Image of a Japanese stencil-dyed paper - katazome-shi - with a botanical repeat design in inky blues on a cream backdrop

Symbolism in Japanese Design

With rich colour and intricate detail, Japanese design is aesthetically pleasing. The initial reaction is to take delight in the artwork and the many elements that comprise the patterns, however, there is more... a wonderful hidden language to discover. 

Consider an extra special touch when choosing a gift, sending a greetings card or wrapping a present (take a look at our stunning stencil-dyed "katazome-shi" or silkscreen printed "chiyogami" papers) by looking at the meaning behind the motifs; a thoughtful gesture that provides an anecdote or talking point.


Sakura (Cherry Blossom)

The unofficial national flower of Japan and a prevalent floral motif; it is depicted as a five petal flower with distinctive notched petals. The cherry blossom season marks the start of spring and this flower represents rebirth, renewal, new beginnings and friendships.  As the flowering season is fleeting it also represents the acceptance of the transience of life and beauty. 


Ume (Plum Flower) 

The plum tree blooms in winter, earlier than other plants. As such, they’ve come to be known as the heralds of spring, coming into bloom even while covered in frost.  Unfazed by cold, they are associated with good health, strength, resilience, beauty and longevity.  Depicted with five rounded petals it is symbol of good luck and hope.


Botan (Peony)

The peony flower is depicted with large and prolific petals. It arrived in Japan from China in around the 6th-7th century and was initially an ornamental flower; it was rare so was only able to be enjoyed by royalty and nobility. It is used to wish good luck and prosperity and is considered a protective force, celebrating love and honour. In Japan, it is used in decorations at weddings to promote good fortune for the couple.


Kiku (Chrysanthemum)

The chrysanthemum is the emblem of the imperial family. This flower is found in the design of many objects from auspicious government seals, passports and 50 yen coins, to fabrics for kimonos and decorative objects. Depicted in pattern design in a variety of ways, from realistic to geometric interpretations, the chrysanthemum is a symbol of longevity and rejuvenation.


Tsuro (Crane)

In Japanese folklore, the crane is a strong graceful bird that mates for life and is said to live for a thousand years. They are considered a symbol of longevity, honour, good fortune and loyalty. In pattern design they can be shown as a flock, pictured alongside clouds and if the pattern features a pair, it signifies a strong and happy marriage.


Karakusa (Winding Plant)

The pattern consists of various arabesques spirals that take their shape from vines and other natural forms. Historically, it was a simple decorative pattern, used either on its own or alongside other botanical motifs, but little by little, it gradually gained in significance and symbolises prosperity, longevity, continuity of the family, like a tree of life. It is a symbol of good luck.

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