Ikebana is an ancient practice born as an offering to the gods and over the centuries it has become a real artistic expression.
The Japanese term Ikebana - "Ike" means living and "hana" means flower - refers to the art of floral compositions.
It is an ancient practice that originated in the East around the sixth century AD, but which more precisely found its maximum expression in Japan where in a short time, from an initial offering to the gods, it was transformed into a real mode of expression.
As this is a custom with a profound philosophical and spiritual significance, in the beginning it was practiced only by Buddhist nobles and monks, often on the occasion of the tea ceremony. The first style to develop was the Rikka, where seven elements alternated to create a harmonic composition useful for man to recover an intimate relationship with himself and with the whole world. Later, the Nageire developed, a simpler style, followed by the Seika, similar to both but much less austere.
The goal of the Ikebana is to give space to one's emotionality, bringing one's soul, instinct and aesthetic taste into the composition.
In order to create true works of art, it is important to form and train the discipline through dedication: In fact, the study of colors, shapes, harmony and practice, necessary to obtain an arrangement capable of giving a sense of balance.
These harmonious floral compositions can be made up of different types of flowers, from orchids to hydrangeas, from chrysanthemums to gerberas, from roses to bamboo branches. The main rule for creating an Ikebana composition is to use all elements of an organic nature, whether they are flowers, herbs, branches or leaves. Branches and flowers are thus arranged as to create a triangle: the longer branch called Shin, the most important one, is considered as the element that reaches towards the sky, the shorter branch, the Hikae, symbolizes the earth while the intermediate one, the Soe, represents the man. The floral composition therefore aims to balance Shin, Hikae and Soe in a harmonious way and without too complex elaborations.
IKENOBO SCHOOL - If you intend to approach Ikebana, this is the oldest school in Japan, founded by the monk Senkei Ikenobo in 1462. Objective, not only the aesthetics of the composition but also refinement, simplicity and the representation of one's own sensitivity and spirituality.
There is always a "protagonist" element and a series of "helpers", but never in competition with each other. And a point of view from which to observe (the little flowers at the bottom are often points of entry into the vision). As in other schools, the choice of the vase is an integral part of the work.
Among the oldest of the Ikenobo is the Rikka style, which generally focuses on verticality starting from a stem and brings together all the elements of nature. On closer inspection there are also us, the men. At the base, kenzan is often used, a support to better insert flowers and stems and then let the water flow. Traditionally, these compositions have a small dedicated alcove inside the house: the Tokonoma. The Shoka style is more essential, while a great source of inspiration is the painting of the Rimpa school born in the seventeenth century of which Ikebana today continues to "paint" themes and models in pots.
OHARA SCHOOL - At the heart of Ikebana Ohara is the very strong relationship with nature, the study of its forms, its seasonal rhythms, the growth of its elements. Because the new never completely supplants the old. The infinite variety of compositional forms allows you to express your creativity and sensitivity through different and personal choices, in a combination of traditional styles and the search for more innovative forms.
SOGETSU SCHOOL - In 1927, when it was believed that the practice of Ikebana was now canonized and stable, Sofu Teshigahara founded this school with the motto "everyone can do Ikebana Sogetsu, anytime, anywhere, with any material".
Thus was born freestyle. The compositions are linked to modern art, design, architecture, while maintaining all the classic rules of full-empty or asymmetries. They become three-dimensional and also accommodate elements that do not come from nature (for example, moldable wooden strips, small objects, toys), as long as everything is intimately connected. On the fundamental principle Linea, Massa, Colore, innovation is pursued, in order not to leave Ikebana closed in its world, but to link it to the other arts.
EMPTY and FULL - Alternation is essential. Never be afraid of emptiness: it exists in nature as in Ikebana and is as constructive as a musical pause or a 'but' when we speak.
As far as flowers are concerned, it is never a competition for the "most beautiful". Everyone participates in the result according to their role. But how and how many to choose? For the Ikenobo School, "little is better". The Ohara varies according to the compositional form, but, for example, if in a Rimpa creation you can only use flowers and plants portrayed in the works of the pictorial school.
For Sogetsu, the important thing is the contaminations, so you choose what you need and what you need, together with the right materials.
Harmony with the seasons is one of the fundamental principles of Ikebana: it is always better to prefer what nature is already offering us. Even in winter, a less bursting season than spring, but with a "whispered" beauty. Here then the hellebore and ferns are perfect, but also the evergreen pine with its elegance, the bamboo symbol of tenacity and resilience or the prunusmume, which blooms precisely in these months when everything is asleep, close cousin of the cherry tree and bearer of hope. Among the flowers, the narcissus, the camellia, the rose. The mist gives lightness and refers to the idea of ​​small children. At the base, you can insert the lycopodium moss, so similar to the green of Japanese gardens.


