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japanese Pattern

Japanese Pattern

13 min read

As a big fan of Japan, you may have noticed that certain patterns are often found on clothes, tableware or even famous works of art.

Yes, you know, those Japanese patterns in the shape of waves, sakuras or even small geometric patterns. Well, did you know that most of them have a meaning?

In Japan, traditional Japanese patterns are called "Wagara". In general, they are symbols with a lot of history and their origin can be traced back to the Heian period, between the 8th and the 11th century.

Each of these patterns has a specific meaning and were originally created to decorate traditional Japanese clothing such as Kimono and Yukata. Some designs were even reserved for an elite and even for some Shoguns.

japanese pattern

The majority of the patterns date back to the 8th century, to the Heian period. These patterns are very often inspired by nature and were made using techniques derived from painting and Chinese calligraphy.

Unfortunately, with the westernisation of Japan, the meaning of these patterns has been somewhat lost. Over the generations, young people have gradually abandoned traditional clothing for more westernised outfits.

But fortunately for us, instead of disappearing completely over time, the Wagara migrated to household products, fashion accessories and decoration.

Today, The Japanese Temple is able to explain the meaning of nearly 50 Japanese patterns classified in 4 main categories. Japanese patterns will no longer hold any secrets for you.



pattern japanese

The "Seigaiha" pattern is surely one of the most famous in Japan. It represents waves formed by concentric circles creating small arcs. Water and waves in general are very important symbols in the Land of the Rising Sun. Water is an element symbolising luck, power but also resilience.

This pattern first appeared in China before being imported to Japan, notably on kimonos, as well as on all sorts of fabrics and even on tableware such as plates and even cups.


asanoha pattern

The Asanoha pattern is a fairly common pattern on clothing and mainly on baby and children's clothing. The reason for this is quite simple, the Asanoha is usually in the shape of a 6-pointed star representing a hemp leaf.

Yes, so what? Wait for it ! Before importing it from neighbouring countries, the Japanese used very little cotton, so they naturally turned to hemp. And for good reason, this plant is not only resistant but it can grow very quickly without requiring too much attention or work from humans.

These characteristics have allowed it to become a symbol of vigour, good growth and resistance. That is why you can find this pattern on children's clothes so that they too can have the virtues of this plant.


yagasuri pattern

The Yagasuri pattern was first a male pattern before it became more popular and appeared on both men's and women's clothing. At the time, only men practiced archery, so it was logical that this arrow pattern was used on men's clothing.

The meaning is multiple, the pattern could evoke the determination symbolized here by the arrow. Indeed, once shot, the arrow is unstoppable. Its trajectory is not altered in any way unless it hits the bull's eye, in other words, only after it has reached the target and thus its objective.

In the New Year, and mainly in Shinto temples, it is possible to buy devil arrows called "Hamaya". These arrows are supposed to scare away evil and thus bring good luck.


same kommon pattern

The Same komon pattern is pleasing to the eye and has no particular meaning. It is therefore a purely artistic pattern. It is also called "Shark Skin" in Japan because of its small dotted lines and arcs.

The Same Komon became famous after the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune adopted it personally.


tatewaou pattern

Tatewaku is surely one of the oldest patterns. These wavy vertical lines were very common during the Heian Period (794 to 1185) especially on the kimonos of high ranking people. This can be explained by the difficulty of making these lines on the textile.

Often accompanied by other patterns, the undulations present on this pattern would symbolize the steam which would rise gently towards the sky. A beautiful metaphor tells that it would be the spirit which would join the skies.


kikko pattern

Kikko is also a very old pattern dating from the Middle Ages. These shapes resemble the patterns on the shells of turtles.

In Asia, the turtle is a sacred animal. Some legends say that these animals can live for thousands of years. The Japanese therefore used the Kikkou pattern to represent longevity.


shippo pattern

In Japan, it is common to find this Japanese pattern on many fabrics, ceramics or even wooden sculptures.

Composed of 4 circles, Shippo means "The 7 treasures" or "The 7 jewels" and is said to represent the 7 treasures of Buddhism: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, agate, pearl, coral and crystal.

