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 series will take a look at various types of kimono patterns, from those that can be worn year-round to those for special occasions. We will explore the meanings behind the designs as well as insights into styling a kimono attire.
In Japan, kikyou (balloon flower), hagi (Japanese bush clover), ominaeshi (golden lace), nadeshiko (fringed pink), kuzu (arrowroot), susuki (Japanese pampas grass) and fujibakama (boneset) are collectively called the seven autumnal flowers. The term akikusa pattern refers to designs of these seven plants as well as gentian, chrysanthemum and other plants that grow naturally in autumn. Sometimes, akikusa patterns only use one of the seven autumnal flowers in the design.
Akikusa is a uniquely Japanese pattern that captures the evanescence of time and transient quality of life through the charms of autumn flowers blossoming side by side. It is often used on summer kimono, obi and yukata, giving a cooling touch of autumn to the hot and humid weather in the late summertime.
Akikusa-mon is a collective term for patterns depicting autumn plants and flowers, used in a group or as a standalone design. There is a gold lacquer artwork from Momoyama period (1573-1603) found in Kodaiji temple in Kyoto with a very realistic and refined akikusa-mon. The seven autumnal flowers came to be used as patterns for costumes after this period. As kimono patterns usually show the upcoming season, akikusa-mon is designed on summer kimono and obi.
Nadeshiko (Fringed pink)
With its small flowers in baby pink, nadeshiko has long been loved as one of the seven autumnal flowers. Yamato nadeshiko ― a term describing an ideal Japanese woman ―must have come from the pureness and prettiness of the flower. The photo shows an obi with cooling nadeshiko patterns expressed with indigo dyes.
Nadeshiko pattern has been used for costumes and furnishings since Kamakura period (1185-1333). The motif can be used on summer kimono and dyed obi, either alone or in combination with other autumn flowers.
Susuki (Japanese pampas grass)
Susuki pattern has long been used on offerings to gods and amulets against evil since the Asuka period (592-710). The pattern is rarely used alone on clothing. Rather, it is usually combined with other autumn flowers, the moon and small birds in realistic illustrations
A winter scenery with snows on withered susuki is made into a design called “susuki ni yuki monyou” (snow on susuki).
The photo shows a unique kimono with susuki patterns illustrated in ink. The delicate lines of the susuki pattern adds a cool air to the kimono. Matched with an obi depicting hagi and omodaka (threeleaf arrowhead, see article here) designed on tanzaku (strips of paper), the kimono makes a great summer outfit.
<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 )
All-color Revised Edition on sale March 18, 2021
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 at bookstores in Japan, or on Amazon and other online stores. Can also be ordered at bookstore counters in Japan with no shipping charges (the service may be unavailable at some stores).