Ikebana, one of the traditional arts of Japan, is over 600 years old and emerged as an independent art during the Muromachi Period (1333 - 1568). The origin of this art was in the floral offerings to Buddha, arranged according to certain rules of composition and meaning. This artistic act existed not only in Japan but also in Ancient Egypt, in West Asia and in China.
The main Reason why Japanese Flower Arrangement is unique and differs from the decorative arrangements in other nations, although the origins are similar, is that the art of Ikebana overcame the influences of the period and the power of religion. Further-more, unlike floral art in western countries which was developed with a commercial purpose, the art of Japanese Flower Arrangement is a path of self enlightenment. The two sticks and a flower slur shows how little we understand the wealth of symbolism behind the deceptively simple arrangements-Ikebana ("making flower live"). It is not possible, of course, to describe even the fundamental principles in a few words, but we can create a simple design by following the magical rule of three. Arrange three pieces of line material with three different heights or centers of interest – highest is Heaven, Man is central and Earth is lowest.
The significance of Ikebana lies in giving everlasting artistic life to transient flowers through the repeated act of arrangement. Ikebana is not only beautiful to look at , but also inspiring. At an aesthetic level ikebana is fantastic training for eye. It teaches to see in a new way and appreciate simplicity.
If we look at the history of Ikebana, we will realize that during the centuries of its existence, Ikebana has gone through many changes and development . It has been integrated in day-to-day life and express the life styles and feelings of people and real life situations.
However, many factors prepared the way for this development.
The most important among this development was the natural setting and influence of western culture. Japan is a nation of islands and mountains. Much of the country is covered with dense green forests and laced with rivers, ponds and lakes. The varied appearances of nature and the changing pageant of the seasons have strongly affected the feelings of the Japanese people, and those feelings eventually found expression in Ikebana .
There are some 3,000 or 5000 schools of Ikebana in Japan today. These numerous schools, however, may be classified into four groups according to history of their establishment.
First Group :
The Buddhist priests, who were great artist in Rikka, established the oldest and hereditary school of Japanese Flower Arrangement, called Ikenobo School in Kyoto. During the 16th and early 17th centuries, however, these talented artist could not wholeheartedly accept the hereditary system and its traditional restrictions, so they started to organize innovation of their own.
Second Group :
In the middle of 18th and 19th centuries, the Seika style was established. The peaceful existence caused by the government's policy of national isolation stimulated the popularity of Ikebana and produced several off-shoots. From these off-shoots of the Ikenobo School and the development of Seika, new schools were born such as Koryu, Mishoryu, Senkeiryu and schools for so-called Bunjin-nageire (tall-vase arrangement of the literati)
Third Group :
The importation of western culture and the introduction of foreign flowers gave great impetus to Ikebana and thus new styles were founded. The existing ikbana did not provide enough room to display new variety of flowers available in Japan at the end of 19th century. Ohara School of Ikebana is pioneer in this regard. The beginning of school itself represent a change in the then existing Ikebana. The founder of Ohara School, Unshin Ohara introduced moribana (flat bowl arrangement) or Jiyubana (Free-style arrangement)) to Ikebana world . The schools which represent this generation are Ohara School, Saga School and Adachi-shiki.
Fourth Group :
During the period of development of Japanese modern culture, from the end of Taisho Era to the beginning of Showa (early 20th century), new Ikebana schools, with the idea of composition based on modern rationalism and color combinations, were introduced. Among them, the most typical and outstanding is the Sogetsu School.