Ikebana faces many problems today. One of them is that its popularity is declining, particularly in Japan. In light of the growing popularity of Western flower arrangement in Japan, there must be something we need to address.
Let me focus the difference between Ikebana and Western flower arrangement first. This comparison may reveal some deeper aspects of Japanese culture and society.
First, generally there is not much obvious competition in Ikebana. Historically there used to be a semi official competition among many Ikebana schools after the war. But it did not last long because the Sogetsu school, one of the largest Ikebana school decided not to participate in it after the first competition.
Learning Ikebana means to join one of thousands of Ikebana schools, each of which has Iemoto, a head master. The hierarchy of Ikebana school with Iemoto at the top is not based on competence nor on popularity. Competition may be a rather risky concept for the Iemoto system.
On the contrary, there are so many competitions for Western florists. What does this difference lead to? Let’s thinks about that in the next issue.