top of page


Handy Search Tip for computer users - you can search for any word or phrase in this glossary by going to Edit/Find in your browser's menu (shortcut Ctrl F). In IE a search box will open, in Firefox the search box appears on a grey bar on the very bottom left of the browser window and in Google Chrome it is at the top right of the window. There will also be a Next button or arrow to let you check through the entire page. Another handy tip is to use the Page Up & Page Down keys on your keyboard, to scroll easily up and down any page. 

Note that English spellings vary a lot, for example zori may also be spelled zoori or zouri, homongi may be spelled houmongi etc. I use the ones I am most accustomed to. Hyphenated words are often written with no hyphen, either as two words or together as one word; for example, ko furisode may also be seen as ko-furisode or kofurisode.


Abare-Noshi: A rough bundle of decorative strips

Ai: Indigo blue dye; derived from the indigo plant. Various shades are achieved by repeated immersions interspersed with periods of drying (allows dye to oxidize and darken). Medicinal properties are ascribed to both plant and dye. Commonly believed, cloth dyed in indigo will resist insect damage

Aimai: One of the six elements of Japanese beauty. It refers to a vague, indirect or unclear description. It shows a subtle and dignified manner, as not to express something directly in an obtrusive or bold way 

Ageha: Swallow-tailed butterfly

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu: A very happy new year

Ajiro: Woven matting of wood or bamboo strips, used as covers for ceiling or fences. 

Ajisai: Hydrangea

Akigusa: Also called akikusa: autumn flowers and grasses. A classic motif consisting of various selections of flowers and autumn grasses; traditionally includes hagi (bush clover), kiku (chrysanthemum), susuki (pampas grass), kikyo (Chinese bellflower)

Ama Coat: A Japanese coat, in the style of a michiyuki, designed to be worn over the kimono and obi, to help keep off rain. Made from closely woven fabric that is rain resistant

Ama Geta: Japanese, thong toed sandals with wooden soles with two diagonal pieces of wood, making them somewhat stilt-like. The height is intended to help keep the kimono hem off the ground. The ama part of the name means they are for rainwear and have the addition of toe covers to help keep the feet dry.

Amazake: A traditional, sweet, low-alcoholic Japanese drink made from fermented rice 

Ame: Rain 

Ami: Fishing net

Aoi: Hollyhocks

Araihari Washing: A technique of un-picking a kimono, washing the individual pieces, then re-tailoring it

Aranami: Wild wave (as in sea wave)

Arisugawa: A classical, stylised deer pattern 

Asagao: Morning Glory flowers


Asanoha: A pattern made up of triangles, based on the hemp leaf

Asa Orimono: Hemp fabric. Its breathability and absorbency are particularly good, so it is used for summer kimonos and obis

Atsurae: Also called O-atsurae. A custom-made kimono.

Awase: Lined. The garment has a lining

Ayame: Iris

Azayaka: A textile art technique that has a very painterly effect

Azuma Su
gata: Also called karyou makura. An extra deep obi makura


Bachi: Plectrum 

Baikaisai: The Plum Blossom Festival, is held at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto every February to honour the memory of the deified patron saint of literature, Sugawara Michizane. Celebrating the end of winter and the coming spring, an outdoor tea ceremony is held by the maiko and geiko of the Kamishichiken district. Visitors stroll through thousands of plum trees, indulge in delicious festival foods 

Bangasa: Traditional, Japanese, paper parasols/umbrellas. Oiling the paper makes them water resistant 

Bara: Rose 

Beieibutsuran: Britain 

Bingata: A polychrome stencil dying technique developed in Okinawa. This colourful stencil and gradation technique creates complex and unique tone. 

Bodhicitta: A spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings 

Bodhisattva: An enlightened (bodhi) existence (sattva) or an enlightenment-being. Another term is "wisdom-being". It is anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta. The bodhisattva is a popular subject in Buddhist art 

Bokashi: shaded colour gradation, as in dark to white, sometimes seen in kimono linings, for example, where a colour is dyed along the edges of the lower half and shade into white


Boke: Japanese quince 

Botan: Peony 

Boudu: Grapes 

Bukkaku: Buddhist temple 

Bunchin: Metal stick to weigh down the paper during writing calligraphy 

Bune: Boat 

Bunka-Obi: Another name for a pre-tied obi. Also known as a tsuke obi and a tsukure obi 

Bunkin-Takashimada: A bride's hairstyle, usually the bride wears a wig (katsura) done up in the style 

Buppan-Ki: A rice offering container, like a cup, placed before Buddha statues in a Buddhist temple 

Butsushiki: Buddhist ceremony 

Byobu: (Sometimes Byoubu) Folding screen 


Chabana: A type of flower display for the alcove of the Japanese tea room

Chado: Means 'way of the tea', referring to tea ceremonies. It refers to practicing and learning the way of tea from an experienced teacher. Chado no Keiko means to go and practice the tea ceremony 

Cha-ire: Tea containers made of ceramic, for green tea at tea ceremonies 

Chaji: A tea gathering, with specially invited guests, during which the host serves a meal and sake in addition to koicha and usucha. A chaji takes several hours to complete 

Chakai: A tea ceremony, this type usually known as a tea meeting, open to anyone, as opposed to specifically invited guests

Chan-Chan-Ko: A child's jacket, worn with kimono

Chashaku: Long handled little scoops/spoons for tea at tea ceremonies, usually made of bamboo, bone or ivory

Chawan: A formal tea bowl, used in tea ceremonies 

Chaya-tsuji: One of the kimono patterns with landscape motifs, such as a house, bridge, trees and flowers 

Chikara-nuno: Collar adjustment 

Chirashi: Can mean scattering, confetti or flyers (leaflets), that is, something that is scattered. Often seen as a confetti-like motif on textiles etc. 

Chirimen: Silk, crepe weave fabric - slightly crinkled surfaced silk fabric, with a distinctive weaving technique, twisting the threads while weaving. 

Cho Cho Musubi: Sometimes written as chou-chou. Butterfly bow knot; a popular obi knot for hanhaba obis worn with yukata kimonos, in the form of a bow, representing a butterfly 

Choju-giga: An otoko-e (made by a man) emaki (scroll), acredited to Toba Sojo, comprises four scrolls, which is unusual in that it does not contain any text, only pictures. It depicts scenes of anthropomorphic animals in amusing scenes, analogizing Japanese society in the 12th century and mocks the upper classes. Choju-giga is considered a Japanese national treasure; two of the four scrolls are in the Tokyo National Museum and the other two are in the Kyoto National Museum.

Chonin: The merchant class 

Chou: Butterfly 

Chouchin: Paper lantern 

Chu-Furisode: A Furisode with sleeves that are around 100cm in length. "Chu" means "medium" 

Chuhaba-Obi: A formal obi that is worn by brides or girls with a bridal costume or girl's formal Kimono 

Chuugarea: Medium sized pattern 

-Obi: Sometimes spelled chuya and also called hara-awase obi. A reversible obi, characterised by different patterns on each side. Chuuya means daytime and night time; the earliest chuuya obis were bright on one side and black on the other, like night and day, hence the name. Chuuya-Obi were used by iki-suji ladies in ancient Japan; iki-suji means a kind of kimono expert, such as a Geisha. Chuuya obi are now obsolete and are collectors' items. They are frequently seen in pictures from the Edo and Meiji periods. The chuuya obi is about 30 centimetres (12 in) wide and 350 cm (11.5 ft) to 400 cm (13 ft) long. 


Daimedatami: A short maru tatami mat. Daimedatami is a shorter tatami mat than the regular one because the width of the daisu (utensil stand) and the byobu (folding screen) is subtracted

Dai-Sharin: Great wheel

Daisu: Tea ceremony Utensil stand

Daimon: Warriors robe (Muromachi period) 

Dandarazome: Pattern of multi-colored stripes 

Dango: A Japanese dumpling made from mochiko (rice flour), related to mochi. It is often served with green tea. Dango are eaten year-round, but the different varieties are traditionally eaten in given seasons. Three to four dango are often served on a skewer, often seen as pink, white and green 

Danjo: Me
n and women

Darari-Obi: Also called Darari-no-Obi. A special order maru-obi that is worn by maiko & is 700cm in length. 

Darari-No-Obi: Also just called Darari Obi. A special order maru-obi that is worn by maiko & is 700cm in length. 

Dashibukusa: Also called kobukusa. A small brocaded cloth, about a quarter of the size of a fukusa, used at tea ceremonies. When Koicha (thick tea) is served, a Dashibukusa is placed beside the Chawan by the host. Dashibukusa indicates that a valuable Chawan is used and that Macha is supposed to be shared with the other guests

Date Eri: Also known as Eri Sugata. An extra collar layer, stitched onto the inside of a kimono collar, with only its edge showing. Particularly in summer, layers of kimono can be very hot; as the edge of the collar of the naga-juban kimono can be seen at the edge of the outer kimono's collar; a date-eri stitched to the collar of the outer kimono gives the impression of a naga-juban beneath, allowing the wearer to omit the naga-juban, in order to stay cooler

Date Jime: A wide sash, often with velcro tabs (magic belt), to anchor undergarments

Datsuijo: Also datsuisho - bath house 

Denden Daiko: A small, Japanese pellet drum. It has two heads and a rod handle, with beads or pellets hanging on threads on either side of the body of the drum. The drum sounds when it is swivelled from side to side, causing the beads to strike the heads of the drum 

Daruma: Figures based on Bohidharma, the father of Zen Buddhism. There are dharuma dolls, bought at New Year, which have rounded bases, so when knocked over they bounce back up, signifying bouncing back when life knocks you down. When new, the dolls often have plain white eyes and the owner draws on the black pupils, making a wish with each one

Doki: Ancient clay pot motif 

Doomawari: Obi waist section 

Donpa: A garment with a donsu lining 

Donsu: Damask silk, characterized by heavy texture and glossy facing which is woven by means of "Shusu-Ori (Silk Satin) and sometimes found in high quality men's haori, displaying a scene or such 

Doukyou: Anci
ent copper mirror. The ornate back of doukyou are often seen as motifs in textile art. 

Dounuki: An old style of kimono, with the obody of one fabric and the lower 25 - 30% and all the edges in another fabric. it is worn as an under kimono, when kimonos are worn in layers, and the edge and often bottom fabric is a thicker, outer kimono type fabric (sometimes yuzen or embroidered) while the body is a lighter, more naga-juban like fabric. They are no longer made or worn and are comparatively hard to find nowadays 


Eba: Design or pattern

Ebazuke: An Ebazuke pattern is one that continues beyond the seams of a kimono. Since an Ebazuke pattern has a single orientation, the finished piece must be taken into consideration when constructing a robe with this type of design. In this way, it's the opposite of a Komon pattern, which is the same from any position 

Eda: Branch, as in eda hana (flower branch) or eda ume (plum branch)

Edo Komon: A type of pattern characterized by tiny dots arranged in dense patterns that form larger designs. The Edo komon dyeing technique originated with the samurai class during the Edo period. A kimono with this type of pattern is of the same formality as an iromuji, and when decorated with mon (crests), may be worn as visiting wear (equivalent to a tsukesage or houmongi)(see also Komon)


Edomurasaki: Edomurasaki means 'Old Edo Purple, Edo being the old name for Tokyo. It refers to the purple which was favoured as the high society colour during the Edo era (16th Century - 1868)

Edo Yuzen: One of Yuzen techniques. Edo-yuzen is characterized by its pale colors and patterns painted only on the front side 

Eigata: A distinctive stencil dyeing technique developed in Okinawa. This monotone textile is dyed only using "Ai" indigo, so it is very different from the normal, colorful bingata dyeing 

Emaki: Emakimono, often shortened to emaki (lit. 'picture scroll'), is a horizontal, illustrated narrative form created during the 11th to 16th centuries in Japan. Unique to Japan, emakimono combines both text and pictures, and is drawn, painted, or stamped on a handscroll. They depict battles, romance, religion, folk tales, and stories of the supernatural world. Examples are often seen on the textile art on kimonos, particularly designs from The Tale of Genji. There are otoko-e (Men's pictures) and onna-e (Women's pictures) styles of painting, differentiated most easily by the story content. Onna-e typically deals with court life, particularly the court ladies, and with romantic themes. Otoko-e, on the other hand, often recorded historical events, particularly battles. Onna-e is epitomized by the Tale of Genji handscroll, a tale written by Murasaki Shikibu's dating from about 1000, the novel deals with the life and loves of Prince Genji and the world of the Heian court after his death. While only 15% of the original Tale of Genji scrolls remain, the fragments are held as national treasures). Choju-giga, an otoko-e emaki set by Toba Sojo, is unusual in that it contains only pictures and no text

Emon-Nuki: The a strip of cloth sewn on the back-collar of Naga-Juban. It's used to hold the rear collar in place and open Eri to show the back of the neck

Emoyo: Pictorial design, as opposed to geometric or abstract patterns

Enka: A genre of Japanese popular song which is full of melancholy

Erikae: Literally 'turning the collar'; the ceremony a maiko goes through when she graduates from being a maiko to fully fledged geiko, exchanging her embroidered, red collar for a plain white one. 

Erisaki: Collar end

Eri Shin: A long, narrow, reinforcing strip that makes the kimono collar stiff

Ezoshi: Picture books


Fubuki: Snow storm 

Fudangi: Everyday wear

Fude: A brush for calligraphy. There is a larger brush for writing the main characters and a smaller one for writing the artist's name. The small brush, however, can be used for the characters, too

Fuji: Wisteria [Wistaria chinensis]

Fuji-Musume: Means 'Wisteria Maiden' (fuji=wisteria, musume=daughter/maiden) and is the title of a traditional, Japanese solo dance

Fukingashi: streamers

Fuki: Butterbur 

Fukizumi: A spatter technique of producing pattern, giving a speckled appearance 

Fuku: Clothing. Also means good fortune

Fukurazume: A bow style obi knot that looks like a sparrow

Fukuro: A type of Obi (also means a bag). Fukuro means double-fold or bag. The fukuro obi is a slightly less formal style than the maru obi. The fukuro obi was created in the late 1920s. The fukuro obi is made with a fine brocade or tapestry, which is often rokutsu, which means only patterned along 60% of its length on one side. The back of the fukuro obi may be lined with a plain silk or brocade, making it less expensive and less bulky to wear than the maru obi. Even though the fukuro obi is not as quite formal as the maru obi, the fukuro obi can be used for formal occasions. The length and width of the fukuro obi is the same as the maru obi. Thus, fukuro obi can hardly be distinguished from maru obi when tied over the kimono

Fukuro: Bag (also the name of a type of obi)

Fukurou: Owl

Fukusa: Fukusa is a piece of square cloth, sometimes with embroidery. It is used at an auspicious occasion like pre-wedding. It is used to wrap or put on a present

Fundoshi: Traditional mens' underwear, in the form of a loin-cloth

Fumibako: Stationery box, often used to contain personal letters

Furin: Wind bell. The tinkling of furin is a sound associated with summer in Japan. The tinkling noise is thought to be cooling 

Furisode: A type of kimono - Furisode kimonos are worn by unmarried women. Furisode means swinging sleeve. It is pronounced foo-ri-sody, with no stress on any of the syllables. In this description I use the term 'long', meaning from shoulder to base of sleeve and not from shoulder to wrist. Women's furisode come in three types, each with progressively longer sleeves; the longer the sleeve, the more formal it is. Type 1 - Ko-Furisode: the shortest sleeved furisode, with sleeves that are around 85cm in length. "Ko" means small/short but the sleeves of ko-furisode are still very long, much moreso than standard, non-furisode (kosode) kimonos, they are just less long than the other two furisode types. One might wear a ko furisode, for example, with hakama for a graduation ceremony. Type 2 - Chu-Furisode: a furisode with sleeves that are around 100cm in length. "chu" means "medium". Type 3 - Oh-Furisode: "oh" means big, therefore oh-furisode means big, swinging sleeves, with the longest sleeves of all the furisode type kimonos. Oh-furisode have sleeves of 114 - 115cm. It is the unmarried woman's most formal kimono, for wear at formal, special occasions and very colourful versions of oh-furisode are worn by brides and known as kakeshita or hon-furisode. Those are women's furisode kimonos but there is also the Jyusan-Mairi, a girl's first furisode, which she gets at the age of thirteen

Furu Furu: Using a furisode kimono sleeve to reject a suitor; he is rejected by waving the deep sleeve of the furisode in a manner to deny his advances

Fusumu: Sliding doors covered with heavy paper 

Fuurin: Wind Chime


Gakuran: boys, military style, school uniforms. The design is derived from Prussian army uniforms. The term is a combination of gaku, meaning "student", and ran, meaning "the western world", thus gakuran translates as "Western student" uniform. Girls wear Serafuku, sailor style uniforms 

Gamaguchi: Meaning "toad mouth", is a Japanese name for a pouch or wallet, especially one closed with a metal clasp and used for small change.

Garamihon: Various pattern samples

Garazome: Design dyed on white fabric

Geiko: A geisha; this is the currently preferred name.

Geisha: Geisha means 'woman of art. The art may be shamisen playing, singing, dancing etc. and, of course, the arts of conversation and tea ceremony hostess. Contrary to opinion, geisha do not always to wear such white make up (shiro nuri) and do not wear the ornate outfits and hair decorations many of us associate with geisha, maiko always wear the very white shiro nuri and dress ornately. Maiko are apprentice geisha. Not all geisha start as maiko. Nowadays geisha prefer to be called geiko, as geisha has an unwarranted stigma attached to it

Genji-Gumo: Also spelled Genjikumo, kumo meaning cloud. One of the cloud-shaped kimono patterns. This is named after cloud designs drawn in the famous Japanese tale, "Tale of Genji", reputedly the first novel ever written. Clouds are often included in artistic scenes referring to the Heian Court because courtiers were referred to as "those who live among the clouds" (Kumo no Uebito).

