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Kimono Design: An Introduction to Textiles and Patterns

Kimono Design: An Introduction to Textiles and Patterns

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Kimono Design: An Introduction to Textiles and Patterns

495 pagine
1 ora
May 16, 2017


Kimono Design: An Introduction to Textiles and Patterns uses hundreds of photographs and a wealth of information on colors, fabrics and embellishments to paint a portrait of Japanese culture, art and thought. Lavish classical patterns, sweeping scenes, and the many motifs that have been woven, dyed, painted or embroidered into these textiles reveal a reflectiveness, a sense of humor, and an appreciation of exquisite beauty that is uniquely Japanese.

Organized according to motifs traditionally associated with each season of the year, Kimono Design interprets the kimono's special language as expressed in depictions of:
  • Flowers and grasses
  • Birds and other animals
  • Symbols of power, luck and prestige
  • Land-and-seascapes
  • scenes from literature, history and daily life
  • scenes of travel and the Japanese concept of other lands
  • and many others…

Extensive notes on all the motifs demonstrate how the kimono reflects changing times and a sense of the timeless. Information on jewelry, hairpins and other accessories is scattered throughout to give a fuller sense of the Japanese art of dress. This is a volume that Japanophiles, historians, artists and designers will all cherish.
May 16, 2017

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Kimono Design - Keiko Nitanai



Japan’s textile patterns are among the most beautiful in the world. They have endless appeal. They are also noted for their spiritual and symbolic aspects. Each pattern, which has been passed down over many years, is deeply meaningful.

The items featured are all from the collection of the Kyoto Antique Fabric Preservation Society, a non-profit organization (NPO). I am pleased to be able to show you not only kimono but also obi (sashes), haneri (removable decorative collars on undergarments), obi-dome (obi brooches) and other elements of Japanese dress.

Not all the examples of kimono, obi, obi-dome and haneri in the book are old. In order to fully illustrate a given theme, we have presented a mix of old and new. Scattered throughout the book are pieces by young artists.

The patterns are divided according to the four seasons. The season-specific album Saijiki (Literary Calendar) by Midorinomisaki, released on Apple Music in 2015, is a useful reference.

We sincerely hope that through the patterns in the kimono, obi and other pieces shown in this book you will enjoy experiencing one of Japan’s greatest charms—the changing of the seasons—and the seasonal sensibilities cherished by our ancestors.

For each season we have included articles written by specialists in particular areas of textile history. Themes such as the origin of the patterns used in the traditional Japanese drama kabuki and the kimono that color the four seasons in Gion are sure to satisfy readers’ desires to know more about the patterns.

We have also incorporated tourist tips on Kyoto throughout the book, and listed our recommendations for places to view flowers in the four seasons.

As mentioned above, the Kyoto Antique Fabric Preservation Society is an NPO, with its head office in Kyoto. It was established in 2004 with the aim of passing down Japan’s prized costume culture to future generations. Initially, the organization staged exhibitions mainly within Kyoto, but in 2006, starting with an exhibition at the Setagaya Cultural Foundation’s Lifestyle Design Center, items in the collection have been shown at other museums and art galleries.

In 2008, the Kobe Fashion Museum hosted Cheerful Hearts: Kimono for Outings in the Taisho & Showa Eras, and in the same year the Osaka Museum for Housing and Living presented an exhibition titled Muslin, allowing our collection to be viewed by many people.

In 2009, the society received recognition of its status as an NPO from Kyoto Prefecture and began broadening the scope of its activities. The society does not only collect old objects, it also carries out activities to engage young people and further their knowledge of Japanese design. Since 2010, the organization has held an obi-dome (obi sash brooch) contest aimed at university and vocational school students. We get very excited every time we see the competition entries of Japanese patterns as seen through the eyes of youth.

In 2011, as part of an enterprise supporting Kyoto’s Regional Potential Revival project, the organization launched the Oharame (female peddler) costume survey. As I have discussed in my article on page 230, the female peddler’s costume is unique not only in appearance but also in the way the different components are worn.

