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.
Since ancient times, it has been believed that the springtime of a year with heavy snowfall allows for an abundance of melt water leading to good rice crops. Snow has been considered a pure and auspicious symbol of winter.
The use of snow as a pattern dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573). At the time, the snow pattern was associated with the winter season, but nowadays it is also used in summer. This may be due to the sensibility of Japanese people, who seek for a sense of coolness from snow through associating it with the cold winter season.
A pattern that represents a snowflake, resembling a round six-petaled flower. There are six large hollows, some of which are filled with seasonal plants. As spring approaches, the snow built up on plants gradually melt, and the remaining snow becomes sparse. The lingering snow was called hadare-yuki (mottled snow), which was used as a sign of the arrival of spring. The yukiwa pattern is said to have been designed after the hadare-yuki, giving rise to the snowflake pattern. Today, the snowflakes are used in countless kimono and obi, and are also popular as a pattern for yukata.
This is one of the patterns derived from the yukiwa pattern. Since the Edo period (1603-1867), the method of freely morphing the size and shape of the yukiwa has been used as accents in patterns of yuzen dyed kimonos.
Sekka (Snow flower)
When snowflakes were first observed in Japan using microscopes in the late-Edo period, a variety of snowflake patterns were created. The sekka pattern shows the shape of snowflakes arranged like flowers.
<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
Year-round, summer, winter
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).