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Some Japanese Symbolism and Uses of Color

        If one is crafting a Temari to be representative of a particular season or mood, the traditional use of colors in Japanese style may be of interest. In addition, remembering that floral motifs are common in Temari designs, it's of note to understand that the Japanese people prefer flowers that drop their petals slowly, one by one, rather than dying off in one clump. This is why the Chrysanthemum (Kiku) became such a revered bloom. Roses, on the other hand, that drop their petals suddenly at once, can even be considered bad luck. Sakura (cherry blossoms), daisies, & plum blossoms are greatly admired.  Something with many petals can also be related to many years of life (long life) which is another good fortune wish.

        Red and white are auspicious colors (good luck).  You will find the two colors used for many special occasions, such as weddings, and births. Since tassels are used to decorate things of celebration, red and white are the colors you will find (unless it is black and white, or all black for a funeral). It is said that you may be in a train station in Japan and see a couple traveling. The man is in an all black, double-breasted suit, the woman in an all black kimono.  Both are carrying a shopping bag containing gifts.  One ponders if they are returning from a wedding or a funeral; the only way to tell is if the woman's obi is colorful, or solid black, and the man's tie is white or black.  Colorful/white is for a wedding, black/black is for the funeral.

        Blue and white are also prominent colors in Japanese fabrics and dishware.  Yukata is a blue and white cotton fabric used to make summer kimonos also called yukata. Indigo dyes vary in intensity and used most commonly, in very intricate dying patterns.
With thanks to Sue H.

        Japanese life is still very much dictated by the seasons. The color list is referenced to Liza Dalby's book "Geisha", about her study of Japanese geisha life.  The layering of colors for kimono and their surface decoration vary with the season and even the month. In modern day, only geisha follow the tradition of changing colors for each month. This is one list of colors from a traditional school of Japanese etiquette. Given that Japanese life is closely linked with the seasons, each month also has its own natural reference.)
January Pine Sprout Green / Deep Purple
February Red Blossom Plum Crimson / Purple
March Peach Peach / Khaki
April Cherry White / Burgundy
May Orange Flower Dead leaf Yellow / Purple
June Artemesia Sprout Green / Yellow
July Lily Red / Dead leaf Yellow
August Cicada Wing Cedar Bark / Sky Blue
September Aster Lavender / Burgundy
October Bush Clover Rose / Slate Blue
Maple Vermilion / Gray-Green
December Chrysanthemum Lavender / Deep Blue

        These colors have been further explored in Dalby's "Kimono: Fashioning Culture". Kimono will have these colors appear most often, along with black: Ao  (blue-green):  corresponds most closely to *turquoise-green*; Moegi (sprout-green): could also be called grass-green or apple-green; Kurenai (scarlet-pink): a bright, slightly yellow-toned pink produced from the benibana,(safflower); Kobai (plum-pink); a light red with a purple cast; Suo (maroon): another red, wandering in tone from purple to brown to orange; Ki (yellow): the purest yellow; Kuchiba (old-leaf tan/ dead-leaf yellow -the name means rotted leaves); Yamabuki (golden yellow): a  golden yellow like that of the  common freesia;
Murasaki (purple): restricted for the  use of those of high rank; Shiro (white); Kon: (black).

Note that true red was not used in "common" kimono, no matter how intricate; red was reserved for indicating rank.

Last updated 11/2013 © 1998 - 2014 G. Thompson/PuffinStuff, Inc.