Thursday 14 February 2019

What is that flower on kimono?

The brilliant and showy patterns of Japanese kimono are well-known around the world. Their painting-like designs do draw some questions though - namely, what do the flowers depicted on these traditional costumes mean?

Japanese kimono are known for their beauty around the world. Bold, daring colors and prints cause quite a stir no matter when you see them. But in many cases, the designs that draw the most attention are those featuring flowers.

"That looks lovely, but, what kind of flower is it?" Is a question that many may be asking when they see kimono.

Today let’s take a look at some of the most common flowers used in kimono patterns.


One of the most commonly depicted flowers is the ‘kiku’ or chrysanthemum. Although they only bloom in the fall, chrysanthemum print kimono are worn all year long - in fact, it is almost impossible to avoid wearing a kimono with chrysanthemum print on it. Large ones, small ones, there are various shaped and sized chrysanthemums to choose from, and even more colors: yellow, white, pink, red, the list goes on and on. The only commonality to their design is that the flowers themselves are round and have ten or more narrow petals to them.


‘Ume’ or plum blossoms are another commonly used floral motif in kimono. Though these flowers bloom in the early spring, you are sure to see them on kimono all year long as well. These designs typically feature a long stamen and 5 round petals, with the blossoms depicted in shades of red, white or pink.


'Botan' or peony are often used in the designs of kimono for young women. Already a splendid flower on their own, these blooms are made even more lovely when used in kimono designs. These flowers are best known for their numerous overlapping and unfolding petals, which are depicted in shades of red, white and pink.


One of the most famous flowers in Japan, though when it comes to kimono you will be hard-pressed to find designs featuring 'sakura' or cherry blossoms, especially when compared or chrysanthemums or plum blossoms. The main reason for this is that, as they have such a strong, short bloom life, you can really only wear cherry blossom motifs in the months of March and perhaps April. With the unique little v-shaped cut in the end of the petal, these patterns are immediately recognized as being sakura by the Japanese. Though the actual flowers themselves are a pale pink, cherry blossom designs depict them in a multitude of colors and shades.


Rather in the kimono themselves, the 'tsubaki' or camellia, are often used in obi designs. They have a more mature air to them and, though a spring flower, are used in kimono worn all year round. They are best known for their cap-like shape and are mainly seen in white and red, but can also be found in pink or white patterns.


The flower of spring, rather than being depicted along, 'fuji' or wisteria, are often drawn with other blooms. With their characteristic long flowing stems, wisteria are immediately recognizable and are mainly found in various shades of purple.


The flower of autumn, 'kikyo' or Chinese bellflower, is often drawn alongside other flowers, but is most easily recognized by its star-shape. In other words, a star shape indicates that it must be a Chinese bellflower, which are typically blue in kimono designs.

In Conclusion
Do you feel a bit more confident about identifying the flowers in kimono now?

In any time and in any country around the world, you are bound to see floral patterns in clothing, though those in Japanese kimono are said to be some of the most vivid depictions of seasonal flowers. While we have given the most commonly illustrated flowers in this article, there are of course many other floral patterns to be found in Japan.

And it goes without saying that there are numerous other kimono designs out there, ranging from simple stripes to completely modern, Pop-art inspired pieces. In the future, we will explore these designs further.

Flower photographs (save for chrysanthemum), courtesy of C. Genma.

(Source: MATCHA)

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