The World of Colors

The Color Combinations for Winter of the Imperial Japan.

Get dressed in winter with colors is not that easy. It’s cold, landscapes are naked, the days are grey, it impacts our mood, and our choice of clothes.

Those who namely taught us a see a certain beauty in winter, are -among the others- the painters, in particuler flemish (for instance Bruegel below on the left): or Russian (here,  Ivan Aïvazovski):

The touches of beige, brown or gold are warming the ambiance.

Later, other painters -beyond the Hudson River School- brought another way to see winter, by bringing colors (below, Van Gogh, Munch, Choultse and Hiroshige). A touch which, by effect of contrast, changes everything is the woodblock print from Hiroshige (here, one of the 53 stations of Tokaido).

And if we use the colour palette of one of those paintings to inspire our choice of garments …

And what about Japan?

The historical context (that you may skip):

The Heian period (between 794 and 1,185, i.e. early Middle Ages) is considered as the most blooming one of the Japanese empire. It’s during this era that certain rules and guidelines for clothing were established. All in all, they are very sophisticated, very codified, and were set in place by imperial writs; they integrate the rank in society, the season or event, the gender, the age, …. knowing that the garment could include up to 12 layers in the court (see details in this post).

What were the color combinations defined for winter?

Like for other seasons (see this post about autumn), they are inspired by the nature. And so, here are the traditional color combinations that were established for the winter during Heian period. They are less numerous than for the other seasons. You will find below a description of the theme, an image that evokes it, and a choice of color to represent it.



Litt. withered colour. It refers to the landscapes in winther, the grass becoming yellow and dry, namely by the effect of dry and cold air.


Litt. under the snow. This evokes the flowers of the Prunus Mume,  which can bloom under snow.


Evoking a composition of camellias.

Kōri kasane:

Litt. the layers of ice, an ultimate picture of winter, here represented with a pure white and an off-white.

Matsu no yuki:

The pine under snow.


This refers to an insect: Chrysochroa fulgidissima. Its wings are iridescent,  green with purple glints. What inspired this color association.

Get dressed is also to choose a color palette, that shall match somehow the current atmosphere, and our mood or temper. Even if we feel cheerful in winter.

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