Collection: Ikebana Vase

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Experience Tranquility with Ikebana Vases

Japan is to be considered the source of the oldest recorded ceramics in the world. The story of Jomon ceramics, whose earliest examples date back some 15-16,000 years, is strange and compelling: their creators formed their first clay vessels before their people had discovered the essential technologies of agricultural production and basic metallurgy.

Ikebana History

The beginnings of Ikebana date back to the 6th century of our era. Buddhist and Shinto deities were and are offered flower sacrifices.

The offering always consisted/consists of three parts: the incense as food for the deity, the candle as a reflection of the universe and the flowers as a sign of admiration for the deity by man. 

Several texts have survived from the Heian period (794-1192) describing the admiration of members of the high aristocracy for nature in general and flowers and flower arrangements in particular.

The Kamakura period (1192-1333) brought increasing social importance and growing prosperity to the samurai class. Japanese knights increasingly practiced classical Japanese arts such as ikebana in addition to the arts of war.

A new architectural style emerged and since then the tokonoma (a devotional and meditation niche) has been an indispensable part of Japanese homes. Without any doubt, flowers and branches in vases were also placed in the tokonoma from the very beginning.

From the late 13th century to the 16th century, on the occasion of Tanabata (festival celebrating the star Wega), competitions were held at the imperial court in which members of the nobility and monks of the various monasteries competed to see who could create the most beautiful flower arrangement.

Towards the end of the Muromachi period (1333-1568), ikebana was subjected to formal rules, and the tatehana style (tateru - standing, hana - flowers) emerged. From 1486 dates the first surviving manuscript "Kao irai no Kandensho", which describes the rules of arranging flowers and plants. In 1542, Ikenobo Senno wrote the "Senno Kuden," which for the first time ascribed to ikebana a meaning beyond the mere arrangement of flowers and plants according to aesthetic considerations.

Towards the end of the 16th century, the rikka style was completed by two flower masters, Senko I and Senko II. Rikka, like tatehana, also means "standing flower," but is executed in a much more complex manner. This first rikka has seven main elements, all of which together were intended to create a reconstruction of a large natural landscape with rivers, mountains, lakes and people.

Parallel to the development of the rikka had been the development of the chabana (茶花, engl. tea flowers). The chabana is part of the tea ceremony and consists of two lines, one for the guest and the second for the host.

At the end of the 16th century, the chabana developed into the nageirebana (flower thrown into it). This in turn gave rise to the forms of the shoka, traditionally worked with the lines shin, soe and tai and intended for formal occasions, and the actual nageire (投げ入れ, meaning to throw something in), which is always worked in vases and also consists of the three lines shin, soe and tai.

The nageire was first described in 1684 by merchant Toichiya Taemon in "Nageire Kadensho" (The Flower Arrangement in Nageire Style). In 1697 followed by "Kodai Shoka Zukan" (Collected Pictures of Historical Shoka Work) and written by Ikenobo Sen'yo. Shoka and nageire are easier to create than a rikka and did not require a special occasion. They could take their place in the tokonoma at any time.

During the first decades of the Meiji period (1868-1912), traditional art and culture stagnated. Japan was undergoing a profound process of change and had to learn to reconcile its own traditions with Western influences. As in many other areas, this was achieved rapidly in the field of ikebana. Ohara Unshin (1861-1916) opened the first Ikebana exhibition in 1897, showing works in the new style of Moribana (盛り花, Engl. piled up flowers).

At the same time as the moribana, the kenzan (flower hedgehog) (剣山, Eng: mountain of swords), which consists of brass needles cast into a lead plate, was introduced, allowing a technically very simple arrangement of plants. In the kenzan, the plants can simply be pinned in place (hence the erroneous name of ikebana as "flower pinning").

The Moribana style was the revolution for ikebana. It was symbolic of both freedom, cosmopolitanism, and peace, but it was also the form that made ikebana accessible to the widest segments of the population. To this day, it is the most popular form of ikebana.

Different Styles of Ikebana 

Rikka Ikebana

It evolved from the tatehana, an arranging form of Buddhist flower offering, which was cultivated from the 15th century. Until about 1700, it was composed of seven main lines; since about 1800, it has consisted of nine main lines, each supported by additional secondary lines.

It represents an idealized landscape, for which extensive rules were developed. These concern the character of the lines, length, material combinations, insertion points in the kenzan or komiwara (bundle of straw), exit position and angle from the center, etc., and can only be mastered through regular practice over several years.

Rikka are meant for ceremonial occasions and exhibitions. They are mostly very large and their construction requires the highest technical, formal and artistic skills. Rikka is practiced by some smaller Ikebana schools and especially by the Ikenobo school, where the newest form, the Rikka shimputai was developed (introduced in 1999).

