Kimono Patterns―29
Momiji: Autumn maple leaves, beloved since the Heian period

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.

Continuing from Parts 26 – 28, here are some more patterns that reflect the changing seasons.

Kaede maple leaves have long been used in patterns, because of their enhanced beauty when they turn into their red colors. Kaede leaves that have turned red are called “momiji”.

The Japanese began to admire red momiji from around the Heian period (794-1185). Prior to that in the Nara period (710-794), people were more familiar with looking at mountain ranges steeped in the beauty of yellow-colored leaves. It is said that people came to admire the colorful leaves of the maple trees, inspired by the Chinese belief that seeing leaves turn red was a way to bring back energy to the body after a long summer. This was the origin of the momiji-gari (viewing of the maple leaf), in which people celebrated the autumn harvest by enjoying banquets in the mountains in hopes of recovering their vitality.

Momiji-mon is a pattern used alone or in combination with karakusa arabesques <see article here>, waves, flowing water and deers <article here>.


Momiji-goshi (Maple leaf lattice)

A pattern with momiji branches designed in a lattice structure. The same kind of design can also be seen with other plants such as ume japanese apricots, which is called “ume-goshi (Japanese Apricot Lattice)”. In the obi in the photo, the colors of the leaves are accented to add variety.


Ryusui-ni-momiji (Autumn leaves in flowing water)

This is a pattern depicting fallen momiji leaves flowing down a mountain stream and is one of the most popular patterns of autumn kaede leaves. It is often used in modern kimono and obi to convey a sense of the season as well as a taste of autumn.



The Rimpa school is a branch of the Korin school of art, named after a kanji character in the name of the mid-Edo painter Ogata Korin. The artist’s style has a variety of characteristics, but Korin patterns are mostly simplified and illustrated with graceful curves.

Momiji leaves which are depicted in the Rimpa school style are called “Korin-momoji-mon”. Other famous patterns include “Korin-bai” (bai, or ume=Japanese apricot), “Korin-giku” (kiku=chrysanthemum), and “Korin-matsu” (matsu=pine)


Tatsutagawa (Tatsuta river)

A gorgeous kimono with a Tatsutagawa pattern. As an outfit befitting the Japanese autumn season, it is best to wear when leaves begin to change their colors.

A pattern of autumn leaves scattered over flowing water is also known as Tatsutagawa. Japan is rich in nature and has many famous places to enjoy the autumn foliage, including the Tatsuta River, which runs through the Ikoma Mountains in Nara Prefecture. The scenery of momiji leaves and the river is extremely beautiful and has been beloved since ancient times.

The combination of flowing water and autumn momiji is still very popular today, used in many kimono and obi.

<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
Autumn, year-round


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).



2021 Spring / Summer

Inside Japan’s West