Genji-Guruma: also Genjikuruma - Carriage wheels. The wheels of the gosho-guruma (Imperial carriages) became decorative motifs, their name Genji-guruma derived from Genji, the protagonist in the first ever novel, The Tale of Genji (which was written in 11th century Japan). Only nobility from the Iperial court were allowed carriages with such huge wheels (because they did so much damage to roads), found on carriages pulled by oxen, so these wheels signify the nobility and court life and good fortune. If they have eight spokes they also often refer to the Wheel of Dharma, a symbol that represents the teachings of the Buddha.. 

Genji-Kou: Also Genji-Ko. One of the kimono patterns, derived from a traditional game called, Kou-awase, which is played by guessing the fragrances in incense. Signs used in the game became patterns for textiles

Genroku-Sode: A form of sleeve design for women's kimono. It has a shorter length and rounded corners

Geta: Japanese, thong toed sandals with wooden soles with two diagonal pieces of wood, making them somewhat stilt-like. The height is intended to help keep the kimono hem off the ground

Gin: Silver

Gofuku: Kimono fabric


Gofun: A material made of a mix of finely ground seashell and glue, primarily oyster, clam or scallop shells. It is used to coat things like dolls' heads, hands and feet and has an appearance similar to porcelain, with a very smooth, matte surface.

Gojunoto: Also spelled Gojuunotou. Five-storied pagoda

Gosho: Imperial. Sometimes spelled gosyo. 

Goshodoki: Also Goshotoki. Imperial landscape, often with gardens, pagoda, bridges, screens etc

Gosho Guruma: An Imperial carriage (gosho = Imperial and guruma = carriage), from the Heian era (794-1192 AD). Sometimes spelled goshokuruma; you often see the letter G replaced with a K in Japanese words spelled in the English (Roman/Latin) alphabet

Gosho Ningyo: Sometimes spelled gosyo ningyo. The gosho doll is one of noble descent, and the name means "palace doll," a reference to the Imperial Palace in Kyoto during the Edo period. In most examples, the clothing is limited to a strict minimum. Gosho ningyo are a uniquely Japanese form, and by tradition, they represent chubby, almost naked little boys with large heads, round bodies and brilliant white skin. They generally show an originality and character, which places them in a special category of Japanese dolls. In Japan these dolls are considered to be a classic art form and are appreciated as such

Goshuin: A red seal stamp (shuin) available at certain temples along a pilgrimage route. Visitors to the temples have a book (goshuinchou), or a pilgrims' traditional, white henro jacket stamped with each temple's red seal, as a record of the temples visited. Each temple has a different goshuin. Each goshuin seal is individually crafted by a monk of priest at each place of worship, the seal consists of a stamp in red ink special to the temple/shrine, with a handwritten black calligraphy that specifies the name of the temple/shrine, also the date of visit and sometimes a small prayer distinct to the place where you got the Goshuin from.


Gosyo: Imperial. More often spelled gosho. 

Gosyo-Doki-Monyo: One of the scenic kimono patterns with dynamic bright patterns, (Gosho-Guruma or fan) and quiet patterns (stream or grass)

Gotenjyou: One of the kimono patterns. This originates from the design for a ceiling, combination of square woods. This design is common in shrines and temp
les. This type of design is mostly used for formal kimono and obi.

Gunbai: Referee's fan (e.g. in sumo)

Guanyin: The bodhisattva associated with compassion as venerated by East Asian Buddhists, usually as a female. The name Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin which means, "Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World".


Ha: Leaf. Also part of a geta shoe's sole, known as the tooth.

Habutae: Smooth, glossy and tight silk textile, which resembles a light  taffeta; first produced at Nishijin (Kyoto), from the Momoyama period onward 

Hachi: Bee

Hachimaki: Japanese headband, worn as a diplay to like minded people or followers

Hachi no su: Beehive

Hada Juban: See also han juban. The first layer of kimono underwear, usually comprising waist length kimono top (han juban) like an undershirt, and a susoyoke (wrap underskirt), worn beneath the nagajuban kimono, all of which is worn under the outerwear kimono

Hagi: Japanese bush clover 


Hagoita: A wooden bat, used in the traditional, Japanese, badminton-like game of hanetsuki.  Hagoita are often given an ornamental purpose, when painted or decorated with raised, silk collages.

Hagoromo: A kimono shaped kimono veil 


Hajaku: A bolt of fabric for making a haori.

Hakama: A pleated garment worn by both men and women, often seen in martial arts, with 7 folds, a stiff backboard and long ties that have a complex way of being tied. The Hakama has significant meaning applied to its design. The seven folds in the hakama represent seven virtues of the Samurai - Yuki (courage), Jin (humility), Gi (justice), Rei (chivalry), Makoto (honesty), Chugi (loyalty), and Meiyo (prestige) 

Hakama-dome: The small plastic tab that tucks into the obi 

Hakata-Obi: A kind of stiff Obi. Hakata-Obi is woven with thin warp and thick weft. As Hakata-Obi is firm, stiffeners are unnecessary. Hakata is a name of district in Japan’s Kyushu area, where this type of weave comes from. The style of Hakata characterises the pattern of kenjo, full of mystic Buddhist symbols. Kenjo means 'gift for tycoon', from the fact that, once upon a time, grand lords reigning over Hakata used to present this style of fabric to tycoons. It is also a popular style of design on men's kaku obi

Hakkake: The hem of the lining of kimono. Usually, the colour for hakkake is bright and selected to suit the color of Kimono. It is also called suso-mawashi. The colour and design of hakkake appears and disappears while walking, which looks very elegant 

Hakogaki: A box inscription. Hakogaki is written on boxes containing tea utensils. Hakogaki tells us the name of the craftsman who made it, the name of the utensil and where it came from

Hakoseko: A small purse, generally carried by a bride or girls on Girl's Day in Japan. Hakoseko sets contain the purse and other accessories for the bridal outfit or Girl's Day

Hamaguri: Clam shells 

Han: Half, as in han-juban - a half length juban (underwear kimono) 

Hana: Flower

Hanabi: Japanese fireworks

Hanabishi: Lozenge (diamond) shaped flowers 

Hanafuda: 'Flower cards', cards for a traditional Japanese game 

Hanagata: Floral pattern (sometimes written as hanagara)

Hanagara: Floral pattern (sometimes written as hanagata)

Hana Guruma: A wheeled cart (guruma = cart/carriage, sometimes spelled kuruma) filled with flowers (hana = flowers); one of the popular kimono patterns. From the Heian era (794-1192 AD) 

Hanamachi: Five 'flower towns' (geisha entertainment districts) in Kyoto 

Hanamaru: A round floral motif, sometimes in the shape of a ball of flowers. Also the equivalent of a gold star awarded to kids for good work at school 

Hanamatsuri: Buddha's Birthda, widely celebrated in Japan on 8th April 

Hanao: The thong toe straps of Japanese footwear 

Hana Tebako: Flower boxes

Hanawa: A floral roundel design 

Hanayome: A bride

Hanayome-Noren: A curtain that the bride pases through. Hanayome means bride and noren is a curtain. The bride brings it with her at the time of wedding. The noren is hung at the entrance of a Buddhist altar room. She participates in various ceremonies after she enters the house on the wedding ceremony day, including praying before the Buddhist altar 

Handarari: A minarai's obi. A minarai is a geisha at pre maiko stage; a subsection of geisha in training


Hanetsuki: A traditional, Japanese, badminton-like game, played with a wooden bat, called a hagoita, and a shuttlecock.  Hagoita are also often given an ornamental purpose when painted or decorated with raised, silk collages.

Han-Eri: A loosely stiched, removable collar, worn on a juban kimono. Removed for washing, so the juban need not be washed so often

Hangyoku: Similar to the Maiko in kyoto. In the Kanto area they are called Hangyoku

Hanhaba Obi: The hanhaba obi is half the width of other obis, one of the hoso obi types, and is a single layer obi. The hanhaba obi is a casual obi for wear at home, under a haori (kimono coat), with children's kimono or with summer yukata. I can be tied with a smallish, flatter knot, such as a clam knot

Han Juban: A half juban (undergarment) kimono top, worn as underwear, beneath both the outerwear kimono and the naga juban kimono

Hannyasingyou: Buddhist scriptures 

Hanga: Print, as in woodblock print etc. 


Hanko: a personal seal (inked stamp), used in lieu of signatures in personal documents, art or any item requiring acknowledgement or authorship, frequently used by artists and calligraphers. Also known as a rakkan-in (when a square seal) or chop. The printed impression it creates is called the inkan

Hanshi: Special, thin calligraphy paper

Hanten: This style of jacket can have either the straight (non-crossing) front of a haori or the cross-over closure of the dochugi. In either case, the hanten can be identified by its thick padding, because it is meant to be worn at home for warmth. These jackets are still seen in the countryside but are less popular in urban areas where central heating or at least modern insulation is more common 

Hanto: Sometimes spelled hantou. A tea ceremony host’s assistant. The hanto assists during Chakai or Chaji 

Hantou: Sometimes spelled hanto. A tea ceremony host’s assistant. The hantou assists during Chakai or Chaji 

Hantoumei: Translucent

Haori: A kimono shaped jacket, designed to be worn on top of a kimono. Originally worn by men only; women were allowed to wear them after the Meiji era and women's ones became all the rage in Taisho era (1912-1926). Haori are versatile garments, as they translate well into western-world outfits too, looking good when worn either dressed up for the evening or dressed down with jeans. The word haori is derived from the word haoru, meaning 'to put on'.

Happi: Haori are often mistakenly called happi coats because they have similar construction, but happi are distinctly different. They are never made of silk (usually cotton) and are not meant as kimono outerwear. Traditionally, happi are worn as work jackets or at festivals or company events to identify the wearer with a group of participants. Typically a large single character appears at the center back, geometric patterning creates a border along the hem, and down each side of the front collar is a set of kanji characters that name the sponsor, township, company or event that the happi coat was created for. These days, happi can be any color, but vintage versions are usually dark blue with red and white designs

Hara-awase obi: See chuuya obi

Haregi: Special, formal wear

Hassun Obi: A hassun obi is a thin light nagoya obi, easier to tie, suitable for both lined and unlined kimono. 

Hasu: Lotus 

Hatsumiya: The first Kimono for Babies - just draped over the baby while held by the mother or grandmother 

Hatsuyume: The 1st dream of new year - traditionally, the contents of the dream would foretell the luck of the dreamer in the ensuing year. There is an old saying, Mt. Fuji (Ichi-fuji), a hawk (ni-taka) or an eggplant (san-nasubi or nasu), it indicates the three best things to have in your first dream. If you dream of three things, you will have good fortune during the year. This belief has been in place since the early Edo period but there are various theories regarding the origins as to why this particular combination was considered to be auspicious. One theory suggests that this combination is lucky because Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain, a hawk is a clever and strong bird, and the word for eggplant (nasu or nasubi) has the same sound as the word “nasu” which means achieving something great. 

Haura: The decorative lining of haori kimono jackets, with a picture depicted on it. Haura-e can be painted or woven, and are usually found on men's Haori jackets 

Hazusashi: One of the six elements of Japanese beauty. This sense is the trademark of most Japanese people; shyness and distance from others. It shows elegance and innocence. It comes from before the Edo period in Japanese culture where it was the manner of respectable women 

Heian Hime: Noblewoman of the Heian era (noblewoman) 

Heko-Obi: A kind of Obi for men. An obi which for man and can put it on to everyday kimono or yukata. It is about 70cm in width and about 4m in length. 
When you put it on, fold it into about 10cm in depth. Children wear a type of heko obi called a sanjaku obi, both boys and girls wear it with yukata or everyday kimono.

Hifu: A waistcoat with deep armholes, to be worn over a child's kimono. Three year old girls wear them over their kimonos at Shichi-go-san celebrations

Higaki: Basket weave pattern 

Higasa: A parasol, usually silk. Also, rather quaintly, called a parsoru 

Higashi: Sweets served before drinking green tea. Traditional Japanese sweets such as omogashi and higashi are always served before tea is offered to guests. Before drinking koicha (thick green tea), omogashi (moist cakes made with jelly or anko sweet-bean paste) are offered to balance the palate with sweet before bitter and higashi are usually served before offering usucha (thin tea)

Hige: Beard 

Hige-tsumugi: Tsumugi is wild silk, which has a textured surface and hige-tsumugi (hige means beard, in Japanese) has a sort of hairy texture to the surface, popular in Japan, with a surface texture of little loose threads. Tsumugi silk is especially expensive, as it is wild silk, made from cocoons where the silk moth has cut its way out, leaving a hole in the cocoon, so that, when spun, it has to be frequently joined by hand, which gives the thread the an unevenness that provides the texture when woven. This makes it difficult and time consuming to spin the silk, which makes it incredibly expensive fabric 

Hikeshi: Firemen from Edo (now known as Tokyo), hired in 1850. Traditional Japanese houses were made of wood, bamboo, straw and paper and prone to fire, which could spread quickly 

Hikihaku: Metallic sheen textile. Hikihaku is a technique that uses finely cut and stretched gold or silver foil on Japanese paper or on very fine silk yarn, which is woven into the weft of the fabric, giving it a beautiful metallic sheen. 

Hikinuki Obi: An obi used by geisha, which is tied in front, not on the back, for this reason some patterns around taiko (rear knot) section are printed up side down 

Hikizuri: Also known as susohiki. A geisha's or maiko's kimono that has padded hem. Worn indoors with hem allowed to trail after the wearer; not commonly seen, except among geiko (geisha) and maiko. Susohiki literally means "trail the skirt". Where a normal kimono for women is normally 1.5 to 1.6 metres (4.7 to 5.2 ft) long, a susohiki can be up to 2 metres (6.3 ft) long. This is also why geisha and maiko lift their kimono hems when walking outdoors, this also allows their beautiful naga-juban (under-kimonos) to show. Hikizuri is also used to mean a kosode that has an unbroken pattern that continues onto the interior lining; often worn in dance recitals with the lower overlap purposely folded outward

Hime: A noblewoman from the Heian era, referring to a princess or a lady of higher birth, though daughters of monarchs are usually called ojo/ojyo. The word Hime initially referred to any beautiful female. Hime may also indicate feminine or simply small when used together with other words, such as Hime-gaki (a low line of hedge). Generally, hime is used to address those of a higher or more noble birth 

Himo: Braided ties, usually silk, used to hold a haori jacket closed. Women's ones are tied and untied but men's ones are too complicated to tie, as they have a different knot from women's ones, so they are hooked on and one side is unhooked to open the haori

Hina: A girl 

Hinamatsuri: Doll's Day, also known as Girls' Day, celebrated on 3rd March 

Hinoki: Cypress tree / wood 

Hinomaru: Japanese national flag; plain white with a simple red disc in the centre that represents the rising sun 

Hi-ogi: See hiougi 

Hiougi: Also hi-ogi. A kind of fan, traditionally made of the Hinoki, wood from the Japanese cypress tree. In the Heian Imperial court these fans were very large and decorative. They were also used by Heian noblewomen (hime) to hide their faces, which they never showed to any man other than close family members. Open fans are considered an auspicious wedding symbol in Japan, signifying a happy future unfolding for the bride, so they are often seen on wedding uchikake kimonos and bridal obis. 


Hippari: Another name for a jinbei, a type of jacket. See jinbei for more detail


Hiraki Nagoya Obi: An opened nagoya obi, the sash section is not pre-folded in half. Most Nagoya on have the sash section folded to half depth and stitched like that, hiraki do not, they are open flat along the entire length and need the sash part folded to half depth prior to putting them on. 

Hiragana: One basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and the Latin alphabet (romaji). Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each character represents one mora. Each kana is either a vowel such as "a"; a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka"; or "n", a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng, or like the nasal vowels of French.Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji.Hiragana is also used to give the pronunciation of kanji in a reading aid called furigana. Kanji are used to write parts of the language such as nouns, adjective stems, and verb stems, while hiragana are used to write inflected verb and adjective endings (okurigana), particles, native Japanese words (where the kanji is considered too difficult to read or remember), and words in which the kanji is not on the government-sanctioned list of characters. Katakana are used for representing onomatopoeia, non-Japanese loanwords (except those borrowed from Chinese), the names of plants and animals (with exceptions), and for emphasis on certain words 

Hiragumi: means "flat band" and is a kind of obijime made of flat-braided cord. The most common type of obijime used. common length for these obijime is about 150 cm. As well as the standard hiragumi obijime, there is a type called sanbuhimo, which is narrower than standard because they are designed to be threaded through an obidome (a special piece of jeweller for wear with an obi), pre 1930s ones are often even narrower. For wear without an obidome, the broader the obijime are, the more formal wear they are. Any gold or silver in it makes it more formal too. 
Hishi: Diamond shape 

Hitta Shibori: A shibori (tie dye) pattern of dots within squares 

Hitoe: Literally "one layer". Hitoe used as a noun is a name for the unlined silk summer kimono. As an adjective, hitoe is used to describe a single-layered garment 

Hitokoshi-Chirimen: A kind of Chirimen, crepe silk. Characterized by its very small wrinkle, it is flat and very firm 

Hitotsu mon: A garment with a single mon (crest) on it at centre back of shoulders. The mon makes it slightly formal 

Hitotsumi: Hitotsumi means baby's garment. The name derives from the fact that the back is made from a single width of fabric, instead of the usual two widths 

Hiyoku: Nowadays refers to a double layered lining on a kimono, usually at the inner collar edge and lower (hakkake) lining of a kimono. Originally hiyoku was a type of under-kimono, worn in addition to the naga-juban under kimono by women, beneath the outer kimono. Today they are worn only on formal occasions, such as weddings and other important social events. High class kimonos may have extra layers of lining to emulate the appearance of hiyoku worn beneath 

Hiyoku-Jitate: One of the tailoring methods to make kimonos two-layered on easily stained parts, such as collar, cuff, bottom and so on. In old days, tomesode was worn over the white habutae hiyoku, an under garment in addition to nagajuban which is always worn under any kimono. As wearing both habutae and nagajuban was heavy and hot, current tomesode kimonos are often tailored with hiyoku-jitate. 

