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History of Ikebana
Rokkakudo temple, birthplace of ikebana, is formally known as Shiunzan Choho-ji. The temple is said to have been founded by Shotoku Taishi in 587 when he came to this place looking for wood to use in building Shitenno-ji temple in Osaka. In a dream he was told to build a hall with hexagonal shape. The principal image of the temple is Nyoinrin Kanzeon Bosatsu (the Goddess of Mercy), an amulet possessed by Shotoku Taishi. There are many legends and records about the working of miracles by the Goddess.
It is believed that Shotoku Taishi bathed in a pond on the north side of the temple. Priests whose earliest ancestor was Ono-no-Imoko lived near this pond (the Japanese word ike), in a small hut (called bo in Japanese). For this reason people began to call the priests by the name « Ikenobo ». Priests made floral offerings at the Buddhist altar of the temple every day.
Buddhist floral offering, the custom of considering plants as yorishiro (an object that divine spirits are summoned to) and the development of the act of appreciating flowers : with these elements ikebana was established in the Muromachi period. At this time ikebana was called tatehana and Senkei Ikenobo and the Doboshu (attendants to the shogun) who refined zashiki kazari (a formal pattern for decorating a Japanese traditional room) were recorded as masters of flowers. In the first half of the 16th century Senno Ikenobo compiled a manuscript called Kadensho (Ikenobo Senno Kuden) in which he mentioned the importance of finding the inner beauty of plants rather than the mere act of appreciating beautiful flowers. At about this time the composition of tatehana became more complex and a style called rikka was established. In the Edo period (first half of the 17th century) Senko Ikenobo II was very active in the rikka gatherings held at the Imperial Court. In the second half of 17th century, rikka was appreciated not only by monks, aristocrats and warriors but also by wealthy townspeople. Ikenobo began to have disciples throughout the country. On the other hand nageirebana and flowers for the tea ceremony using only a small number of plants became popular, since these styles were suitable for display in smaller rooms or the tea ceremony room. In the 18th century a simpler ans dignified style was formalized. In Ikenobo this style is called shoka, and many different ikebana schools with similar style were established.
During the Meiji ans Taishi periods (1868-1926) ikebana became a part of people’s lives and a social grace for women. New developments included the popularity of nageire and moribana styles using western flowers, and flower exhibitions held at department stores. After World War II, in addition to traditional styles, a style that has no rules (in Ikenobo this is called jiyuka or free style) and which is suited to contemporary life become widely recognized and practiced both inside and outside Japan.