The artful display of flowers in Japanese culture known as ikebana (ike means “to arrange,” and bana or hana means “flowers”) likely originated with arrangements dedicated to Buddhist deities in temples, where the presentations sought to capture the beauty of paradise. Japan’s first formal school of flower arranging developed in the 15th century. At that time, ikebana was practiced by priests, the warrior class, and members of the imperial court according to a strict set of rules. But as other classes began to appreciate the art, tradition expanded to accommodate the less rigid styles they preferred.
Ikebana remains a prominent and disciplined manifestation of a larger focus on nature in Japanese culture. The practice emphasizes the lines formed by the placement of the leaves, branches, and twigs and, when successful, conveys a sense of harmony among the plants, their vessels, and their settings.
Image: Kamisaka Sekka, Hydrangeas, from the series “Worlds of Things (Momoyogusa)”, reprint, original made in 1909–1910