Hiyoku-eri: A piece of cloth that is sewn on or is fixed on kimono's neckband by a few pins and peeps out between kimono and han-eri as only thin line 

Hon: A book 

Honchiku: An abbreviation of Hon Chikuzen which means product genuinely made in Chikuzen 

Hoso obi: (thin sash); a collective name for informal half-width obis. Hoso obis are 15cm (5.9 in) or 20cm (7.9 in) wide and about 330cm (10.8 ft) long. 

Hotaru: Firefly 

Houou: Phoenix. It is composed of several different creatures including peacock and pheasant. Indescribably beautiful birds; represent harmony and tranquility. Said to descend in times of peace and leave when threatened, so it’s not particularly surprising that nobody’s actually seen one for generations. It is a symbol of longevity and good fortune 

Houmongi: Sometimes spelled homongi. Literally translates as 'visiting wear'. A type of semi-formal kimono. Houmongi can be worn at any age and any occasions from a formal ceremony to daily occasions such as visiting a friend's house. They have no mon (crests). Houmongi is less formal than the furisode (formal dress for unmarried women) or tomesode and slightly more formal than a tsukesage. Characterised by patterns that flow round the bottom and right up over the shoulders, over the seams and onto the sleeves

Houzuki: Ground cherry plant 

Hyakunichiso: Zinnia flowers - it literally means, 'blooming for 100 days'. 

Hyakunin-Isshu: A card game based on 100 poems by 100 poets. Hyakunin-isshu is sometimes spelled Hyakunin-issyu. This card game is also known as Uta Karuta. See 'Ogura Hyakunin Isshu' below

Hyotan: Bottle gourd. Sometimes spelled hyoutan 

Hyourin: The moon 


Ichi-go-ichie: Means 'every moment is unique, and will never come again'

Ichimatsu: Headdress of women of samurai class (Kamakura period) 

Ichime-gasa: Checkerboard pattern

Icho: Ginko

Igeta: One of the kimono patterns. It looks like the mouth of a Japanese traditional well, which looks rather like a noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) grid

Igirisu: Great Britain / United Kingdom

Ikat: Ikat fabric is made (dying the threads before they are woven so the pattern emerges on the loom. It is a fascinating process and one that, once you recognize it on cloth, will be sure to make you wonder about the time and skill involved in creating it. The technique is sometimes called “fuzzy weave” since the patterning is often blurred because even the most accurate dying and weaving may not align the differently dyed threads exactly. When only the warp threads are ikat-dyed, this is a single ikat and you will see the “fuzziness” running in only one direction. When both the warp and weft threads are dyed before weaving, this is a double ikat and the fuzziness runs in both directions

Ikebana: Flower arrangement

Iki: Understated elegance

Iko: Occasionally spelled ikyo but more usually spelled ikou. A special rack for displaying a kimono

Ikou: Occasionally spelled ikyo or iko. A special rack for displaying a kimono

Ikusa: Battle

Ikyo: Sometimes spelled iko though more usually spelled ikou. A special rack for displaying a kimono


Inaho: Autumn rice ear

Inkan: The imprinted personal stamp made by a seal and used in lieu of a signature on art etc.

Inro: A pill container, carried attached to an obi 

Inu: Dog (a children's language word for dog in Japan is wanko, meaning dog, doggy and bow-wow) 

Ippuku: A scroll. In designs, a scroll denotes wisdom

Iro Muji: A style of kimono; an iro muji is a less formal kimono than the hitotsu mon kimono. Iro muji is a plain, self coloured kimono with no mon(crests). It is used for various purposes between formal and casual, for that reason, iro muji is regarded as the basic kimono that one often wears as the first kimono. Iro muji are any colour except black, which is called kuro muji

Irosode: Also irotomesode. Single-color kimono, any colour except black, patterned only below the waistline. Irotomesode are slightly less formal than kurotomesode (black tomesode), and are worn by married women and, at weddings, usually close relatives of the bride and groom. An irotomesode may have three or five mon (crests)

Irotomosode: Also irosode. Single-color kimono, patterned only below the waistline. Irotomesode are slightly less formal than kurotomesode, and are worn by married women and, at weddings, usually close relatives of the bride and groom. An irotomesode may have three or five mon (crests). Pronounced eero-toe-may-so-day, with no stress on any syllable

Ishidourou: A garden lantern 

Ishiguruma: A stone wheel 

Isshu: Poem 

Itomake: Decorative spool of thread

Itsutsu mon: A garment with five mon (crest) on it, at centre back at shoulders, on the back of each sleeve and at shoulder height on both fronts. Five mon make the most formal version of the garment 

Ityou: Ginkgo 

ibata: Seated loom 


Jacquard: Historically draw looms and, more recently, jacquard looms have been used to produce a variety of weaves with stunning tone-on-tone patterning. Damasks, brocades and twills are among the structures employed. White wedding kimono often exploit the possibilities of these techniques and obi designs have employed an even wider range of complex weaves. Brocade designs have been woven with contrasting colours or materials such as metallic or lacquered threads. It is also frequently seen in the linings of women's haori 

Ji: Chinese text characters


Jigami: the paper used for folding fans. -  see also next definition...

Jigami: Natural hair, as in loose and long, very popular in the Edo period - see also previous definition

Jigami-uri: Seller of the paper part of folding fans

Jiin: Temple

Jika-Tabi: Rubber soled tabi, suitable for outdoor wear, worn by field workers, rickshaw pullers and martial artists 

Jinbei: A type of Japanese, summer wear jacket, usually with matching trousers, also known as a hippari. Very casual, sometimes also worn instead of yukata at festivals. Originally menswear but has become popular with women too nowadays.


Jinken: Artificial silk made from a natural fibre, created from pulped plant fibres. Jinken is much the same as rayon, also a natural fibre often used to simulate silk

Jingasa: A hat for the lower-level warrior like foot soldiers. It was made of light iron or leather covered with lacquer. Later it became a common fashion of Samurai

Joofu: A fine linen textile 

Juban: Sometimes spelled jyuban. Underwear. A han juban is a short kimono top, worn as underwear, a naga juban is a long underwear kimono. Juban means underwear and all the types are often called hada juban. Immediately under the outerwear kimono, one wears the naga-juban kimono, naga meaning 'long' and juban meaning 'underwear'. Only the collar edge of the naga-juban can be seen at the neck edge of the outer kimono, but it can create a subtle balance to the entire outfit. The naga-juban also shows when the hem of the kimono is lifted to walk. The naga-juban is often just called a juban. Of course there are several kinds of naga-juban; some are for the use on the ceremonial occasions with mourning kimono or bridal furisode, Others are for rather casual occasions with tsukesage and so on. Rinzu, chirimen or muslin are usually used as the material of naga-juban. With summer kimonos, sha or hemp are mainly used. Each material has its own characteristics. It is said that a nagajuban is a hidden smartness. Men's nagajubans are often very ornate, with all-over patterns or fabulous scenes or images on the top of the back, this is known as 'hidden beauty' and became popular when it was decreed that only nobles and samurai class men were allowed to wear ornate outer kimonos, all other men must wear only subdued ones 

Juni Hitoe: Sometimes written as one word - junihitoe. The complex 12 layer kimono outfit worn by hime during part of the Heian era (10th century noblewomen). There were very specific rules about which colours were worn in which season and in which order they were worn. The older term, still used by scholars but not widely recognised in mainstream Japan, is Karaginu Mo. This is in reference to its Chinese coat (Karaginu) and apron-like train (Mo), the defining parts of the costume. The total weight could add up to 20 kilos

Junishi: The 12 animals of the Zodiac 

Juumou: Wool 

Jyofu: A textile made of hemp, which is thin and light and used for summer wear

Jyusan-Mairi: 1st furisode for thirteen year old girls 


Kabuto: Samurai's armour helmet 

Kabuki: A traditional style of Japanese theatre

Kagame: A mirror (marukagami means round mirror, sugatami means full length mirror and tekagami means hand mirror)

Kagamikake: A mirror cover. This is used by the Japanese to cover a mirror, as they believe that mirrors can not only ward off evil spirits but can also attract them, so, in traditional Japanese homes, they cover their mirrors when not in use

Kaga-Yuzen: One of the yuzen dyeing techniques, which was developed in Kanazawa. It uses a nature motif and it has distinctive calmness and tenderness 

Kagekiyo: A Noh mask representing a warrior character

Kago: Basket, also basuketto in Japanese. Often made from a hexagonal lattice work of bamboo strips 

Kaiawase: Kaiawase (kai-awase), a shell-matching game. The shells for this game are stored in a kaioki

Kaika: The opening of the first cherry blossoms (sakura), becoming mankai (full boom) usually within about one week 

Kaiken: A dagger formerly carried by men and women of the samurai class in Japan. It was useful for self-defense indoors where the long katana and intermediate wakizashi were inconvenient. Women carried them in the obi for self-defense and rarely for jigai (suicide). A woman received a kaiken as part of her wedding gifts. In modern times, the kaiken case has become part of the traditional Japanese marriage, being one of the items carried by a bride for good luck

Kaiki-Iwai: Celebrating recovery

Kaioke: A hexagonal container for holding decorated shells for Kaiawase, shell-matching game. A romantic game in the Heian period, in which players matched paired clam shells to symbolize the union of a perfect couple.

Kaiseki: A tea ceremony meal. Kaiseki meals are prepared for guests who are invited to a Chaji tea ceremony. Much care and consideration for season and type of meeting is taken when choosing ingredients for dishes. The teishu (host) might take several days (sometimes with the help of a hantou) to prepare a kaiseki meal 

Kaishi: Papers used for tea ceremony sweets, can also be used as a napkin at the tea ceremony. The used Kaishi are folded up and put into the tea maker's kimono sleeves, to be disposed of later

Kaji: Mulberry 

Kakebuton: futon blanket / futon quilt 

Kakejiku: A hanging scroll. See Kakemono

Kakemono: Also called kakejiku, a hanging scroll. A vertical Japanese scroll painting. In Japanese art, a work of art mounted for hanging. A picture or piece of calligraphy on paper or silk is glued on a paper backing with a silk or brocade frame and different pieces of silk above and below it. At the bottom is a stick of wood around which the scroll can be rolled up for storage; at the top is a lighter slat of wood from which it hangs. In traditional Japanese houses, one room has a tokonoma, an alcove designed for the display of a kakemono and perhaps a flower arrangement or a piece of pottery. The practice is to change the picture depending on the season. The rolled-up kakemono can be stored in a specially designed box until it is brought out again.


Kakeshita: A kimono which is worn under an Uchikake is called a kakeshita. It is like a wedding furisode, but the difference between a Kakeshita and wedding furisode is, Kakeshitas are more simple in design, patterned only on sleeves and hem or small pattern on all of it, or just plain.

Kaketsugi: Mending techniques To sew a torn part or to hide the seam 

Kaki: Persimmon

Kaku obi: A stiff, roughly 3 inch deep, men's formal obi, worn with the knot at the back

Kama: A metal pot or kettle. The specific term for a kama used in Japanese tea ceremony is chagama (tea kettle). A farming implement similar to a small scythe used for reaping crops and also employed as a weapon


Kamakura-bori - a form of lacquerware from Kamakura, Japan. It is made by carving patterns in wood, then lacquering it with layers of color. It is then polished to reveal lacquer colours if the layers of lacquer differ.

Kamawanu: A design that was popular in the Edo era and is still occasionally seen today, particularly on men's obi. It has a sickle (Kama), a circle (WA) and "Nu" a hiragana text letter. 

Kame: A turtle 

Kameshibori: Tie dye giving a roundish, bean like pattern

Kami: Paper but also means Shinto gods are called kami. They are sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility. Humans become kami after they die and are revered by their families as ancestral kami. The kami of extraordinary people are even enshrined at some shrines. The Sun Goddess Amaterasu is considered Shinto's most important kami. In contrast to many monotheist religions, there are no absolutes in Shinto. There is no absolute right and wrong, and nobody is perfect. Shinto is an optimistic faith, as humans are thought to be fundamentally good, and evil is believed to be caused by evil spirits. Consequently, the purpose of most Shinto rituals is to keep away evil spirits by purification, prayers and offerings to the kami. Shinto shrines are the places of worship and the homes of kami. Most shrines celebrate festivals (matsuri) regularly in order to show the kami the outside world. The introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century was followed by a few initial conflicts, however, the two religions were soon able to co-exist and even complement each other. Many Buddhists viewed the kami as manifestations of Buddha.

Kamikazari: Hair ornament. Kami means hair and kazari means ornament

Kamibari: metallic thread made of foil on thin membrane or paper strips, which are wrapped around silk threads. These metallic threads cannot be stitched through the silk fabrics, so they are traditionally "couched": laid on the fabric surface and stitched down with fine silk threads. Often seen outlining designs on ornate kimono

Kamishimo: Worn by samurai and court men, the outfit consists of a formal kimono, hakama, and a sleeveless top with exaggerated shoulders (supported by bamboo strips and usually lined with paper) called a kataginu

Kamome: A gull

Kamon: A formal, family crest. Mon is a crest, kamon is a family crest. A disc of fabric is masked to be left undyed, the family crest design is then stencilled on. Families either use the mon passed down through their family or simply select one they like and adopt it as their kamon

Kane: Metal, also called metaru 

Kanji: Chinese characters (text) used by the Japanese along with katakana and hiragana. kanji are used to write parts of the language such as nouns, adjective stems, and verb stems, while hiragana are used to write inflected verb and adjective endings (okurigana), particles, native Japanese words (where the kanji is considered too difficult to read or remember), and words in which the kanji is not on the government-sanctioned list of characters. Katakana are used for representing onomatopoeia, non-Japanese loanwords (except those borrowed from Chinese), the names of plants and animals (with exceptions), and for emphasis on certain words 

Kannon: - (Occasionally Kan'on, or more formally Kanzeon) is the Buddhist bodhisattva associated with compassion. Known as the Goddess of Mercy. Usually shown as a female but can take the form of any type of male or female, adult or child, human or non-human being 

Kannushi: What a Shinto Priest wears, for example the joe, the eboshi and the kariginu (see photos on wiki), do not have any special religious significance, but are simply official garments used in the past by the Imperial court. Originally the kannushi were intermediaries between kami and could transmit their will to common humans.[2] A kannushi was a man capable of miracles or a holy man who, because of his practice of purificatory rites, was capable to work as a medium for a kami, but later the term evolved to being synonymous with shinshoku, that is, a man who works at a shrine and holds religious ceremonies there. The Shinto priest who wears the joe is attired in a peaked cap called tate-eboshi, an outer tunic called the joe proper, an outer robe called joe no sodegukuri no o, an undergarment called hitoe, ballooning trousers called sashinuki or nubakama, and a girdle called joe no ate-obi. He can carry a ceremonial wand called haraegushi or another called shaku

Kanoko: Hand tied shibori (tie dye) work 

Kansetsuteki: One of the six elements of Japanese beauty. To be able to create with your imagination, a place (space) where you are peaceful and complacent. It is where you imagine you are in the perfect place. For example, Karesansui, a rock garden, can be an ocean in your imagination 

Kanzashi: - ornate hairpin


Kanzemizu: A swirling vortex in a stream, a whirlpool

Karafuru: Colourful

Karahana: China flower, also known as Chinese flower

Karakusa: Means, "foreign plant" or "winding plant". The pattern consists of various spirals, and these spirals take their shape from vines and other natural forms. Karakusa has been commonly used as a symbol of longevity and prosperity. 

Karashishi: A lion, considered protective. Often shortened to shishi

Karasu: Raven or Crow 

Karesansui: A rock garden, which is a place designed to be peaceful and allow conemplation 

Karihimo: A (usually) temporary cord used in kimono dressing. It is a soft, narrow sash used to aid in kimono dressing (kitsuke), often made of silk or wool. They are used to hold virtually anything in place during the process of dressing and can be used in many ways depending on what is worn. Some of the karihimos are removed after datejime or obi have been tied, while others remain worn beneath the layers of clothing.

