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The online magazine HIGHLIGHTING JAPAN


The Patterns of Japan

Cover DECEMBER 2022


  • The first patterns to appear on the Japanese archipelago were created more than 10,000 years ago in a time called the Jomon period, named after the cord patterns (jomon) characteristic of the pottery of the period. Later, patterns from overseas began to reach Japan, and over time these patterns were remade in Japanese style. The patterns became increasingly diverse and were applied in various ways to everything from clothing such as kimonos to folding fans, lacquerware, ceramics and buildings. In this month’s issue of Highlighting Japan, we take a look at some of the wide variety of patterns familiar in Japan today.



  • An interview with Fuji Eriko, a researcher of Japanese patterns

  • The Yusoku monyo patterns used first by the aristocracy in the Heian period (late 8th to end 12th century) form the basis for the various patterns that developed in Japan.

  • The Japanese family crests, or kamon, have distinctive features, an abundance of motifs, and are skillfully designed.

  • The patterns of the indigenous Ainu people “are truly beautiful and powerful, and an energy seems to pour out when looking at them”?Kitajima Isayka, curator of the National Ainu Museum

  • Kaga-yuzen is a traditional kimono dyeing method that developed in Kanazawa City and surrounding areas in Ishikawa Prefecture.

  • Owing to its location on historical maritime trade routes, Okinawa has been influenced by many countries, including in the development of its own distinctive patterns.

  • Japan’s traditional sensu folding fans are still typically decorated with scenes from classical literature or certain set auspicious patterns.

  • Ise Katagami, a well-known type of Japanese paper stencil, were brought to Europe in the first half of the 19th century and fascinated people there.