The Rokkakudo Temple is located southeast of the intersection of Karasuma and Sanjo streets in central Kyoto, and is formally known as Shiunzan Chohoji. The name rokkaku refers to the hexagonal shape of the temple (do). The Rokkakudo was founded by Prince Shotoku to enshrine Nyoirin Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. Near a pond (ike) where Prince Shotoku bathed, the small hut (bo) of succeeding generations of Buddhist priests gave rise to the name Ikenobo . The Rokkakudo is the site of the birth and development of ikebana. The custom of appreciating flowers in a vase probably dates back almost to the birth of the human race. Involved in this custom is the human characteristic of loving and adoring the beautiful. In this regard, there is no difference between East and West. In Japan, however, arranging flowers has been carefully considered as the art form and, indeed, way of life called kado (ka, flower; do, way or path).
Ikenobo Headquarters Rokkakudo Temple, Kyoto, Japan
The custom of placing flowers on an altar began when Buddhism was introduced to Japan by way of Korea in about 538 A.D. In the Heian period (794-1192), apart from altar offerings, the practice of enjoying flowers arranged beautifully in a vase also became popular. Poems, novels and essays of the time contain many passages which describe nature, and which also mention the appreciation of flowers in a vase. Especially in the Kokin Wakashu ( The Anthology of Waka compiled by Imperial Order , early 10th century), Genji Monogatari ( The Story of Hikaru Genji , 11th century), and Makura no Soshi ( Essays by Seishonagon , 11th century), we find many vivid descriptions of members of the aristocracy both viewing and enjoying the arrangement of flowers.
In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), samurai (the elite warrior class) seized governing power from the aristocrats, a development which brought about great changes in Japanese society as a whole. The shoin-zukuri style of architecture first appeared at this time. The tokonoma (a small, sacred alcove at the side or end of the zashiki, a room for receiving guests) is a part of this architectural style. Earlier customs of arranging flowers in a vase for use as decoration on a table or in a corner of the room may well be said to have brought about the invention of the tokonoma.