Karinui: Temporarily tacked/basted, to check the complete patterns on kimono. When you buy a karinui kimono it is untailored and needs to be sewn together 

Karyou Makura: Also called azuma sugata. An extra deep obi makura

Kasa: An umbrella. Sometimes seen as gasa, as in bangasa 

Kasamatsu: Dense pine branch

Kasen: Synthetics

Kashi: Sweets served before drinking green tea. Traditional Japanese sweets such as omogashi and higashi are always served before tea is offered to guests. Before drinking koicha (thick green tea), omogashi (moist cakes made with jelly and or anko sweet-bean paste) are offered to balance the palate with sweet before bitter. Higashi are usually served before offering usucha (thin tea)

Kashiwa: Oak leaf

Kaso-shitatare: Slightly baggy, short-ish trousers, with a cuff round calf. Also Kobakama, slightly baggy, short trousers, with a cuff round calf; this Japanese garment is identical with the kaso-shitatare of the olden time, and is therefore now called kesho-bakama

Kasumi: Mist

Kasuri: One of the Kimono patterns. As it is woven with pre-dyed threads, sometimes an undyed part appears. That part is used as motif. These ikat fabrics are made by selectively binding and dyeing parts of the warp or weft threads, or even both, before the fabric is woven. It is an arduous and exacting process. For either silk or cotton fabrics, the threads are stretched on a frame, selected design areas are bound, then the hanks of bound threads are immersed in the dye pots. In meisen silk kats, both warp and weft are bound and dyed. For warp ikats, it's the warp threads that are bound and dyed. The fabric is woven with plain wefts, as all of the patterning is in the warps. The irregular, feathery design outlines are a characteristic feature, where the dye seeps under the bindings slightly. In contrast, vertical pattern lines are crisp and smooth. For weft kasuri, more juggling is possible. It's the wefts that are bound selectively and dyed, and the weaver has a little freedom in positioning the dyed pattern areas exactly during the weaving process. This makes quite complex motifs possible. It presumes, however, that the bindings were done with much care and precision. Fabric ornamentation with elaborate weft-ikat motifs is known as "picture kasuri," or e-gasuri. Sometimes the warps are printed or painted before the final weaving process. The fabric below appears to combine techniques 

Katabami: Wood sorrel

Kataginu: A sleeveless top with exaggerated shoulders, worn with hakama and a formal kimono by samurai and noble court men 

Katakana: Japanese textual characters, used by the Japanese along with kanji and hiragana. Katakana scripts are derived from components of more complex kanjigikan - reading of kanji by meaning. The katakana syllabary is primarily used for transcription of foreign language words into Japanese and the writing of loan words (collectively gairaigo), as well as to represent onomatopoeia, technical and scientific terms, and the names of plants, animals, and minerals. Names of Japanese companies as well as certain Japanese language words are also written in katakana rather than the other systems. Kanji are used to write parts of the language such as nouns, adjective stems, and verb stems, while hiragana are used to write inflected verb and adjective endings (okurigana), particles, native Japanese words (where the kanji is considered too difficult to read or remember), and words in which the kanji is not on the government-sanctioned list of characters. Katakana are used for representing onomatopoeia, non-Japanese loanwords (except those borrowed from Chinese), the names of plants and animals (with exceptions), and for emphasis on certain words 

Katamigawari: Half-and-half: style of garment in which the halves are made from different fabrics or designs; sleeves may be alternated as well. In old Japan, katamigawari was a way to recycle fabrics and make new clothes when you didn’t have the full tanmono (kimono fabric roll) required to make a kimono. It became a true fashion statement in Late Azuchi Momoyama/early Edo periods. 

Katawa-guruma: Also katawakuruma. A wheel pattern in flowing water, usually only half the wheel visible. Katawa translates as incomplete/partial, and guruma is carriage, referring to a carriage wheel. The wheels, which were made of wood, were stored in water to prevent them from drying out and rendered useless by shrinking. These wheels signify nobility and good fortune. If the wheel has 8 spokes it often represents the Wheel of the Dharma, a symbol that represents the teachings of the Buddha.

Kata-aizome: Indigo stenciling 

Katazome: These fabrics are also produced with stencils. Rice paste is pressed through the elaborately cut, heavy, oiled stencils onto the fabric; then after drying, the fabrics are immersed in the dye pots. This process has often been used with indigo blue on cotton for summer yukata kimono or for futon covers. Sometimes wax has been used instead, as in batiks made elsewhere 

Katchu: Katchû - armour 

Katori Senko: Mosquito repellant coils 

Katsura: A bride's or geisha's wig. A bride's hairstyle for this wig is called bunkin-takashimada. One of these costs upwards of £1700 (UK pounds, at least $2000) for a new one

Kawarmoyou: Fancy pattern 

Kanzashi: Hair decorations. There are several basic kanzashi styles, along with more complex hana (flower) and seasonal arrangements as well. The basic types of kanzashi are: 1. Bira-bira - also called Fluttering or Dangling style, 2. Kogai - rods made of resin, totoishell, lacquered wood etc. that push through the hair, 3. Kushi - comb kanzashi rather than pins, 4. Kanoko Dome - heavily jeweled accessories with two prongs, 5. Ougi - also called Princess style, they are metal, fan-shaped with mon imprint, aluminum streamers and held in place by a long pin and 6. Tsumami Kanzashi - literally, 'folded fabric hair ornament'; made from very tiny squares of silk that are folded into petals using origami techniques to produce ones such as hana kanzashi (trailing flowers), with different flowers for different seasons, though not just flower shapes are made this way.

Kazari: Decoration


Kendama: A cup and ball game.

Kenpu: Silk 

Kesa: A simple garment worn by a Buddhist monk. During the life of the Buddha, he and his followers were itinerant beggars and they needed clothing, so they picked up all sorts of rags and sewed them together in a regular patchwork pattern. Then they dyed it with the local clay to be of uniform colour so as to be recognizable as a follower of the Buddha. The sanskrit word "kasaya" means earth coloured. Kesa in Japanese. Later this patchwork pattern got formalised into that brick pattern one sees on kesa all over the Buddhist world. It tends to be a rectangular shape with a single strap. Wa-Kesa is even simpler, just a band, used as a travelling kesa

Keshi: Poppy 

Kesho-mawashi: Wrestlers in the two upper divisions, makuuchi and juryo, are allowed to wear a ceremonial kesho-mawashi during their ring entering ceremony. The silk 'belt' opens out at one end into a large apron which is usually heavily embroidered and with thick tassels at the bottom. 

Ki: Yellow 

Kiahan: Gaiters or leggings 

Kicho: See kichou 

Kichou: Sometimes spelled kicho. Curtain in Heian era (794-1192), which was used to divide a room. Literally, 'curtain of state'. Popular during the Heian era (794-1190), the kicho served the purpose as a screen concealing noblewomen from prying eyes: the preferred location of the kicho was near the veranda, and it is recorded that the moment of commitment of a love Heian love affair often occurred when the lady permitted a gentleman behind her kicho. The color and ornamentation of the kicho varied with the seasons and the material used is the best the household could afford. It is known that the nobles competed with each other over the artistic values of these screens. Often a number of kichos would be strung together to form a larger partition, with the many sections allowing a flexible shape. 

Kiji: Pheasant

Kiku: Chrysanthemum

Kikkou: One of the Kimono designs resembling the shell of a turtle/tortoise or a hexagonal pattern 

Kikyo: Sometimes spelled kikyou. Bell flower, also called balloon flower

Kime-sem: bottom fold line of the otaiko musubi

Kinagashi: Wearing men's kimono without Hakama or Haori is known as a Kinagashi style. This is a casual way of wearing a kimono and obi

Kin: Gold

Kinezume: Squirrel

Kinkoma: Couched, metal thread embroidery

Kinkakuji: Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple, in Kyoto, formally known as Rokuonji. In 1397 construction started on the Kinkauji as part of a new residence for the retired shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. It is is covered in stunning gold leaf. Kinkakuji was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimitsu's death in 1408. The Golden Pavilion functions as shariden, housing sacred relics of the Buddha. The present building dates from 1955, as the pavilion was burnt by a fanatic monk in 1950 and was rebuilt.

Kin no: Golden

Kinran: Textile woven for use in Buddhist temples and Buddhist clothing. Kinran is woven with real, 24 carat gold thread

Kinsai Yuzen: (See also Surihaku). Kinsai means gold leaf yuzen means hand application of textile art. Kinsai yuzen is gold leaf application on a kimono; an art form which reached its peak in the Azuchi-Momoyama period

Kinsya: High quality silk-gauze woven with foil, gold and silk threads. As it is thin and light, it is used for summer wear 

Kinsan: Gold paint or lacquer

Kin-to-gin-no-kazari: Gold (kin) and silver (gin) brocade


Kinran: Gold brocade. The gold is incorporated by the use in the weft of “flat gold,” very thin yarn-like strips cut from a laminate of gold foil, lacquered to tough paper.

Kiri: Paulownia: said to be the plant with the only branches phoenix will land on. Also known as foxglove tree and princess tree 

Kiri-Hoo: Combined paulownia and phoenix motif

Kissyo-Ka: Auspicious flowers such as chrysanthemum, peony, plum flower and others 

Kitake: The length the kimono is worn after forming the ohashori (length adjusting waist tuck). The kitake is achieved by folding the kimono over at the waist. Kitake is the worn length, as opposed to mitake, the actual length of the kimono 

Kityo-Mon: A traditional split curtain

Kitsuke: The process of putting on a kimono. In Japan one can take kitsuke classes, as putting on a kimono, with its various layers and folds and tying an obi is not an easy task and requires some skill and much practise.

Kitsuke Kimono: The accessories used to assist putting on a kimono outfit. Kitsuke means putting on a kimono

Kiza: The kneeling position, where the buttocks rest on the heels which are still propped up, is called kiza. If one then lowers the feet onto the floor, one will be in the seiza position

Koban: An oval coin, usually gold or silver

Kobana: Small flowers

Kobukusa: Also called dashibukusa. A small brocaded cloth, about a quarter of the size of a fukusa, used at tea ceremonies. When Koicha (thick tea) is served, a Dashibukusa is placed beside the Chawan by the host. Dashibukusa indicates that a valuable Chawan is used and that Macha is supposed to be shared with the other guests

Kodomo: Child/children

Kodomo no Hi: Children's day, celebrated on 5th May, during Japan's Golden Week. It is a day set aside to respect children's personalities and to celebrate their happiness. The day was originally called Tango no Sekku, Boys' Day, but has been changed to Children's Day, for both boys and girls. In 1948, the government decreed this day to be a national holiday to celebrate the happiness of all children and to express gratitude toward mothers. It was renamed Kodomo no Hi. Girls' Day used to be Hinamatsuri, on March 3rd, and it became Dolls' Day, as special dolls were displayed on Girls' Day and these annual doll displays continue, with their own significance. On Kodomo no Hi, huge, beautiful koinobori (carp banners) are strung up everywhere, blowing in the wind (which makes them look as though they are simming upstream), to celebrate the life of boys. Legend says that a carp that swims upstream becomes a dragon if it reaches the top of a waterfall. Koinobori: A black carp (Magoi) at the top represents the father, a red carp (Higoi) below it represents the mother, and the last carp represents the son, with an additional carp added for each subsequent son, with color and position denoting their relative age. Families might display a Kintaro doll, usually riding on a large carp, and a traditional samurai military helmet, a kabuto; they are symbols of a strong and healthy boy. Kintaro was a boy hero in Japanese fable, he was also extraordinately strong. 

Kodomotachi: Children

Ko-Furisode: Shorter sleeved Furisode, with sleeves that are around 85cm in length. "Ko" means small/short. The sleeves of ko-furisode are still very deep, much moreso than non-furisode (kosode) kimonos, just shorter than full furisode length

Kohaze: A hook fastener used on tabi etc 

Koi: Carp. When a carp finishes climbing the waterfall of the 'dragon gate' of Yellow River, it becomes a mighty dragon, according to old Chinese legend. Carp is the symbol of the advancement in life and it is also the popular motif in kimono 

Koicha: Thick green tea. Koicha comes from the first harvest of plants that are a minimum of 30 years old 

Koi-kuchi: Carp mouth; koi means carp and kuchi means mouth. It refers to the shape of the carp's mouth. This is the neck shape of a style of Japanese shirt 

Koinobori: A carp banner, popular in displays on boys' day. The banner may have carp on it or be in the form of a carp shaped windsock

Kokechi: the classical Japanese term for shibori (tie-dye)

Kokeshi: Wooden dolls, very simple in shape, with no actual arms or legs. Originally carved by fathers when off at work, to take home to their children

Kolomo: Buddhist bonze's (priest) kimono jacket. The jacket usually has pleating around the bottom of the back 

Koma: Spinning top 

Komaro: A Slightly transparant ro weave textile 

Komochi Yoshiwara: A traditional chainlink pattern 

Komon: Means fine pattern or repeat pattern. Kimono with a small, repeated pattern throughout the garment. This style is more casual and may be worn around town, or dressed up with a formal obi for a restaurant. Both married and unmarried women may wear komon (see also Edo Komon)

Kooshi: Lattice pattern 

Ko-omote: A Noh mask representing an unmarried woman. Ko means beauty and youth and omote means face. The mask is used to portray a noble woman or a lover who dies in her prime

Korihimo: Written korihimo or kori-himo. A temporary tie cord, used to hold kimono or obi in place and removed once the are properly on. 

Korin belt: An elastic, adjustable belt used to anchor the kimono before applying the obi

Koromo: Koromo means clothing 

Koromogae: The putting away and bringing out kimono with change of seasons 

Koshihimo: Written koshihimo or koshi-himo. Literarily meaining hip-cord, it is the name of cord/soft tie that is worn around the hips or waist to create the length adjusting fold on women's kimono or to hold a man's kimono closed as he ties hi obi. The shortening fold on a woman's kimono, held in place by the koshihimo, is called the ohashori 

Koshiita: The backboard on men's hakama and women's budo hakama

Kosode: Literally "small sleeves". The kosode is the forerunner to the modern kimono worn by married women, with less deep sleeves than those on young, unmarried women's furisodes. In the Heian period, it was worn as an undergarment by both men and women of the court nobility. Later it became the outer garment for all the classes. The "small sleeves" referred originally to the small opening for the wrist, which distinguished the kosode from the "osode", large sleeves, in which the wrist opening was the full length of the sleeve. In modern times, "kosode" also have small sleeves, in the sense that that they are shorter than those of the furisode

Kosori: Patterns woven into the base fabric of a kimono, known as damask 

Koto: A Japanese harp/zither with thirteen strings. Roughly six feet in length, the koto is made of paulonia wood and has thirteen silk strings of fixed and equal length and tension; tuning is effected by means of the high, movable fret placed under each string

Kotobuki: Means both,'blessing to one's longevity', or just, 'congratulations'. Used for wedding, pregnancy and childbirth items 

Kotoji: A bridge for a koto, to support the strings

Kou: Box 

Kou: Also koufuku. Pleasure, Happiness 

Koubako: Small, lidded incense containers, used to contain incense chips or pastilles that are fed into the charcoal ashes used to heat the kettle. Kougou are of three general types: royou (for the sunken hearth in winter), furoyou (for the portable brazier in summer) and ro·furo-kenyou (for all seasons).

Kou-awase: A game played by guessing the fragrances in incense

Kouka: Safflower

Kougai: An ornamental hairpin 

Koujou: A mill 

Kouro: Incense burners 

Kousa: Plaid (check, like tartan etc)

Koyahaku: Star. As a prefix it is suta, as in Suta-Torekku, meaning Star Trek, or suta-gaido meaning star guide

Kubukuma: A motif of kabuki faces in the style of just the kumadori (kabuki makeup) 

Kukan: One of the six elements of Japanese beauty. This is the third element and refers directly to the idea of living space. In this, we examine the sense of unselfishness in utilising a "necessity only" area (space) and being content with it 

Kuma: A bear

Kumadori: Stage make-up

Kumihimo: Braided cord, most often used to make himo and obijime. It used to be also used to fasten samurai armour pieces together

Kumo: A cloud

Kumodori: A break in the clouds, popular in Japanese design

Kumo no su: Cobweb

Kura: A warehouse

Kuremachisu: Clematis 

Kurikoshi: Fold-over sewn to adjust length 

Kuro: Black. Originally a black tint derived from initial immersion in brown (usually derived from native acorns), followed by application of iron mordant 

Kurotomesode: Black kimono, if patterned, pattern only below the waistline. Kurotomesode are the most formal kimono for married women. They are often worn by the mothers of the bride and groom at weddings. Kurotomesode usually have five mon (crests) printed on the sleeves, chest and back of the kimono

Kushi: A comb 

Kusudama: (lit. medicine ball) is a paper model that is usually (although not always) created by sewing or gluing multiple identical pyramidal units (usually stylized flowers folded from square paper) together through their points to form a spherical shape. Originally being actual bunches of flowers or herbs.The word itself is a combination of two Japanese words kusuri, meaning medicine, and tama, meaning ball. They are now typically used as decorations, or as gifts 

Kyokusui: An abstract stream pattern 

Kyaku: Guest or guests at a tea ceremony, also When in Japan one hears this title in almost every shop entered. It could be followed by "San" as in the honorific for "Sir or Mrs" 

Kyobukuro obi: (capital fukuro obi) was invented in the 1970s in Nishijin, Kyoto. It lies among the usage scale right between nagoya obi and fukuro obi, and can be used to smarten up an everyfay outfit. A kyo-bukuro obi is structured like a fukuro obi but is as short as a nagoya obi. It thus can also be turned inside out for wear like reversible obis. A kyo-bukuro obi is about 30cm (12 in) wide and 350cm (11.5 ft) long. 

Kyokusui: An abstract stream pattern 

Kyousoku: An armrest, sometimes used with a zaisu (legless chair) or zabouton (cushion for kneeling on). 

o: Archery, known as the Way of the Bow; it is one of the oldest of Japan’s traditional martial arts. Also called Ritsuzen (standing Zen)


Macha: Powdered green tea 

Mae-Ita: Also Obi-Ita. a stiffening board for obi. Worn behind the sash at the front 

Maekake: An apron to protect kimono while working 


Maki-e: (蒔絵, literally: sprinkled picture). Japanese lacquer sprinkled, when still wet, with metallic powder as a decoration, using a makizutsu (sprinkle canister) or a kebo (paintbrush). To create different colours and textures, maki-e artists use a variety of metal powders including gold, silver, copper, brass, lead, aluminum, platinum, and pewter, as well as alloys. Takamakie (or "raised maki-e") is one of the major techniques in maki-e making. Developed in the Muromachi period (1336–1573), the technique of takamakie involves building up design to make it raised.

