31 Traditional Japanese Kimono Patterns You Should Know

by Laura Pollacco & Lucy Dayman

The kimono is Japan’s most iconic garment; its uniform silhouette makes it an excellent canvas for all types of unique, traditional, powerful, and meaningful designs. The diversity of the kimono means you can wear it all year, but did you know the kimono actually has its own seasons?

You might know that yukata are typically reserved for the warmer summer months, that’s not the only seasonal variation (check out Yukata vs Kimono: What’s the Difference?). Different kimono designs are worn throughout the year to represent seasonal changes, auspicious occasions, and celebrations of significant calendar events.

These seasonal kimono patterns are not obligatory, there's no reason why you shouldn't play around with different designs, and wear what feels most comfortable to you. As model, artist and passionate kimono collector Cherry Jerrera said in an interview with Japan Objects, "people shouldn't be uptight about traditionalism because then traditions will die." Simply have fun and appreciate the beauty and diversity of this incredible garment.

Whether it’s the hanabi (firework) prints for summer fireworks festival season, or the cherry blossoms of spring, each season has its defining collection of traditional patterns. To learn more about when, how, and why people wear seasonal motifs, here’s an essential guide to 19 traditional Japanese kimono patterns you should know about.


1. Plum

Vintage Silk Plum Kimono, Japan Objects Store

Although these days spring hanami celebrations are synonymous with cherry blossoms, plum blossoms are an integral part of the season too. Before the Nara Period (710-94) the Japanese term for flower, hana, typically referred to the plum blossom. Plum trees bloom in the winter, so in Japanese culture they are seen as a precursor of the year to come.

2. Cherry Blossom

Vintage Silk Bingata Kimono, Japan Objects Store

Today, there is no flower more synonymous with Japanese culture than the cherry blossom. Its blossoming is one of Japan’s most viewed natural occurrences, with millions, both local and foreign, celebrating hanami, an event that originated during the Heian period (794-1185). The flower holds a great deal of symbolism, representing the cyclical nature of life and death and the beauty of impermanence. You will often find this design worn during the spring, especially at a hanami gathering.

3. Butterflies

Uchikake Kimono, The Met

Though not the most common symbol found on day-to-day kimono, butterflies are often depicted on the kimono’s furisode sleeves worn by young women during their Coming of Age ceremony. This is because the butterfly represents metamorphosis, coming out of its cocoon to become a beautiful butterfly just as a young woman transitions to becoming an adult. They can sometimes be found on wedding kimono as well, fluttering around flower designs to symbolise beauty and longevity, but be careful, some might interpret this as the bride will flutter from man to man as the butterfly does from flower to flower.

4. Wisteria

Vintage Silk Floral Kimono, Japan Objects Store

Wisteria is another one of Japan’s trademark flowers of spring. The symbolism behind it has a lot in common with the famous cherry blossom, representing fleeting beauty and impermanence but the hanging flowers are also a symbol for youth, love, and perseverance. The motif of wisteria flowers has been adopted for use on many family crests over the years, famously being adopted as the symbol of the ruling Fujiwara clan during the Heian era (794–1192 AD).

5. Peacock

Vintage Silk Peacock Kimono, Japan Objects Store

Peacock designs feature heavily on furisode, formal attire for single women. To learn more about different types of kimono, visit 10 Popular Types of Kimono You Might Not Know About. The peacock design was popular during the more recent historical periods the Meiji (1868-1912) and Showa eras (1926-88). They grew to popularity in a time known for its western influence, hence the western style design.

6. Water

Vintage Silk Tiger Nagajuban, Japan Objects Store

There are many ways to interpret water designs on kimono, it all depends on what state the water has been depicted. Flowing water is considered good luck as it washed away hardship and misfortune. Waves carry the meaning of birth, longevity, and eternity, as they have no end. Water in general is considered to represent enrichment and purity, as we cleanse ourselves in it. Often, kimono that features water will also include birds such as herons and cranes, or may be a part of a landscape scene, but often is represented in a stylized pattern that may cover the entire garment.

7. Kusudama

Kusudama are decorative bags that are typically stuffed with medicinal herbs or fragrant aromatics. Their design comes from the Chinese influenced Heian period (794-1185), and they’re considered good luck charms. The best time to wear a kimono with this design is Boy’s Day (May 5) as it’s during Boys Day celebrations that people tie kusudama to their sleeves as a way to ward off bad luck.

8. Peony

Vintage Silk Peony Kimono, Japan Objects Store

Known colloquially as the king of flowers, the peony was introduced from China during the Nara period, but in art and design, Japan has really made this flower a local favorite. This popularity is why the peony is still one of the most popular kimono designs. People first grew peony for their medicinal properties, but they were also revered for their beauty too.

9. Hanakago (Flower Baskets)

Hanakago Yukata, Japan Objects Store

Bamboo baskets known as hanakago have long been a staple of everyday life in Japan. They are beautiful, but also very practical, and they’re used for flower picking in spring, which is why they’ve become a common spring kimono pattern. Many of the hanakago you see on kimono designs feature ikebana, the art of Japanese flower design. They’re simple, but when done just right they’re an excellent example of Japan’s love of form and function in harmony.

