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.
Omodaka (Threeleaf arrowhead) is a perennial plant that grows naturally in paddy fields, ponds and swamps. Its three-petaled flowers bloom in summer and fall. The name omodaka comes from its visible veins on the surface of the leaves, “omo” meaning “surface” and “daka” meaning “heightened”.
Omodaka began to be used as patterns around the Heian period (794-1185) as artists graphically portrayed its pointed leaves and elegant flowers. The flower was loved among the samurai families during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) and was designed on armors and other battle gears. Its pointed leaves reminded the samurais of spears, making the pattern popular as a good luck charm for bringing in victory. In the Edo period, the pattern was used in many family crests of feudal lords and shogunal vassals.
As the plant grows naturally in damp grounds, it is often designed along with flowing water rather than on its own. The veins are often punctuated with lines on its uniquely-narrow leaves. Some omodaka patterns also include small flowers of fuji (Japanese wisteria) and kiri (paulownia). Today, the pattern is mainly used on summer kimono and obi.
<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 )
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).