Makimono: A Japanese hand scroll, an ink-and-brush painting or calligraphy which is supposed to be held in the hand and unrolls horizontally 

Manji: Also called mangi and saaya, buddhist cross in the form of a swastika that stands for good fortune, luck and well being, a symbol of plurality, eternity, abundance, prosperity and long life. It also signifes Buddha's footprints and the Buddha's heart. The swastika is said to contain the whole mind of the Buddha and can often be found imprinted on the chest, feet or palms of Buddha images. It is also the first of the 65 auspicious symbols on the footprint of the Buddha. It is often used to mark the beginning of Buddhist texts

Maiko: An apprentice geisha; mai meaning "dancing" and ko meaning "child". Maiko dress very ornately and wear shiro nuri, the very white, china doll like make up that many associate with geisha and lots of floral adornments in their hair, dangling ones in the first year, non-dangling ones after that, small flowers for 1st year maikos, larger ones after that and different flowers for different seasons. Geisha do not wear these. Not all geisha start off as maiko. A geisha who was a maiko has extra kudos. Tokyo geisha generally do not follow the ritualized Kyoto maiko apprentice process. The training period can be six months to a year - notably shorter than a Kyoto maiko - before she debuts as a full geisha. The trainee is referred to as a han'gyoku, meaning "half-jewel", or by the more generic term o-shaku "one who pours (alcohol)"


Manji: Buddhist crosses which are anticlockwise swastika and an ancient Buddhist symbol

Mankai: Full bloom of cherry blossom (sakura), usually reached within about one week after the opening of the first blossoms (kaika) 

Mato: Archery target, used in kyudo 

Mari: Also called temari. A decorative ball, the pattern made by winding dyed thread around it 

Maru-e: Means a circular pattern S

Maruguke: A kind of obijime cord, made of stuffed fabric. Maruguke means pretty much, "sewn round". This style is most likely used nowadays by brides.


Marugumi: A kind of obijime made of round-braided cord

Marukagame: A mirror (kagami means mirror and tekagami means hand mirror)

Maru Obi: A type of obi. The maru obi is the most formal obi, with both sides fully patterned and pattern along its entire length. The classic maru obi measures 33cm wide. Maru obi with narrower width can be custom made for a petite client. The maru obi is usually made of elaborately patterned brocade or tapestry, which is often richly decorated with gold threads. However, due to its exorbitant cost and weight (which makes it uncomfortable to wear), the maru obi is rarely worn today, except for traditional Japanese weddings and other very formal occasions. Both outside and backside are beautifully patterned. Fully patterned Maru-Obi appeared in the end of Edo era, 1603 to 1687 and it was most popular during the Meiji and Taisho eras. In the Edo era, Maru-Obi was luxurious and the most formal one for wealthy people. Due to its thickness, Maru-Obi can't be folded in half like contemporary Obi. So, it is worn unfolded. Even if it looked gorgeous, it was hard to wear because of its thickness and heaviness. Moreover, it was expensive. These days, Fukuro-Obi (double fold-Obi) is worn instead of it. Maru-Obi is worn only on the special occasions such as wedding 

Matcha: Finely-milled Japanese green tea. When you drink matcha you consume the leaves, unlike other green teas. There are 2 types of matcha - koicha and usucha. These are chanoyu (Japanese Tea Ceremony) terms and literally translate as "thick" and "thin" tea 

Matoi: A traditional cheering pole, originally used at fire fighting by hikeshi (Edo firemen). Different fire departments would have different matoi. It was also used as a practise target for shooting water at. The main task of the firemen was to isolate a fire by tearing down the neighboring houses. Nowadays it is used as a festival item, representing firemen 

Matsu: Pine trees, which represent strength and longevity 

Matsuba: Pine needles 

Matsukasa: Pine cone

Matsuri: Festivals

Mausu: Also nezumi, meaning mouse 

Mawashi: The belt (loincloth) that the rikishi (or sumo wrestler) wears during training or in competition. It is wrapped several times around the rikishi and fastened in the back by a large knot. A series of matching colour, stiffened silk fronds, called sagari are inserted into the front of the mawashi. Their number varies from 13 to 25, and is always an odd number. 

Meibutsugire: “famed fabrics” or "celebrated fabrics". They are cloth chosen and admired by tea adepts and other elites from the 14c to 17c. Most are kinran (gold brocade), donsu (damask), kantou (striped textile), and nishiki (Japanese brocade) but meibutsugire also include some sarasa (printed cotton). Reportedly there were 400 kinds of meibutsugire, named after the people who collected them, for the places where they were made, for the potters, after the famous objects they housed, or after some historical anecdote. Originally they were called jidaigire (fabrics from ancient times). When they were used for famous tea containers (meibutsu chaire), the fabrics were called meibutsugire. They were also used for the mountings of hanging scrolls and small wrappers (fukusa). The famous tea master Kobori Enshuu (1579-1647) was particularly fond of them and introduced many of these exotic fabrics into the tea ceremony. They were also used for garments of the ruling military class and for nou (noh) costumes (noushouzoku). Meibutsugire influenced Japanese dyeing and weaving patterns in textiles. 

Meisen: Meisen is woven with dyed cocoon using Hiraori technique. It has a taffeta like feel and body. Worn by wide range of classes. Meisen Kimono is a casual cloth for wealthy people but a fine cloth for ordinary people. Meisen silk is similar to silk taffeta, having a slight hint of body to it, helping it hold its shape, although it is also very soft. It feels lovely. Meisen silk is one of the Japanese silks fabricated by weaving pre-dyed threads, utilizing the tie-and-resist ikat technique. In this process the threads are first stretched on a frame, then selected design areas are tightly bound to prevent the dye from penetrating and the hanks of threads are immersed in the dye pots. The bound portions of the yarns resist the dye and, when woven, as a result of the threads not being perfectly aligned, create shapes with charmingly uneven, slightly fuzzy edges. Meisen silk was a particularly popular fabric for casual kimono between the Taisho era and the beginning of the Showa era, i.e. in early 1900s, in part because it was more affordable than previous silk textiles, and in part because the designs, frequently drawing on Western influences, seemed adventurous and innovative. Even today they retain a contemporary sensibility. Meisen kimonos from the early 20th century tend to be a little shorter than later kimonos, though still very long. Meisen kimonos are now sought after by kimono collectors, as the supply of good condition ones gets smaller and smaller. 

Mempu: Cotton 

Men: Face, facial features, mask, face guard 

Menkoubai weave: A grid-like weave, popular for cotton textile that is used for yukata kimonos


Michinaga-dori: A wavy line shape, representing torn segments of washi paper 


Michiyuki: This style of Japanese jacket/coat, with its signature square neckline and snap or button closures, is worn over the kimono for warmth and protection. Michi means “street” and “yuki” refers to “going outside”. Most michiyuki have a “secret pocket” beneath the front panel, accessible by the right hand. Though there are versions for men, most michiyuki (even the darker, plainer ones) are made for women. There is no standard length, and some can be as long as the kimono beneath it, which is more common for the style of michiyuki that is designed as rainwear. A rare and collectible find is the velvet michiyuiki, made in Germany after WWII, and quite popular in Japan during the 1950's 

Miko: Young, virginal females, who assist Shinto priests during rituals and shrine tasks. Miko wear white kimono with red hakama, must be unmarried, and are often the priests' daughters 

Mikoshi: A portable Shinto shrine 

Minarai: The minarai are a subsection of geisha entertainers in training. The minarai period occurs once a geisha progresses past the shikomi stage but before they reach the maiko stage. The minarai period lasts only a few weeks and is an intense period of study and mentoring. While the girls are in the minarai stage, they tie their obi belts in a plainer tie than full-fledged geisha entertainers. The minarai tie uses the simple butterfly obi tie that is uncomplicated and can be tied alone with no help from others necessary. The maiko obi is called a darari obi, the minarai obi is shorter and called handarari 

Minogame: A turtle swimming with a trail of algae and seaweed behind it; a symbol of longevity and wisdom. The name minogame comes from mino (a straw raincoat) and kame (a turtle), k is often changed to g in combined words in Japanese (now and then you may see it spelled minokame). Turtles live a very long time and algae grows on their shells, the algae and seaweed trail looks like the traditional, Japanese straw raincoat that used to be worn, particularly in country areas by farm workers.

Misosazai: Wasp 

Misu: Wide bamboo blinds used in Heian palaces that allowed noble women to see outside without being seen. Noblewomen hid their faces from all men except those in their immediate family. A smaller version of these blinds was used on gosho-guruma, imperial carriages, allowing nobles to travel unseen while still able to see out of the carriage. A hi-ogi (large Imperial fan) could also be used to provide this modesty. 

Mitake: Actual length, from shoulder to hem, of a garment. Actual kimono length, which is generally adjusted by folding the kimono over at the waist, as opposed to kitake, the length of the kimono when worn after it has been shortened by the fold-over at the waist. 

Mitsubachi no su: Honeycomb

Mitsudomoe: A symbol that looks like 3 commas. Created from three joined tomoe, the mitsudomoe is a popular symbol in Japan. Some view the mitsudomoe as representative of the threefold division (Man, Earth, and Sky) at the heart of the Shinto religion. 

Mitsu mon: A garment with three mon (crest) on it, at centre back at shoulders, on the back of each sleeve. Three mon make it more formal than hitotsu (one) mon but less formal that itsutsu (five) mon 

Miyamairi Kimono: Literally means 'visit' (mairi) to the 'shrine' (miya). In the Japanese custom, boys and girls approximately 1 months of age are dressed in the Miyamairi kimono to visit the shrine with their parents and grandparents who express gratitude to the Shinto gods for the safe delivery of the child. These 'babies' kimono make perfect display for small spaces. They are not as tiny as one might think a baby's kimono would be, as they are not actually worn, they are draped over the shoulder of the mother or grandmother and over the child she is holding

Miyatsuguchi: The opening under the arm on the body of a women's kimono

Mizuhiki: An ancient Japanese art form using fine cords. It usually represents yin and yang; silver (gin) cords for yin and gold (kin) cords for yang. Mizuhiki is often seen at New Year. 

Mizutama: Also mizutamamoyou. Polkadot. It literally means 'water bead'

Mizuyagi Kimono: Kimono apron, worn at tea ceremonies

Mofuku: Formal style of mourning dress with five mon (crests) worn by both genders

Mokko: Gourd

Moku Hanga: - (moku = wood, hanga = print) woodcut / woodblock print, a technique best known for its use in the ukiyo-e artistic genre, it refers specifically to woodblock printmaking utilizing traditional Japanese materials and methods. Rice paste and water-based pigments are the inking materials specific to the moku hanga process; nowadays often gouache or watercolor tube paint are used. Printing techniques originating in Japan and particular to this process include: applying colours to the woodblock with brushes, using a “kento” registration system, and using the handheld “baren” as burnisher. Traditionally, separate woodblocks are carved and printed for each color. These methods are valued for their timeless, low tech simplicity. The Japanese developed color woodblock prints to an extraordinary degree during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, towards the later end of the Edo period (1615-1868). As an island nation and under isolationistic rule during this time, Japan’s separateness from the rest of the world contributed to their aesthetics as set apart from anywhere else. Well-known print artists from this era include Kumimasa, Hokusai and Hiroshige. Made in a divided task system where there were specialists in carving and printing.

Mokuzai: Wood 

Mokume: Wood grain 

Momen: Cotton

Momi: A fine red silk, rarely seen nowadays, found in some antique kimonos etc.

Momiji: Japanese maple

Momo: Peach

Momo No Hana: Peach blossom

Momoware: A maiko's hairstyle

Mon: A formal crest. A disc of fabric is masked to be left undyed, the crest design is then stencilled on. Mon means crest and kamon means family crest. Onna mon is the mon associated with the woman's family, as she does not have to wear her husband's family mon. There are different styles of mon; hinata - full sun, solid colour (usually white), nakakage - mid shadow, a medium thickness outline mon, and kage - shadow, a finer outline mon

Monpe: Japanese Field Worker trousers

Montsuki: A plain, self coloured kimono with mon (crests)

Montsukiorihakama: Formal dress for Men


Mosurin: A very fine wool fabric, often used for naga-juban underwear kimonos and such. 

Murasaki Shikibu: Author of "The Tale of Genji", believed to be the world's first novel, from the year 680

Musha: Warrior. Ningyo are warrior dolls 

Muso Haori: Its right side and the lining are made of the same textile; this haori is tailored like a bag

Musubi: Knot(s). For example, the chou chou musubi is a butterfly bow shaped knot (sometimes spelled cho cho), popular for casual hanhaba obis and the otaiko musubi is the square shaped obi knot (often writen as taiko musubi), named after the Taiko Bridge when some geisha wore this new style at its opening and it caught on, remaining the most popular one to this day. The Japanese have very specific ways of tying knots for all sorts of things, such as obis, himos, decorative mizuhiki, hakama ties and all sorts of noshi (cords) etc. 

Japanese ginger


Nadeshiko: The flower known as pinks, one of the carnation (dianthus) family. The name comes from the serrated edge, as though cut with pinking shears. It is said the name of the colour pink comes from these flowers 

Naga Bakama: formal wear. Sometimes just written as bakama

Naga: Naga means long, as in naga-juban, the long (ankle length) underwear kimono

Nagaki: Full (ankle) length kimono, worn as underwear beneath a furisode kimono

Nagajuban: (Often written naga-juban or shortened to juban) Naga means long and juban means underwear. Under the kimono, one wears a naga-juban to keep the kimono from getting worn or stained. Only the collar edge of the Naga-Juban can be seen between the neck and the kimono, but it can create a subtle balance of the entire outfit you are in. The juban also shows when the hem of the kimono is lifted to walk. Of course there are several kinds of Naga-Juban. Some are for the use on the ceremonial occasions with mourning kimono or bridal furisode, Others are for rather casual occasions with Tsukesage etc. Rinzu, chirimen and a fine wool fabric called mousseline (sometimes seen as mosurin) are usually used as the material of naga-juban. And with summer kimonos, airy weaves like sha or ro silk or hemp are mainly used. Each material has each own characteristic. Nowadays synthetic textiles emulating these fabrics are often used. It is said that naga-juban is a hidden smartness

Nagoya obi: The most convenient obi today is the nagoya obi. First produced in the city of Nagoya at the end of the Taisho era (1912-26), the Nagoya obi is lighter and simpler than the fukuro or maru obi. The nagoya obi is characterised by a portion of the obi being pre-folded and stitched in half. The narrow part wraps around the waist, while the wider part forms the bow of the obi tie. When worn, a nagoya obi is tied with a single fold, while a maru or a fukuro obi, being longer, is tied with a double fold. Most nagoya obi is less expensive a maru or fukuro obi. Nonetheless, its design can be stunning

Nanamejima: Diagonal

Nami: A wave (as in the sea). Aranami is a wild wave

Nadeshiko: Fringed pink, one of the dianthus family of flowers

Nanten: [Nandina domestica]; traditional motif modeled on the shrub of the same name; especially noted for its red berries 

Naruto Shippuden: hippuden means the events that happen after the edn of a story, sort of the sequel. Naruto is an ongoing Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. The plot tells the story of Naruto Uzumaki, an adolescent ninja who constantly searches for recognition and aspires to become the Hokage, the ninja in his village who is acknowledged as the leader and the strongest of all. The Naruto Shippuden TV series is based on a one-shot, manga comic by Kishimoto that was published in the August 1997

Natsu Haori: A haori made from a semi-sheer synthetic or an open weave ro silk, to be worn in the summertime

Natsume: A small tea caddy, often made of wood, for green tea at tea ceremonies

Neko: Cat

Nekoyanagi: Pussy willow 

Nemaki: Sleep wear kimono

Neneko: Lucky cat

Nenneko: Any Japanese garment tells a tale, but the nenneko has quite a special one. This is a long (to the knee), thickly padded (tacked or quilted), cross-over jacket with a black satin collar, and it is very large, even by Western measurements. The size is deliberate, to accommodate a mother carrying a child on her back, beneath the jacket. Though lighter, more thinly padded versions are also possible, the origin of the neneko is as a blanket: nene is babytalk for nemu, the Japanese word for sleep, and the neneko kept the child warmly nestled when mother needed to go into town

Nerinuki: Plain-weave silk fabric, as opposed to satin weave etc.

Nezumi: Rat (also mouse, though mouse can be called mausu)

Nihongami: The coiffured hairstyles still prevalent, that replaced the previously popular, long and straight taregami hairstyle

Nikko Toushouguu: A Shinto shrine; located in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan 

Nindo: Honeysuckle [Lonicera Sempervirens] 

Nioi: Scent 

Nishijin-ori: Nishijin-ori is traditional, artistic, expensive, silk fabric from Kyoto. It has been made there for more than one thousand years 

Nobori: A banner 

Noh: A traditional style of musical, Japanese theatre, notable for its use of masks. Noh (sometimes spelled as No) is a very traditional form of Japanese theatre, dating all the way back to the 14th century. Actors (usually male) will chant and sing their roles accompanied by a chorus and an orchestra of flute and drums. There is little in the way of stage props, although the masks and costumes themselves can be lavish. The movements of the actors are slow, deliberate and precise. Noh mask designs from the start Edo era are still reproduced, as exact copies, for Noh plays today. Visit for more info on Noh theatre

Noshi-himo: Decorative, tasselled, silk cords 

Nouyakusha: Noh actor 

Nuihaku: Translates as embroidery and foil. Embroidery is combined with the application of gold or silver foil (see kinsai yuzen and surihaku) , to create a vibrant design, based on the contrast between the three-dimensional effect of the embroidery against the flat sheen of the metallic leaf

Nuitori-Shishu: A weaving technique that makes woven patterns look like surface embroidery. Often seen on valuable Kimonos 

Nuno: Fabric 

Watercolour artwork


O-atsurae: Also just called atsurae. A custom-made kimono.

