Saturday, January 19, 2013

Kimono Seasonal Flowers, Motifs, and Colors: July

A very Happy New Year, everyone! Here is the next installment in my mega-kimono motif translation series of this Japanese tea ceremony kimono site. Enjoy and feel free to ask if you have any questions! :)

(If you're looking to buy kimono, I recommend Rakuten for new ones, especially casual wear, and Ichiroya for nice vintage ones!)
The Month of July

An "usu-mono" kimono.

Unlined kimono (hitoe) and lightweight/gauze kimono (usu-mono) are worn. Before the start of the rainy season, hitoe are worn. After, kimono change to lightweight (meaning ro and such).

During midsummer, hemp kimono (asa) of high quality plain-woven hemp cloth (joufu) are worn. Nowadays, they can be worn from the beginning of July for the entire month.

Patterns include summer grasses, and water designs make us think of coolness.

Colors such as refreshing white (shiro), dark blue (nou-kon) 010F29, light blue (mizu-iro) AFDFE4, and light gray (usu-nezumi) 9790A4 are preferred.


For material, ro and sha(1) are best suited. Colors are white (shiro), black (kuro) (2), dark red (enji) B3424A, brown (cha) 864A2B, green-tea green (matcha) B7BA6B,  and light "wisteria" purple (fuji-iro) AFB4DB.

Because obi and kimono of this season share many of the same motifs like summer grasses and scenery, it’s stylish to pair a kimono and obi with related motifs. With plain color kimono, an obi dyed with blooming flowers is good for creating a sense of the season.


Obi-age are things like ro and mon-sha (a type of sha) silk in plain colors, shibori-technique dye, or gradation, but they are worn tucked down into the obi as much as possible. This is because seeing less of it than normal creates a cooler feeling for the viewer.

Obi-jime are made of transparent ra silk or finely braided cord (hoso-himo).

Naga-juban (underlayer kimono) is made of lightweight material like ro, mon-sha, or asa.

Mon-sha naga-juban

Asa bolt for naga-juban
Collars are ro.

Notes (original author's)

When it comes to naga-juban, ro type are used for ro kimono, sha type for sha kimono, and asa type for asa kimono.


White, dark blue, light blue, light purple (asa-murasaki) C4A3BF, off-white/cream (kinari) F6F5EA, black tea (kogecha) 6B493D. Transparent material made in dark colors creates a feeling of coolness.


Morning glory (asa-gao), bellflower (hotaru-bukuro), “Hakusan burnet” (kara-ito-sou), summer grasses (natsu-kusa), water lily (sui-ren), running water/streams (ryuu-sui), waves (nami), and stylized snowflake (yuki-wa). As a note, yukiwa is also often used just for its unique scallop-edge shape, which can be filled with other seasons’ flowers or motifs.

Morning glory

Hakusan burnet

Summer grasses

Water lily

Running water/streams


Stylized snowflakes

July Flowers

“Sunset hibiscus” (ou-shoku-ki),  “scarlet hibiscus” (kou-shoku-ki), fringed orchid (sagi-sou), “Japanese bindweed” (hiru-gao), bottle gourd (yuu-gao), pinks (nadeshi-ko), summer bush clover (natsu-hagi), water lily (sui-ren), mizu-aoi (no English common name exists, but “water mallow” or “water hollyhock” are the characters used), and Japanese pampas grass (ito-susuki).  Fall flowers can also be used.

Sunset hibiscus

Scarlet hibiscus

Fringed orchids

Japanese bindweed

Bottle gourd


Summer bush clover

See previous section for water lily

"mizu-aoi" (water hollyhock)

Pampas grass

Patterns Associated with July

Waves, flowing water/streams, boats (fune), bridges (hashi), paper wishes (of the Tanabata festival) (tanzaku)(3), bobbins (ito-maki)

See previous section for waves and flowing water 



Paper wishes


More (Original Author) Notes

“Midsummer kimono”: Ro kimono are the norm for July kimono. The material called “ro” is woven with stronger, finer threads than normal chirimen silk. This allows it to be woven with lines of weave left open, making it transparent.

