Inheriting traditions and creating a new culture III: the art of ikebana

継承から新たな文化の創造へIII ―いけばな

Passing down Ikenobo’s ikebana to the next generation

Tradition is a refinement of essence—of the arts and methods to which our predecessors devoted themselves, body and spirit. Keeping tradition alive means not only passing down traditions, techniques, and forms, but also keeping alive the spirit that flows alongside them. Decorating with flowers is an art enjoyed and known by people all over the world. However, the beautiful art of ikebana—an approach to enlightenment through flowers, with a compassionate eye for decaying flowers and withered branches—is found only in Japan.




The modern world has already become an information society, a global society. When asked what we are proud to talk about as Japanese people, if we know our traditional culture we can talk of the beauty of Japan and the thinking of our forebears wherever we go in the world.

Although the techniques and styles of ikebana have been passed down since ancient times, ikebana is not something to be interpreted as a standalone entity but rather as something that lives in the present and changes with the times, just as flowers have always accompanied people. From the past to the present and moving on to the future, in times when the outlook seems troubled, only that which perfectly captures the spirit of people living in a particular era can mark the first step towards the next generation. Ikebana is a world that encompasses such a future.





Work by the Headmaster Sen’ei Ikenobo   l   家元 池坊専永の作品

The spirit of Ikenobo:

Nurturing connections among people

In modern times, given Japan’s declining birth rate, ageing population, and growing diversification of interests, even Ikenobo needs to constantly reassess what is happening in the world of traditional culture and how to respond to it. Because ikebana leaves no permanent structure, it conveys its worldview through people. Therefore, developing the next generation of ikebana practitioners and enthusiasts has become an important objective in recent projects.

In 2017, Ikenobo celebrated the milestone of 555 years since records first described how the monks of Rokkaku-do arranged flowers. To generate interest in the traditional culture of ikebana among younger generations we have formed a PR team as a new means of powerfully communicating the wonder and depth of traditional ikebana culture. This team is the‘IKENOBOYS’, a group of young men who study Ikenobo-style flower arranging. The name‘IKENOBOYS’ has its origin in the Japanese word‘ ikemen’ (meaning‘ good-looking men’), as well as‘ Ikenobo’, the grand-master of flower arrangement. The IKENOBOYS aim to convey both the spirit and techniques of flower arrangement to the younger generation. Through ikebana performances, workshops, media appearances etc., they carry out extensive programmes both for existing practitioners and those who do not yet know about ikebana.






The young men’s flower arranging group IKENOBOYS practice Ikenobo-style ikebana(2017)   l   池坊華道を学ぶ若手華道男子グループ「IKENOBOYS(イケノボーイズ)」(2017)

Creating a broad appeal in the fascinating world of flower arrangement through performances and workshops   l   パフォーマンスやワークショップなどを通じて華道の魅力を幅広い層にアピール

On 3rd June 2017, the film FLOWER AND SWORD, which adopted ikebana as a theme, was released nationwide across Japan. Similar films focusing on the traditional culture of the tea ceremony had already been made on several occasions, but this was the first such film to focus on ikebana. In this film, set in 1594, Headmaster Senko Ikenobo presents a huge ikebana piece 7 metres wide and 4 metres high to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Behind the ikebana piece hang four scrolls depicting monkeys – inspired by the historical fact that ‘Monkey’ was Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s nickname from a young age. In the film, flower-arranging monks enthusiastically embark on the practice of ikebana, drawing crowds who are fascinated by the pleasure of this living ikebana. FLOWER AND SWORD shows how Ikenobo’s ikebana gives joy and heals the troubled hearts of many of its townspeople. Through the medium of film, many people who do not know of Ikenobo or his disciples, or who have no contact with ikebana itself, have had the opportunity of encountering a vivid worldview of ikebana and its philosophy of respect for life and recognition of diversity.




A once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece from the movie’s climax, set at Toshiie Maeda’s residence and created by Senko Ikenobo for Toyotomi Hideyoshifrom the movie FLOWER AND SWORD)   l   映画のクライマックス、前田利家邸を舞台に池坊専好が太閤豊臣秀吉に仕掛けた、一世一代の大砂物(映画「花戦さ」より)

©2017 FLOWER AND SWAORD Partners

Ikenobo has traditionally conveyed information in diverse ways, such as ikebana exhibitions held in various places, student-centered Internet flower exhibitions, school-based flower arranging initiatives, overseas dispatch of cultural envoys, and more. In order to shine more brightly in the future, we need to think about what we should do and what we can do. One objective is creating a new demand so that future generations will find hope in Ikenobo’s ikebana and will live better lives. Despite having venerable histories, certain other traditional arts and cultures have been unable to adapt to the changing times and have been forced to disappear. We need to discover ways to convey our truly valuable culture to create a universal appeal.


Ikenobo flower exhibitions are held throughout Japan. People who do not know about ikebana are welcome to visit freely and can encounter seasonal ikebana works.   l   全国各地で開催される池坊の花展(かてん)。いけばなを知らない人も自由に訪れ、季節のいけばな作品にふれることができる

Ikenobo boasts a tradition spanning 555 years, the purpose of which is to convey the spirit of ikebana to future generations. However, given the wide range of modern interests, we cannot move forward alone. As various fields collaborate with each other, each will become more active. The film FLOWER AND SWORD is a work of considerable depth that could not be expressed with ikebana alone—it required cooperation from other traditional cultural forms, such as the tea ceremony and painting. Traditional forms of culture are not isolated and alone—they are made up of people who form connections with each other as each field of interest influences the others. The Tokyo Olympic Games will take place in 2020. The Games are both a sports festival and a cultural festival. In 2020, more than ever before, the strength and depth of Japanese culture will be displayed on a massive scale.



Work by the Headmaster Designate Senko Ikenobo  l   次期家元池坊専好の作品