Obi: A sash for kimono. Maru Obi is ranked the highest of all the formal Obi. It originally has twice the depth compared with that of others. Maru is usually a sumptuous obi which has the same pattern on both sides. 
Around the late 40s, Maru Obi was developed into Fukuro Obi, a little less deep and heavy and slightly easier to put on. Fukuro Obi still has ceremonial or formal aspects, but can be worn on rather casual occasions too. Fukuro has the pattern on the front side only. 
Nagoya-Obi is used in the wide range of occasions from casual to formal. It was invented in the Taisho Period. You can distinguish Nagoya-Obi from others because of the difference of their shapes. Nagoya-Obi has a narrow part and a wider part, the narrow part being a folded section. 
Hanhaba means "half the width". Hanhaba Obi is usually put on with casual kimono, so that you can 'do little things', that is, be more mobile and flexible. The main feature is "easy to put on, easy to take off". The reversible ones are often seen with gorgeous embroidery. 

Obiage: An obi scarf, worn through the rear knot, to help hold it in place, and tied at the front at the top of the obi, then tucked slightly under the top edge of the obi. The younge the wearer, the more of it is allowed to show at the top of the obi. The obiage covers the obi makura, the padding worn inside the rear knot of the obi, holding the makura in place

Obidome: A decorative piece, rather like a brooch, through which and obijime is threaded. The obidome sits at the centre front of the obi sash and, when an obidome is worn on an obijime, the obijime is tied at the back, inside the rear obi knot

Obi-Ita: Also Mae-Ita. a stiffening board for obi. Worn behind the sash at the front 

Obijime: A cord, usually braided silk, worn through the rear obi knot, helping to hold it in place, and tied in a special knot at the centre front of the obi sash, The ends are pulled back round the sides and then tucked into itself

Obi Makura: Bustle padding for an obi's rear knot. Worn inside the knot, at the top, and held in place by the obiage

Obiyama: The crest line at the top of an otaiko musubi

Odoriko: Dancer

Odori: A traditional, Japanese dancer's item, such as a kimono or obi

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu: 100 poems by 100 poets, from 7th to 13th century. Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, also just called Hyakunin Isshu (or Hyakunin Issyu), is an anthology of 100 poems by 100 different poets. The poems are all "waka" (now called "tanka"). Waka are five-line poems of 31 syllables, arranged as 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. The waka represented in Hyakunin Isshu were court poetry, which almost exclusively used the waka format from the earliest days of Japanese poetry until the seventeen-syllable haiku came into prominence in the seventeenth century. Hyakunin Isshu is said to have been compiled by the famous thirteenth-century critic and poet Fujiwara no Sadaie (also known as Teika), though his son Fujiwara no Tameie may have had a hand in revising the collection. Teika also compiled a waka anthology called Hyakunin Shuka (Superior Poems of Our Time), which shares many of the same poems as Hyakunin Isshu. The 100 poems of Hyakunin Isshu are in rough chronological order from the seventh through the thirteenth centuries. The most famous poets through the late Heian period in Japan are represented. Hyakunin Isshu has had immense influence in Japan.

Oharame: A woman who used to sell flowers, brushwood and firewood in Kyoto

Ohashori: The tuck (fold over of fabric) of a kimono around the waist. The kimono's length adjusting fold-over at the waist, that shows just below the obi sash. All women's kimonos are worn with this, which is why they are so long. It adjusts the length but is also considered part of the look of a kimono, so a kimono should be long enough to allow for it. Folloing the traditional rules of kimono wearing, ohashori is a necessity for formal kimono but one can get away with no ohashori if the kimono is an informal yukata, komon or tsugesake type kimono but, ideally, all kimonos should be worn with ohashori. Ohashori started during the Meiji Era.

Oh Furisode: "Oh" means big and "furisode" means swinging sleeves, therefore oh furisode means big, swinging sleeves, with the deepest sleeves of all the furisode type kimonos. Oh-furisode have sleeves of 114 - 115cm. It is the unmarried woman's most formal kimono and very colourful versions are worn by brides and known as kakeshita

Oiran: Japanese courtesans (prostitutes). The oiran arose in the Edo period (1600-1868), around which time they would be found in the pleasure districts, where prostitution was confined to. They had ranks; a strict hierarchy according to beauty, character, educational attainments and artistic skills, the highest rank being the tayu who were considered suitable for the daimyo (the powerful territorial lords in premodern Japan who ruled most of the country). Only the wealthiest and highest ranking men could hope to patronise them

Ojiya Chijimi: A type of crepe fabric, used for summer kimonos, woven from thin threads, spun from natural choma (ramie), that are manufactured mainly in Ojiya City. The threads twisted securely during the weaving process give the fabrics their characteristic Shibo (fine, wavy wrinkles). Because they allow air to pass through easily and even manage to look light and cool, they have been loved as people's favorite material to make summer Kimono. To bleach the fabrics and give them a soft texture, the woven fabrics are spread and exposed on snow sometime around February to March. This is called "Yukisarashi", a common sight of this region in early spring

O-jizou-san: Buddhist bodhisattva children's guardian, sometimes just called Jizo; in Japan he is known for his kindness to all who have died, in particular, to children who have died. People often, rather sweetly, put red hats, bibs and scarves on Jizo statues, though sometimes the hat is a natural straw one. Jizo’s traditional roles are to save people from the torments/demons of hell, to bring fertility, to protect children and to grant longevity; red is the colour dedicated to deities of healing, fertility, and childbirth, so the garments people sometimes put on these statues are red. Parents clothe Jizo statues in hope that Jizo will clothe their dead child in his protection. A friend to all, never frightening even to children, and his/her many manifestations, often cute and cartoon-like in contemporary versions, incorporate Taoist, Buddhist, and Shinto elements. Ji means 'earth' and zo means womb/store house. Jizo embodies supreme spiritual optimism, compassion, and universal salvation 

Okasan: Geisha 'mother'. The Okasan will sometimes legally adopt one of her Geisha who will become the heir to the Okiya (Geisha House)

Okimizuya: Portable assemblage of tea ceremony utensils

Okina: A popular Noh mask, representing a very old man

Okiya: Geisha house. Maiko have the mon (crest) of their okiya on the end of their long obis

Okobo: The 11cm high shoes worn by maiko. They also someimes just wear zori but most often these high soled shoes. They wear plain wooden ones usually, with different coloured straps depending on the year of training they are in, starting with red, but wear black ones for very formal occasions when they also wear black kimonos, the most formal colour of kimono

Omodaka: Water plantain

Omogashi: Sweets served before drinking green tea. Traditional Japanese sweets such as omogashi and higashi are always served before tea is offered to guests. Before drinking koicha (thick green tea), omogashi (moist cakes made with jelly or anko sweet-bean paste) are offered to balance the palate with sweet before bitter and higashi are usually served before offering usucha (thin tea)

Omeshi: A textile woven with strongly twisted pre-dyed silk threads. There are two types of Omeshi, one is Hiraori-Omeshi and the other is Chirimen Omeshi. By 1960, Omeshi Kimonos hold 80% of Kimono market share, but now, produced only in small quantities. Omeshi Kimonos were ranked the highest in pre-dyed silk Kimonos, and were extremely valuable. Its texture is firmer than Chirimen 

Omogashi: Sweets for tea ceremony 

Omoto: Japanese sacred lily. An evergreen plant with thick and waxy leaves, which produces red berries in winter. Considered to be a symbol of long life and happy fortune, by the Japanese

Omusubi: Rice ball 

Onagadori: Long tailed cock 


Onigiri: rice ball snack, usually triangular, sometimes with a filling. A very popular snack in Japan.

Oogara: Large pattern 

Oriduru: Origami Crane (bird) 

Origami: Origami is one of the most popular paper crafts. A piece of paper is folded to create animals, flowers and other things. The most popular one is "Orizuru" (Crane). 

Orimono: Fabric with a woven pattern

Orizuru: Origami crane. Throughout history, birds have been viewed as animals of special value and have been endowed with meanings often drawn from legends and stories that have endured over many generations. For the Japanese, the crane (tsuru) is considered a national treasure, appearing in art, literature, and folklore. The Japanese regard the crane as a symbol of good fortune and longevity because of its fabled life span of a thousand years. It also represents fidelity, as Japanese cranes are known to mate for life. Over time, the crane has also evolved as a favorite subject of the Japanese tradition of origami. Shortly after the end of World War II, the folded origami cranes came to symbolize a hope for peace through Sadako Sasaki and her story of perseverance. Diagnosed with leukemia after being exposed to radiation after the bombing of Hiroshima, Sadako became determined to reach a goal of folding 1,000 cranes in hopes of being rewarded with health, happiness, and a world of eternal peace. Although she died before reaching her goal, the tradition of sending origami cranes to the Hiroshima memorial has endured, as a symbol of the wish for nuclear disarmament and world peace. Today this tradition of folding 1,000 cranes represents a form of healing and hope during challenging times

Otaiko Musubi: Another name for an obi's taiko musubi (taiko knot)

Oshidori: Mandarin ducks

Oshogatsu: New year

Osode: Large sleeve, by which is meant the wrist opening was the full length of the sleeve, whereas, in more modern kosode, the sleeve is sewn closed except at the wrist.

Ougi: Fo
lding fan


Pacchiwaku: Patchwork. Pacchi = patch and waku = frameset 

Paulownia: Paulownia tometosa (known as foxglove tree and princess tree)and, in Japanese, kiri. Japanese, kiri (paulownia): A deciduous tree, native to eastern Asia. In Japanese myths it is said to have the only branches phoenix will land on. It is very popular in Traditional Japanese art, particularly textile art where it is often seen on beautiful women's kimonos and a very popular mon (crest) motif. It is also the flower symbol of is the symbol of the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan.

Pocchiri: A maiko's ornate obidome (obi 'brooch', worn on the obijime at the centre of the obi sash

Pokkuri: girl's lacquered wooden geta, with high sole. Also worn by maiko. Also called okobo. The name pokkuri refers to the sound they make when walking


Ra: Extremely light, net-like, fancy silk gauze, finer and more complex than sha, introduced from China at least as early as the seventh century. The extremely complex weaving technique was lost until its rediscovery in the late nineteenth century. It is a very light gauze which on casual examination looks more like a fancy knit than a woven fabric. 

Raden: Decoration using fragments of mother-of-pearl 

Rakkan-in: An artist's signature, in the form of a square seal (stamp), most often printed using red ink. The imprint, which is is used in lieu of a signature, is known as an inkan

Rakuda: Camel

Ran: Orchid

Renjishi Dancer: A kabuki dancer who portrays a mythical lion (shishi), with long, thick hair representing the lion's mane. From a kabuki play about a lion who teaches his son to be brave, strong and like the king of beasts, starting off by pushing his cubs into a ravine, so only the strongest climbs out and survives. The boy lion cub has a red mane, the father has a white mane. 

Ringo: Apple


Rinzu: Figured, satin-weave silk, woven monochrome but often also with a printed, painted or shibori pattern superimposed on it. Soft, supple with a sensuous drape. Rinzu is often referred to as damask but it is not a true damask since the pattern is not reversible, it appears on only one side of the material.

Ro: An airy, slightly sheer, Leno weave silk fabric, which is used for a summer wear. 

Rochirimen: A type of muslin, usually incredibly fine wool

Rohkaku: A peaceful, craggy mountain/rock

Roketsu-Zome: Batik dyeing. By drawing patterns with wax, the dye runs into the crack of wax. After rinsing the wax off, irregular lines appear as a pattern. 

Roku Kasen: The 6 greatest poets of the Heian era, popular amongst Japanese culture lovers 

Rokutsu: Also spelled rokutsuu. An obi that is patterned over 60% of its length, the section of its length that is hidden when on is unpatterned, as opposed to a zentsuu obi, which is patterned along its entire length (and may have patterns on both sides).

Ronin: was a samurai with no lord or master during the feudal period (1185-1868) of Japan. A samurai became masterless from the ruin or fall of his master (as in the case of death in a war), or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege 
47 Ronin: a group of samurai who were left leaderless (became ronin) after their daimyo (feudal lord) was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a court official named Yoshinaka Kira-Kozukenosuke, whose title was Kotsuke no Suke. The ronin avenged their master's honor after patiently waiting and planning for over a year to kill Kira. In turn, the ronin were themselves forced to commit seppuku, as they had known they would be, for committing the crime of murder

Rouketsu-zome: Sometimes written roketsu-some. Batik dying, using wax resist

Rou-Tataki: A type of batik dying where wax is spattered on from a brush. Epecially prized if it has layers of different colours

Ryo-zuma: Mirror image design on fronts of a tomesode, seen on pre WW2 ones

Rozu: A style of baggy sock popular with Japanese high school girls. At the beginning of the 1990s, it became fashionable for Japanese high school girls to shorten their skirts. In the mid-90s, they wore imported mountain-climbing boot socks to make their legs look thin and attractive. They quickly became referred to as "loose socks" and, together with miniskirts, became an established fashion amongst Japanese schoolgirls. They stretch out the leg, making it looser, so it lies wide and in folds and flops slightly over the foot. They are usually worn below the knee, held up with a special adhesive sock glue, and resemble leg warmers 

Ruzu Sokkusu: Rose 

Ryu: Dragon

Ryuuko: Dragon and tiger 

Ryu Sui:
Flowing water


Saaya: Also seen as Saayagata, A pattern of interlocking manji (Buddhist crosses which are anticlockwise swastika and an ancient Buddhist symbol).


Saayagata: see Saaya

Sadou: Also called "chadou" or "cha no yu," is the traditional etiquette of preparing and drinking tea. 

Saga Nishiki: A brocade fabric, woven with Japanese paper coated with gold leaf or lacquered gold leaf is interlaced with coloured silk threads. Very difficult to weave and time consuming, even for the most skilled, who can produce only a few inches a day, so an incredibly expensive textile

Sagari: A series of matching colour, stiffened silk fronds, called sagari are inserted into the front of the mawashi (sumo wrestler's loin cloth belt. Their number varies from 13 to 25, and is always an odd number. 

Saifu: Wallet or purse

Sageo: The sageo is the name of the cord attached to a katana or wakizashi's saya [scabbard]. Historically, the uses were endless. For example, the traditional kimono was often too lose for combat, so a samurai could prepare for trouble by tying the sageo across the shoulders in a figure eight pattern. This tightens the kimono and pulls up the sleeves. In a similar fashion, the sageo could be used as a cord for tying up prinoners. When in horseback, the sageo could be used to hang the sword upside down from the belt, this allowed it to be drawn in a wide arc.

Sakasa Fuji: Reflection of Fuji, on the water 

Sakazuki: A sakazuki is a small to medium-sized cup used only for drinking sake. As I discussed previously, it is traditional to share sake at weddings performed in accordance with Shintoism. This custom is generally known as sakazuki-goto, though sakazuki-goto is not restricted to weddings, it is sometimes used by others to solidify friendships or bonds 

Sakiori: Rag weave fabric

Sakura: Cherry blossom. In full, it is sakura no hana. Sakura-Fubuki means shower of cherry blossoms (as they fall from the tree) and sakura no ki means cherry tree. Double cherry blossom is called yae-sakura 

Sakura fubuki: The falling petals of cherry blossom, which looks like a snow storm. Sakura = cherry blossom and fubuki = snow storm 

Sakurasoo: Pimrose 

Sankin-kotai: Alternate attendance; a daimyo's alternate-year residence in Edo. This was a policy of the Tokugawa shogunate during most of the Edo period of Japanese history. The purpose was to strengthen central control over the daimyo, or major feudal lords. They had to live in Edo every second year but their wives and children had to stay in Edo full time. A similar practice was put in place by France's Louis XIV at Versailles. 

Samue: Work clothing of Japanese Zen Buddhist monks, worn when engaged in samu (general daily labours, such as field work, cleaning, wood chopping etc.). Samue comprises wrap jacket and gathered ankle trousers. Usually made from cotton or linen and traditionally dyed brown or indigo to distinguish them from formal vestments, samue are worn by monks of most Japanese Buddhist traditions performing labour duties such as temple maintenance. In modern times samue have also become popular as general casual or work wear. Shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) players sometimes wear samue because of that instrument's historical association with Zen Buddhism.


Samuria: A term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. The word samurai is derived from the archaic Japanese verb samorau, changed to saburau, meaning "to serve"; thus, a samurai is a servant, i.e. the servant of a lord

Sanbonashi: The three prongs of flesh colour at the back of a geisha/geiko and miko's neck when they wear mwhite make up. Sanbonashi means three legs, and is worn on formal occasions. Only two are worn on informal occasions

Sanbu-himo: A little thin and short flat obijime that is often used with obidome 

Sanbonashi: 'Three legs', referring to tapered prongs of skin left bare on the whitened neck of geisha and maiko, for very formal occasions. At all other times it is just two 

Sansui: Mountain and water scene; san for mountain and sui for water. It signifies to keep a high and strong spirit like a mountain and to think flexibly and clearly like water 

Sarasa: One of the Kimono patterns on fine quality textiles. It has colorful patterns of human, plants, or other creatures (sometimes with mythical creatures). There are two ways of painting Sarasa pattern. One is to paint directly on the fabric, the other is to use a stencil. Sarasa was invented in India in 16th century 

Sarashi: A long, winding strip of cloth, usually thick cotton, wrapped tightly around the midriff up to the chest. Worn under kimono as underwear by both by men (and historically by samurai to help resist injury) and by women (worn extra high to help flatten the chest as well as the tummy, in order to produce the straight, tube-like shape, with no womanly curves, that is traditional for kimono wear). The sarashi's samurai associations have made them a near-universal symbol of toughness in Japan

Sasa: Bamboo leaves

Sashiko: Literally, "little stabs". A form of decorative reinforcement stitching (or functional embroidery) from Japan. Traditionally used to reinforce points of wear or to repair worn areas or tears with patches. This running stitch technique is also often used for purely decorative purposes in quilting and embroidery. The white cotton thread on the traditional indigo blue cloth gives sashiko its distinctive appearance, though decorative items sometimes use red thread. 

