The Ultimate Guide about Ikebana Flower Arrangement

What do you call Japanese flower arrangement?

"Ikebana" Meaning

The word Ikebana came from the combinations of the Japanese words Ikeru which means to arrange or keep alive and hana which means flowers. Basically, the meaning of Ikebana is “to give life to flowers” or “to arrange flowers”. Although it seems such an easy task, for the Japanese the Ikebana is very spiritual. It is their form of meditation where the central focus of the mind would be the flowers. It is also their means of showing how the heavens, the earth, and the humans are harmoniously interconnected with each other.

The traditional Japanese art of arranging flowers is called Ikebana. It has been a Japanese tradition for centuries and was originally used as a special means of arranging flowers for altar offerings. Nowadays, they are still used as altar offerings. However, they are now also frequently used in homes, schools, restaurants and more. Normally, they are used in living rooms, entrance halls, receiving areas, lobbies, and more.

The Ikebana is not similar at all to the traditional western flower arrangement techniques. It is more simplistic and less symmetrical. It also involves fewer flowers and more art. Sometimes, the art is not for the flowers themselves but in the vase that was used. Most often than not, the style is to use fewer stems and leaves to beautifully highlight the beauty of the flowers. With this, the Ikebana requires skill, patience, and talent.

For centuries, the style and art of Ikebana have evolved. Different arrangements, techniques, and styles have resulted to centuries of practice. There are now different kinds and styles of arrangement. These includes standing flowers, living flowers, flung flowers and even what they call as piled-up flowers. There are a variety of vases used from bowl-shaped to dish-like containers.

For many, flower arrangement and bonsai making is not just a hobby. A lot of people consider this as an art that involves skill, focus, and even proper training. There are schools specially intended for the study and training of Ikebana for which a minimum of three years to a maximum of five years continuous training is required to attain mastery and technical skill.

Ikebana Flowers

There are different styles and kinds of which Ikebana presents its flowers. Through the centuries these styles have evolved and have become modernized. Although traditional styles are still being used today, there are modernized approaches to these as well.


This particular style of flower arrangement depicts flexibility and style. It is non-structured which means it does not consider symmetry or size. Basically, the nageire style is simply throwing together flowers creating an asymmetrical bundle of stems. A lot of experts say that this is an ideal design and style intended for beginners because it focuses more on talent rather than skill. Pretty much “anything goes”, it is a simple flower that can contain as few as a single flower and nothing more. Often, the modernized Nageire is placed in narrow-mouthed and tall containers. It is pretty much safe to say that the Nageire is the most “vintage” style out of all.


This style is also known as the Shoka style. It is a structured design which includes three main parts which are known as the heaven, the earth, and the human (in Japanese, ten, chi, and Jin respectively). This style shows how the three different elements create a beautiful harmony despite their very different natures. This particular style is quite sophisticated which is why it is often used in hotel lobbies, alcoves, living areas and more.


Also known as standing flowers, this style has been developed to represent landscapes from nature. It was originally developed by the Buddhists and focuses on simplicity, yet beauty, of nature. Normally, these are placed in flat, dish-like containers for which the flowers are spread out.


This particular style is also intended for beginners because it is pretty much freestyle. Compared to the Nageire which includes only one flower, the Jiyuka can include different materials and not just flowers. There can be rocks, leaves, stems, and more.


Also known as the modern style, the Moribana is pretty much among the most basic style and structure of Ikebana. Also known as piled-up flowers, they are literally thrown together in a pile in a shallow vase or, sometimes, basket. It is among the softest styles out of all and is commonly designed with slanted branches.

How to do Ikebana?

Ikebana Bonsai

What is most important about the Ikebana is the fact that it focuses mostly on simplicity and minimalism. The art of bonsai is another kind of arrangement that is popular not only in Japan but in different parts of the world as well.

Although it is quite different from the Ikebana, the bonsai is also a way for its hobbyists to portray simplicity and minimalism. It is a way to represent nature in a miniature way. More often than not, bonsai is not just about the controlled tree. It is actually about the landscape that it projects. Among the most important elements would be its vase or the pot. It is a representation of the world or the land for which the landscape comes from.

In a simple bonsai representation, it is quite common to see rocks and multi-leveled soil. It is common knowledge that the tree is the central focus of the piece, but all the additional elements add to its uniqueness and beauty.

Ikebana supplies

Common ikebana and bonsai supplies include a variety of vases. These vases are the foundation of the art piece and are usually additive accessories to the entire artwork. Then, another important supply that should be handy when creating Ikebana would be tiewires, nylon strings, and pliers. The central element of the Ikebana is the fact that the flowers are “arranged” a certain manner, whether they are upright or swayed. To create this illusion, the flowers, stems, and leaves must be staged that way. This is where tie wires and nylon strings come in handy. Traditionally, needlepoint holders are used instead of strings. These needlepoint holders are called kenzan or metal frogs. These kenzan are normally used in different styles of Ikebana except for the nageire style.