Wabi-sabi (侘 寂) constitutes a Japanese worldview, or aesthetic, founded on the acceptance of the transience and imperfection of things. ... Its aesthetic characteristics include: asymmetry, harshness, simplicity, modesty, intimacy and suggestion of natural processes.
To understand what beauty is for Japanese women, one must think of Ikebana, the ancient art of flowers. A ritual, like calligraphy, the study of literary compositions and poetry, which the Zen masters have transfigured into a religious experience of reflection and illumination, in a way to guide the mind towards the absolute.
Precise and meticulous rituals: beauty must be regal, intense and shining because we already know that it will vanish and that we will vanish with it and is linked to the total acceptance of destiny, beyond good and evil, according to the aesthetic vision of " wabisabi ”, founded precisely on the transience of things. Therefore, the obsession with punctual and exasperated care has its roots steeped in a millenary and powerful spiritual tradition, in the philosophy and religious influences of Buddhism and Shintoism. Obsession of a people full of contradictions and contrasts, which combines devotion to the past with a vision that anticipates the future. Where manual treatments coexist with hyper-technological and sophisticated tools that try to reproduce, at home, the salon protocols. By transforming aesthetics, and the radiance of the face, from theory to practice. Like in an Ikebana, like in a Buddhist prayer. Into something sacred.
The attention of Japanese women to the care and maintenance of a complexion that is as ethereal as possible, flawless and white as snow, is a known fact. This obsession becomes very obvious by visiting any cosmetic shop, perfumery or even pharmacy in Japan: facial masks, creams, treatments of all kinds to whiten or "illuminate", as the Japanese say, the complexion and achieve the much desired aesthetic canon of bihaku (literally "white beauty", equivalent to the maximum level of beauty that a woman's skin can reach).
The appreciation of white skin as an aesthetic canon has very deep roots in Japan and dates back to about 1300 years ago, during the period between the Asuka (538 - 710 AD) and Nara (710 - 794 AD) eras when, at the same time to the massive import from China of Buddhist religious practices and technical knowledge in various fields, customs related to the aesthetics and fashion of the time began to appear on the shores of the Japan archipelago. Among these, the white color of the leather as a sign of elegance and value. The application of a whitish powder called oshiroi (literally "white powder") obtained from the crushing of rice or shells of shells practiced up to that moment in Japan, was gradually replaced by the much more effective technique introduced by the continent which consisted in the whitening of the skin by smearing a lead-based substance on it.
Thanks also to the admiration with which the aristocracy in Japan looked at the refinement of the sophisticated Chinese civilization of the time, the practice of whitening the skin with a state of lead-based oshiroi soon became a widespread fashion among the nobles of the Japanese court. . Not only women, but also men of the nobility used to apply a base of oshiroi to the face. Being an extremely expensive and precious cosmetic, the concept of aesthetic beauty was accompanied by the symbol of one's status in society at the same time. And so, from the spasmodic desire for beauty and elegance pursued by the refined court aristocracy, the aesthetic cult for a pale white complexion, of an absolute whiteness and free of imperfections, was consolidated in Japan.
Over the centuries, the custom of painting the face and neck with a layer of milky white oshiroi has given way to the much more sustainable concept of a skin tending to white in a "natural" way. Even if Japanese women no longer paint their faces, the value and quality of a white skin remains implicit in historical memory, an aesthetic canon handed down to the present day and of which all the shopping centers in Japan are unequivocal proof, for their offer in terms of cosmetics that enhances the whiteness of the skin as the value to aspire to.
After the World War, however, there was a reversal of the trend. The same Shiseido, giant of the Japanese cosmetics industry, launched in 1966 the promotional campaign for a summer line of cosmetics focused on the concept of the enjoyment of summer, whose slogan read "Let us love the Sun", and depicted (Japanese) models from golden skin in the rays of the sun. In those years it was customary for girls who could not get a natural tan on the beach to use foundation with warm bronze colors. But it was a fashion incompatible with tradition, and destined to soon evaporate from the collective imagination.

The development of scientific research, and with it the evidence that exposure to sunlight causes unpleasant consequences such as spots and wrinkles, as well as dangerous skin diseases, has favored a return to the ancient preference of Japanese women for a white and flawless complexion like a blanket of fresh snow. The candid beauty of white which, as the saying goes, has the intrinsic strength to condone other imperfections. It is the concept of bihaku, that is the aesthetic canon par excellence that has established the boundary between elegance and vulgarity in Japan for centuries.

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