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, we will be looking at patterns related to water.
The dragon, along with the phoenix, is an ancient creature born in ancient China. It was believed that dragons would fly up to heaven and make the rain fall. Its appearance is said to be based on multiple existing animals―horns of a deer, head of a camel and claws from a hawk were the motifs combined to create the dragon form.
In China, phoenix, qilin (Chinese unicorn), turtle and dragon have been revered as auspicious animals that appear in times of celebrations.
In addition, dragon is among the four gods that protect the four compass points. The Azure Dragon is said to rule over the east. Realistic depictions of dragons were said to have been brought into Japan around Asuka period (592-710).
Ryu-mon (Dragon pattern)
The way people have depicted dragons have changed over time in China, ranging from a snake-like shapes to those with scales, long tails and wings. In Japan, dragons commonly have a body covered in scales, with long horns and whiskers.
The dragon pattern has long been used widely for crafts and dyed fabrics as one of the auspicious patterns. Variations include maru-ryu (dragon pattern with its tail and head connecting at a point to create a circular shape) and kaku-ryu (dragon body illustrated in a square). Other times, dragon patterns are combined with auspicious clouds to create unryu (flying dragon) pattern (more on clouds patterns here).
【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).