Shippo was also widely used in Japanese crafts, particularly on works of wood, lacquered wood, metal, ceramics, etc.


kanoko shibi pattern

Kanoko literally translates as "deer pea". It is actually an ancient Japanese dyeing technique. The result is this characteristic pattern.

The Shibori pattern was extremely popular in the Edo period (1603-1868) and was considered a symbol of wealth.

Indeed, to make such patterns, one needed real experts in dyeing but also a lot of time on one's hands. It was therefore very expensive to dye a kimono or a cloth.


sayagata pattern

Before it became a well-known fabric pattern, the Sayagata was originally a derivative of the Swastika, the famous 卍 cross of the Buddhist religion. The exact Japanese translation for this cross is the "Manji".

This symbol is therefore a universal symbol that can be found on many continents and in many religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

This cross symbolises goodness, the harmony of opposites, compassion, strength, intelligence, the whole and the infinite.


hishimon pattern

In Japanese, Hishi (菱) is an abbreviation of the word "Hishimon". The diamond-shaped pattern looks like a small diamond. The pattern is inspired by the leaves of the water chestnut, an aquatic plant.

This water plant is said to improve productivity. In Japan, the Hishi pattern symbolises prosperity.


igeta pattern

The Igeta pattern is a very old pattern in Japanese culture and in Japanese fabrics. At first glance it looks like a simple hashtag as we know it today. However, it is said to represent a well or a source of water that symbolises life.

Because of its simplicity, this pattern has become a favourite in many Japanese families.


uroko pattern

The word "Uroko" (鱗) translates to "scales" in Japanese. The characteristic of this pattern is a set of triangles alternating light and dark shapes. It is said to be somewhat reminiscent of Japanese fish, snake or even dragon scales.

In Japanese culture, scales have protective properties, especially if they are dragon scales. The Uroko pattern is also used in plays to represent a snake in the costumes of villains.

On a kimono or an Obi belt, this pattern would symbolize protection.


kagome pattern

The Kagome is not a fabric pattern per se. Originally, it was a method of weaving bamboo baskets. Kamo" means "basket" and "me" translates as "eye" in reference to the hole in the basket.

The Kagome pattern is a symbol of protection, a barrier against demons and bad luck.


ichimatsu pattern

The Ichimatsu pattern is a famous check pattern that became popular with Japanese women during the Edo period. The pattern is named after Ichimatsu Sadogawa, a famous Kabuki actor.

The actor wore a Hakama with a check pattern. Such a pattern represents prosperity.

Today, the Ichimatsu is still used in Japan as a symbol of hope, prosperity and good growth in business. It was also present on the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.




The crane represents good fortune and longevity in Japan. As an animal from Japanese mythology, the significance of these birds is not new. There are several legends about the Tsuru that say that it can live for almost 1000 years.

In Japan, you can see the Japanese crane on Japanese New Year's Day and also at weddings. These bird patterns often appear on the bride's kimonos! The reason is simple, Tsuru are monogamous animals, so they only have one partner.


The Koi Carp pattern is probably one of the most popular patterns on clothing. A symbol of perseverance, there are many legends about it in Japan.

The most famous of them tells of a single Koi carp that managed to swim up the river against the current. It was rewarded by the gods and transformed into a majestic golden dragon.


In Japan, Kujaku is the translation of "peacock". In Japanese culture, this animal symbolises several virtues such as caring for others, willpower and compassion. It is also a symbol of love and education.

In Buddhism, the peacock is also the emblematic animal of the goddess of knowledge and the master of the arts.


phoenix pattern

In Japan, the Hou-ou is a phoenix originating from China. This mythical animal has become the symbol of the imperial house, and in particular the emblem of the empress.

This mythical bird represents fire, the sun, justice, obedience and loyalty. According to Japanese mythology, the phoenix appears very rarely, only to mark the beginning of a new era. Other legends say that it only comes to earth in times of peace and prosperity.


The Rabbit is also an essential animal in Japanese mythology. Hero, sometimes unfortunate, of many Japanese legends, the rabbit has many shrines in its effigy.

