Japanese fabrics, Japanese Patterns

The Meaning of Animals on Japanese Fabrics

This post presents you the meaning of animal pattern on  Japanese or other artisanal objects. And it follows those concerning flowers, geometric patterns, and objects.

Japan is a very long country between Russia and Taiwan, with 6,000+ islands. So, there are numerous animal species. Certain of them  are in tales and legends. All the more Japan has an animist background. Or represent a trait of personality, or a virtue.


Crane: Tsuru

In Japanese mythology, this big bird lives during 1000 years and represents longevity. It’s also very majestuous, and thus often associated with nobility.

If the crans are known for the beauty of their danses and coupling, they are also monogamous, and then often present on wedding kimonos, as an auspice for long and happy marriage.

Finally, the link between crane and peace comes from the legend of the 1000 cranes, and the story of Sadako Sasaki.

The Carp: Koi

Koi is a lucky charm, for happiness, and prosperity.

The decorative fish was introduced in Japan during Japanese invasions. Because they swim upstream, run up rivers and waterfalls, they symbolize courage, perseverance, the ability to overcome and reach a goal. And since these are nice qualities, during the day of children (Kodomo no Hi), windsocks like Koi carps are raised on masts (koi nobori).

Making many eggs, Koi may also relate to fertility and kids.

Lastly, in Japanese, Koi means “carp” but also “be in love”.

The Dragonfly: Tombo

The Island of Dragonflies has been the first name of Japan (Nihon Shiki).

The dragonflies have the specificity to only fly forwards. Then, for Japanese, they represent the courage of the one who does not go back and moves ahead in any circumstance.

The Plover: Chidori

Chidori, literally, means 1000 birds. Japan has many species of this small  de ce petit oiseau wader bird, which arrives in groups at the end of rain season.

For many centuries, it is an omen for longevity, because the sound of its call (like chiyo) means “1000 generations” in Japanese.

During the migration, this little bird -in groups- face the waves, rain, wind. That’s why it also symbolizes courage and determination in front of difficulties, small or big, like the waves. Therefore, it often represented above waves, evoking this capacity to overcome the natural ups and downs of life. By extension, the security for the family, an unwavering / unflagging link (within the couple, friends, …).

The Peacock: Kujaku

In Japan, peacock is linked with a Buddhist divinity (Kannon in Japanese / Guanyin in Chinese, a bodhisattva associated with compassion).

It carries the values of kindness, goodness, love, care.

Le Phoenix: Houou

It arrived via China, which phoenix (feng huang) is different from the one we know.

In Japan, it was mainly ornemental. Beyond its beauty and feminine grace, it appears when peace and harmony are effective..

The Rabbit: Usagi

Very present in myths, legends or mangas. Like Aztecs, Japanese see the rabbit in the moon.

It is linked with intelligence, devotion, advance (factually, it only jumps forward).

The Tortoise: Kame

Of course linked with longevity.

The one nearby is “minogame”, living for so long that  les seaweeds grow on its back, generating a tail in its wake. It symbolizes luck, happiness, fortune.

The Butterfly: Cho

Beyond its own beauty, it symbolizes evolution,  transformation (during the different stages of life), longevity.

The Dragon: Ryou (or Tatsu)

In Japanese mythology, the God of Sea (Ryujin) is a dragon. But the image of the dragon has also been later influenced by the Chinese one, present in the Tao, and which is also protecting Buddha. And even further, by the other asian dragons (India, Corea, Vietnam, …), and all their legends.

It is associated with water, and is often represented with coulds or steam, to create rain.

The Owl: Futuro

Historically, owl brings luck and protection. Maybe because of its name, since fuku = chance et ku = come; and moreover, fu = opposite, and kurou = test / fight.

After, with the opening of Japan, it also became a symbol for wisdom and knowledge.

Finally, it can also be very cute, and goes very well with the Kawai style.

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