Sofu Teshigahara, the founder of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, was born in 1900. He was the first son of Wafu Teshigahara, an ikebana artist, who trained Sofu in ikebana since childhood.
As he practiced and taught ikebana, he came into conflict with a milieu where ikebana was seen as the continuing attempt to recreate the existing forms. Sofu left his father’s school when he was twenty six years old and founded the Sogetsu School in 1927, where he developed his way of teaching creative ikebana. In 1929, the Sogetsu School held its first exhibition at the Sembikiya in the Ginza. His modern style of ikebana made Sofu a unique force in Ikebana at the time.
In 1930, Sofu Teshigahara participated in drawing up a “Manifesto of New Ikebana”, a radical document influenced by the avant-garde movement in Europe. It denied the existence of fixed forms and announced that ikebana would, from then on, became one of the contemporary fine arts. He traveled and exhibited around the world, making live-long friends with Miro, Dali, Gaudi and Tapies. Time magazine described him as the “Picasso of Flowers.”
After Sofu’s death in 1979, his daughter Kasumi Teshigahara became the second Iemoto. She passed away shortly thereafter and was succeeded by Hiroshi Teshigahara, the third Iemoto of Sogetsu School in 1980. Hiroshi was a respected film director and well known for creating spectacular ikebana bamboo installations. He died in the spring 2001. His daughter, Akane Teshigahara, succeeded him as the fourth Iemoto. As was her father, she is a powerful installation artist who believes that ikebana must be incorporated in all aspects of contemporary life
Ikebana is the beautiful, often minimalist art of Japanese cut flower arrangement. "Ikebana" is derived from the two words in Japanese ikeru (生ける, "living") and hana (花, "flower"). Ikebana means “giving life to flowers”.
Ikebana often emphasizes specific parts of a plant, such as its stems and leaves, and carefully incorporates shape, proportion, line and form. Though ikebana is a creative art, it has clear and formal rules and practitioners can spend lifetime learning and refining their art. There are over 300 schools of Ikebana worldwide and each school's style is unique.
The exact origin of Ikebana is unknown. The offering of flowers on the altar to Buddha and to the spirits of the dead is a central tenant of Buddhism. Hence, the first to practice Ikebana were religious clergy, Buddhist priests and their associates and started in the middle of the fifteenth century. The first Ikebana school was established by the priests at Rokkaku-do temple, Kyoto, in 1462.
Subsequently in the Heian period (794-1192) an aristocracy ruled and studying and appreciating flowers in a vase unrelated to religious worship became a part of the culture. Novels, essays and poems in the Heian Period describe the aristocracy enjoying flower arranging and admiring arrangements of flowers.
In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), the Samurai (elite warrior class) wrested the power of government from the aristocrats. The samurai lived often short and violent lives and historians have thought that Ikebana appealed to the Samurai because they studied Ikebana to obtain balance and art in their lives and lifestyles. Ikebana and another Japanese cultural art, Tea Ceremony (Cha no Yu) were often studied together and there would be a simple ikebana arrangement in the tea room in a designated area called the Tokonoma. Ikebana is considered a cornerstone Japanese art but it is now studied and practiced worldwide.