When it comes to Kyoto, many people would surely think of kimono or Japanese clothes worn by maiko or staffs at ryotei (Japanese-style restaurant).
If you are planning to take a walk on the streets with a charming atmosphere of Kyoto, we recommend you to do so in kimono.
There are various colors and patterns of kimono.Do you know the lovely meaning which these patterns have? Each pattern drawn on kimono have a hidden meaning.In this article, we would like to introduce you the meaning behind typical patterns of kimono.
Traditional Patterns of Kimono
A crane is an auspicious bird which is said to be a symbol for prolonging life. It is a kissho monyo (lucky omen) used often for wedding gowns for its beautiful figure filled with dignity. It is frequently combined with other lucky omens, such as a turtle, a pine or zuiun(auspicious clouds).
Noshi(Red and white origami decoration for gifts)
Noshi originated from offerings to the deities called noshi awabi (stretched abalone), and has been regarded as a lucky charm which signifies longevity from long ago. This is a blissful pattern of noshi, which would be attached to presents for celebrations and such, customized in a longer and thinner obi(belt)-like shape. There are gorgeous patterns drawn within this obi.
A flower cart loaded with flowers of four seasons in gorgeous full bloom. It is a pattern consisting of an ox cart, which aristocrats from the Heian period used to ride on, with beautiful flowers on it. Since flowers of four seasons are mixed up and painted, one can use this pattern regardless of the season.
Sakura Mon(Cherry Blossoms Pattern)
Cherry blossoms have been favored by Japanese since the Heian period. “Sa” of sakura (cherry blossom) signifies rice, and “kura” signifies the seat for the deity; it is said that hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties are held and the cherry blossom pattern is painted in the hopes of a good harvest. It is a spring flower, however one can wear this pattern regardless of the season.
It is a legendary bird handed down by word of mouth from the ancient China. It is an auspicious bird which makes an appearance when a peaceful and happy world is realized, and this pattern has been historically and widely favored since the Asuka period, for its splendor and the graceful figure.
Itomaki Mon(Bobbin Pattern)
The long extended thread from the bobbin signifies a hope for longevity.
Monogatari Mon(Story Pattern)
A pattern which reproduces a scene from stories such as “The Tale of Genji” or “Tales of Ise”. It is a pattern favored in the Edo period, when enjoying classic literatures was one of the cultures. It gives kimono an intelligent and classic atmosphere.
Hiougi(Folding Fan Made of Hinoki Cypress)
Hiougi, the personal ornaments from the Heian period, is a refined fan made of thin plates of hinoki cypress folded with a silk thread. Using this motif from the Heian period, which became the headwaters of Japanese traditional culture, one will attain a chic look. Hiougi was a fan for a princess wearing twelve-layered ceremonial kimono, and for that reason this pattern is often used for wedding gowns.
It is a carriage used by aristocrats around Kyoto Imperial Palace, and is another name for an ox cart. This is one of the classic and gorgeous patterns.
Not only are this bird and its feathers beautiful, but it is known as lovebirds in Japan which is why this is a pattern frequently used for wedding gowns. It is an auspicious pattern symbolizing an ever-changing love between a married couple.
Chrysanthemum has been loved widely as an auspicious pattern for its beauty as well as its fragrance. It is a flower which symbolizes longevity. It is often combined with diamond shapes or circles. Chrysanthemum is supposed to be an autumn flower; however, this pattern can be used regardless of the season.
Sho Chiku Bai(Pine, Bamboo and Plum)
”Pine” which stays green even in the extreme cold, “bamboo” extending straight without giving in to the cold, and “plum” which blossoms even in the cold weather of early spring have been known as “Saikan no Sanyu (Three Friends of Winter)” and treasured by Japanese as well as in the ancient China. It is a pattern which signifies being faithful to one’s principles even in difficult times, and is regarded in Japan as a crucial motif to use for celebrations to symbolize a man of virtue from old times.
Maru Mon(Round Pattern)
Maru or a circle (en, round) is without beginning or end, and for that it is regarded as an auspicious pattern which signifies eternity. There are various round patterns such as a mirror pattern or hana maru mon (rounded flower pattern) which is of a flower drawn in a circle. Since “円en (round)” also means “縁en (fate or chance)” in Japanese, it is a favored pattern for wedding gowns.
Sei Gai Ha Mon(Wave Crest Pattern)
This geometric pattern of waves in the blue ocean has been used traditionally. It is said to have been named after the costumes for “Sei Gai Ha (Blue Wave Crest)” in gagaku (court music of ancient Japan), and is painted on the page of momiji no ga (the autumn excursion) in “The Tale of Genji” as well. There are many variations, such as those with flowers or large birds around it.
Kikko Mon(Hexagonal Pattern)
A geometric pattern made up of many regular hexagons. It is one of the auspicious patterns inherited to this day as a historical and classic pattern, created in West Asia and was communicated to Japan via China and Korea. It has been used to decorate furniture, costumes as well as carts for court nobles.
Saaya Gata(Gossamer-Figured Pattern)
A pattern made up of slanted 卍 shapes. It was named after “saaya” the textile communicated from Min in China in the Momoyama period. It used to be so popular that it was almost always used for haneri (neckpiece) for the formal attire for women.
It is a pattern of four flower petals in a diamond shape, and four of this pattern gathered to form a diamond shape is called “Yotsuhanabishi (Four Diamond-Shaped Flowers)”. It has been used since the Jomon era, and it became “yusoku monyo (traditional patterns used to decorate costumes, furniture and carts for court nobles)” in the Heian period and since then known as a representative geometric pattern and favored in Japan.
Korin Nami(Korin Wave)
It is a pattern created from waves drawn in “Kohaku Baizu Byobu (The Folding Screen of Red and White Plum Blossoms)” by Korin Ogata, as a motif. It is a design inspired by swirling currents of water, and is a very popular pattern used for formal and ceremonial kimono or obi (belt), for its unique decorativeness.
Botan Mon(Peony Pattern)
Peony has been very popular in the Tang dynasty in China as the flower of the flowers. It was communicated to Japan in the Nara period, and this pattern has been used for costumes since the Heian period. Big peonies are frequently painted and bring even more gorgeousness to kimono.
Manju Kiku(French Marigold)
It is a simplified version of chrysanthemum and is known for its refined beauty. The kanji “万寿 (manju or longevity)” is used to celebrate its long life, however it is also known as “饅頭菊 (manju kiku or sweet bun chrysanthemum)”, for its round shape looks like sweet bun. It is also known as “Korin kiku (Korin chrysanthemum)” because it was stylized by Rinpa school of painting in the Edo period.
Kimono is now a popular way to dress in or outside of Japan. Especially kimono from Kyoto is a traditional work of art, and the quality is at the highest level.
There are various ways to choose kimono.You can choose by the atmosphere it has or the color, but why not learn the meanings of the patterns and wear the pattern which suits you? We are sure it will be your favorite piece even more for that☺