Ikebana is Japanese for ‘flowers kept alive'. It is very different from Western-style flower arrangement where emphasis is on symmetry of flowers and plants put in a vase. Rather, this puts emphasis on line, shape, and form as seen in the flowers and plants. Here, there is spirituality and strict adherence to tradition. This is more than just putting bunches of flowers together. Minimalism is also an aspect. This is a disciplined form of art in which nature is a foremost element.
For practitioners, spirituality is very important. They observe silence and deep concentration. They ponder and appreciate things in nature. This is one form of meditation where one can become tolerant and patient, relaxed and appreciative. They can relate Ikebana to the well being of the body, mind, and soul. Others inculcate into the arrangement their observations and meditations on the moon, love, and sun.
Styles in Ikebana depend on the school, the vase, and the flowers and plants used. The most popular schools are the following:
- Ikenobo. This is the oldest Ikebana school. It was founded in the Fifteenth Century by a Buddhist monk Ikenobo Senkei. The most popular style under this school is the rikka. This is the standing flower style, which was made as an expression of nature's beauty. This is arranged in a formalized and strict way following its seven elements to represent, among other subjects, valleys, hills and waterfalls. Other styles from this school take into consideration the spiritual concepts of heaven, earth, and man.
- Ohara. This is a splinter school of Ikenobo formed in the last part of the Nineteenth Century when Ohara Unshin departed the Ikenobo school. Its main style is the moribana or the piling up of flowers in a flat and shallow vase. This school has Western influences, since it was formed when Western customs were heavily prominent in Japan. So they allow the use of Western flowers and plants. This school also developed free-style Ikebana called the jiyuka. However, they still maintained formality in their practice.
- Sogetsu. In 1927, Teshigahara Sofu founded this school. This was the time when the interest in Ikebana spread across Japan. It attracted all kinds of people from all walks of life. Sogetsu instituted the most modern style, called zen-eibana. This style uses new materials such as steel and plastic. This is a great deviation from the traditional use of flowers and plants.
There is usually a meaning in the ikebana flower arrangement. Its appreciation is not limited to visual impact. Viewers of the arrangement may deduce an implied meaning in the arrangement. Others even tell a story.
Ikebana has evolved throughout the years. There are now a number of other styles, and exhibitions are widely popular in Japan. There are upright, slanting, and cascading styles. This practice had been, for a time, regarded as only for the upper class. Now, people from different walks of life take part in the practice of this art form. Ikebana flower arrangement turned out to be for everybody.