Ikebana is not about floral design.
There are many styles of floral arts in the world. All of which were influenced by each country’s weather patterns and terrain, just like food and fashion. When we take an objective look at it, it is just one of the floral arts in the world. Still I’d like to say that Ikebana is special and worth experiencing, if you have an interest in Japanese culture.
To summarise, there are three points below:
- It strongly relates to Japanese culture, arts and history.
- The flower is a symbol of the seasons which is the base of Japanese culture and arts.
- As a result, it developed in harmony and contrast with other Japanese arts. That led to Ikebana’s completely unique design in comparison with other floral arts in the world.
All of the Japanese arts were developed and influenced so strongly by each other that one could not exist if the other did not exist.
For example, Ikebana originated with the offering of flowers to Buddha. It developed as one of the Buddhist arts related to the temple architecture of each era. Then, more general architecture and spaces like tea rooms started to accept Ikebana. It developed within the limits of those spaces and particular manners and rules, according to tea ceremonies and parties which were held there.
It is the first merit of Ikebana that when you experience Ikebana, you will learn more about Japan than Ikebana.
Therefore all expressions of Japanese culture, provided in tea ceremonies and parties, like food, sweets and painting, poetry and calligraphy are based on the Japanese seasons. In this country, it is believed that gods are in nature. They give us both blessings and disasters. It means that enjoying the seasons is enjoying a gift from the gods and it is the best way to please guests. In this country, the flower is a symbol of the seasons. For example, spring is when we long for the blooming of cherry blossoms. We can find flowers in the pattern of a Kimono, the decoration of dishes, motifs of paintings and poetry which tries to express the season. Seasons are a precious thing to Japanese people. It means the flower is also a precious thing to Japanese people. And Ikebana which concentrates on the flower is an important art form in Japan.
As a result, this unique form of floral art completes the stance of respect to the seasons and other arts. People say only a few flowers are used in Ikebana or a few lines of plants compared to western flower art. This description is not wrong, not the essence. There should be a few flowers with other arts like a painting or hanging scroll when we decorate a small space in a small room. We can’t use many flowers, but they are needed to balance the space. Then there is no way but to look for an interesting shape of a branch or to use a contrast between the flowers and a vase, or a painting, or the space itself. Therefore, Ikebana has developed with harmony and contrast between other arts, against other floral arts which pursue beauty in floral art itself.