The History Of Ikebana

A brief history of the three leading Schools of Ikebana in Japan, the Ikenobo school, the Ohara school and the Sogetsu school.

Obviously ancient China influenced Japan strongly, just as we in the West were influenced by Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. This also true of Ikebana, "The Way of the Flower".

Ikenobo History:

In the 6th Century, Ono no Imoko paid three official vists to the imperial court of China. After his retirement he was appointed guardian of Rokkaku-do, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. There he became abbot, changed his name to Semmu and lived in a small house known as the ike-no-bo or the "hut by the pond". In China he had studied arranging flowers as religious offerings, and in retirement he continued to develop his study of the way of the flowers. From this has developed Japan's oldest school of Ikebana. The Ikenobo school has a 1400 year tradition as its heritage. I have studied many times at the Ikenobo School. I teach both Ikenobo and Sogetsu Ikebana.

Ohara History:

The Ohara School of Ikebana dates back to the Meiji Period (1867-1912). Unshin Ohara arrived in Osaka with the ambition to be a sculptor. His health was poor and because of his early training in the Ikenobo School of flower arranging he turned his energies to Ikebana. The Ikenobo school seemed to him too rigid and formal. Also Western flowers were beginning to appear in Japan. He greatly admired them and wished to use them in flower arrangements. Thus he decided to make his own type of flower arrangements in tray-like containers called suiban, which he had made for this purpose. Not only did he find a new way of using different flowers, he started the Moribana type of arrangement, which shocked the classical teachers of the time. His family has continued in Ikebana, with his grandson, Houn, the headmaster of the Ohara school. I watched his demonstration in Tokyo in 1991 and even though a very old man, his Ikebana is still wonderful.

Sogetsu History:

Sofu Teshigahara was born in Tokyo in 1907. He learnt flower-arranging from his father who had studied many styles of different schools. When he was twenty-five he was ready to start the Sogetsu School of Ikeban. He believed that Ikebana is not merely decorating with flowers, it is an Art. That the great difference between floral decoration and Ikebana lies in the belief that once all the rules are learnt, the techniques masteres, we must sculpt. Thus we create living sculptures.

I had the honour to meet both Sofu and his daughter and intended-successor Kasumi, before their deaths. Kasumi's brother Hiroshi Teshigahara is now Headmaster of the Sogetsu School. I visit the Sogetsu School often and teach Sogetsu Ikebana. Many famous people have visited the Sogetsu School for Ikebana lessons, such as Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, Mrs Gandhi and many others.


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Ruth Grosser
The Ikebana Centre, Australia
21 Winchester St, Southport, AUSTRALIA 4215 Phone 61 7 5531 1735
1 JANUARY 1997