Chabana Ikebana

Is a delicate arrangement for the tea ceremony, intended to bring the nature of the same to the guest. The chabana has two lines, one facing the guest, the other facing the host. It has a simple, natural arrangement, is usually arranged with a branch and a flower material, but can also be worked from one material. Ideally, the color of the guest's kimono should also be considered, so the host may inquire about it in advance.

Shōka Ikebana

Originating as a simplified form from the Rikka, it consists of the three main lines Shin, Soe and Tai (are called differently in some schools) with some auxiliary lines. The arrangement has a common foot, all lines must be put directly one after the other into the kenzan or the kubari (fixation with pieces of twigs), from where they fan out according to certain rules.

A distinction is made in the Ikenobō school between classical and modern Shōka. A classical Shōka is worked with only one, at most two materials, with a few exceptions. The material must be original to Japan, only classical vessels are allowed, and the flower mounting must be done with ancient techniques.

A modern Shōka allows three materials, any material, any suitable vessel, and the kenzan as the attachment technique.

Nageirebana Ikebana

Is worked in a vase and has three main lines. The plant material is fixed in the vase with a kubari (flower holder made of pieces of twigs) in such a way that the lines rise freely above the water surface. Shin and Soe must never touch the edge of the vase. The tips of the three main lines should form an uneven triangle.

The materials used are twigs for Shin and Soe and flowers for the Tai, although other floral materials may be added. As sub-forms, a distinction is made between the hanging form ("suitai": tip of the shin reaches below the vase rim), the inclined form ("shatei": shin forms an angle of up to 60 degrees to the vase rim), and the upright form ("chokutai": shin forms an angle of over 60 degrees to the vase rim).

Moribana Ikebana

Originated from the landscape arrangement of the Ohara school. Is usually worked in shallow bowls, to fix the plants in the bowl serves the kenzan. Any plant material is allowed. Like the nageire, it has three main lines and also like the nageire can be worked in chokutai (upright), shatai (inclined) or suitai (hanging) forms.

Special forms of the moribana are the shimentai and the morimono. The shimentai is the only ikebana form that is worked through in all directions and can be viewed from all sides.

It was originally developed in the Ohara school, and later in the Sogetsu school. The morimono is an arrangement of the Ohara school in shallow bowls or baskets. One element is harvested fruits or vegetables and it is intended as a table arrangement.

Jiyūka Ikebana

Completely free-form arrangement on a particular theme, where flowers and plants may be used naturally, but also heavily modified. Dead wood and non-floral material may be used and all methods of attachment are permitted.

Of particular importance to a jiyuka are the color and shape of the vessel, which should be addressed in the arrangement. As formal guidelines, the only thing to note is that the arrangement has color, mass, and line.

Shōka Shinpūtai Ikebana

Introduced in 1977 by Sen'ei Ikenobo. It is a modern free paraphrase of the shoka, arranged very sparingly and from three materials. Although here, too, the feet are placed directly behind each other, other shoka rules are softened in favor of a subjective harmony.

(For example, woody material may be placed before herbaceous material if the overall impression is coherent). The main lines are called shu, yo, and ashirai, with shu and yo in opposition to each other and ashirai contributing the missing aspect.

Rikka Shinpūtai Ikebana

Introduced in 1999 by Sen'ei Ikenobo to "create harmony in beauty for contemporary living environments." The Rikka shinpūtai is a modern version of the Rikka. It is a modern variation of rikka, although other proportions, material combinations, and vessels are permitted.

While it is arranged with knowledge of the traditional rikka, these are softened and paraphrased - as are the shoka rules in shoka shimputai. The insertion points in the kenzan form a bundle as in the rikka, but all the exits are at approximately the same height.

There are no specifications regarding other design principles such as direction or length of lines, plant material, or color combinations. A rikka shimputai should always leave the impression of clarity and uniqueness.

Ikebana as an art

Along with the tea ceremony, calligraphy, poetry and music, Ikebana was an obligatory part of the education of every nobleman. It was also practiced by samurai and the priests of Buddhist and Shinto monasteries.

At first, it was reserved exclusively for men. It was not until the Edo period (1603-1867) that the women of the nobility were taught this art. Likewise, it became a skill expected of high-ranking courtesans and the geisha.

From the middle of the 17th century, wealthy merchants and other members of the middle class also practiced this art. It was probably not until the beginning of the 19th century that it was practiced by the women of the middle classes in the large Japanese cities.

At the end of the 19th century, it became a compulsory subject in schools for Japanese girls. Since the middle of the 20th century, the art has been spread all over the world and is now practiced mainly by women.