The Fifty Principles of Sogetsu

by Sofu Teshigahara

The Fifty Principles of Sogetsu is a list of fifty most essential and fundamental points in learning Sogetsu Ikebana. You do not have to learn all of them by heart, but refer to them now and again.

For Beginners

  • Beautiful flowers do not always make beautiful ikebana.
  • True ikebana is not isolated from the times or our lives.
  • The Spirit of ikebana applies to all periods while the style of works may change over time.
  • Emphasize one flower, one branch. Create the arrangement as an essence of Nature.

Spirit of Practice

  • Communicate with the flowers as you work with them.
  • Do not be over-concerned about the result at the beginning of your studies.
  • Be genuine, serene, and attentive at the practice.

Kakei Styles

  • Kakei styles are a collection of useful experiences.
  • Variation styles are based on the basic styles.
  • Free creation is born out of practice of basic and variation styles.
  • The Shushi (main stems) constitute the structure, while the Jushi (subordindate stems) flesh out the structure.
  • Order of practice; from Moribana to Nageire. Use branch materials for the Shin and Soe and stemmed flowers for the Hikae.
  • The basic upright and slanting styles are the basis for all the Kakei styles.
  • Variation No. 1 ikebana extends from front to back.
  • The main branches switch positions in Variation No. 2.
  • Variation No. 3 is to be viewed from three sides.
  • Variation No. 4 is a style without the Soe.
  • In Variation No. 5, the main stems are divided into two units.
  • Variation No. 6 is to be viewed from all angles.
  • Variation No. 7 floats on water, spreads, or is placed on a tabletop.
  • Variation No. 8 is the combination of all Kakei styles.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Practice

  • The most attentive and talented people take elaborate trouble with the preparation and the after-care.
  • Use flowers sparingly but generously when necessary.
  • Learn to fix all the branches in place, being mindful of both sides of the leaves, and create some tension at the base of the arrangement.
  • In class, the Hikae is more often corrected than the Shin or Soe.
  • When arranging, take a view of the work from a couple of paces away.
  • Whether the number of branches is odd or even is not so important as is the tone and harmony of the arrangement.
  • Make yourself as experienced in arranging Nageire as in Moribana.
  • Study arrangements that can be made without containers. Study dried and colored materials as well.
  • Learn the spirit of artless art. Create a work with bones, flesh and skin, understanding the different levels of formality, Shin, Gyo and So, or formal, informal and casual.
  • Ikebana may be comparable to painting, music or sculpture.


  • Green bamboo tubes and simple rustic jars also make the best containers.
  • Select a container that accentuates the beauty of the ikebana arranged in it.

Rules of Display

  • The harmony of flowers and containers should fill the entire space.
  • Home is not the only setting for ikebana. Consider places more personal as well as public.
  • In addition to the colors of flowers, pay attention to containers, pedestals, walls and lights.
  • Complete ikebana from a viewer’s standpoint.
  • Everything should be taken into account: the pedestals, place boards, covering sand and gravel, and the combination of items in the setting.
  • Ikebana must appear as if it is a product of the environment in which it is displayed.
  • Flowers for celebration – famous flowers, evergreens, red and white, silver and gold, fruit-bearing branches, and so on.

Preservation of the Fresh Materials

  • Exposing flowers to wind is even more damaging than keeping them out of water.
  • Wilting flowers should be cut under water before being arranged.
  • Water should be preserved in all fresh materials. Basic techniques of preserving water in the materials include: cutting under water, soaking in hot water, singeing, dipping in salt or vinegar, and using a syringe to pump in water.

Essence of Creativity

  • Be sure to make definitive points of emphasis and avoid redundancy in the arrangement.
  • If the flowers are the main feature, the container should be subordindte to the flowers. Likewise, if the container is the main focus, then the flowers should be secondary to it.
  • Dull ikebana lacks dynamics of rhythm, density, and intensity.
  • Make continuous efforts to find the materials, containers, and place for display.
  • Remember there are always new, surprising themes and approaches to arranging ikebana.
  • The four principles of ikebana are a fresh approach, movement, balance and harmony. The three elements are line, color and mass.
  • Cultivate an eye for appreciation and a hand for creation. A sense of balance is essential. This can only be achieved through constant practice.