Japanese traditional colours

Japanese Traditional and Ceremonial Colors
General Color Meanings

While one of the joys of Temari balls is their wonderful use of colors (indeed one of the symbolisms of giving Temaris as gifts is that they represent brilliance because of their colors, wishing the recipient a brilliant life), much interest has been expressed on the discussion group about use of the more traditional color combinations that one might see on authentic Japanese Temari and in Japanese culture. Indeed, to those of us in the west one might think that some Japanese Temaris do indeed have some "different" color combinations.Sue H. offers: Chrysanthemums are a favorite flower for the Japanese. In general, they prefer flowers that drop their petals one by one, rather than fall off in one clump. That is why the rose is not popular, and even 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. I do not know the origins, but surmise as you do, that being one of the easier natural dyes to create, that it would become the more widely used. 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). There is an observance in Japan that you may find amusing - you are in a train station and see a couple. The man is in an all black, double-breasted suit, the woman in an all black kimono. Both are carrying a shopping bag (yes, a shopping bag) containing gifts. Are they returning from a funeral or a wedding? 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 called "yukata". It is also used for the "temari-like" patterns found throughout their dishware. So many times, I hear western women moan about how the dishes they bought just won't match their color scheme at home. "Doesn't it come in green?" Hard to change a thousands of years old "tradition". : )

One group member follows a Usenet group where the same topic for different reasons was being discussed and offers the following reference. The color list is referenced to Liza Dalby's book "Geisha", about her study of Japanese geisha life. The layering of colours for kimono and their surface decoration vary with the season and even the month. Apparently, as ceremonial kimono are very expensive, only geisha follow the tradition of changing colours for each month. This is one list of colours from a traditional school of Japanese etiquette. (Web master's note - Japanese culture is closely linked with the seasons, so each month is also represented by a nature reference.)


* January Pine: sprout green and deep purple
* February Redblossom plum: crimson and purple
* March Peach: peach and khaki
* April Cherry: white and burgundy
* May Orange Flower: deadleaf yellow and purple
* June Artemesia: sprout green and yellow
* July Lily: red and deadleaf yellow
* August Cicada wing: cedar bark and sky blue
* September Aster: lavender and burgundy
* October Bush Clover: rose and slate blue
* November Maple: vermilion and grey-green
* December Chrysanthemum: lavender and deep blue


Another group member went on to offer:
The piece about the Japanese colours originally written by Liza Dalby in her book *Geisha* has been further expanded in her book *Kimono: Fashioning Culture*. Ten colours appear the most frequently, along with black, (in Kimono)

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*, an herbal dye source. The closest thing to red in the fashion palette, since truer red, *AKE* was primarily used to indicate rank.
Kobai (plum-pink) a light red with a purple cast.
Suo (maroon) another red, wandering in tone from purple to brown to orange. It is the name of the tree (sappanwood) from which the dye comes.
Ki (yellow) the purest yellow
Kuchiba (old-leaf tan) (also the one I believe is closest to what she described as *dead-leaf yellow* in the book *Geisha*.) The name means rotted leaves. If it were a bit brighter it would approach mustard.
Yamabuki (golden yellow) a tree-shrub, the *Kerria japonica* with a roseate yellow blossom. A golden yellow like that of the common freesia.
Murasaki (purple) from the root of the gromwell, difficult to work with and restricted for the use of those of high rank. A fragile colour, tended to fade. A range of purples included shades called *fuji* (wisteria),*keshi murasaki* (a greyed mauve), *ebi* (red-violet), *koki* (deep violet and *usuki* (pale violet).
Shiro (white)
Kon (black)

See more: Temarikai

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