Kimono Patterns―27
Sasa (Bamboo Grass Leaves): Botanical patterns considered auspicious since ancient times

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. We will explore the meanings behind the designs as well as insights into styling a kimono attire.

Over the next weeks, we will be looking at various patterns that reflect the beauty of the four seasons.

The photo shows an obi with a woven pattern of yukimochi-zasa (snow-covered bamboo grass) and snow crystals.

Bamboo grass are said to have more varieties than bamboo and are characterized by having shorter, thinner stems and lush leaves. Among the sasamon bamboo grass patterns, the most common types illustrate the distinctive shapes of the leaves.

Yukimochi-zasa (Snow-covered Bamboo Grass Leaves)

The yukimochi-zasa design illustrates the accumulation of snow on bamboo grass and is one of the most iconic sasa patterns. The pattern was conceived as a metaphor for a strong-willed spirit, likened to the bamboo grass tree withstanding the weight of the snow, and its supple leaves that appear to come back to life as the snow melts.

Like the bamboo, the bamboo grass is a member of the Poaceae or Gramineae grass family, but it does not grow as tall and its stems are quite thin. Along with the bamboo, the sasa bamboo grass patterns have long been used in a formal kimono and obi as a symbolic celebratory design.


Sasazuru (Bamboo Grass and Vines)

A soft and elegant komon (a type of kimono with small detailed patterns) with a sasazuru pattern, combined with a woven obi with a takara-zukushi <see article here> pattern adds to the sophistication of the look.

Sasazuru is one of the famous meibutsu-gire <see article here>, which is said to have been brought to Japan from the Ming dynasty in China, and the pattern includes a combination of pinecones, bamboo leaves, and small flowers. Slightly elliptical pine circles, small six-petaled flowers, and vine leaves are illustrated in an orderly pattern. It is widely used in kimono and obi.

< Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
Year-round, New Year, spring


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).



2021 Spring / Summer

Inside Japan’s West