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Pattern Analysis of "Cherry Blossoms and Courtesans from Tea House"

This captivating triptych presents a profusion of intricate and versatile kimono prints and patterns, providing a window into the prevailing fashions of the time. Moreover, it offers a fascinating exploration of the kimono's role as a medium of personal expression, individual identity, and cultural nuance.

Within these three meticulously crafted panels, we encounter a seamless fusion of geometric precision and organic motifs. This visual interplay aptly reflects the boundless potential for creativity and reimagination inherent in the combination of distinct pattern designs. Each motif carries with it a unique symbolism and significance, allowing individuals to curate attire that not only reflects their preferences but also communicates aspects of their personality and social standing.


In the initial panel, the courtesan's kimono is adorned with vibrant red Seigaiha wave patterns interwoven with green, intertwining Kojitsunagi motifs. The Seigaiha wave, a traditional design historically used to denote oceans and seas on ancient maps, symbolises tranquillity, inner strength, and auspicious fortune. Complementing this, the Kojitsunagi pattern, characterised by the repetitive inclusion of the 工 (kō) character, is associated with good luck and prosperity.

Additionally, the kimono features motifs such as fans, cords with tassels, mandarin ducks, and chrysanthemums. In Japanese textile artistry, the presence of fans often signifies wishes for prosperity and good fortune. The cord with tassel, known as kumihimo, represents the concept of "tying" or "matchmaking," embodying auspicious connections and harmonious unions.

The portrayal of mandarin ducks, depicted in pairs as lovebirds, symbolises the enduring and evolving nature of love shared between partners. Lastly, chrysanthemums, renowned for their regal beauty, evoke themes of rejuvenation and longevity, adding a layer of symbolic richness to the overall composition.


The central panel prominently displays a distinctive amalgamation of kimono patterns. Within this composition, one can observe the chequered ichimatsu-moyo patterns featuring a dragon and floral motifs worn by the courtesan, juxtaposed with the striped shima patterns worn by her attendant.

Ichimatsu-moyo finds its roots in the name Ichimatsu Sanogawa, a renowned female kabuki actor of the Edo period celebrated for her iconic attire consisting of a hakama adorned with white and navy checkered patterns. This particular motif gained widespread popularity among the fashionable women of the Edo era, epitomising refined elegance and sophistication.

The dragon, alongside the phoenix and crane, recurrently appears in traditional Japanese kimono design, drawing inspiration from both Chinese and indigenous Japanese mythology. This mythical creature was believed to ascend to the heavens and invoke rainfall. Employed in craftsmanship and dyed fabrics, it is often intertwined with auspicious clouds to form the flying dragon motif. This motif carries diverse symbolic connotations, widely associated with power, strength, celebration, transformation, renewal, protection against malevolent spirits, and serves as an emblem of imperial authority.

Lastly, the shima pattern, consisting of vertical stripes that run along the entire length of a kimono, is another famous Japanese design. Originating from the striped textiles imported from the Southeast Asian islands, the shima pattern became popular in the Edo period due to Kabuki actors and high-class courtesans adopting these new designs. This pattern comes in various iterations, each with its own name such as bōjima (棒縞), yatarajima (矢鱈縞), kyōyūzen (京友禅), and kagayūzen (加賀友禅). The style worn by the attendant appears to be yatarajima, characterised by around eight differently coloured stripes of varying thicknesses. This pattern was typically favoured by fashion-forward women and men during the Edo period.