Sayagata: A pattern of interlocking circles

Sayuri: means 'a little lily' 

Seifuku: Uniform (as in clothing) 

Sei-Gai-Ha: Literally "blue ocean wave"; an imbricated curves or scallop pattern considered to be a stylisation of waves. A wave pattern resembling a repeat of overlapping fans/ waves/ scales. Sometimes written as seikaiha 

Seijin-No-Hi: means 'day of adulthood' and is the coming of age day for Japanese women, at age 20

Seiza: literally "proper sitting". The traditional kneeling position for sitting in Japan. The ankles are turned outward as the tops of the feet are lowered so that, in a slight V shape, the tops of the feet are flat on the floor and big toes are overlapped. The kneeling position, where the buttocks rest on the heels which are still propped up, is called kiza. If one then lowers the tops of the feet to the floor, one will be in the seiza position 

Sekitei: A rock garden 

Sensu: A folding fan 

Serafuku: The school uniform for female students of middle schools and high schools in Japan. Also known as sailor girl. Serafuku comes from, sera, the mispronunciation of the English word sailor, and fuku, the Japanese word for clothing. Serafuku is the Japanese, sailor style, school uniform for girls, based on the UK Royal Navy uniform, first introduced in 1920, then later caught on at schools throughout Japan. Because school uniforms are a popular fetish item, second-hand sailor outfits and other items of school wear are brokered through underground establishments known as burusera, although changes to Japanese law have made such practices more difficult. Boys wear a uniform called gakuran 

Setta: Flat, thong toed, men's sandals

Setsu-Getsu-Ka: Snow, Moon and Flower, from the phrase, 'Setsugetsuka no toki mottomo kimi wo omou (I remember you especially when snow, the moon or flowers are beautiful)' in an old Chinese poem, 'In Kyoritsu ni yosu (A poem sent to In Kyoritsu)' composed by Bai Juyi. The phrase Setsu Getsu Ka, written in kanji, is a popular motif on things like kimonos and obi. 

Sha: A slightly sheer, airy weave silk that is woven to be fairly stiff, so that it holds its shape. Used for summer wear kimonos 

Shakuhachi: A large, Japanese bamboo flute 

Shamisen: A three stringed, guitar like instrument, with a small body, originally covered in cat skin or, on expensive one, in dog skin, with a long neck and three large tuning pegs. Often played by geisha as one of their arts

Shibagaki: Brushwood. Also a traditional, Japanese, bamboo and brushwood fence

Shibakusa: Lawn, turf, grasses

Shibori: Also known as Shiborizome, the classical Japanese term for it was Kokechi. An intricate tie-dye method of making a pattern on fabric. Tiny sections of the fabric are tied or gathered and stitched before it is dyed. The bound area does not absorb the dye, so, when the thread is removed, it leaves a pattern of white dots. A completely shibori kimono can take an entire year to produce. Shibori is greatly prized by the Japanese, who are aware of how painstaking it is to create. Shibori has been made around the 4th century B.C.

Shichi-Go-San: Shichi-go-san is seven-five-three in Japanese. It is a gala day for children aged three, five and seven years of age. On November 15, parents take their children to a Shinto shrine to offer prayer for their children's growth. Boys are taken at age three and five, and girls three and seven. The children are dressed up in a gala kimono or fancy clothes to go to the shrines 

Shidare Sakura: Weeping cherry

Shigoki: A long scarf, with fringed ends, worn tied around a girl's obi, with the bow at the back, usually to the side. Most often red

Shika: Deer

Shikibuton: A futon mattress 

Shikishi: Squares of tinted or decorated paper used for inscribing poetry; also used as a decortive motif on kimono 

Shikunshi: A general term for four plants; orchid, chrysanthemum, plum and bamboo 

Shikomi: A girl training, in an okiya, to become a maiko. She works as a servant until she is ready to start her maiko training

Shinto: A religion, followed by many people in Japan. Japanese people often follow both Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto gods are called kami. They are sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility. Humans become kami after they die and are revered by their families as ancestral kami. The kami of extraordinary people are even enshrined at some shrines. The Sun Goddess Amaterasu is considered Shinto's most important kami. In contrast to many monotheist religions, there are no absolutes in Shinto. There is no absolute right and wrong, and nobody is perfect. Shinto is an optimistic faith, as humans are thought to be fundamentally good, and evil is believed to be caused by evil spirits. Consequently, the purpose of most Shinto rituals is to keep away evil spirits by purification, prayers and offerings to the kami. Shinto shrines are the places of worship and the homes of kami. Most shrines celebrate festivals (matsuri) regularly in order to show the kami the outside world.Shinto priests perform Shinto rituals and often live on the shrine grounds. Men and women can become priests, and they are allowed to marry and have children. Priests are assisted by younger women (miko) during rituals and shrine tasks. Miko wear white kimono, must be unmarried, and are often the priests' daughters. The introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century was followed by a few initial conflicts, however, the two religions were soon able to co-exist and even complement each other. Many Buddhists viewed the kami as manifestations of Buddha.

Shioze: a sort of silk fabric, a thick habutae, which is characterized by its thick and solid, but supple texture. Accordingly, this fabric is suitable for obi or kimono accessories such as fukusa (Japanese traditional small wrapping cloth) or han-eri

Shippo: Interlocking circle motif. Sometimes spelled 'shippou' 

Shiromuku: Shiro means white and muku means pure. Wedding kimono that is a completely white wedding kimono that is meant to show pureness of the body and mind, as well as a willingness for the bride to be "colored" with the standards of her new family. This is considered the most formal wedding costume and is typically worn atop a white Furisode. the bride will change into a brightly coloured uchikake kimono over her white kimono and, later into a very colourful hikifurisode (also hanayome furisode) kimono in place of the white one. A Japanese bride may change her clothes about 5 times during her wedding, ending in a black tomesode kimono. Nowadays many get married in just the hikifurisode.

Shiro Nuri: The white make up worn by Japanese maiko and geisha. Geisha do not always wear shiro nuri, they may go for white or for a lighter, thinner, translucent layer of white or just choose to have flesh coloured faces. What is often taken for a geisha, because of the ornate outfits and white make up, is a maiko, an apprentice geisha. If a geisha whitens her face she does not leave the flesh coloured edge around the face that maiko do. Maiko do this because their hair is their own but geisha usually wear wigs, so the white can go under the edge of the hairline 

Shirusi Banten: A hanten jacket with mon (crests) on its collar or back

Shishi: A lion. Also a mythical lion found in folklore and Japanese design. Also sometimes called Kara-shishi (Chinese Lion), Lion of Fo/Foo/Fu or Lion of Buddha. They are considered the messenger of the Bodhisattva of wisdom, associated with the Buddhist deity Monju, known as symbol of power and protection. The shishi lion of folklore is not the actual real life lion we know of, but a mythological lion-like animal, said to be the king of beasts and always associated with the Buddhism, so the story in this dance is very spiritual. Shisi is also the protective lion-dog on the left side of the entrance to some Shinto shrines. It is accompanied by one on the right side too but I have not been able to find out what that right hand one is called.

Shishuu: Sometimes seen spelled shishyou. Embroidery 

Shitagi: literally "under clothing") (also gusoku shita), a type of shirt worn by the Samurai class of feudal Japan when they were wearing full armour

Shitajiki: A soft desk mat. It provides a comfortable, soft surface on a desk, for writing calligraphy on 

Shita Obi: Literally means, 'a belt tied on under the another belt'. It is the most simple belt worn around men's yukata kimonos and juban kimonos

Shitsuke: Basting threads keeping a kimono in shape while the kimono is sewn. After the kimono is completed by the tailor, they are removed, though often left in or stitched back to keep edges neat during long periods of storage. One removes them before wearing the kimono 

Sho: Japanese calligraphy

Shodo: "The way of writing", the art of writing beautiful calligraphy. Also spelled shodou

Shojo: A term used to denote a girl between 7 and 18 or a teenager/ school age girl

Shoken: Pure silk. Sometimes spelled shouken

Shokkoh-mon: round chrysanthemum (kiku). The emperor's mon is a 16 petal chrysanthemum and only the Imperial family may wear that 16 petal version of this mon.

Shogun: The title of the military rulers who, while technically subordinate to the Emperor, held effective political and military power in Japan through most of the period from the thirteenth century until 1868.


Shoru: Shawl

Shou: A Japanese, multi pipe flute 

Shouchikubai: Also written as Shou-chiku-bai. Pine, bamboo and plum motif: an auspicious design especially felicitous for wedding decorations or gifts

Shouken: Pure silk. Sometimes seen spelled shoken

Shunga: Sometimes spelled sungya. Erotic art is called shunga. Japanese word shunga means 'picture of spring'; in Japan, spring is a common euphemism for sex. Edo period shunga sought to express the sexual mores of the chonin (merchant class) in the widest variety of forms possible, and therefore depicted heterosexual and homosexual, old and young alike, as well as a wide range of fetishes. In the edo period it was enjoyed by rich and poor, men and women, and, despite being out of favour with the shogunate, carried very little stigma. Almost all ukiyo-e artists made shunga at some point in their careers and it didn't affect their prestige as artists, it is an accepted and revered, traditional, Japanese art form 

Shusu ori: Silk satin

Sode: Sleeve

Sodetsuke: Armhole (in clothing)

Sodeura: Sleeve lining (sode = sleeve, ura = backing/lining) 

Sokutai: complex attire worn only by courtiers, aristocrats and the Emperor at the Japanese imperial court on certain formal occasions

Somemono: Fabric with a printed pattern

Soroban: A Japanese abacus. Certain types of abacus, specifically the soroban abacus, is designed to "take merit of grouping cues" which can help in the fast memorisation and recollection of the beads, therefore helping one remember the mathematics simply and speedily


Sukashi: Open-worked obijime

Sugatami: Full length mirror (kagami means mirror, tekagami means hand mirror and marugami means round mirror)

Sui-boku-ga: Also called sumi-e. Ink and wash art. Always black ink. Free-hand painting with indelible inks and brushes (ink and wash style art); a time-honoured Japanese method of fabric decoration. First developed in China during the Sung dynasty (960–1274) and taken to Japan by Zen Buddhist monks in the mid-14th century, suiboku-ga reached its height in the Muromachi period (1338–1573). In the 20th century it appeared on kimonos, but even more frequently on the pictorial linings of men's haori jackets 

Suisen: Narcissus

Sui-topi: Sweet pea 

Sukashi-moyou: Often just called Sukashi. Openwork textile designs (see-through pattern), a type that is usually reserved for the sheer fabrics worn only during the summer, such as haori or obijime. 

Sukottorando: Scotland 

Sumi: Solid black material that must be rubbed in water in the suzuri to produce the black ink which is then used for writing. Of course, "instant ink" in bottles is also available 

Sumi-e: Sometimes just written as sumie. Also called sui-boku-ga. "Sumi" means black ink and "e" means art. Ink and wash art. Always black ink. Free-hand painting with indelible inks and brushes (ink and wash style art); a time-honoured Japanese method of fabric decoration. In the 20th century it appeared on kimonos, but even more frequently on the pictorial linings of men's haori jackets 

Sumi-nagashi: Design of flowing black ink. Sumi-e, a print of an ink painting

Sungya: More often spelled shunga. Erotic ukiyo-e art is called shunga. Edo period shunga sought to express the sexual mores of the chonin (merchant class) in the widest variety of forms possible, and therefore depicted heterosexual and homosexual, old and young alike, as well as a wide range of fetishes. In the edo period it was enjoyed by rich and poor, men and women, and, despite being out of favour with the shogunate, carried very little stigma. Almost all ukiyo-e artists made shunga at some point in their careers and it didn't affect their prestige as artists, it is an accepted and revered, traditional, Japanese art form 

Surihaku (See also Kinsai Yuzen). Translates as rubbed metal foil (metallic leaf). Metallic foil leaf, usually gold or silver, is applied to the fabric surface, creating lavish effects. Rice paste is first applied to the fabric in design areas -- either drawn freehand or stencilled. Then metallic leaf is pressed onto the partially dried rice paste. The foil is brushed off the surrounding areas. In the past, surihaku decoration was widely used on dramatic Noh theatrical costumes, and its use continued, especially on formal kimono and ceremonial uchikake wedding kimono 

Susohiki: Also known as hikizuri. A geisha's or maiko's kimono that has padded hem. Worn indoors with hem allowed to trail after the wearer; not comonly seen, except among geiko (geisha) and maiko. Susohiki literally means "trail the skirt". Where a normal kimono for women is normally 1.5 to 1.6 metres (4.7 to 5.2 ft) long, a susohiki can be up to 2 metres (6.3 ft) long. This is also why geisha and maiko lift their kimono hems when walking outdoors, this also allows their beautiful naga-juban (under-kimonos) to show

Susomawashi: Kimono's lower lining

Susosen: Hemline 

Susoyoke: A wrap-around half slip, for women, as underwear. A single piece of cloth, with ties at the waist

Susuki: Japanese pampas grass, sometimes called grass tree

Suzu: A bell

Suzume: Sparrow

Suzuran: Lily of the valley

Suzuri: Inkstone, for callicraphy (shodo) and ink painting (sumie)


Suzuribako: A case for inkstone, often in the form of a box, sometimes a type of wallet case

Syusu: A weaving technique, producing a smooth, glossy texture


Tabane-Noshi: Narrow strips of dried abalone bundled together and tied in the middle, it was the ritual offering in Japanese Shinto religion. It also is now used to refer to a bound bundle of any kind of ribbon strips, often paper and put on gifts. A popular motif on Japanese wrapping paper as it denotes a gift. One of the Noshi-monyou patterns. This motif is often seen in the masterpieces of furisode kimonos from the middle of the Edo era, created by various techniques. It remains a very popular motif in design. 

Tabi: split toed socks

Tachibana: An inedible citrus of approximately 6 to 13 ft in height, grows in dense green branches with young thorns. The leaves are 3 to 6 cm in length, oval-shaped, and glossy dark green. The fruit is smooth-skinned, about 3 cm in diameter, but with a high acidity that makes it is unfit to be eaten raw, though marmalade can be made. Tachibana is seen in Japanese mon (crests)

Tagasode: Japanese traditional scent bags in the form of a kimono sleeve


Taikomochi​: were the very first geisha/geiko, dating back to the 1300s, but, for a long time, they were all men, not women. Until the 1600s, the time of peace, they were chief assistants to Japan’s feudal lords, providing military assistance as well as entertainment and artistic skills. From the 1600s they were no longer needing to provide warfare support, so storytelling, humour, conversation and performance arts became their focus. The first female taikomochi, called ‘geisha’ meaning ‘artistic one,’ appeared in 1751 and was so popular that within 25 years, females outnumbered males. There are still now, in the 21st century, a handful of male taikomochi in Japan.

Taiko Obi Knot: An obi which is worn tied with square knot at the back. Often, even by the Japanese, mistakenly thought to be named after the taiko drum but actually named after the Taiko Bridge, the opening of which was attended by geisha sporting this new style of obi knot. It is the most common of obi knots, mainly because it is one of the more easily tied ones

Taisho Roman: Design characterised by the modern and romantic fashion mixed Japanese and European cultures in Taisho era

Takanoha: Hawk feather. A popular mon (crest) design. The hawk was a symbol of a samurai in the old days. 

Takara: Treasure

Takarakagi: Treasure key, one of the auspicious Collection of Treasures motifs

Takarabune: Treasure ship

Takara Zukushi: Collection of Treasures motif: a decorative design made up of auspicious objects deriving from Chinese legend

Takasako: A Noh play with characters who are an old man and woman, who care for two great pine trees and are actually the spirits of the pines. They are often portrayed sweeping up the pine needles around the base of a tree

Taka: Hawk

Takegaki: Bamboo fence

Tale of Genji: The Tale of Genji is a classic work of Japanese literature, attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early eleventh century, around the peak of the Heian Period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel. More details can be found on and throughout the web and, at time of writing, it is online at The Tale of Gengi ebook, as it's much to long to include here. 2008 was the millenium of the Tale of Genji. The song sung in the tale, Takasago (meaning high sand), represents a harmony in marriage and a long life. The old couple from the Tale of Genji are often seen on items such as fukusa, given as wedding gifts or in the bride's trousseau

Tamatebako: A magical treasure box

Tamoto: Hanging sleeve

Tan: Full name is Tanmono. A standard bolt of kimono cloth sufficient to make one kimono. Traditional width of fabric is approximately 38 cm (42cm for men's) and length is 12.5m long.

Tanabata: Japanese star festival, celebrates the meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair). According to legend, the Milky Way, a river of stars that crosses the sky, separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. The celebration is held at night. In present-day Japan, people generally celebrate this day by writing wishes, sometimes in the form of poetry, on tanzaku, small pieces of paper, and hanging them on bamboo, sometimes with other decorations. The bamboo and decorations are often set afloat on a river or burned after the festival, around midnight or on the next day. They have huge ornamental balls (Kusudama) with long streames hanging down from them as tanabata decorations. 


Tanmono: A standard bolt of kimono cloth sufficient to make one kimono. Traditional width of fabric is approximately 38 cm (42cm for men's) and length is 12.5m long.

