Ikebana, one of the traditional arts of Japan, has been practiced for more than six hundred years. It developed from the Buddhist ritual of offering flowers to the spirits of the dead. By the middle of the fifteenth century, with the emergence of the first classical styles, Ikebana achieved the status of an art form independent of its religious origins, though it continued to retain strong symbolic and philosophical overtones.
The enjoyment of Ikebana spread to the population at large and it was common to find flower arrangements as an important part of the interior design of traditional Japanese houses. Ikebana was enjoyed and practiced by both men and women and the young and old.
What distinguishes Ikebana from simpler decorative approaches is its asymmetrical form and the use of empty space as an essential feature of the composition. A sense of harmony among the materials, the container and the setting is crucial. These are characteristics of the Japanese aesthetic feeling that Ikebana shares with traditional paintings, gardens, architecture and design.
In the modern era, new styles of Ikebana were created using flowers indigenous to regions outside of Japan and arranged in abstract forms influenced by modern art. Today, there are over 3000 schools of flower arranging in Japan.
It is the custom to learn Ikebana from a teacher who instructs the learner in the techniques of cutting and placing the flowers in a container, often inserting them into a base. There is no judging in exhibitions of Ikebana, rather each person is free to enjoy the beauty and sentiment of all the arrangements.