Did you know each "Wagara" has its meaning?

did you know each "Wagara" has the meaning?

Today many kinds of Japanese design not only on Kimono but also T-shirt or some small items like box or purse you can find. Those patterns are Japanese traditional design called "Wagara" that has been used for Kimono and furnishing goods for centuries. Did you know each pattern and design had the meaning?


Most of the designs had been very influenced by China, but from the mid-9th century they were translated these patterns into the ones that fitted Japanese style by incorporating its tradition and four seasons. The Japanese have a profound appreciation of nature, and each motif taken from nature has symbolic meaning. For instance, pine, bamboo, plum blossom and chrysanthemum represent the four seasons. You may find these motifs from nature used alone or closely linked to other traditional Japanese items such as fans, butterflies and bridges.

Today there are many kinds of Wagara with different combinations of colours while succeeding to the traditional design.

Here we'd like to look at some of the designs focused on geometry patterns with the meanings and origins behind them. 


Kikko hanabishi

Kikko hanabishi

This pattern is sea wave spread like a fan. It was originally introduced from Persia. It has the meaning to lead a peaceful life just like ever-lasting calm wave.

You can see flowers within a hexagonal geometry pattern. This kind of hexagon shape is found on relief in West Asia in B.C. Kikko means tortoise shell which is taken to symbolise longevity and fortune omen.  




It is a design pattern of interlocking swastikas (manji, 卍) which was originally introduced from China on imported textiles. This design had been often found on Kimono textile, but later was also used for shrine decor. It is regarded as a symbol of sustained and long lasting.  

This pattern is formed by over lapped each quarter line of the same-sized circle. Circle has a word for harmony and success and represents an eternal prosperity of descendants.

Asano ha



This is also geometric design based on hexagonal shape. The pattern is named after a hem leaf because this shape resembles. Since hem leaf grow up so fast, this contains a wish for a child's health growth. This design has often been seen on baby's cloth since early times.

This pattern originated from knitted stitch of bamboo. Because the pattern reminds of gabion, it is often found a combination of aquatic features like willow and water bird. It is used as an amulet pattern since it also looks like six-rayed star. 

Irakakusa jima


Irakusa jima

There're a scattering of small dots at either end of stripes looking like "Irakakusa" which is a kind of pteridophyte used to be seen on thatched roof. With the times, stripe patterns have been changed and sophisticated its image among the people both in Western countries and Japan. 

This pattern came from a spotted deer. Deer is an animal who has been considered a divine messenger in Japan, so it represents prosperity of descendants.

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Shippo pattern with Plum blossom
Shippo pattern with Plum blossom

It is really interesting to learn where these came from and how they penetrated into our life then carried on to today. We can tell how much people back then been cherishing nature depends on the season,and they tried to put their thoughts into it.  Even though each pattern has different meaning, every Wagara comes with a wish of good luck and happiness. 

Paulownia design
Paulownia was the design that only the people associated with the imperial family were allowed to use as a noble design


Now that you learn the meaning behind each pattern, it would be much more fun to pick Wagara item for yourself or a gift next time. 

The hidden feeling and thoughts for your loved ones are passed on in various ways. 

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