kimono pattern
From left, "amime" pattern and "higaki" pattern.

Kimono Patterns―13
Waritsuke: Geometric beauty in repetition

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 explore the beauty of repetition in geometric patterns.

Waritsuke is a technique used to construct patterns. The same graphic is  repeated horizontally or diagonally to fill in an outlined space or the entirety of the textile. Though simple, the same pattern appearing repeatedly works as an eye-catching design for numerous Japanese goods, be it kimono, obi, woven patterns on white kimono textile prior to dyeing, furoshiki (square fabric used as bags and wrapping materials), or thongs on Japanese sandals.

Kagome pattern

In this article, we will take a look at some of the most traditional waritsuke patterns. Other popular waritsuke patterns include asa-no-ha (diamond-shaped hemp leaf pattern), uroko (scales) and ichimatsu (checkered pattern), to be introduced later in Part 14 and 15 of this series.

This pattern is a graphical representation of a mesh surface of a basket made with bamboos and other materials. Originating from the kikko (tortoise shell) pattern, often used on katabira (light, single-layered summer kimono) worn by samurai in the days of the warring states, the pattern later came to be known as kagome, likened to the mesh texture of a basket.

In the Edo period (1603-1867), it was believed that kagome had powers to fend off ogres, making the pattern a protective charm designed on yukata (casual cotton kimono originally worn after bathing) and other garments. The pattern is usually used in combination with illustrations of animals and plants.

【Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern】
Summer, all year round


kimono pattern

Amime is a geometric pattern based on fishing and bird hunting nets. The continuation of rhythmical, wavy lines make a beautiful pattern. Amime came to be used as a pattern in the Edo period, not only on its own but also combined with fish motifs on yukata and other items. In addition, the pattern was used on crests for the samurai. It was thought to bring in a sweeping victory, based on a Japanese saying “ichimou-dajin” (to catch a herd of fish with one throw of the net).

【Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern】
Summer, all year round


On this formal obi, the higaki pattern is effectively designed with Edo period patterns filling in the spaces inside the outline, making it an attractive design.

Higaki is a fence made out of thin strips of Japanese cypress branches. The higaki pattern represents a close-up of the woven pattern on the fence and is a coveted design for kimono, obi and patterns on white kimono textile prior to dyeing.

【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