by Joelle Steele

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Ikebana (pronounced eee-kay-bah-nah, and also called "kado") is the Japanese art of flower arranging. It is a 600-year-old art form, largely symbolic, in which the asymmetric arrangement represents the universe, consisting of three main parts: heaven ("shin"), man ("soe"), and earth ("hikae").

These arrangements are defined by the use of empty spaces, yet there is an emphasis on the harmony between the flowers, the containers, and their setting. Among some of the symbolism is that represented by the condition of the flowers: Buds represent the future, half-bloomed flowers the present, and fully-opened blossoms the past.

Ikebana Styles

There are five basic styles of ikebana:

Rikka. This style has strict rules for the construction of the arrangements, which involve seven to nine parts, all representing the natural landscape. The name means "standing flowers," and there are two kinds of rikka: shokutai and shimputai.

Shoka. This style is similar to Rikka and also has the same two varieties that rikka does. Its name means "living flowers."

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Jiyuka. This style evolved after the rikka and shoka styles. It is a freestyle, rather relaxed variation in which the person who creates the arrangement dictates the style. In jiyuka, anything can be used to create the arrangement, including paper or dried materials.

Nageire. This is a relaxed style of arranging with three varieties: suitai (cascading), shatai (aslant or slanting), and chokutai (vertical or upright). The name means "flung (or "thrown") flowers."

Moribana. Like nageire, moribana is relaxed with the same three varieties. Most of the moribana arrangements are done in low or shallow containers. Its name means "piled flowers," and it uses many Western flowers, making it easier to practice outside of Japan.

This article last updated: 08/24/2007.