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.
Wave crests on the surface of water are arranged geometrically in seigaiha patterns. Seigaiha is one of the patterns that has been around for a long time.
The name is said to have come from a gagaku (Japanese classic court music) program with the same name. The pattern was popularized in mid-Edo period(1603-1867), after a lacquerware artist named Seikai Kanshichi used a special brush to skillfully paint this pattern.
Seigaiha-mon (Wave pattern)
Seigaiha-mon, or wave patterns, can also be seen outside Japan, in various places across the world including Egypt and Persia. Concentric circles are layered to create this fan-shaped geometric pattern.
From ancient times, the pattern has been used for garments illustrated on clay figurines, pottery, lacquerwork and costumes for bugaku (Japanese court dance and music) and Noh, as well as kosode (type of narrow-sleeved kimono worn typically until the Edo period). In addition to the basic seigaiha pattern, there are many variations including one which depicts shochikubai (combination of pine, bamboo and plum) instead of circles.
Yabure Seigaiha (Broken wave pattern)
This is a seigaiha pattern but with parts that break off here and there. The photo shows a yabure seigaiha on a naga-juban (full-length kimono undergarment).
【Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern】
All year round, summer and New Year’s Day
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).