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Kimono Patterns

While a kimono can be made with any beautiful art, there are certain recurring themes and images that have meaning rooted in Japanese tradition.

Flowers

Flowers, varying by the season, are perhaps the most common kimono motif, and the symbolism of flowers in Japan could fill a book. A few common flowers and plants:

  • Chrysanthemum: a symbol of long life and rejuvenation, it became the official emblem of the Japanese nation and imperial family. Curiously, this flower isn't even native to Japan, but rather was introduced during the Nara period.
  • Karakusa: a pattern of flowers and their stems curling around the fabric, it symbolizes eternity and family legacy.
  • Sakura: also called the cherry blossom, these flowers bloom and die in about two weeks out of the year. They are a common symbol of spring, but they also represent transient, short-lived beauty.
  • Tsubaki: also called camellia or the tea flower. Like the rose, they come in different colors that symbolize different things: red for love and white for unrequited desire, among others.
  • Matsuba: bunches of pine needles that seem to be falling across the fabric, they are emblematic of steadfastness, perseverance, and the wisdom of old age, just like the enduring pine.
  • Paulownia: called the "princess tree," they represent divine guidance and femininity. Phoenixes, also feminine symbols, were said to only roost in these trees. and like the chrysanthemum, they are also associated with the Japanese government. An old tradition was to plant a paulownia tree when a baby girl was born and then cut it down to be made into marriage gifts later in life.
  • Plum blossom: represents peace and renewal. It is also commonly invoked as a protective ward against evil influence.
  • Bamboo: a quick-growing Japanese grass cultivated around the world, symbolizing longevity.
  • Iris: protects from malevolent spirits
  • Bellflower: shows genuine love.
  • Peony: embodies wealth, fortune, and honor.


Animals

  • Crane: a revered creature, said to live for centuries and thrive in the land of gods and immortal. It is a sign of good luck and was once used only for nobles' clothes.
  • Peacocks: portray love and kindness
  • Phoenix: represents peace and good fortune and is also associated with femininity. It is commonly seen on wedding kimonos with its counterpart, the dragon.
  • Eastern Dragon: unlike the Western dragon, it is a long serpentine creature depicting wealth and power and generally considered peaceful and wise. It is the masculine counterpart to the phoenix. When the two are depicted together on wedding regalia, it symbolizes eternal unity within the marriage.
  • Rabbit: considered a clever trickster, it is commonly shown alongside water due to a well-known myth, the White Rabbit of Inaba, where the white rabbit tricks sharks into lining up so it can cross the sea. They also are associated with the moon, as Japan interprets the shadows on the moon as looking like a rabbit.
  • Plover: a migratory bird representing strength and persistence, because they migrate over the water and have to face strong winds and waves.
  • Tortoise: one of the most long-lived animals on Earth, it of course represents longevity and a good life. Japanese myth holds it to live for 10,000 years.
  • Koi: a kind of carp. Traditional legend holds that a koi that can swim upriver enough to reach the dragon's lair at its origin will become a dragon itself. As a result, koi embody success in life when printed on a kimono.



Geometric Designs

  • Shippou: a sacred symbol of the seven treasures of Buddhist lore, which are gold, silver, lapis lazuli, agate, seashell, amber, and coral.
  • Seigaiha: overlapping circles representing ripples in water, evoking the flow of life and fortune across time.
  • Hexagons: taken from the shape of plates on a tortoiseshell, representing strength and long life.
  • Waves: a symbol of the god of the sea and of strength, commonly used on war banners to associate the army with an unstoppable tide.
  • Shima: chain-like patterns showing the strong bonds in a community.
  • Koushi: a lattice pattern with thick lines to represent power and thin lines to represent elegance.
  • Kumo: clouds or rippling air patterns, showing an upward motion toward the skies and mountains, where the gods reside and watch over Japan.
  • Yagasuri: arrow shapes representing steadfastness and determination -- after all, an arrow flies straight to its target with no deviation.
  • Sayagata: an interlocking set of manji from Buddhist lore that represents life and strength.
  • Yukiwa: the Japanese idea of what a snowflake looks like, quite different from the one we usually use in the West. Of course, it is worn in winter and embodies transient beauty and fragility, much like the cherry blossom for spring.
  • Igeta: a square shape representing a well, which symbolizes life and luck.
  • Uroko: interlocking triangles meant to resembles the scales of a dragon or snake. They ward off evil with the essence of the guardian dragon.

Regardless of meaning, in the modern era, people choose their kimonos mostly for beauty and personal preference. We have a wide selection of kimonos available, both in cotton and vintage kimonos in silk, for you to choose from.