Another accessory that is usually added to this kind of artwork would be rocks, pebbles, and the like. These give additional “natural effect” to the arrangement. Although these accessories are more common in bonsai, some ikebana arrangements have them as well.

Ikebana vases

There are a variety of vases which are used for Ikebana. One example would be the suiban or shallow vases or baskets which are used for moribana styles of flower arrangements. Some styles use very tall and narrow-mouthed vases. There are also some styles that use flat vases or dishes. Bowls are also commonly used for certain styles of ikebana. There are some styles that use pots which could be hanged for a special effect. Ikebana vases are very important in every arrangement, finding the best one is always a challenge.

When to do flower arrangements: Ikebana Seasons?

What a lot of people need to understand is that Ikebana can be done at any time of the year. It is just a matter of resourcefulness and creativity. Despite the specialized preparation to make the flowers last longer, there will come a point when the flowers will eventually wilt. Because of this fact, a lot of Japanese enjoy seasonal ikebana.

Since Japan has four different seasons, there are also different species of plants that bloom at certain times of the year. The most beautiful of Ikebana arrangements are common during spring time when most plants are in full bloom. The bright beautiful colors of spring are always enjoyable for Ikebana hobbyists. Another season enjoyable for those who create ikabanas would be summer. Fall does not involve a lot of flowers but the beautiful hues of the leaves can make a pretty good arrangement.

On top of all the plants that bloom only at certain times of the year, each prefecture can boast of their special, local flowers which are unique to all other species in the country. These kinds of special Ikebana can become competition worthy because of their uniqueness.

Who is the Ikebana International?

The Ikebana is so special and popular that there are international organizations which are developed for the sole purpose of flower arrangement. The Ikebana International was established in 1956 and it welcomes novices to experts from all over the world to share their expertise, skill, and talent in flower arrangement.

The Ikebana International is the oldest international organization of Ikebana in the world. It was originally established so it could help in the development, marketing, and evolution of Ikebana not only in Japan but in other parts of the world. One of its goals is to be able to harmoniously intertwine western and other oriental forms of flower arrangement with the traditional and classic styles of Japanese Ikebana.

Where to get Ikebana Classes?

Since Ikebana involves a good deal of skill and expertise, there are places in Japan that offer up tutorials or lessons. The Japanese people take Ikebana quite seriously because of the different historical and cultural importance it has. One of the most notable would be the Ikenobo which is known in the world as the oldest school of Ikebana. It was believed to have been established in the 5th to 7th century. It was during this time when the practice of bringing Buddhist flowers to altars became common and has turned into what is now known as ikebana.

Another old school would be the Saga Goryu which was built in the 8th century. They teach all traditional styles of Ikebana. One of the first schools that opened up Ikebana to western influence would be the Ohara-Ryu which was opened in 1895. This was the time when Japan was quite welcoming to a western influence that they allowed traditional Ikebana style to be intertwined with western techniques of arranging flowers. A more modern school would be the Kaden-Ryu which focuses not only on the modern style but also the traditional style.

The importance of nature for the Japanese

For the Japanese, nature is one of the most important aspects of living. It is an integral part of their everyday lives; it is a source of their living before the time of industrialization and modernization. Even up until the modern times, nature is still held of great importance. There are specialized places in urban areas intended especially for the growth of nature – small parks, green roofs, and other natural spaces.

They believe that with the deterioration of nature comes the deterioration of wealth, health, and life. It is in the cultural tradition of the Japanese to give value to nature in all forms and make it a part of their home. There are some people who have courtyards and gardens in their homes, while others have small vases for plants and the like.

They show their love for nature in a variety of ways. They show it through their art – clear brushstrokes that depict the life from what they see from their surroundings. Other people show it through bonsai making and flower arrangements that depict miniature versions of gardens, parks, and more.

In fact, most of the Japanese deities represent integral aspects of nature – wind, fire, thunder, earth, and more. There are gods for trees, life, rivers, and mountains. In fact, the female deity they call as Izanami is believed to have given birth to Japan. It has given life to many of Japan’s natural elements which include seas, rivers, mountains, and all of its other wealth.

Because of this mythological creation story, a number of Japanese people take great importance to nature. The life they live, the air they breathe, and all other things that are a part of their daily lives are given by the great divinities.

Japan is also known to be one of the pioneers of environmental protection in the world. Their advanced technologies give humans a deeper understanding of nature and it is with this deeper understanding that humans gain the ability to protect the environment.