10. Shiji Floral (Four Seasons)

Shiji Yukata, Japan Objects Store

While it may be most common to see in spring, the shiji floral, or flower of four seasons design indeed features flowers for each season making it a suitable pattern to wear year-round. What makes this kimono pattern so special is the creative way its designers can incorporate the flowers from spring, summer, fall and winter to work in perfect unison. No two ideas are ever quite the same.


11. Lillies

Red Lilies Yukata, Japan Objects Store

For such a beautiful flower, the lily doesn't feature all that much in historic kimono design. The lily motif became more popular during the Taisho and Showa eras (1912-88), perhaps thanks to the popularity of the flower in the west. Lilies were often seen as flowers to be worn by young unmarried women.

12. Bamboo

Vintage Silk Blue Kimono, Japan Objects Store

The iconic, tall, elegant bamboo is a motif that's multi-seasonal, but it's especially prominent in summer, maybe because many people love to eat crispy, refreshing bamboo in the warmer months.

13. Pastoral Scenes

Vintage Silk Blue Kimono, Japan Objects Store

One of the least common motifs you will find on kimono is that of people. Kimono often lean heavily on the symbolism of nature, using animals, plants, and landscapes to convey meaning. In some cases though, pastoral scenes can be found on kimono, depicting working people carrying out daily tasks. Though not commonly found on kimono this is a common theme to find in painting and later on printmaking, with ukiyo-e prints often finding inspiration from rural peasants' daily lives.

14. Insects

Insects often appear on casual and formal kimono designs because they're representative of water. Dragonflies are one of the most common late summertime insects, while fireflies and crickets often appear too. More casual versions of this motif can often be seen on light, breezy summer yukatas.


15. Forests

Vintage Silk Forest Kimono, Japan Objects Store

Forests make up much of Japan’s landscape, covering a staggering 67% of the country. It is no surprise then that forests are venerated and often held to be sacred by the Shinto religion. It is believed that trees that have reached 100 plus years old are inhabited by spirits, known as kodama, which has led many to consider the forests of Japan to be divine in nature. Forest scenes on kimono are often depicted against darker backgrounds and worn in the autumn and winter time.

16. Chrysanthemum

Vintage Silk Chrysanthemum Kimono, Japan Objects Store

No other flower features quite as heavily or with as much diversity in the world of kimono design as the chrysanthemum. In Japan the flower signifies longevity and rejuvenation, it was introduced by China during the Nara period and has remained a symbol of the nation's royalty. The best time to wear a chrysanthemum kimono is on Kiku-no-Sekku (Chrysanthemum Festival) held on the ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar.

17. Folding Screens

Vintage Silk Red Kimono, Japan Objects Store

Byobu, translated means wind wall, are folding screens that were commonly used in interior decor in the Heian Period (794–1185) having originated from China in the eighth century. They were commonly found in shrines, temples, and residences of the daimyo, Japan’s feudal lords. They often depicted scenes found in nature in the form of calligraphy and painting and grew in popularity over the years, with high ranking individuals having them made from gold leaf. 

18. Grapes

Fruit and nut motifs are representative of prosperous fall-time harvest, and one of the most common fruits to be represented are grapes. A design titled budo-risu mon (grape and squirrel crest) is a common kimono pattern said to represent good luck and a continuing family line. The background colors of these autumnal kimono often adhere to autumn colors: gold, red, and orange.

19. Maple Leaves

Vintage Silk Maple Kimono, Japan Objects Store

Leaf viewing parties, momiji-gari, are to autumn what hanami are to spring. This colorful turn of the season lasts a lot longer than the fleeting cherry blossoms, so it's a time for people to slow down. During this time of year, curtains would be hung under maple trees to show people where the leaf viewing parties would be held. The best time to wear a kimono pattern like this would be at a momiji-gari celebration.

20. Tale of Genji

During the Heian period, carts were used as the main form of transport for Japanese nobility. On the kimono, these carts are often seen depicted in conjunction with scenes from The Tale of Genji. Written in the 11th century The Tale of Genji is widely regarded as the world's first novel. This piece of literature is the most influential when it comes to kimono design. On the kimono you'll often see genji-guruma (Genji Carts) and moonflower leaves, together they represent the Evening Faces chapter of the novel.

21. Kyoto

The Edo period was when the art of depicting famous sights of Japanese cities became a popular kimono motif. During this time, the yuzen method of dyeing was being refined, the result: patterns with a lush, whimsical, painting-style look. Icons of Kyoto, like the Kiyomizu-dera temple and Yasaka Shrine, become hallmarks of this type of kimono art movement. Elegant designs of soft firey cedar trees in the fall are also synonymous with this type of design.

22. Fans

The folding fan was developed in Japan and introduced to China sometime around the early 10th century. This folding style fan has long been an essential icon of Japan as it represents prosperity, expansion, and development. They're also often used for greeting and during ceremonial occasions. What makes the fan such an attractive kimono pattern is the way it was used as a small, alternative canvas on which creators could add diversity and imagery within the kimono design.


