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Learn the Details of Japanese Ikebana Flower Arranging

Updated on December 1, 2015

Ikebana Flower Arranging

The Japanese art form of Ikebana Flower Arranging is more than just putting flowers into a vase or container; it is a disciplined art form in which “nature and humanity are brought together”. What makes it different from just arranging flowers in a vase or container is that Ikebana emphasizes the other parts of the plant, such as the leaves, stems and branches. Its main purpose is to emphasize the unique shape, form or lines that are created by the individual artist designing the floral arrangement. Wikipedia defines Ikebana as the Japanese art of flower arrangement, also known as kadō, the "way of flowers".

This particular art form has very specific guidelines that must be followed by the practitioner. The main rule is that all items used in constructing the final arrangement must be “organic”. What I mean by this is that the various parts of the plant (i.e., branches, leaves, flower petals, or plant roots) must be the original pieces of the live plant. The artist's arrangement style becomes known by how the combination of color, shapes (natural or created), and physical lines bring beauty to the final display.

Ikebana is known for its minimalism. A display may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interwoven between the stalks and leaves. The basic structure of a Japanese flower display is usually based on a triangle whose sides have three different lengths. The triangle is usually formed with twigs, and the sides are considered by some schools of thought to symbolize man, heaven, and earth, while others believe they symbolize love, moon, sun and earth.

No matter what type of plant is used to create the floral arrangement, the container is usually the key element of the art work, so there are multiple styles of pottery available. Certain Ikebana styles rely heavily on the container used. If it is not right to begin with, all the work put into the floral arrangement will be pointless.

Although Ikebana is not well known in the Western world, it is one of the most distinct arts in the Japanese culture. When I was doing my research and trying to find books on the subject, I ran into a definite lack of them in stock. Even Borders and Barnes & Noble did not carry them on their shelves. If I wanted any, I would have to order them and have them delivered to my local store.

The origin and history of Ikebana is said to date back over 500 years ago. The oldest school believed to first teach this art form was named “Ikenobo” because the school was located near a lake, which is Japanese is “ikenobo”.


Nageire, Shoka, and Moribana

Three of the styles I researched were Nageire, Shoka, and Moribana. They each had their own place in history and evolved based on the changing culture and desire of the artists. The Nageire style produces an arrangement that suggests the “natural” growth of the plant or flower that was used in its creation. The goal of this style is to have the display be arranged in such a manner that it replicates as close to its original setting as possible.

The Shoka style is one that generally displays in an upright fashion, which more closely represents the natural state of a flower or plant. All designs are not strictly designed in this way, some slant is permitted because, again, it is attempting to mimic nature and plants may tend to lean towards the sun. There are three parts to any Shoka floral arrangement: shin, soe and tai. These represent the idea of heaven, earth and man. This is one of the styles where the container plays a vital part because it is said the represent the source of life and is usually symmetrical in shape.

The last style I researched was Moribana. This style came into its own within the last 50 years because of the opening of the relationships with the Western world and its influence. This approach to floral arranging came about because of a desire for a less rigid style than its predecessors, Rikka and Nageire. Both these styles were very ceremonial and did not fit with the craving for more modern artistic displays that were better suited for an everyday setting such as a home. Moribana translates to “piled up flowers” and the artist uses brightly colored flowers, which is a distinct contrast to the older styles that relied on only branches, leaves, and stems. Again, this was brought about by the desire of the Westerners who were seeking more colorful designs.

The final characteristic of Ikebana Flower Arranging that I discovered was the importance of the spiritual aspect. It is very important to those who practice Ikebana because they believe it is a time to appreciate nature. Busy people tend to ignore this, so during the creation of a floral arrangement, silence is considered a must. One of the benefits of adhering to this code of silence is that the individual person tends to become more patient and tolerant of the differences in their lives as well as in nature. Practitioners say that it is also a time when “one feels a closeness to nature” which provides a side benefit of relaxing the mind, the body, and the soul.

I hope you have enjoyed the information I have share with you on the Japanese art of Ikebana Flower Arranging.

Nageire Style Arrangement

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Shoka Style Arrangement

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Moribana Style Arrangement

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Rikka Style Arrangement

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    • Susan Carter profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Carter 

      8 years ago

      Yes, that is what I love about Ikebana, the variety that is created based on the person's individuality. Thanks for your comment.

    • Crystal Hart profile image

      Crystal Hart 

      8 years ago

      Great hub. The different flower arrangements are a piece of art.

    • Susan Carter profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Carter 

      8 years ago

      Thank you for your comment. And coming from a florist that is high praise!

    • profile image

      montreal florist 

      8 years ago

      It's beautiful with just several flowers. It's really ART. Gorgeours.

    • Susan Carter profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Carter 

      8 years ago

      That's what I found fascinating about the art too. Designing in silence so that you can really "be with nature". That way your creation is not just a collection of pieces, it's a part of you and the spirit in which you created it. Thanks for your comment, Lady_E.

    • Lady_E profile image


      8 years ago from London, UK

      What a lovely Hub. Never heard of Ikebana before and I like what you wrote about silence when arranging flowers, to be in tune with nature.

      Next time, I get flowers I'll be a bit slower putting them/arranging them in the vase. I normally just cut them at the bottom, plonk them in water and admire them on the table. lol

      Best Wishes.

    • Susan Carter profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Carter 

      8 years ago

      Thank you so much. That's one of the things I love most about Ikebana is the classic look many of the designs have.

    • cashmere profile image


      8 years ago from India

      Love the Shoka arrangement, spartan and classic.

    • Susan Carter profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Carter 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for your comment. I love the simple lines of Ikebana too, they are so "clean" looking.

    • BkCreative profile image


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I love this! You know I have to do some serious spring cleaning or maybe I should say 'de-cluttering' - I like the clean sparse look here - it sets the tone.

      Thanks for the photos! Inspiring!


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