It is by looking back into the past as well as toward the future that we exercise our unique characteristics as a Kyoto NPO, amassing anecdotal evidence and continuing, on a daily basis, to gather materials for our collection.

Many of the items featured from the organization’s collection have been donated by citizens of the areas around Kyoto and Osaka. We believe our mission is not only to conserve items such as kimono and obi but to record their owners’ way of life for future generations.

In closing, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the people who have donated their invaluable items along with those who have supported and collaborated with the Kyoto Antique Fabric Preservation Society since its foundation.

Keiko Nitanai

Kyoto Antique Fabric Preservation Society



The tatewaku is a Yusoku pattern, that is, a design traditionally worn by Japanese nobility. It comprises pairs of vertical wavy lines, often described as resembling an hourglass, undulating around various motifs. The lines represent the mist that forms above ponds and marshes. The tatewaku is considered a lucky pattern, perhaps symbolizing rising above. Many variations of the pattern have been incorporated into formal kimono.

Clouds and a crane are embroidered within the lines of the tatewaku on this Nagoya obi, the obi type most often used today. Partly or fully patterned, one end is folded and sewn in half while the other end is of full width. Both patterns express happiness.

In this beautiful pattern, plum blossoms trail along the lines of the tatewaku.



The peony, which blooms in late spring, has been justly called the king of flowers. It is believed to have been first introduced to Japan from China during the Nara period (710–94). Later, in the Heian period (794–1185), it was cultivated at temples throughout the country, grown at first for its medicinal properties and later for its beauty. In the late Muromachi period (1334–1573), the peony started making an appearance in paintings and sculpture. But it was not until the Edo period (1615–1868) that peonies became all the rage and numerous ornamental varieties were grown. This period also saw the cultivation of a winter blooming variety whose roots and blossoms are protected under canopies of straw.

Love of the peony continues to endure and it has remained a favorite kimono motif up to this day.

In this obi, the peony has the starring role, with sky blue cherry blossoms forming a monochromatic background. This is a chuya obi, a reversible day and night obi, that has a less formal reverse side, like this blue and white striped pattern, which can be worn with more casual attire.

This obi, dyed in pastel hues, features the peony surrounded by flowers of the four seasons.

This turquoise tomesode, a formal single-color kimono for married women which is patterned only below the waistline, features contrasting plain and twill weaves.

In this design, a peony is placed in the center among an iris, pink, hydrangeas and other flowers of the four seasons.

A winter flowering peony at Hase-dera temple in Nara Prefecture. Flowers of various colors bloom on both sides of the corridor. They are at their best at the end of January.

Flower Baskets


For centuries, bamboo baskets (hanakoga) have served utilitarian functions in Japanese daily life, but they are also valued for their beauty, especially those that are less formal and rustic. Baskets are intimately connected to Japanese culture through the time-honored art of flower arrangement (ikebana) and the tea ceremony.

Since olden times, it has been a tradition to pick young plants in early spring. As a result, the flower basket has long been a much-loved motif for spring kimono and obi.

This kimono for a young girl features a dyed flower basket pattern.

This flower basket-patterned obi is from the early Showa period (1926–88). Inside the basket are roses and Japanese wisteria whose vine twines around the handle.

Cherry Blossoms

Although the sakura (cherry blossom) has long been a much-loved motif in Japan, patterns featuring the flower were not popular until more recent times mainly because the cherry blossom season is so short and thus the wearing of kimono bearing the cherry blossom motif is also short. As a flamboyant decoration on costumes for traditional Japanese dance and kabuki theater, however, there is no design more effective, but these costumes are worn for a specific purpose. The general public have generally preferred extremely small sakura patterns, such as little stenciled motifs.

When surveying the comparatively small number of sakura designs, you will see some that feature only single blossoms, while in others branches are laden with blossoms, as in the case of a weeping cherry tree. Sakura may be used in combination with other motifs, such as flowing water as in the sakuragawa (cherry blossom river) design, and atop a raft as in the hana-ikada (floral raft) design. Designs capturing a distant view of sakura were common. The scenery of a sakura-covered Mt. Yoshino shrouded in mist was incorporated into patterns used on semi-formal attire and other garments.

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