The rabbit is therefore a widespread pattern in tableware, kimonos and obi. The animal is a symbol of intelligence and dedication.


kame turtle japan

"Kame is the Japanese word for turtle. The Japanese believed that the turtle was a magical animal. It was considered to be an animal of good fortune bringing 10,000 years of happiness.

It is therefore a symbol of wisdom, luck, protection and longevity. This is said to be due to its lifespan but also to its attitude and slow movements. The turtle is therefore a magical animal that unites heaven and earth.


butterfly pattern japan

In Japan, the Choho is a symbol often used for young girls. The girl is seen as a butterfly that spreads its wings to become a young woman. Butterflies are also a symbol of joy and longevity.

There is also a tradition that the spirits of the dead take the form of a butterfly on their journey to the next world before they are granted eternal life.

Finally, if a pattern depicts two butterflies dancing around each other, it is a symbol of happiness in the couple.


japanese dragon pattern

The Dragon Ryu is the god of the sea in Japan. Far from the western meaning, dragons are benevolent animals in Asia and Japan. The dragon is the symbol of strength, power but also of luck and good fortune.

Contrary to the image we have of terrifying fire-breathing dragons, the Japanese dragon has no wings and lives under water.


tanuki japan

In Japanese folklore, the Tanuki is one of the most famous Yokai just like the Kitsune. Master of the art of camouflage, this little demon is known to transform itself as it pleases.

The Tanuki is said to be inspired by the raccoon dog and not the raccoon as we might think. In Japan, this animal is a sign of good fortune, wealth and luck. It also symbolises prosperity.


The Maneki Neko is without doubt the most popular lucky charm in Japan. According to the legend, the lucky cat became a lucky charm after saving a rich nobleman.

If you want to know more about the Maneki Neko, we recommend our blog post on the meaning of the Maneki Neko.

The Maneki Neko also called "The inviting cat" is the symbol of luck, wealth and good fortune.




karakusa pattern

Originally, these arabesques represented simple leaves, flowers or even vines. This pattern is very old and was widely used in Japan. Karakusa is usually associated with different Japanese flowers such as plum trees, lotus flowers, peonies, cherry trees, bamboo and many others...

Historically, it was a simple decorative pattern, but little by little, it gradually gained in significance. Thus, it would symbolize prosperity, longevity, continuity of the family, like a tree of life.


sakura pattern

The cherry blossom has become a national emblem in Japan. Sakura even have their own festival in spring: Hanami. A festival during which Japanese people picnic in parks and admire the beauty of nature and especially the cherry blossoms.

The Sakura symbolises the beginning of spring. On clothes, cherry blossoms symbolize the sweetness but also the ephemeral beauty of nature.


kiku pattern

The Kiku pattern represents the famous chrysanthemum flower. Just like sakura in spring, chrysanthemums are emblems of autumn in Japan.

The flower symbolises longevity and youth. However, Chrysanthemums originated in China and were brought to Japan during the Nara period (710-793).

Over the years, the flower even became the emblem of the imperial family. Today, the Japanese government still uses the chrysanthemum on some official documents.


botan pattern

Known as the "King of Flowers", the peony is a beautiful flower that is found on many traditional outfits.

The peony also symbolises good fortune, nobility and youth.


tsubaki pattern

The camellia flower is, like the cherry blossom, a spring flower native to Asia. However, this flower starts to bloom towards the end of winter, earlier than the Sakura.

In Japanese, this flower is known as Tsubaki, hence the pattern of the same name. They were very popular with the nobility during the Edo period.

Among warriors and samurai, the red camellia symbolised a noble death. In general, the red camellia symbolises love.


hana shobu

In Japanese, the word Shoubu or Hana Shoubu is the translation of "Iris Flower". This beautiful flower is revered in Japanese culture for its purifying properties.

In Japan, there is a belief that the iris could purify energies and repel bad vibes and evil. This pattern could therefore protect those who wear it. The purple iris symbolizes wisdom while a bunch of blue irises would symbolize hope and faith.



Kiri is the Japanese translation of a tree native to China, the paulownias. This tree was also called "The Empress Tree" or "The Princess Tree".

In Japan, especially in the Kyoto, Nara and Osaka areas, it was customary for wealthy aristocratic families to plant several paulownias when their daughters were born.

