Ikebana, often translated as ‘giving life to flowers’, is the Japanese art of flower arranging.
Ikebana floral designs are typically made with seasonal flowers and other natural materials, such as leaves and branches, which are carefully placed in vases, or other vessels, to create aesthetic form and balance. The compositions are meant to reflect the personality and aesthetic awareness of the creator and to express the spirit of the moment, with a particular emphasis on the changing seasons. Designs are appreciated not only for their beauty but for the harmony and balance achieved between the stems, the vessel and the surrounding space.
Ikebana arrangements are commonly used to decorate the alcove of Japanese tatami (rice straw mat) rooms, called tokonoma, and form an important part of welcoming guests into a home.
Also known as kadō (lit. ‘the way of flowers’), Ikebana was established over 500 years ago by Buddhist priests in Kyoto, who composed flower arrangements as offerings to the Buddha. It has since evolved into many different schools, each with its own distinctive philosophy and style.
One of these schools, known for its open-minded and avant-garde approach, is Sōgetsu, which was founded in 1927 by Teshigahara Sōfū. Teshigahara sought to introduce more creativity and individual expression to the art form, at a time when it was believed that to practice ikebana meant to follow established forms.
Today, Sōgetsu ikebana is enjoyed around the world. Its central creed of ‘anytime, anywhere, by anyone’ emphasises its open philosophy and invites everyone to enjoy Sōgetsu ikebana anytime, anywhere and encourages the use of all materials. During classes, the school's traditions and basic techniques are passed down from teacher to student, before creators are actively encouraged to explore their own style freely.
In addition to Sōgetsu, there are thought to be over 3000 ikebana schools in Japan today. The oldest and largest of them is Ikenobō Ikebana.
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