Kimono Patterns―12
Oshidori (Mandarin duck):An auspicious symbol of eternal love

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.

Due to their affectionate nature for its partner, oshidori (mandarin duck) have long been considered a symbol of an eternal love for married couples in China. For similar reasons, married couples in loving relationships are referred to as “oshidori-fūfu” in Japan.

It is no surprise that the ducks have been used as auspicious patterns in Japan for a long time. The pattern was commonly designed on Noh costumes and kosode (a type of narrow-sleeved kimono worn typically until the Edo period) around the Momoyama period (1573-1603) to Edo period (1603-1867).


En-ou-mon (Duck patterns)
Mandarin ducks are usually depicted in pairs when used in patterns, often combined with waterside sceneries. In the past, the most common design was that of a male bird with his beaks open and female bird with hers shut. This design was thought to represent a harmonious relationship between a couple based on mutual understanding.

Today, both male and female birds are often designed with their beaks closed. The traditional pair pattern can be seen on formal kimono and obi to this day.

This gorgeous obi pattern shows pairs of mandarin ducks floating among the waves. Each bird has different expressions brought to life through meticulous craftsmanship.


<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).



2021 Spring / Summer

Inside Japan’s West