Japanese Patterns of Design

Japanese Patterns: Traditional Motifs and Designs

Japanese patterns, various patterns of kiku
Japanese patterns – Various patterns of Kiku (www.ikiya.jp)

Japanese Patterns and Designs Full of Dynamic Interpretation of Nature

Japanese Patterns – The simplified beauty of nature is seen on fabrics, crafts, and many other places in Japan. Some patterns and designs have a long history and some are very new. Let’s take a look at the dynamic interpretation of nature which can spice up your life!

Brief View of Japanese Patterns and Designs

Japanese Patterns and Designs
Japanese Patterns and Designs (Pinterest)

These beautiful patterns originate from the middle of the Heian period (around the 9th – 10th century) and still, new ones are created today. Some of them we still use the original ones. These patterns can be divided into two categories, one is a geometric pattern which derived from natural phenomena, and another based on the designs of animals and plants.

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Japanese Patterns and Designs on Kimono
Japanese Patterns and Designs on Kimono (google.com)

Most of the patterns we see today were produced after the Heian period. We see a lot of patterns and designs which were influenced a lot by China and other countries, but later unique Japanese patterns and arranged designs were developed. At the same time, the oldest Japanese literature like The Tale of Genji was born and the original Japanese character Hirakana was developed.

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Japanese people always respect and awed by the power/beauty of nature, so there is a lot of pattern and designs based on nature while inheriting the historical patterns.

Asanoha – Hemp Leaves

Asanoha pattern
Asanoha pattern (yokohama-kimono-asobi.com)

Asanoha depicts a geometric design of hemp leaves. Hemp has long been important plant and produced before the common era; being the primary clothing fiber along with silk, until the 16th century when cotton was widely produced in Japan. It represents growth and good health.

Hemp Leaf Pattern
Hemp Leaf Pattern (Pinterest)

Hemp leaf pattern began to be seen from the Heian period (794-1185). We can see these patterns on the decoration of Buddhist statue, which had been created at the time as well.

Other than used for clothing, hemp has been used in various ways to produce such as threads, nets, and ropes. Hemp was a main agricultural product as well as rice, it’s been widely produced due to its versatility until GHQ prohibited producing hemp in Japan after WWII.

Asanoha Tenugui, hand cloth
Asanoha Tenugui – Hemp Leaf Pattern
Hand Cloth

Hemp is pretty popular because it grows four meters in a four month without much care, and it’s believed that hemp leaf pattern has the power to dispel the negativity as a talisman. So it was very common that baby’s clothing was produced with hemp and Asanoha pattern, in hopes that the child also grows fast and strong.

Summer is the best time to appreciate its refreshing and comfortable feeling since it breathes really well. The only downside is that hemp can wrinkle easily but knowing its quality with an appropriate care,  it can be used for long years to come.

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Get your creative paper book on Amazon!: Japanese Patterns : Gift and creative paper book Vol.40Gorgeous wrapping papers which you and your friends will definitely love!

Yagasuri – Scraped Arrow Feathers

Large Yagasuri pattern
Large Yagasuri Pattern (Pinterest)

A shot-arrow would never be returned; Yagasuri pattern has been used for a bride’s costume. The design of Yagasuri is pretty sharp, yet blurred arrows give an impression of softness. It’s been popular for its straightforwardness and its grace.

Yagasuri and Hakama
Yagasuri and Hakama, usually worn by men but exceptionally by women at graduation ceremonies (google.com)

Around the period from the Meiji era to the Taisho era, Yagasuri kimono paired with Hakama were worn as school girls’ outfit. Hakama is a traditional outfit which is worn mostly at ceremonies by men today except for the graduation ceremonies for girls. Other than ceremonies, you can see them at the martial arts like Kyudo and Kendo.

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Yagasuri
Yagasuri (livedoor.blogimg.jp)

Yagasuri pattern has been very popular as a lucky charm.

Seigaiha – Blue Ocean Waves

Seigaiha, Blue Ocean Waves Pattern
Seigaiha, Blue Ocean Waves Pattern (google.com)

Seigaiha means “blue ocean waves.” This pattern has been used in Egypt, Persia (Iraq), and around the world. The word Seigaiha has its origin in the dance from ancient Japanese court music.

Seigaiha notebook cover
Seigaiha notebook cover (google.com)

It is considered a symbol of peace, good luck, and good fortune; we can see Seigaiha pattern on many kimono. Originally, this pattern was meant for young women.

Kikko – Tortoiseshell

Karahana (China-like flower) Kikko pattern
Karahana (China-like flower) Kikko pattern (google.com)

Kikko pattern, the hexagonal pattern was brought from the eastern Asia, through China to Japan. Since the pattern looks like a tortoiseshell, it’s believed to bring longevity.

Bishamon Kikko pattern
Bishamon Kikko pattern (Pinterest)

Bishamon Kikko pattern is one of the Kikko patterns. It comes from the pattern of the armor of Bishamonten, Buddhism god Vaiśravaṇa, which has been admired for its war victory.

Bishamon Kikko pattern on the armor of Tamontenzo in Kodo at Todai-ji Temple in Nara
Bishamon Kikko pattern on the armor of Tamontenzo in Kodo at Todai-ji Temple in Nara (www.vingle.net)

Shippo

Kamon based on Shippo pattern
Kamon based on Shippo pattern (google.com)

Shippo, seven treasure in Japanese, has a meaning of unending chain of expansion of harmony and peace. The seven treasure in Buddhism: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, agate, crystal, and tridacna which believed to live more than a thousand year.

