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’s take a look at the splendid collection of three “lucky charm” patterns.
“Zukushi”, meaning “full of” is an expression often used to call patterns that contain a collection of similarly-themed motifs. Takara-zukushi (treasure collection) is one of such patterns, along with gakki-zukushi (musical instrument collection; see article here) and kai-zukushi (collection of shells).
Takara-zukushi refers to auspicious patterns with various treasures, or lucky charms. It originated from the Chinese concepts of “happou” and “zatsu-happou” that feature auspicious treasures including items related to Buddhism, or those often pictured on Chinese potteries and illustrated plates. These concepts were brought to Japan in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) and were arranged to become takara-zukushi patterns.
Takara-zukushi mon (treasure collection pattern)
The Chinese version of takara-zukushi motifs refer to religiously auspicious patterns based on Buddhist teachings, and became the basis for the Japanese takara-zukushi pattern.
There are various Japanese takara-zukushi patterns across different eras and areas of the country, such as uchide-no-kozuchi, kakure-mino, kakure-gasa and kinnou, introduced below.
They came into use in the Edo period (1603-1867) and are often seen on kimono and obi today. There are different variations of the design―some have iconic takara-zukushi motifs scattered all over the design, while others have motifs appearing alongside shochikubai (combination of pine, bamboo and plum).
Typical treasure motifs
Various lucky treasure items are used in takara-zukushi patterns. Let us take a look at some of the well-known items below.
Uchide-no-kozuchi (Magic hammer)
Appearing in a Japanese fairy tale “Issun-bōshi” (“One-inch Boy”) and an item associated to Daikokuten (one of the Seven Lucky Gods), uchide-no-kozuchi is a magic hammer that makes your wishes―your hopes to become taller, or your longing for an item―come true. “Uchide-” derives from the word “utsu” (to hammer), which is phonetically the same as another Japanese word meaning “to defeat an enemy”, making this pattern a lucky charm.
Cloves were brought into Japan in the Heian period (794-1185). The spice was used in medicines, fragrances, dyes and oils, and became one of the takara-zukushi patterns because of its rare value.
Weights used on scales are usually made of iron or brass. While some have cubic shapes, they were generally a circular shape with a slim middle part. This elegant shape, along with their usage for measuring when exchanging gold and silver, made them popular as lucky patterns.
Kinnou / Kinchaku（Treasure pouch）
These two names both refer to drawstring pouches containing amulets, money, fragrances and other lucky goods. The pattern depicts pouches made with beautiful fabrics such as damask and brocade, with strings you can tie to close the opening. Kinchaku patterns are also used on its own to decorate kimono and obi.
Houkan / Makijiku (Scroll)
Houkan refers to scrolls of religious teachings, while makijiku refers to scrolls of mystic teachings and secrets of certain arts.
Tsutsumori (Scroll case)
Tsutsumori refers to a cylinder case for houkan and makijiku. In takara-zukushi patterns, tsutsumori are designed in a cross shape, with one placed over the other.
Kakure-mino (Magic cloak)
“Mino” refers to cloaks made of straw and other types of grass, worn in the rain and cold weather for protection. Kakure-mino is a mythical cloak that makes the person wearing it invisible. Appearing in various Japanese folktales, the item is said to be owned by the tengu, an imaginary creature with magical powers and a long nose.
Made with similar materials to the kakure-mino above, this mythical umbrella also makes you invisible from others.
Hoshou (Diamond-shaped necklace)
Counted among the Chinese “zatsu-happou”, hoshou refers to a diamond-shaped necklace. The pattern depicts the diamonds linked together by red or pink strings.
Meaning “treasure ball”, it used to be one of the tools related to esoteric Buddhism. It is depicted in a round shape with a pointed top, showing burning flames rising from the top and sides. The mythical ball is said to bring forth any items you wish for, such as gold, silver and treasures.
<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
All year round, New Year’s Day
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).