Tansu: The word for chest, chest of drawers or cupboard in Japanese. Frequently made of cedarwood, as it repels moths. It is often used in the West to refer to traditional Japanese chests

Tanzaku: Thick rectangular paper used for writing Waka and Haiku (Japanese poems) or for writing wishes on

Tanzen: A padded coat or kimono, for winter wear

Tasuki: A looped soft tie, which is worn to keep swinging kimono sleeves out of the way

Tatewaku: Vertical wavy lines

Tatou-shi: Acid free paper wrappers, with ties, for storing kimono or obi

Tatsuwaki: Also called tatewaku. A design of wavy lines. When it includes chrysanthemum it is called kiku tachiwaki, with paulownia is kiri tachiwaki and with clouds is kumo tachiwaki

Tare: The rear knot (trail) section of an obi

Taregami: The long, straight hairstyle, later replaced by coiffured nihongami hairstyles

Taresaki: The end edge of the tare (trail) section of an obi, this shows below the otaiko musubi (taiko knot)

Te: The sash section of an obi. Also means hand

Teishu: Tea ceremony host (or host anywhere)

Tekagami: A hand mirror (kagami means mirror, sugatami means full length mirror and marugami means round mirror)

Temari: Also called mari. A decorative ball, the pattern made by winding dyed thread around it. Traditionally made by grandmothers for their grandchildren. Nowadays collected simply as beautiful object for display.

Tenga obi: (fancy obi) resembles a hanhaba obi but is more formal. It is usually wider and made from fancier cloth more suitable for celebration. The patterns usually include auspicious, celebratory motifs. A tenga obi is about 20cm (7.9 in) wide and 350cm (11.5 ft) to 400cm (13 ft) long. 

Tenijitsu: The sun 

Tennin: Includes the female tennyo (Sanskrit: apsaras) and tenshi are spiritual beings found in Japanese Buddhism that are similar to western nymphs or fairies. Tennin are mentioned in Buddhist sutras, and these descriptions form the basis for depictions of the beings in Japanese art, sculpture, and theater. They are usually pictured as unnaturally beautiful women dressed in ornate, colorful kimonos (traditionally in five colors), exquisite jewelry, and flowing scarves that wrap loosely around their bodies. They usually carry lotus blossoms as a symbol of enlightenment or play musical instruments such as the biwa, or flute. ennin live in the Buddhist heaven as the companions to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Some legends also make certain tennin solitary creatures living on mountain peaks. Pilgrims sometimes climb these mountains in order to meet the holy spirits. Tennin can fly, a fact generally indicated in art by their colored or feathered kimonos, called hagoromo ("dress of feathers") 

Tennyo: Heavenly Maidens, a Tennin subgroup; a general term for all goddesses. Buddhism 

Tenugui: A small, all-purpose towel made of lightweight cotton, often with a stencilled or shibori design

Tesake: The end edge of the sash section of an obi

Tessen: A Japanese war fan is a fan designed as a weapon. They were folding fans with outer spokes made of heavy plates of iron which were designed to look like normal, harmless folding fans or solid clubs shaped to look like a closed fan. Samurai could take these to places where swords or other overt weapons were not allowed, to use as weapons or use to fend off knives and darts, as a throwing weapon, and as an aid in swimming. 

Tokaido: The East Sea Road; the most important of the Five Routes of the Edo period, connecting Edo (now called Tokyo) to Kyoto in Japan. There is a series of Ukiyo-e prints, by reknowned artist Hiroshige Ando, depicting 53 Stations of the Tokaido. The 53 stations of the Tokaido are famous rest stops along the route between the new capital, Edo (Tokyo), and the old capital, Kyoto. Hiroshige (along with many other artists) was so inspired by many of these famous views that he created a series of woodblock carvings, one for each of the 53 stops, as well as one for the starting point; Nihonbashi Bridge leading out of Edo, and Keishi - the ending point of the bridge leading into Kyoto

Tomesode: Tomesode is the most formal kimono worn by married women at a wedding and other official celebrations, especially, black tomesode (black is kuro tomesode, all other colours are called iro tomesode/irosode), which has a black background, is the most formal among Tomesode Kimonos. Colored tomesode feature a pattern against a colored background. All the patterns of tomesode Kimonos appear only at the bottom or with the family crests. Pronounced toe-may-so-day, with no stress on any syllable

Tomoegawara: Also just called Tomoe. A comma like pattern 

Tomohakkake: Having a continuation of outer textile art onto the lining. Tomo means including and hakkake means lower lining of a kimono. Hakkake (lower lining)and Doura (upper lining) 

Tonbi: A coat for wear over a kimono, with suitable armholes for the kimono sleeve to fit through and an overcape instead of sleeves. Also known as an Inverness coat

Tonbo: Dragonfly

Tora: Tiger

Toyama: A peaceful mountain with a castle on it

Toyoma: A Japanese city with a renowned textile industry

Tsuba: Japanese sword guard. Worn on daisho (paired long and short sword), fitted over the blade; often elaborately decorated. A motif sometimes used on men's clothing 

Tsubaki: Camellia

Tsubo: A jar

Tsubodare: A pattern designed to look like glaze dripping on earthenware

Tsujigahana: A kimono with shibori design combined with yuzen (hand applied) textile art and/or embroidery. Tsujigahana means 'wayside flowers' and many familiar blossoms are often used in it. 

Tsudzure: A tapestry/embroidery-like weave. Often seen on obis and on uchikake wedding kimonos 

Tsuke obi: Aslo known as a tsukuri obi, tsukure obi, a bunko obi (if it is a hanhaba obi ready tied in a bow musubi) and a keisou-obi. A 2 piece, 'easy wear' obi, with separate sash section and knot section, the knot is usuallly pre shaped, though not always. Sometimes the knot has a hook that sits in the top of the sash at the back. The knot is held in place the usual way, using an obiage and obijime. If a taiko style obi, an obi makura is also required

Tsuki: means moon, also month and luck 

Tsukesage: A type of Kimono that is slightly less formal than houmongi. Patterned below the waist and on one sleeve at the back and the opposite sleeve on the front and often one shoulder too. Pronounced tsoo-keh-sa-gay, with no stress on any syllable

Tsukuri obi: Aslo known as a tsuke obi, tsukure obi, a bunko obi (if it is a hanhaba obi ready tied in a bow musubi) and a keisou-obi. A 2 piece, 'easy wear' obi, with the knot pre shaped and the sash usually a separate piece. Sometimes the knot has a hook that slots into the top of the sash at the back. 

Tsumugi: A silk textile woven with hand-spun threads from wild silk cocoon fibres. It doesn't have a glossy or smooth texture, but a tasteful rough texture. Very time consuming to produce, as the silk fibre has to be joined repeatedly, due to the hole in the cocoon where the silk moth exited, so a very expensive silk. (Also see hige-tsumugi) 

Tsumugu: To spin 

Tsunokakushi: A rigid, white headdress, traditionally worn by Japanese brides to veil the bride's horns of jealousy, ego and selfishness. It also symbolized the bride's resolve to become a gentle and obedient wife.

Tsuru: Crane (bird). The crane represents fidelity, as cranes mate for life. It also represents good fortune and longevity; fable states that the crane lives for a thousand years

Tsuru Kame: combined crane and tortoise motif

Tsurukusa: Vine

Tsuta: Ivy

Tsutsuji: Azalea

Tsuyukusa: Day Lily

Tsuzumi: Small, hour-glass shaped drum, rested on shoulder to be played. Popular as a geisha art


Uba: A Noh mask character who is an old woman 

Uchide No Kozuchi: Lucky mallet 

Uchikake: Uchikake is a highly formal kimono worn only by a bride (and, perhaps, a stage performance). Until the Edo period, it was worn by women of Samurai, warrior, or noble families on special occasions. Since then, it had become a part of Japanese traditional bridal costume. Now it is only used for a wedding ceremony. The Uchikake is often heavily brocaded or embroidered, all white or spectacularly coloured and patterned, and is worn outside the actual kimono and obi, as a sort of coat. One never ties the obi around the uchikake. It is intended to trail along the floor, which is why it is heavily padded along the hem. It is an exceedingly heavy garment, often around 5 kilos. The design and technique for the Uchikake is wonderful and sophisticated. In Kansai district, Uchikake is also called Kaidori. An iro-uchikake is a very colourful one and a shiro-uchikake is a plain white one. Uchikake are incredibly expensive items, nowadays brides usually just hire one for their wedding; even then it can cost well over £1000 to hire one for the day. They make spectacular display items, if one has the space for one

Uchishiki: A triangular cloth for Buddhist altars

Uchiwa: Someimes spelled utiwa or uthiwa/ A paper fan, the rounded type with a handle and (usually), not the semi circular folding type

Uguisu: Nightingale

Ukai: Cormorant fishing. Some Japanese fishermen train cormorants to catch fish, which they cannot swallow die to a string around the neck making it impossible for the fish to pass down the gullet, and return them to the boat. The fish, at the end of the fishing, have the string removed and are given the smaller fish to eat and the fishermen keep the large ones. This method of fishing has almost died out now, due to modern fishing methods

Ukiyo-e: Sometimes just written as ukiyoe. The ukiyo-e movement, as a whole, sought to express an idealisation of contemporary urban life. It produced very popular woodblock prints 

Ume: Plum blossom. In designs, ume denotes nobility. The ringed plum blossom mon (crest) is called umebachi - literally 'plum bowl' 

Unmon: A house jacket. Usually has one tie at side

Uppawari: A house jacket, for casual wear at home

Usage: A rabbit or hare

Usucha: Thin green tea. Usucha comes from the leaves of tea plants that are less than 30 years old


Usumono: An unlined, summer kimono, worn only from the beginning of June to the end of September

Utiwa: Also spelled uchiwa and uthiwa. A paper fan (not the folding kind)

Utsukushii: Means beautiful, lovely, pretty, lovely, fine, handsome, good-looking, charming

Urushi-Ito: Usually just shortened to urushi. When referring to garments, urushi is a lacquered coated thread, can be coloured or metallic. Urushi is a kind of natural lacquer collected from the urushi tree. The urushi technique is thousands of years old, and the oldest known urushi, Japanese, wood lacquerware is about 9000 years old, from the Jomon period. There are 456 traditional Japanese colours, developed over a 1,000 year period.

Uwa Obi: A type of belt/sash that was worn by the samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan. The uwa-obi was used to attach the sageo (saya cord) of the swords worn by a samurai, other weapons and equipment would be tied to the uwa-obi as well. It would be wound two to three times around the body. 

Uwagi: A style of jacket worn in Japan. It is most familiar as the top half of a martial arts uniform.

Uzumaki: A swirl shape



Wabi-sabi: A Japanese term that refers to the beauty of imperfection – the artistry to be found in everyday objects whose tarnish, age, and repairs reflect the lives of those who used them. It is also used to mean beauty in simplicity. The aesthetic of beauty for the Japanese is a refined and treasured value – a primary and recurring focus we find not only in fine art, but in everyday life. It might be a favorite chipped tea bowl, a finely patched silk kimono, or a lacquered box with a thumbsize sheen near the clasp – these blemishes enhance the beauty and appeal of the object. Japanese artists often incorporate wabi sabi into their work. A potter, for example, might create a simple-looking tea bowl that is asymmetrical, choosing glazes that will change over time with repeated exposure to hot water. The unfamiliar viewer might assume this to be poor workmanship, but it is more likely a deliberate feature of the design. The more subtle the wabi sabi, the more expert the crafter. With textiles, we see wabi sabi beauty in the deftly sewn patches that were added to extend the life of a garment. Silk kimonos were patched on the inside of the tear, often matched with the fabric patterning such that the tear is almost invisible. The words wabi and sabi have changed meanings over time. Long ago, wabi referred to the loneliness of living apart from society, and sabi meant withered. In modern Japanese, wabi sabi has a more positive connotation as a concept of rustic simplicity or understated elegance; the beauty and serenity that comes with age. 

Wafuku: Pronounced 'wafookoo' and the Japanese don't stress any of the syllables. Wafuku means traditional Japanese clothing. 'Wa' means Japanese and 'fuku' means clothing. The word was word coined in Meiji era. You can see wafuku written in Japanese kanji at the top of this page. All other types of clothing are called yofuku

Wagasa: Side seam 

Wakinui: Traditioanal oiled paper and bamboo umbrella

Wa-kesa: (sometimes spelled wa-gesa). A wa-kesa is a sort of simplified kesa (Buddhist monk’s robe), worn over standard Buddhist samue or simple kimono, rather than carrying around the full formal kesa when touring around

Waon: Japanese music 

Waraji: straw rope sandals which are mostly worn by monks 

Washi: Eagle

Watashe Ninsoku: River porters, who carry nobles and their goods over rivers

Wataboushi: A large, white cap worn by a traditionally dressed, Japanese bride, large enough to fit over the ornate, shimada, piled high hairstyle, which, nowadays, is often a wig worn for the wedding. The wataboushi is a sign of the bride being a maiden and intended to hide her face from everyone but the groom. Although usually silk, wata means cotton and boushi means hat


Ya: An arrow 

Yabane: Fletching (the feathered flight on the end of an arrow). The repeat pattern using this motif is called yagasuri 

Yagasuri: Also called yabane. A repeat pattern using the yabane (feathered arrow flight) motif 

Yagura: A tower or turret 

Yamabuki: Wild rose 

Yamauba: A Noh mask representing a witch character

Yanagi: Willow 

Yane: Resin 

Yatsuhashi: A zig-zag bridge. It is also thought that on zig-zag bridges one can avoid evil spirits that flow in straight lines

Yofuku: Clothing not of the traditional Japanese style, e.g. western world style clothing 

Yogi: A quilt shaped like a padded kimono made from futon fabric, used as a blanket

Yohaku: One of the six elements of Japanese beauty. This element represents a pause or blank space between words and implies a meaning. It generally is deliberate to emphasise a personal feeling.


Yoki-kotu-kiku: A traditional, Japanese pattern, originated by the kabuki actor Kikugoro III, which is an amusing play on words. Double stripes enclose the figure zyoki (hatchet), the character for koto (Japanese harp) and a stylized kiku (chrysanthemum) as a repeat pattern. The three words, yoki, koto and kiku, also combine to mean a "good thing to hear" therefore as "good news".

Yokobue: A small Japanese flute

Yokojima: Coloured stripes

Yomato-e: Japanese painting 

Yotsume: A Japanese mon (crest), comprising 4 diamonds, representing 4 eyes 

Yotsumi: Kimonos for about 4-13 year-old kids 

Youji: An implement for stabbing and lifting tea ceremony sweets, can also be used to cut large ones into two or four. They are carried by guests going to a tea ceremony. Omogashi are moist and therefore they shouldn’t be handled with the hands because this makes the fingers sticky. It would be quite rude to handle the other utensils like the chawan, dashibukusa etc. with sticky fingers, so the youji is used to bring the omogashi from the kaishi paper to the mouth 

Youkan: A thick jellied dessert made of red bean paste, agar, and sugar. It is usually sold in a block form and eaten in slices 

Yujo: Harlot 

Yukata: Cotton Kimonos without linings worn as bathrobes or as casual clothes for the summer. The name yukata (浴衣) translates as 'bathing cloth', as they were originally bath robes for onsen (hot spring baths) and bath houses.

Yuki: Sleeve length

Yukiwa: Roundel designs, representing snowflakes

Yumi: Archery bow

Yumiya: Bow and arrow

Yunomi: A tea cup; typically made from a ceramic material, being taller than wide, with a trimmed or turned foot. Unlike the more formal chawan tea bowl which is used during the Japanese tea ceremony, the yunomi is made for daily (or informal) tea drinking 

Yuzen: Yuzen is a colorful hand-dyeing technique. As each pattern is drawn by hand, this process requires high technique and painstaking effort for mastering this skill. Each Yuzen Kimono is an artwork so cannot be produced in large quantities. Kimono artists create an idea for the painting first, then draw it on the 'canvas' of Kimono fabric. Yuzen technique was originally invented by Yuzen Miyazaki, a famous Kyoto fan-painter during the Genroku period (1688-1704) of the Edo period. Until then, monochromatic indigo design was a trend, but his colorful dyeing design soon gained in popularity and was loved by women of all classes. Indeed, this innovative technique gave a tremendous impact on the conventional dyeing techniques. By tracing dye-resist paste made from rice paste (later a rubber solution) on the outline of each pattern, the color is isolated, and it avoids mixing colors. In this way, colorful dyeing became possible. This Yuzen technique spread all over Japan, and each region developed its own distinctive characteristics. Two of the most famous regions for Yuzen technique are Kaga, original name of Kanazawa and Edo, original name of Tokyo. 

Yuzen genga: Original picture, as in artwork to be reproduced as a stencil for textiles etc. 

Yuzu: A type of lemony citrus


Zabuton: A Japanese cushion for sitting on in seiza (kneeling position. It can be used either on the floor or on a zaisu (legless chair) 

Zaisu: A chair, without legs but with a back and usually a zabuton (cushion for kneeling on). This legless chair sits directly on the floor, it allows people to sit with legs in front, crossed or outwards, instead of in sieza (kneeling position). Sometimes a kyousoku (separate armrest) is used with the zaisu. 

Zensho: Beautiful calligraphy 

Zentsu: Sometimes spelled zentsuu, full name is zentsuu-gara. An obi that is patterned along its entire length (and may have patterns on both sides), as opposed to a rokutsuu obi, which is patterned over 60% of its length, the section of its length that is hidden when on is unpatterned.

Zo-ge: Ivory 

Zori: Thong-toe sandals with wedge soles. Also spelled zouri.

Zouri: Thong-toe sandals with wedge soles. Also spelled zori

Zuihana: An imaginary, lucky flower 

Wafuku woman in purple kimono
bottom of page