The tradition was that the family would let the tree grow and then cut it down and give it to the newly married girl.



The Kikyo pattern pays tribute to the bluebell flower. This flower is also called Kikyo in Japan. The flower is usually white and has five petals. The Kikyo symbolises love, honesty and obedience.



The Asagao is a flower introduced to Japan during the Heian period. Its French translation is ipomée. The particularity of this flower is that it blooms only in the morning and only at the coolest time of the day. This has earned it the nickname of "Day Beauty", as it opens only during the day and closes again in the evening.



In Japan, Matsu stands for pine. This tree has a very important place in Japanese culture. Since the pine tree remains green all year round, it has become a symbol of longevity and perseverance.

At New Year's Eve, pine trees become an essential decoration on doors and near entrances. It is believed that pine branches bring prosperity to the home. Pine is believed to ward off evil spirits, which is why temples are usually surrounded by pine branches.


Like the Matsu, the Matsuba pattern represents pine needles that have fallen from the tree. Because of its ability to withstand the most extreme temperatures without losing its needles, this tree has become a symbol of longevity and perseverance.


bambou pattern japanese

Bamboo is also a very popular plant in Japan. The Japanese word for "Bamboo" is "Take". Take is therefore a very common pattern on Japanese fabrics or in Japanese decoration.

For a long time there was a legend that the roots of bamboo were so strong that they could prevent the earth from shaking during an earthquake.

The strong roots of bamboo make it a very resilient plant, regardless of the season. Take is therefore a symbol of prosperity in Japanese culture because it can withstand all climates. The simplicity of bamboo has also allowed it to become a symbol of purity and innocence.


Nanten is a small shrub with red berries and small white flowers. The Nandina is very important to the Taoists. The latter consider this plant to be very sacred because it symbolises purification.

In Japan, it is common to plant this shrub near the house to ward off evil spirits.


Hagi is yet another symbol of autumn in Japan. It is usually associated with melancholy and unrequited love. Hagi is often mentioned in Haiku, Japanese poems.



With its beautiful T-shaped leaves, the ginkgo has become the emblem of the Japanese capital since 1989! The Ginkgo leaf can even be found on the logo of the Tokyo underground.

In Japanese decorative art, the Ginkgo leaf is a very popular symbol of longevity. And for good reason, 3 trees are considered the first 3 Ginkgo trees in Japan. They are said to have been planted over a thousand years ago!

In addition to its immense longevity, the Ginkgo is a tough tree. So much so that 4 Ginkgos survived the Hiroshima explosion.

The Ginkgo tree is therefore a true symbol of longevity.



mount fuji pattern

The term "Yama" (山) simply means "mountain". Mountains are considered sacred in Japan. Places of worship, they are said to house certain gods and sometimes even demons like the Tengu.

In Japanese mythology, for example, the mountain goddess "Yama no Kami" is said to come down from the heights to become the goddess of the rice fields and thus bring a good harvest to men.

Even better known, Mount Fuji or Fuji-San is also an important symbol of Japan. It symbolises peace and prosperity in Japanese culture.


japanese cloud pattern

During ancient China, the Chinese people made predictions and omens by observing the shapes or even the colour of the clouds that rose to the sky from the mountains.

This custom was passed on to Japan, and the cloudpattern began to be widely used. Since then, the cloud has been a symbol of change, hope, but above all, contact with the gods.


japanese wave pattern

The Kanagawa wave pattern is undoubtedly the most famous pattern in the world.

About to hit the boats as if it were an impressive sea monster, the wave symbolizes the irresistible force of nature but also the weakness of men in the face of this unleashing power.

Made by Hokusai, The Great Wave of Kanagawa is part of one of the artist's largest works: The 36 Views of Mount Fuji. If you wish to discover the history of the Japanese wave, we can only advise you to read our ultra complete blog article on the subject.



The Japanese fan or "Sensu" in Japanese is one of the traditional objects of Japan. Very practical for cooling off in summer, the fan is also a symbol of elegance and refinement.

The fan as a pattern also symbolises prosperity.

japanese kimono pattern