History of Kado and Ikebana Explained

History of Kado and Ikebana Explained
In Japan, there has been a concept of "Do" since ancient times, as in the words "Budo" and "Geido". This is not only a simple system of techniques, but also a culture that combines spiritual cultivation and respect for civility, and sublimates it into a philosophy. Of the many "Do'', flower arranging is the main focus of "Kado".

Also known as ikebana, ikebana is a culture that embodies the spirit of hospitality unique to Japanese culture, and is much loved by many. In this article, we will give an overview of the history of Kado and Ikebana.

Origins of kado

The act of "picking flowers and offering them to others" has been identified as a very old example in the present human species, Homo sapiens. Traces of this practice can be found in Israeli cemetery sites dating back to 12,000 years ago, where flowers such as mint and sage were used as garnish.

Although the exact origin is unknown, it can be said that the sense of "offering flowers" has a history of tens of thousands of years for humans. While it may be difficult to say that this is the direct root of kado, the universal human mentality to love flowers is worth noting. The origin of kado in Japan has a lot to do with the introduction of Buddhism, and the following is an overview of its history.

Relation with Buddhism

It is said that Buddhism was officially introduced to Japan around the middle of the 6th century. In Buddhism, there is a ritual of offering flowers to Buddha called "kuge," and it is believed that this culture greatly influenced the origin of Kado.

In addition, in the ancient Japanese belief in the worship of gods, later called Shinto, there was the notion that trees were inhabited by divine spirits. Combined with this fundamental belief, the custom of offering flowers to the gods and Buddha is thought to have been accepted as natural.

Ikebana began in the Muromachi period (1336-1573)

Ikebana began in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) The direct origin of ikebana and kado, the art of flower arrangement, is said to have begun around the mid Muromachi period (1333-1573). The following is an overview of Ikenobo, the founder of ikebana.

Ikenobo, the founder of kado

The oldest style of Ikenobo, the founder of kado, is the Ikenobo school in Kyoto. The origin of Ikenobo is said to lie in the flower offerings made by the monks of Shiyunsan Johoji Temple, also known as Rokkakudo, located in Nakagyoku, Kyoto City. The priests of Ikenobo offered flowers to Nyoirin Kannon, the main deity of Rokkakudo, and their relationship with the temple was first documented in 1462 ( Kansho 3), around the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1573).

In 1542, Sen-o wrote a book on the basic theory of ikebana and systematized the technique. It was Senko I, the 31st Iemoto of Ikenobo, who established the name of Ikenobo, and he is known to have demonstrated his techniques to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Together with Senko II, he developed and perfected the rikka technique, which will be discussed later. The development of kado is also inseparable from the popularity of chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony that flourished during the Muromachi period (1333-1573).

As is well known in the modern Sado (tea ceremony), arranging flowers in the alcove or flower vase was an important factor in Sado During the reign of Senko II, the art of flower arranging was increasingly valued by the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Imperial Court, and it gradually spread not only to aristocrats and warlords but also to the general populace.

Ikebana spread to the general public from the Edo period onward

Ikebana spread to the general public from the Edo period onward In the latter half of the Edo period, a new style of ikebana was created in response to the spread of ikebana to the general public. The stable, war free world and the needs of an era in which ordinary citizens had economic power led to a love of ikebana that transcended the boundaries of the privileged classes.

The spread of ikebana was due to the steady efforts of Ikenobo masters, beginning with Senko II and others.

Shoka, the Origin of Modern Kado

Around the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867), a form of flower arrangement called "shoka" was created in contrast to the traditional rikka of the Ikenobo school. This style was characterized by the use of one to three different flower materials and a light appearance. It was particularly popular during the Bunka-Bunsei period (1804-1830) of the late Edo period (1603-1868), and the style of ikebana of this period is considered to be close to modern kado.

In addition to Ikenobo, many other styles of ikebana were established, such as the Enshu school, whose elaborate "kyoku-ke" style of ikebana called "kyoku-ke" became popular. The Enshu school, for example, became popular for its elaborate "kyoku-ke" style of ikebana flower arrangement, and the elaborate use of vases, vases, and other accessories contributed to the establishment of a more comprehensive style of ikebana beauty, which led to the divergence of many schools.

The influence of ikebana on Europe

The culture of ikebana nurtured in Japan was introduced to Europe from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period (1868-1912), and had a great influence on Western floral arrangements. At the same time, interest in Japanese culture was growing worldwide due to the popularity of "Japonisme," and the artistry and spirituality of ikebana were highly valued.

In Japan, the trend of the times eventually led to the creation of more diverse styles of ikebana, such as "heika" (bottle flower) and "moribana" (flower arrangement), which were adapted to the new Western flowers that were introduced.

what is the basic theory of kado?

what is the basic theory of kado? Kado is the art of arranging flowers, plants, and trees. There is a systematized aesthetic sense and theory of layout that has been handed down since ancient times. The names and ideas differ slightly from school to school, and the complex principles involved are difficult to outline in a single sentence, but let us touch on a few principles.

