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 introduce patterns of summer plants, flowers and nature.
The seed of the morning glory, a yearly plant and a species of bindweed that was brought to Japan from China in the Heian period (794-1185), was originally medically used to cure diarrhea. In the Edo period (1603-1867), it became popular for ornamental purposes, and was designed into patterns for combs, tenugui hand towels, uchiwa fans, and kimono.
Morning glories bloom in the morning and immediately wither away. Some find beauty in their ephemerality while others feel emptiness and avoid them, but it’s just a matter of how each person perceives the flowers.
The trumpet-shaped flowers in bloom, the simple shape of the leaves, and the long thin vines are what makes the morning glory patterns remarkable. Because they have a distinct summer feel, they are mainly used in yukata patterns, but they can also be found in summer kimono and obi. Rather than combining them with other motifs, they are often patterned on their own.
<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
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).