Nageire, a more informal style of arrangement, had been practiced even during the earlier period when rikka was developing. Nageire had been a style of decoration for the zashiki, while rikka, the most formal style, was used for rites and ceremonies. The townspeople favored nageire, which presented the natural beauty of flowers without complicated rules.
In 1684, Toichiya Taemon, a merchant, wrote the Nageire Kadensho ( How to arrange flowers in Nageire style ), and in 1697, Kodai Shoka Zukan ( Collected Paintings of Historic Shoka Works ) by Ikenobo Sen'yo was published. Nageire influenced the development of early work in the shoka style.
Shoka at this time was very simple. Only two main branches (or flowers), one of which was called in (negative) and the other yo (positive), were used in arranging the work. These would later develop into three main parts, called shin, soe, and tai.
The shoka style developed over a long period, during with many schools of ikebana other than Ikenobo appeared.
Shoka was firmly established in Ikenobo Senjo's work Soka Hyakki ( One Hundred Examples of Ikebana , 1820). He also edited Heika Yodo-shu , in which the traditional methods of rikka were described in detail.
In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Ikenobo Sensho set down the regulations of shofutai shoka, shofutai meaning orthodox or traditional style . Mannerism again began to appear, and efforts to break away from this mannerism were not successful until the Taisho period (1912-1926). The styles of modern nageire and moribana, and modern styles of shoka were the result. These styles were also greatly influenced by the importation of European culture, beginning during the Meiji Restoration (1868). Nageire and moribana could be used in either traditional Japanese or westernized houses and rooms.
After World War II, ikebana began to be regarded by some as art, with the result that works of avant-garde Ikebana appeared. Wire, metal and stone, as well as flowers were used to the extent that it was sometimes difficult to distinguish this work from sculpture. This movement inspired the birth of free style ikebana (jiyuka), which is completely liberated from the regulations of traditional ikebana. On the other hand, refined and dignified ikebana styles with traditional origins, such as rikka, and shoka, have also experienced a rebirth.
Shoka shimputai, a new style of shoka developed in 1977 by 45th Generation Headmaster Ikenobo Sen'ei, presents a bright, modern feeling. Two main parts, shu and yo, respond to each other with contrasting yet harmonious qualities. A third part of the arrangement, ashirai, is often added as a finishing touch.
For current examples and more explanation, please click Introduction on the top menu, and refer to the The Soul of Ikebana essay and photos in the language of your choice. Other arrangements can also be enjoyed by clicking the Gallery section above.