Although it is difficult to identify the true origins of ikebana, the general belief is that it stems from the offering of flowers to the Buddha. At the beginning of the sixth century when Buddhism was brought to Japan, the custom of dedicating flowers came with it. It was this custom that developed into the art of Ikebana. Another view is that customs of ancient times, such as putting up evergreen trees and arranging flowers to call the spirit-gods developed into Ikebana.
The Tatebana of the Muromachi Period (end of 14th century to late 16th century) is the first clear expression of ikebana. This was also the period when ikebana became separate from religion and the emphasis came to be put on the act of arranging rather than on the mere appreciation of the beauty of the materials. Chabana, which developed in the same period, was closely related to the tea ceremony.
From the Azuchi Momoyama Period (1560-1600) through the beginning of the Edo Period (1603-1867), Ikebana became widely popular among the urban merchant class.
Since the beginning of Ikebana, the practitioners of the art were mainly male. However a sweeping change occurred when the Meiji government (1868-1912) adopted ikebana as part of the curriculum for girls’ education. Ikebana was regarded as a female social grace before marriage until the 1960s.
Today there are more than three hundred schools of ikebana in Japan with many overseas branches and international students. These institutions include a broad range of aesthetic, expressive, and conceptual styles encompassing the more traditional ikebana to the modern contemporary curriculums like those of Sogetsu ikebana.