Schools of Ikebana, From Classic to Contemporary

1. Ikenobo, the Origin of Ikebana

The Rokkaku-do Temple in Kyoto, founded in the 6th century near a pond (ike), is the birthplace of ikebana. A hut (bo) on its site housed succeeding generations of Buddhist priests. This gave rise to the name Ikenobo.

Styles in Ikenobo Ikebana: Rikka and Shoka

Rikka

Rikka style

The Rikka form appeared and was codified in the 16th and 17th centuries. The number, type, and position of materials in rikka arrangements is very formulated.

Shoka style

Shoka style

Shoka is a simplified form of the dignified Rikka form. Placement and number of materials, as well as container design for a Shoka arrangement are composed more naturalistically, but yet are very explicitly governed.

2. Ohara School, the Origin of Moribana

The Ohara School emphasizes seasonal qualities, natural growth processes, and the beauty of natural environments. Unshin Ohara founded the Ohara School in the late 19th century. His departure from previous ikebana lay in the creation of a new form which he called the moribana style, developed to accommodate the ‘new’ European and tropical flowers introduced to Japan when it began trading with the western world in the mid-1850s. This style later evolved into the school’s “landscape arrangement” style.

Ohara school moribana arrangement

Ohara school moribana arrangement

He also designed and produced the wide, shallow basin-type container that is uniquely suited for moribana style designs. Using more color than previous conservative ikebana and having more decorative beauty, Ohara ikebana became popular for home arrangement.

Worldwide, there are nearly 130,000 Ohara teachers and over one million students.

3. Sogetsu School, Free-style Contemporary Ikebana

Sogetsu moribana arrangement

Sogetsu moribana arrangement

In 1927, when practicing ikebana meant following established “fixed” forms, Sofu Teshigahara envisioned ikebana freed from convention and tradition, as a creative, formative art using flowers as materials for original expression. Sogetsu ikebana may be defined as sculpture with flowers. Sogetsu ikebana teaches that “anyone can create ikebana, with almost anything, anywhere.”

Sogetsu nageire arrangement

Sogetsu nageire arrangement

Led by the Sogetsu school, avant-garde ikebana –or ”zen-eibana”– incorporated all kinds of new materials into ikebana design, such as plastic and metal, and spread with astonishing rapidity, stimulating new curriculum in even the conservative schools of ikebana.

Free-style Arrangement by Akane Teshigahara, Headmistress of Sogetsu Ikebana

Free-style Arrangement by Akane Teshigahara,
Headmistress of Sogetsu Ikebana

There are currently 49 Sogetsu Branches in Japan and 120 Branches and Study Groups in 38 countries and regions. In North America alone, there are 47 active Branches and Study Groups.

Saga Goyru in basket arrangement

Saga Goyru in basket arrangement

4. Other Schools

Today, there are about 3,000 ikebana schools in Japan, however only about two dozen have large followings of instructors. New schools continue to arise, as ikebana artists have “a better idea” about design and/or administration and so establish their own school. In addition to the three leading schools (Ikenobo, Ohara, Sogetsu), other ikebana schools include:

  • Aratame
  • Chiko
  • En-Shofu
  • Enshu
  • Futaba
  • Ichiyo
  • Ikko
  • Kazen
  • Kodo
  • Kofu
  • Koryu Shogetsu
  • Koryu Shohtohkai
  • Koryu Shoto
  • Koryu Shooh-kai
  • Ishida
  • Misho
  • Nisshin
  • Omuro
  • Ryusei-ha
  • Saga Goryu
  • Seifu Enshu
  • Senke
  • Shinsei
  • Shofu
  • Shogetsudo Koryu
  • Soshin Jikuka
  • Wafu
  • Yamato Kado-kai