Kimono Patterns―11
Kumo (Clouds) :An auspicious pattern from the ever-changing sky

From ancient times, beautiful artistic patterns on kimono have reflected the Japanese people’s delicate senses towards the changing seasons and how social conventions in the country have changed through its history.
This weekly series will take a look at various types of kimono patterns, from those that can be worn year-round to those for special occasions, with a special focus on summer-themed patterns. We will explore the meanings behind the designs as well as insights into styling a kimono attire.

This week, let us introduce to you three kinds of auspicious patterns of nature, animals and plants.

Clouds affect the weather by their movements, bringing rain and snow to the earth. This mysterious power of clouds led people to believe that gods and spirits dwelled upon them. In ancient China, it was believed that clouds were the source of all universal things, and drifting clouds in the sky were considered a lucky charm.

The photo shows a kumodori pattern on a nagajuban (full-length kimono undergarment).

As the Chinese influence reached Japan, clouds began to be used in various designs in the Asuka period (592-710). Although it became less common for clouds to appear as auspicious graphic designs today, the pattern is still alive in today’s kimono and obi.


Zui-un is a collective term for cloud patterns that are used in auspicious contexts. From ancient times, people have been giving clouds both lucky and unlucky meanings. Clouds have different names depending on their ever-changing shapes.

Soft, drifting clouds are depicted in outlines and colors in kumodori patterns. Kumodori is often combined with plant and flower patterns placed inside or around the clouds.

The cloud pattern on this casual komon kimono for summer looks like cotton candy floating in the soft blue sky. Matched with a vivid yellow obi with a swallow silhouette, the pair makes a perfect outfit for a casual summer outing.


<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
All year round


Kaku to kisetsu ga hitome de wakaru―Kimono no mon-yo
(Kimono Patterns―A guide to their rank and seasons )
Supervised by Kenzo Fujii
(Sekai Bunka Publishing, in Japanese)

Featuring over 300 kimono patterns including the ones introduced in this story, the book helps readers learn about the history and meanings of kimono patterns through a rich variety of photos. Kimono and obi can be categorized into kaku (rank) depending on its material and patterns, and different occasions call for combinations of kimono and obi of the appropriate ranks. A practical and entertaining guide for all kimono lovers,  the book gives useful tips on common confusions related to the ranks and seasonal categorizations of patterns, as well as numerous kimono styling examples.

Available in Japan through Amazon and other online bookstores here. The book can also be ordered at bookstore counters in Japan with no shipping charges (the service may be unavailable at some stores).



2020 Autumn / Winter

Spotlight on Heritage