Kasuri technique
Kurotomesode, houmongi, tsukesage, komon, iromuji(4), dyed kimono in general: all are made of ro.

Outside of ro, things like sha and natsu-yuuki (summer version of famous fabrics woven in Yuki City) exist, but these are textiles dyed before weaving. While these are generally said to be unsuitable for tea ceremony, if one restricts oneself to plain-color kimono with no “weft ikat” (kasuri) patterns there are cases where this is seen.

When it comes to colors such as light "water" blue (mizu-asa-gi) 70A19F, pale purple (usu-murasaki) A3729A, and silver-gray (kin-nezu) A1A3A6, pairing a kimono with an obi of a similar shade of that color or one with a white background makes a harmonious pairing and one of coolness.

During a hot summer, it’s easy to go crazy with plain-weave hemp fabrics like Echigo, Miyako, and Noto(5), but due to their “weft-ikat” nature, they are unsuitable for tea ceremony. However, if you look for dyed hemp fabrics, you can find some nice ones. Paired with lightweight obi like dyed-pattern hemp obi, woven hemp “hassun” style obi(6), or ra silk fukuro obi, these kimono will look light and breezy.

Hassun obi

Undergarments made of hemp are also best. Having a smooth-feeling Ojiya hemp or ro one will make it easier to get through the hottest days of summer.

Translator Footnotes

A bolt of Ojiya hemp fabric.
(1) Basically, ro, sha and ra are all open “gauze” weaves. If you’re curious, here is a detailed explanation of the difference between a ro, sha, and ra weave.

(2) Solid-black fabrics or black-on-black patterned fabrics are reserved for “mofuku” (mourning wear) outfits. With July outfits make sure there is another color mixed in.

(3) Tanzaku can refer to the actual paper wishes or just the tanzaku’s oblong rectangular shape, and like “yukiwa” when used as a shape it is often filled with different motifs of different seasons.

(4) These are all different formality types of kimono. The point the author is making is that anything formal, semi-formal or even just dyed-pattern rather than woven-pattern needs to be ro silk.

(5) These are all famous fabrics from big weaving areas in Japan. The Echigo area is in Niigata Prefecture, Miyako comes from Miyakojima in Okinawa, and Noto comes from Shiga Prefecture.

(6) Hassun obi, due to their particular weave, have a visible darning or finishing stitch along the edge of the obi.

Translator Notes

- The firefly cuteness continues from June! The Japanese word for bellflower is hotaru-bukuro, or “firefly bag”.

- For woven pongee (tsumugi) fabrics, Yuki (technically Yuuki) is one of the most famous and expensive types due to its high quality, another being Oshima. I was lucky enough to get to handle some of both at a recent kimono class seminar: lovely, lovely fabrics!

- Generally speaking, fabrics dyed before being woven into a bolt of fabric are considered more casual than those dyed afterward.

(Notes below repeated from previous months)

-The original author repeats several points, so with certain common terms I am using the Japanese name on first mention only. If you’re unsure of something, feel free to ask and I can clarify.

-The number next to the color name is that color's hex code as used in HTML. Keep in mind the exact shade may vary as well, from what I've seen cross-checking traditional color-name sites with actual kimono vendors.
- As a note, this is a translation of a tea ceremony kimono site. The tea ceremony world, I have learned, is among the strictest when it comes to following proper seasonality rules, so bear in mind that these rules are more stringent than the general thinking for daily and casual kimono wearers.

It’s great if a daily wearer can put together an outfit following all of these rules, but very few will look at you funny if you can’t, as it’s hard and can be expensive to collect all the proper pieces. I’m translating this site more as part of my efforts to add to the world of English-language kimono information for those who don’t speak Japanese.