23. Mount Fuji

Vintage Silk Fuji Nagajuban, Japan Objects Store

When thinking about Japan, there is perhaps no symbol more ubiquitous than that of Mt. Fuji. The famed volcano is Japan’s most sacred mountain and appears time and time again in Japanese artwork, from textile design to ukiyo-e prints. It can often be found on boys' kimonos, showing that the wearer will one day stand tall and strong like the near-mythical mountain. Mt. Fuji has long stood as a symbol of endurance and the forge of creativity and garners strong national pride for the people of Japan and for that reason is also often worn around New Years Day.

24. Pine Trees

Vintage Silk Matsu Kimono, Japan Objects Store

The Japanese pine trees come in many shapes and sizes and are widely found across the country. It is believed the tree can connect gods to the mortal world as they  travel through the pine branches. They also represent longevity and good fortune, and are a symbol often seen around New Year as people hope for a bright and prosperous future ahead.

25. Phoenix

The phoenix is a mystical bird that represents a multitude of meanings, but in Chinese characters, it represents 'fire' and 'female' making it a powerful kimono motif. Around the Showa period is when the design was most common, although the symbol of the firey bird was softened for a more feminine appeal during this time. It represents loyalty, wisdom, and benevolence. In many kimono designs you'll notice that bamboo also features, this is because according to legend, the phoenix drinks only sweet water and eats only bamboo shoots.

26. Camellia

SHOP THE LOOK | Camellia Floral Yukata

Although it is a winter pattern, the characters for camellia in Japanese mean 'spring flower.' They're representative of the forthcoming warmer season, and wearing this design in winter is an anticipatory celebration. Throughout history, they've been seen as an essential flower of Japan. It was during the Edo period that the flower's popularity reached its peak, when the second shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty planted a vibrant camellia garden, inspiring others to do the same.

27. Game Box

Vintage Silk Game Kimono, Japan Objects Store

Familiar everyday items are commonly used items within Japanese kimono design. Toys and utensils, decorated with flowers, were fun winter patterns suitable for both children and adults. Game boxes like this popular matching game are excellent examples of how such items can be incorporated into the design to create both a playful and delicate motif.

28. Tancho Crane

Vintage Silk Tancho Kimono, Japan Objects Store

There’s no image more iconic to Japan than this elegant bird. Cranes have long been admired in Japan for their mystical elegance. They live by the water, which is another key element of Japanese design, and they were seen as good luck symbols, especially during weddings. Kimono crane designs often feature both real cranes and paper cranes, the latter of which is seen as a symbol of peace in Japan.


29. Birds of Prey

Vintage Silk Eagle Nagajuban, Japan Objects Store

Historically in Japan, birds of prey are often considered to serve as symbols of power. The bird of prey motif became popular amongst warriors in the 1600s as they aligned themselves with the attributes of the deadly and efficient natural hunters. The birds also became a symbol of status as takagari, Japanese falconry which was originally imported from China,  became increasingly popular amongst the ruling/noble classes. During the Edo period samurai would often commission paintings featuring birds of prey to show their wealth and power.

30. Tigers

Vintage Silk Tiger Nagajuban, Japan Objects Store

Tigers may not be native to Japan, but they hold deep cultural significance in the country and are even one of the twelve animals of the Japanese zodiac. The legend of the tiger was imported from countries such as China and Korea where the creatures can be found in the wild. Now, the tiger serves as a symbol for protection, warding off evil spirits and bad luck as well as disease. For this reason they can sometimes be found at the entrance of shrines and one shrine in Nara, Chogosonshi-ji temple, is known as the Tiger Temple.

31. Dragon

Vintage Silk Dragon Nagajuban, Japan Objects Store

This motif is more commonly found on boy’s and men’s kimono, though women began to wear dragon kimono as recently as the Taisho era (1912-1926). The dragon, like the phoenix, is a mythical beast whose legend was brought over from China. It has strong ties with royalty in Japan, as the myth goes that the first Emperor of Japan was descended from a dragon. Today, it is considered a symbol for celebration, bringing us strength, courage, and wisdom at important turning points in our lives.

6 条评论

  • Japan Objects Store

    Hi Andrei,

    Thank you for your keen observation regarding the images. We’ve updated image number 21 to accurately reflect the Kyoto-themed kimono. Your attention to detail helps us ensure the authenticity of our visual representations. We appreciate your input!

  • Andrei

    Please note that item from image number 21 and the one from image number 27 are the same yet the first time is described as Kyoto and the second time as Game Box.
    Is there an error using the game box kimono for representing Kyoto?

  • Tina Duesling

    I am looking for a kimono pattern for a 15" doll. Can you help me out has I would like to dress this doll.

  • Lynda Beckworth

    I am interested in The Tail of Gengi kimono.

  • Japan Objects Store

    Hi Marina, check out our Vintage Kimono under the Kimono tab – you will find many silk kimono hand-made in Kyoto!



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