There are many aspects of the Japanese culture, traditions and heritage that have left us gasping in wonder. One of them is Ikebana. It is stunning to look at and really leaves the onlooker mesmerized. The word can be split into two to understand the meaning. The word Ike stands for life and Bana means flowers. Put together these two mean life of flowers. This defines the underlying philosophy of Ikebana which transcends from being a merely pretty arrangement to something that shows harmony in the whole setting. This encircles the other elements like grass, branches, the setting and even the viewers.
Ikebana has been viewed as a slice of life in Japan as the people there always try and work in sync with the surroundings. All efforts are made to ensure that each move has a spiritual resonance and this way they beautify things from the outside as well as from within. You will find this aspect common in most things related to the Japanese culture like the Kabuki theater, the tea ceremony, origami and all other special arts and skills of Japanese origin reflect this,
Some history about Ikebana: The origins of Ikebana were supposed to have taken place in the late 1400s to the early 1500s. We can believe it as a fact that the people of Japan with their innate appreciation of beautiful things would have always liked flowers. Like when Buddhism started spreading in the 6th century, monks would decorate charmingly using flowers during special occasions. Japanese people also loved to decorate their homes with irises, camellias, chrysanthemums and peonies. But this way of simple decoration soon evolved into art that was both beautiful as well as spiritual. Soon legends started developing, rules evolved, schools of thought came about and styles were defined.
The Samurais also influenced the ikebana as many of them joined ikebana classes to learn about them. It may seem rather odd for a warrior to learn how to arrange flowers, but many a big warrior would hire a ikebana expert to teach him this delicate art.
The leading schools for ikebana: As schools go, some are really traditional and follow rigid rules on how a master at ikebana should stick to reveal the inner qualities of a flower and others are a bit more free and offer only simple guidelines to work on. Here are some of the well known ones:
Ikenobo – Started in the 16th Century this one was named after a Buddhist priest belonging to a Purple Cloud Temple based in Kyoto. He was known for his floral creations that he used to decorate the temple. You can see this influence is Rikka style which represents nature through various things. Like branches representing rocks and mountains and white mums representing the water element. The Shoka style evolved later and added to the Rikka style by adding context to the flower and the plant.
Ohara – Started in the late 19th century, you can easily make this style out. The style Moribana says that use of low and flat vases is better. The emphasis here is on noticing nature and keep the composition as close to nature as possible. This school also encourages working with rocks, cloth and metal besides flowers.
Sogetsu – Started in the year 1927, this one was considered rather radical in that it emphasizes the look than merely following the guidelines of the arrangement. The underlying thought in this school is that the creations of nature are perfect and need to be best displayed so that people can appreciate them. This school is known for using not only flowers in compositions, but also rocks, fabric and metal.
Every school that teaches ikebana offers classes, literature and its headquarters schedules the classes and other activities of all its centers spread across the globe.