Kyoto | Japanese Ikebana Flower Arrangement
Kado - The Art of Ikebana Flower Arrangement
Text & Images - Copyright © 2009 Kevin Hulsey
The traditional art of Japanese flower arrangement is known as kado, or "the way of flowers" from the root ka, or "flowers" do, or "the way of." Kado is an offshoot of ceremonial Japanese tea culture known as sado, or "the way of tea", and the art of calligraphy known as shado.
The art form of Japanese cut-flower arrangement is also known as Ikebana, which loosely translates to "living flowers."
Various styles of ikebana flower arrangement
Ikebana flower arrangement utilizes the same minimalist design principles that govern much of early Japanese art, culture, and design; following the Zen Buddhist philosophical traditions of simplicity and harmony with nature.
Moribana shallow-style 'natural-line' ikebana arrangement
The basic ikebana form utilizes three main vertical lines of varying height (short, tall, and medium) to symbolize the harmony between heaven, earth, and man.
Ikebana History in Kyoto
It is believed that the art of ikebana originated at the Rokkakudo Temple in central Kyoto, during the early Heian period (794-1192). Beginning with the practice of Buddhist monks placing offerings of flowers upon the alter, the art form was expanded into its modern incarnation by the samurai aristocracy during the Kamakura period (1192-1333).
Two vertical-line arrangements: Nageire 'upright-style' (left), Moribana 'shallow-style' (right)
In modern Japan, ikebana is designed to be displayed in a tokonoma, which is an alcove used for displaying shado calligraphy scrolls and Ikebana arrangements in the home's zashiki (greeting room) or adjacent cha-shitsu, or teahouse.
Chabana "Tea Flower" Arrangement
When used in the tokonoma of a teahouse, Ikebana is referred to as chabana, or "tea flower." Within the tokonoma, the theme of the calligraphy scroll and Ikebana flower arrangement harmonize with the changing seasons.
Moribana 'natural-line' (left), Nageire 'horizontal-line' arrangement (right)
Ikebana flower arrangement utilizes the same minimalist design principles that govern much of early Japanese art, culture, and design; following the philosophical Zen Buddhist traditions of simplicity and harmony with nature.
Moribana & Nageire Ikebana Styles
Rimiko Ogura (left, right), Ohara School of Ikebana
Using the Moribana, or "stacked up" form, flowers are held in place using a Kenzan support also known as a "frog," or needlepoint holder. Flowers, twigs, and bamboo are also held in place using florist's wire, glass marbles, rocks or pebbles, and floral foam.
Nageire 'vertical-line' arrangement (left), Moribana 'vertical-line' arrangement (right)
Using the Nageire, or "thrown into" form, a kabin, or upright vase is used as a container, and flowers are loosely arranged within the narrow opening.
Rikka, & Seika Ikebana Styles
The rikka style, or "standing flowers," was created by Buddhist monks from the Ikenobo school, and uses a minimalist symmetrical composition consisting of three stems.
The seika style, or "live flowers," is another formal form that utilizes a a three-branch composition based on an asymmetrical triangle. Both the rikka and seika styles have their origins in China.
Ikebana Forms: Horizontal, Vertical, Curved, & Free-Style (Gendaika)
Within the two basic forms governed by container shape, ikebana falls into six sub-forms based on the arrangement of the three lines. These forms are referred to as the curved line, geometric line, horizontal line, natural or random line, manipulated line, and vertical line arrangements. So called "Free-Style Ikebana" arrangements do not follow any rigid, conventional, or formal form, and are also referred to as "Modern Ikebana" or "Contemporary Ikebana."
Mizukiri (Water Absorption)
When cutting fresh flowers for ikebana, the Japanese technique called mizukiri is employed, re-cutting the flower stems while they are submerged under water. This technique extends the "life" of the cut flowers.
Books on Japanese Ikebana Flower Arrangement
Japanese Ikebana Schools