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East and West, past and present. Flowers have always been beautiful, colourful and familiar elements in human history and lifestyle. The custom of displaying flowers in vases is not unique to Japan; it appears the world over. Our ancestors, however, did not limit their appreciation of flowers to room decor; they sensed in them something profound. The act of flower arranging became a spiritual act and was elevated to high art.


Ikebana originated in relation to religion: in ancient times tree trunks were created to serve as temporary lodgings for deities, and the custom of offering standing flowers was transmitted to Japan with Buddhism. Later, with refinements that accompanied a shift to indoor living, flowers lost their religious connotations and became more familiar objects of appreciation. Standing flower arrangement specialist then emerged, and arrangements become progressively formalised, a process that ultimately formed the principal school of modern ikebana.


A distinctly different, freer approach to flower arrangement developed as well - the approach adopted by tea master “Sen no Rikyu”, as an extension of the individualistic world of the “Wabi- style” of tea ceremony practiced with simple utensils in rustic environment.These formalised and free approaches were eventually integrated, creating a new form of flower arrangement - ikebana - which became a popular cultural pursuit.


From Kawase Toshirō, The Book of Ikebana, Kodansha International, 2008.