Sen’ei Ikenobō (池 坊 専 永) is the 45th Generation Ikenobo Chief Master. His daughter Yuki, who is now officially the rector, will be the 46th Generation Ikenobo Headmaster with the name Ikenobō Senkō IV (四 代 目 池 坊 専 好).
Three different styles at the Ikenobo school
At the Ikenobo school you can practice 3 different styles of arrangements; Rikka, Shoka and Jiyuka. Each style has its own characteristic and learning process.
Rikka means standing flowers. The oldest style of Ikenobo school. The origins go back to the Buddhist offering of flowers, which were placed upright in vases and are now known as Tatehana. The rikka style shows the beauty and power of the mountain landscape. For example, Pinus (den) symbolizes endurance and eternity, and yellow chrysanthemums symbolize life. Trees can symbolize mountains, while grasses and flowers can suggest water. They are usually quite large (1.5 – 4.5 meters) and their construction requires great technical and artistic skill.
Rikka Shofutai consists mainly of seven or nine yakueda (main parts) that reflect the inner character of each plant. With a complex and varied composition, the natural beauty and dignity of plants is reflected.
Rikka Shimputai was introduced in 1999 by the current Headmaster Sen ‘ei Ikenobo as rikka suitable for contemporary spaces. Because the arrangement has no fixed form, the movement of plants is emphasized in Rikka Shimputai.
Shoka is a style that originated in the late Edo period. By using one to three materials, Shoka expresses the living form of plants that are rooted in the soil and grow upwards.
Shoka Shofutai consists of three yakueda (main parts) called shin, soe and tai, compared to three poles or functions (heaven, earth and humanity). Shoka Shofutai can be arranged with one, two or three materials. For this style it is important to understand what Shussho is. Shussho is the characteristic, the form of growth and development of each plant.
Shoka Shimputai was introduced in 1977 by the current Headmaster Sen’ei Ikenobo as a new style of Shoka that fits contemporary lifestyles. The distinguishing characteristics of Shoka Shimputai are clarity and sharpness.
Jiyuka also known as free style is more and more used as the new ikebana for decorating with flowers in spaces and situations that differ from the original, often used tokonoma, where originally Rikka and Shoka were shown. Free style is a style without a fixed form, which can literally be freely arranged by observing the shapes and textures of plants.