Shippo pattern
Shippo pattern by sashiko (needlework) (3.bp.blogspot.com)

There are some various patterns like Hana (flower) Shippo, Hoshi (stars) Shippo, and Shippo Tsunagi (chains of Shippo).

Shippo pattern on wooden trivets
Shippo pattern on wooden trivets (www.thingiverse.com)

Tatewaku – Rising Steam

Tatewaku pattern on yukata
Tatewaku pattern on yukata (img08.shop-pro.jp)

Tatewaku, also called Tachiwaki, is the pattern resembling rising steam. In the Heian period, the pattern required advanced fabric-making techniques; therefore, it was exclusively used on clothes for the court nobles.

Kogiku (small chrysanthemum) Tatewaku pattern
Kogiku (small chrysanthemum) Tatewaku pattern (www.someichie.jp)

There are various kinds of combinations with other patterns Tatewaku like with bunches of grapes, clouds, and pines.

Tatewaku pattern on Yukata
Tatewaku pattern on summer kimono, Yukata (katsunoya.com)

We can see the Tatewaku pattern on historical byobu (folding screen), treasure and the outfit of Noh as well.

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Uroko – Scale

Uroko (scale) pattern
Uroko (scale) pattern (item.rakuten.co.jp)

Uroko pattern has been used as a talisman warding off the bad luck since the pattern is associated with a snake and a butterfly which shed its skin or chrysalis regenerate themselves.

Kamon based on Uroko (scale) patterns
Kamon based on Uroko (scale) patterns (www.e-kamonn.com)

Although its meaning related to regeneration, these pattern has been used simply as a pattern of a triangle as well. In Uroko Kamon, most of them have a regular triangle, but Hojo clan of Kawachi Sayama has an isosceles triangle which has the longer bottom line is called “Hojo Uroko”.

Uroko (scale) pattern on a badge
Uroko (scale) pattern on a badge (nilsite.pecori.jp)

Kagome – Wickerwork

Kagome (wickerwork) pattern on Tenugui (Japanese traditional cloth)
Kagome (wickerwork) pattern on Tenugui (Japanese traditional cloth) (item.rakuten.co.jp)

Kagome pattern originated from reticulation of a bamboo basket. The pentacle-like design is believed to ward off the bad luck, so it’s been used as a talisman as well.

Kagome (wickerwork) pattern on Kamon of Knome Shrine
Kagome (wickerwork) pattern on Kamon of Knome Shrine (xn—-626ay6jjqau34am2fhxopn9a.jinja-tera-gosyuin-meguri.com)

Also, it has a meaning to enclose the spirit of a man or a child from wandering. It is designed with things around the water, has been used in many designs.

Kagome (wickerwork) pattern on a rice bowl
Kagome (wickerwork) pattern on a rice bowl (www.bnet.gr.jp)

Ichimatsu – Checker

Ichimatsu pattern on a Kabuki actor, Sanogawa Ichimatsu
Ichimatsu pattern on a Kabuki actor, Sanogawa Ichimatsu (zatugaku1128.com)

Ichimatsu pattern named after a Kabuki actor, Sanogawa Ichimatsu who used this pattern a lot and kimono with this pattern became pretty among people later.

Ichimatsu pattern on the north garden of Tofuku-ji Temple in Kyoto
(eiyouhokyu.up.n.seesaa.net)

It’s a universal pattern you see everywhere around the world which is called checker pattern such as we see the pattern on a chessboard.

Tokyo 2020 Games Emblems
Tokyo 2020 Games Emblems (tokyo2020.jp)

We can see them in the emblems of the Olympics and the Paralympics which will be held in Tokyo 2020.

Kiku – Chrysanthemum

Various patterns of Kiku
Various patterns of Kiku (www.ikiya.jp)

Chrysanthemum has been the symbol of the autumn and loved by Japanese people as well as cherry blossoms. It was introduced in Japan in Nara period as medicine from China.

Japan adopted the tradition of Choyo Festival, which is held on the ninth day of the ninth month according to the lunar calendar from China; chrysanthemum becomes a symbol of longevity and people cherished the sight of chrysanthemum itself.

Kiku, chrysanthemum
Kiku, chrysanthemum (ameriajp.exblog.jp)

In the Heian (794-1185) and Kamakura period (1192-1333), patterned chrysanthemum was everywhere from papers to traditional crafts. It is in Muromachi period that chrysanthemum became one of the symbols of autumn.

In the Edo period, people improved the seeds of chrysanthemum and it gained the value of ornamental plants. Large-flowered chrysanthemum began to be seen from this era.

Although it’s the symbol of autumn, chrysanthemum can be used all year round as a lucky charm pattern.

Dorayaki of the Outer Garden of the Imperial Palace
Dorayaki of the Outer Garden of the Imperial Palace sold at Narita and Haneda airport (main-dish.com)

Chrysanthemum was first used by ex-Emperor Gotoba in the late Kamakura period (1192-1333) and it became the Imperial family crest to this day. They are commonly called the Chrysanthemum Throne.

By the way, the dorayaki above looks so good, doesn’t it? It looks so noble, so to speak.

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References

日本の文様 (www.nippon-ya.net)
file268 「卒業式の着物」 (観賞マニュアル 美の壺)
菊文様(きく) (www.ikiya.jp)

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Hiroko Matsuyama

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