First of all, kado artwork is characterized by the fact that the direction in which it is viewed is basically fixed. Unlike flower arrangements, which can be viewed from any direction, ikebana works must be placed in a "tokonoma," or alcove. Therefore, ikebana has a "front" that should be appreciated. Also, because flowers, plants, and trees are natural objects, no single piece of ikebana can be perfectly symmetrical.

Therefore, the basic layout of kado is to find beauty in asymmetrical arrangements based on unequal triangles. However, even within the same school, there are different kata for each style, just as the appearance of rikka in Ikenobo is different from that of shoka in shoka. In other words, the golden ratio has been developed by the predecessors of each style, and learning such theories is an important part of the training.

The way of arranging flowers also expands infinitely depending on assumptions such as the combination of seasons, color schemes, and the types of flowers to be used. Again, the basic theory of kado is taught in different ways in different styles, so it is advisable to learn according to the teachings of the style you are interested in.

Examples of utensils used in kado

Next, let us look at some examples of the tools used in kado. Basically, there is a vase for arranging flowers, floral scissors for shaping flower materials, and a kenzan for holding the materials in place. There are also a wide variety of materials and sizes of flower stands for displaying the flowers.

In addition, since kado is not only about flowers, but also about trees, and in some cases, it is oriented toward huge works of art, larger tools are also necessary. For example, small knives, saws, hammers, electric drills, chain saws, and other tools used in carpentry and mountain work may be used.

Other tools are used in a more dynamic way than one might imagine, such as wire or welding machines to hold all kinds of materials together.

About the major styles of kado

About the major styles of kado We have already mentioned that the oldest style of kado is Ikenobo in Kyoto, but many styles have emerged throughout history. Here is an overview of some of the main styles of kado, including Ikenobo.


The founder and oldest and largest style of kado. The official name is "Ikenobo" and is not called the Ikenobo style. The origin of Ikenobo is that the monks of Rokkakudo in Kyoto used to offer flowers to the Buddha, and Senkei Ikenobo was the founder of this school in the Mid Muromachi period (1336-1573). In addition to the classic technique of rikka, there are other styles such as shoka and free style.

Senkei Style

Senkei Ryu is a style of ikebana founded in 1669 by Fushunken Senkei, a kado (flower arrangement) master from the early Edo period. Senkei, who was known as a master of rikka, also devoted himself to writing, and completed a large book containing more than 100 different rikka works, not to mention the development of logic. His achievements are still documented today in the "Collection of Essays on Kado.


The Misho-ryu style, popular mainly in western Japan, was founded in 1807 by Miseosai Kazufu and Miseosai Hirofusa.

It originated in Osaka, which was known as the "kitchen of the nation" during the Kasei Bunka period, a period when the townspeople were the driving force of the nation's culture and society. Ikebana was also popular among the general public, and the Misei-ryu school was very prosperous. This style is characterized by arranging flowers in the balance of a right-angled isosceles triangle, and its philosophy is to achieve peace of mind through kado.

Saga Style

The Saga Goryu is a style of kado with its legendary origin in Emperor Saga of the Heian period (794-1185), and its founder was Daikakuji Temple (Saga Gosho or Saga Detached Palace) in Kyoto. In 1829, Miseisai Hirobo of the Miseiryu style assumed the position of "flower arranger at the Saga Imperial Palace," which led to the spread of the Daikakuji style of ikebana, later known as the Saga Goryu style.

There are two main styles of ikebana in this school: the traditional "traditional flower arrangement(denshobana)" and the newer "shinjoka" style.

Ohara Style

The Ohara Style was founded in 1895 by Unshin Ohara, a student of Ikenobo. Unshin's style of arranging flowers in a heaping arrangement, called moribana, was not accepted by the kado world at first.

However, with the gradual westernization of lifestyles in the modern era, the Ohara style, which boldly incorporated western-style flowers, became popular, especially among the general public. It can be said to be one of the styles that have led kado since the modern era with its progressive temperament, including group teaching and the birth of female professors.

Sogetsu School

The Sogetsu style was founded in 1927 by Teshigawara Sofu. The free and avant-garde style of Sogetsu is gorgeous and has a certain floral arrangement-like appearance. The Sogetsu style also offers demonstrations of the flower arranging process itself, as well as "ikebana live" performances that combine music, lighting, and other effects.


Flowers add color to our lives and bring comfort to our hearts. The art of arranging such flowers has been developed as a "Do" by our predecessors through their ingenuity and diligence.

The opportunity to experience the essence of the history and wisdom of kado is probably closer to home than one might think. When you see ikebana, we encourage you to view it from this perspective.

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