TRADITION
2020.06.24

Kimono Patterns―5
Ajisai (Hydrangea): A classic summer flower loved by historical poets

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, let us take a look at three patterns of summer flowers and plants that add an elegant touch of the season to any kimono style.

The ajisai (hydrangea) flower has been around in Japan for a long time. It was read in one of the Japanese poetries (waka) found in Man’yoshu, the oldest collection of Japanese waka found today. The waka expresses the hopes for the eternal prosperity of a loved one, likening it to the numerously layered petals of the beautiful ajisai flowers.

Many popular patterns of ajisai often depict the flowers in bloom in early summer, glistening with raindrops.

Ajisai was popularized as patterns after the Edo period (1603-1867), when the artists in the Rimpa school of painting began designing the large, purple-blue flowers in eloquent patterns.

As the flower is in bloom from the rainy season in Japan to midsummer, the pattern used alone is seen as a summer motif in a kimono style. Though the pattern was used on Noh costumes in the past,  it is often seen today on casual kimono, obi and yukata.

<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
Summer

 

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).

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