Japan is a country known for its profound and rich tradition and culture that is reflected through the astounding colors that they use on their clothing, rituals, celebration, and arts.
While the country has been influenced minimally by the western culture, the meanings related with the traditional colors are still valid up to this day. Color meanings & symbolism in Japan are important during significant events and rituals.
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Traditional Color Meanings & Symbolism in Japan
Traditional colors can especially be seen on the Japanese kimono. This color may indicate a unique meaning that is quite important.
Therefore, in the case that you notice someone wearing a white or a black kimono, you should not instantly think that they are attending a funeral. Learn about the color symbolism in this article.
Red is one of the most common traditional colors in Japan. This color can often be seen during a happy and lively event.
Having a red decoration can invite joy and happiness. You should also wear this when attending important activities and events such as birthdays and weddings. Generally, this color has been associated with paint, cherries, and public phones.
- In the Japanese culture, red is the symbolism of blood, self-sacrifice, and passion. This color will encourage your blood to flow.
- During an auspicious event, the host of the occasion will serve a red bean rice. There are also different terms associated with red that denotes a powerful emotion.
Apart from red, white is also a prominent color in the Japanese culture. This is the preferred color of car by the Japanese.
However, this is also a color related with mourning and death. On the contrary, it may also be related with truth, purity, and innocence.
The local culture believed that it is a blessed shade. Due to its sacred color, white will also be worn during happy life events and weddings.
- The simplicity of white has made it one of the most common colors on traditional Japanese art.
- White is used to depict snow. This is the color that indicates that someone is trying to get back to his root. White can also pertain to a scornful feeling.
Blue is the symbolism of fidelity, passivity, and coolness. This is the color that you will usually see in the local clothing.
People who are working on a corporate job will wear this color. Most students in the university will have a recruitment suit in blue color.
- Blue is an important color due to the luck that it brings.
- In Japan, blue is a symbol of femininity. This is the color that will be worn by younger females that will showcase their purity.
- It will also be used in the traditional kimono of Japan that will represent fashion and season.
Green is another popular color among clothing brands. This offers a fresh and relaxing ambiance. Tea is a staple part of the Japanese culture.
One of the most popular type of tea is the Green Tea. After brewing, the tea and the leaves will maintain its green pigment.
Japan is also celebrating Greenery Day. This is the day where they will celebrate their respect and love for vegetation and nature.
- In Japan, green represents energy, eternity, and vitality.
- It is also the symbolism of growth and fertility.
- Adding some green pigment inside the home is a way to introduce elements of nature in your house.
Black is the most used colors in electronics in Japan. In the traditional Japanese culture, this color is associated with anger, night, non-being, and mystery. The art of calligraphy will always be done using the conventional black ink.
- Just as we mentioned above, black is the color associated with mourning and funeral. Condolence gifts that are stored in the wooden packaging will be wrapped in black strings.
- They also relate this color to the eyes and the hair of the locals.
- A lot of phrases in Japan is also using the term black.
- It can also be associated with a bad person.
In Japan, yellow stands for nature and sunshine. You can often encounter this color in gardening and clothing.
This is the color of the preschool children’s cap and railway crossing to improve visibility and to advice others to be cautious. In the western countries, yellow will often be a symbol of treachery but in Japan, this is a sacred color.
- Japanese term which literally translate to yellow beak signifies the lack of experience of the person.
- Yellow voice pertains to the piercing sound of children and women.
During the early Japanese civilization, the common people were forbidden to wear purple clothing. Perhaps this is because it will take a long time before they can produce this color.
Originally, this will be extracted from a purple plant known as shigusa. Growing this plant is quite difficult which makes the color expensive.
Purple clothes are reserved for the members of imperial family and high-ranking officials. In the time that Buddhism has been introduced in Japan, the monks were allowed to wear this color.
- Purple is often used as costumes of Gods and Emperors.
- During the Heian period, purple was related to the ruling class.
Indigo is locally referred as the Japan Blue or Ai. When the foreigners arrived in the coast of Japan, they were surprised on the prominence of Indigo that they called it Japan Blue.
It is found on kimono, hand towels, and beddings; the Japanese will use it on almost all things. It is a natural color that is created from fermenting the leaves of indigo plant. This color is used by the common people and the samurai warriors.
- This color is worn not only for fashion but due to the different benefits. The fabric will be extra strong after dying it with indigo.
- It protects the wearer from UV rays of the sun and it also has a natural insect-repellent property.
- Today, this color is still popular in the modern Japan such as in clothing and jeans.
Pink is a symbolism of femininity in Japan. Flowers and lingerie that have pink shade are some of the preferred gift of women. Apart from that, it also refers to the spring season since this is the color of the cherry blossom.
Usually, this color will bear two purposes. For instance, it can be used to showcase childish behavior. It can also be used to highlight the flirtatious behavior.
Brown on the other hand is the color of the earth. It pertains to strength and durability. This is also the tone of the wooden things. The brown is based upon the concept of the home. It provides us a high level of comfort, endurance and simplicity.
Metallic colors also carry distinct meaning on the Japanese culture. For instance, gold is often seen in a range of decoration.
This is the color related with prestige and wealth. Silver, on the other hand, can be found on weapons and tools. This denotes advancement, modernity, masculinity, and precision.
Traditional Colors of Kimono
There is no way we can discuss about colors and Japanese tradition without covering the topic related with Kimono. Colors that are displayed on Kimono are well-though and will never be random.
It is an expressive piece of clothing and is considered as a form of art. While not everyone will be able to afford a kimono in a range of color during the early times, Geisha had a list of kimono colors depending on the month.
- January – This month focused on the pine theme. Usual colors related to this month are deep purple and sprout green.
- February – For this month, we have the purple and the crimson shade.
- March – During this month, khaki and peach are the preferred color of kimono.
- April – Burgundy and white are prominent in this month.
- May – Orange flower theme is the focus of this month. Purple and dead-leaf yellow are the selected kimono colors.
- June – On this month, yellow and sprout green are the chosen colors.
- July – The dead-leaf yellow kimono will also dominate this month. In addition, you can also see some hints of red kimono.
- August – This is the month reserved for sky blue and cedar bark.
- September – It will not be uncommon to see kimonos that have burgundy and lavender color on this month.
- October – The month of slate blue and rose.
- November – For November, grey-green and vermillion are the prominent shades.
- December – Deep blue and lavender will be more common in this period.
Traditional colors can still be reflected in todays modern Japan culture. Almost all collection of local fashion houses will be heavily based on the conventional Japanese colors.
Even idols on JPop will be wearing costumes that bear the traditional colors. This encourages the youth to embrace the old culture of Japan while allowing them to understand the landscape of the modern trend.
Understanding the color meanings and symbolism in Japan will allow you to learn more about the local culture.
Colors are not only used to showcase brilliance; it also played a significant role in shaping the culture of the Japanese people.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article !