Ikebana: Style & Symbolism

Ikebana: Style & Symbolism

Full of style and symbolism Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging.

In traditional Japanese homes flower arrangements are displayed in a tokonoma (a recess in a room where items of artistic value are arranged, like mantles!) to provide a talking point and allow guest and arranger to connect.

Stunning sculptural floral displays explore the visual harmony between straight lines and curves, colours and positive and negative spaces whilst the techniques involved allow the arranger to meditate on the hierarchy of the universe and our place within nature.

The Ikebana art form harks back to the 15th century where flower offerings were made by a Buddhist monk (known as Ikenobo) to the Buddha. A historical scroll dating back to the 1490s illustrates beautifully constructed flower offerings in gold vessels.

From that time onwards people expressed their faith in flowers, they believed a divine spirit was present in all plants and through Buddhism people began to make floral offerings. And Ikebana was born.

Today this precious ritual has become a popular art form and everyday activity to enrich the mind and soul and our emotional involvement with nature. Ikebana classes teach students an array of skills including precise cutting techniques and a sensitivity to seasons. Different types of flower arrangements are mastered allowing the skill to evolve into extraordinary works of art but, essentially, the process itself a form of art. 


These are the different types of Ikebanor displays:

  • Moribana "piled-up flowers." A low, shallow dish features an upright or slanted arrangement 
  • Nageire, or upright style, can also be upright or slanting.
  • Shuka: Living flower charts the life story of the flower, affected by the elements, different stages in life representing hopes for the future in a moving arrangement that helps us meditate on our own life’s.
  • Rikka style springs from the Buddhist tradition.

Meditation in Flowers

There are very specific guidelines about looking at an Ikebana arrangements. Firstly you position yourself face-to-face with the arrangement ensuring you are not positioned at an angle or above the arrangement. You then take a breath, compose yourself and you begin by looking at the base of the arrangement specifically at the point at which the plants first emerge from the water; known as ‘the waters edge’, this is a very important part of Ikebana as it is the source of life. You then begin to raise your head and follow the line of the plant gradually upwards till you reach the very top. When you reach the top you take another breath and begin to appreciate the arrangement in its entirety.

Images courtesy of: https://www.hanakuma-ikebana.com

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