What is Ikebana?
is the art of beautifully arranging cut stems, leaves, and flowers in
vases and other containers that evolved in Japan over seven centuries.
To arrange the stems and flowers exactly as one wishes, a familiarity
with many different ways of fastening and positioning them is
necessary. These techniques are what people attend ikebana
classes to learn. Usually, three to five years are required to acquire
these technical and expressive skills.
Over the seven
centuries of its evolution, ikebana has developed many
different styles of arrangement. Among the most common are the rikka
(standing flowers), seika or shoka (living flowers), and
nageire (flung flowers) styles when making arrangements in
vases and the moribana (piled-up flowers) style when using
arranged flowers were decorated in the toko-no-ma--the alcove
in rooms where guests were normally received. Today they are also
frequently seen in entrance halls and living rooms, as well as in
lobbies of large buildings and shop windows.
The choice of what
flowers to arrange is guided by the desire to create harmony between
flower and container and to find flowers that blend in well with its
surroundings. Although layer after layer of flowers are used in
Western floral arrangements, in ikebana, the key consideration
is to use as few stems and leaves as possible in composing elegant
contours that highlight the flowers' beauty.
schools of ikebana have begun incorporating Western approaches
(like the hanaisho style of the Ohara school). But even then,
there are no dense layers of flowers, as in Western styles; the
arrangements are imbued with an Eastern view of nature and
incorporates the space around the flowers to strike a perfect balance
among the elements.
Photos: (Top) Heika; (middle) moribana;
(above) Hanaisho (Photos courtesy of
Ohara School of Ikebana.