Most Japanese women study ikebana at one time or
another, not so much for the beauty of the flowers but because arranging teaches them of the relationship between man and
njoying the beauty of flowers is common to all
mankind. Ikebana finds its basis in the beauty and meaning flowers have for man, a perceived beauty which stems from the
essential bonds of man and nature. Nature is not only the wellspring of man's existence but also defines the vital spirit
of beauty. Flowers, needless to say, represent such beauty.
Japanese ikebana is a creative art which brings indoors the charm and beauty
of landscapes, the seashore or lakeside. Ikebana recreates nature on a reduced scale through the arrangement of all types
of plant material gathered from nature - from gardens, rivers, valleys. Nature is thus always close by for us to learn of
its essence. Flower arrangements thus do more than decorate our homes - they provide moral sustenance as well.
he primal beauty of nature as represented in
flowers naturally results in the desire to have flowers near at hand. The act of cultivating, picking, or even buying
flowers for any occasion is the act of making them our own, of putting them to a new use. The relation between flowers
and our lives is thus developed and deepened.
But since flowers are living things, cut flowers or branches will quickly wither
unless proper steps are taken to allow them to last as long as possible. The flowers, true to the meaning of the word
ikebana, "live" in the container.
uddhism, introduced into ancient Japan from the Chinese mainland
from the sixth and seventh centuries on, developed further in Japan, where it greatly influenced all aspects of life,
culture and the arts.
Formal offertory flowers on the Buddhist altar combined with the aristocratic
taste for floral decoration and fused into a refined form which evolved into ikebana.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when Buddhism spread among the
common people, the architectural style wihch became prominent was one which included the tokonoma. In this "alcove"
Buddhist scrolls were hung and the custom arose of placing flowers there as offerings. In time the tokonoma took on a
decorative function, the Buddhist scrolls were replaced by scroll paintings, calligraphy, and by antiques, and with this
change the flowers placed in the tokonoma lost their religious meaning, leading to he development of flower
arranging as an art.
kebana then developed with the tokonoma
as its stage. At first a place where Buddhist scrolls were hung and offerings of flowers were made, the tokonoma
gradually became a place for works of art - including ikebana - placed there to indicate respect for guests and their
In this way, the room with the tokonoma, or the tokonoma
itself, came to be considered the center of the house, and was respected as a symbol. At the heart of arranging flowers
was the goal of presenting flowers appropriate to the season for the pleasure of guests. Ikebana thus developed with a
sensitivity for the seasons and seasonal change, and for human relationships, at its core.
The cultural preferences of each age were manifested on the stage of the
tokonoma, and the tradition of ikebana formed through the years has continued through the present. This tradition
is to be seen in the varieties of arrangement styles and in the different kinds of containers which are used.
Tokonoma with scroll painting
and ikebana in background.
he basic nature of ikebana as an expression of the
seasons and as a social form soon resulted in its becoming restricted by various conventions. Today, however, ikebana contains
a freer ability for self-expression.
While a bunch of miscellaneous flowers plopped haphazardly in some pot may
be an expression of nature, the social and human requirements of ikebana at the same time demanded an esthetic. A flower
arrangement had to be pleasing, and at best, transcendently pleasing.
From this has been derived the idea, "arrange the flowers that you like --
suitably -- in a container that you like." "Flowers that you like" means you may arrange anything; your reasons may be
that certain flowers are easy to obtain, or that you prefer certain flowers over others.
"Suitably" refers to quantity, as befits the place to be decorated and the
container. An arrangement for a living room might contain many branches, but one for a writing desk might contain only one
The pine-and-peony combination in ikebana is a popular combination for the
start of the year. Moss covered pine and a single peony have been placed in a folkcraft straw container, originally a hat to protect its wearer from snow.
This is a moribana arrangement.
A "container that you like" means that an expensive or a specially crafted
container is not necessary. There are many miscellaneous articles which may be used as ikebana containers. Arrange flowers
in whatever you like.
To sum up, you must enjoy the process of arranging and the result must be
enjoyable to those around you. This, the "flowers that you like -- suitably -- in a container that you like," is the way
of thinking of modern ikebana.
-- from Japanese Flower Arrangement by Wafu Teshigahara
© 1966 by Kodansha Ltd.