It’s summer time! Which means… fireworks and festivals! This year, why don’t you try wearing a traditional yukata to one? But what pattern of yukata should you buy? Let’s look at the most common yukata patterns and what they mean. We’ll also introduce some accessories to go with your beautiful yukata.
The cherry blossom is no doubt a popular flower in Japan, so it is also used in yukata. Cherry blossoms reminds one of spring, so it is associated with new beginnings. It is a classic pattern that will look good on anyone.
Along with the cherry blossom, plums are commonly found on yukata patterns. Plums are associated with strength because they bloom right in the beginning of spring when it is still cold. Plums also represent purity.
Peonies are also the staple for yukata patterns, as it is a symbol of fortune and femininity. Peonies are originally from China, where it was used for the royal family due to its impressive petals. Therefore, peonies are also associated with wealth and high class.
Morning glory is a flower that blooms only in the morning. It is a flower that represents summer, so it looks refreshing on a yukata. Because the stalks wrap around objects tightly, it also means strong bond in a relationship.
Dianthus is favored by the Japanese people as it is said to symbolize the beauty of a Japanese woman. It is characterized by gracefulness and purity. There is even a common saying “Yamato (Japanese) Nadeshiko (Dianthus)” which is a compliment to describe women with the above qualities. Dianthus is modest but cheerful.
Due to its pure white color, lilies are associated with innocence and beauty. Yukata designs with lilies tend to give off a pure and elegant image.
In Japanese, the characters for Iris (“Ayame”) can also be read as “Shoubu”, which means battle or victory. Therefore, the flower brings up images of strength and discipline. In addition, from long ago, Irises are said to be used as good luck charms to ward off evil spirits.
In Japan, hydrangea blooms during the rainy season in June and July. So it is a perfect yukata design for the summer! The hydrangea thrives despite the harsh and depressing weather, so it is a symbol for perseverance. Also, because many small petals make up a cluster of beautiful hydrangea, it is associated with cooperation and happiness within the family.
Chrysanthemum has long been depicted as flowers of good luck, and it is no exception when used on a yukata. Chrysanthemum is often used for the emperors’ family, so it is a royal flower as well. It means elegance, class, and grace.
Roses are familiar in the West as symbols of desire and beauty. Similarly in Japan, roses have been used to represent intense love.
Seen from its name, goldfish is related to wealth. Originating in ancient China, goldfish has been used to represent fortune. Goldfish has two colors thought to have good meaning; red, color for luck, and black, color for sucking in bad spirits. On top of that, since goldfish lay many eggs, it is associated with fertility. No wonder it is such a popular pattern on a yukata!
The butterfly is scientifically known for its short lifespan, but the ever-changing creature is ironically a symbol of longevity. This is because a butterfly rises from a chrysalis, as if it resurrects like an immortal being. The lifecycle also inspired people to name the butterfly as a symbol of eternal love.
The koi fish represents bravery and strength stemming from an ancient Chinese legend. The legend says that the koi fish swam against strong currents and obstacles, climbing up the waterfall, eventually becoming a dragon. It is associated with success and reaching maturity. It is more often used in male yukata patterns.
The dragonfly symbolizes victory because of its ability to only fly forwards. Though we now know this is scientifically inaccurate, people in the past believed that dragonflies only look straight ahead towards the goal.
Japanese people have treasured the sparrow as a messenger and carrier of love. In addition, male and female sparrows take turns to bring food to the young; this behavior contributes to sparrows being symbols of happy marriage.
Bamboos are found in many Japanese celebrations. Because it shoots up from the ground very quickly, bamboos are associated with growth. On yukatas, bamboos are often depicted with pine trees and plums, as the “trinity” of good luck.
Accessory to Wear with Yukata
In a yukata outfit, the obi belt is as important as the yukata itself. The functional obi is quite thin and plain, and it wraps high around the waist to secure the yukata. The decorative obi wraps on top of the plain one to hide it. This one is thicker, wider, and made of showy material. The wider obi is tied in a special ribbon at the back, which can be folded in different ways. The obi color should complement the yukata color.
Fans are definitely useful on a hot summer night, but they are also fashionable. You can hold it in your hands, or stick it in between your obi. Fans make the yukata seem so summery and festive!
Geta sandals are wooden sandals that has straps similar to flip-flops. It makes a distinctive “clip clop” sound that can be heard everywhere during festival seasons. If it is your first time to walk in them, it can be quite uncomfortable; it is advised to bring an extra pair of shoes just in case.
Yukatas are known to emphasize and showcase the nape of your neck, so it is common to keep your hair up when wearing one. The traditional way is to poke a “kanzashi” through a bun. The kanzashi is a stick with decorations at the tip. Dangling decorations are popular and looks gorgeous with yukata.
Have you found your festival outfit for the summer? If you are not sure what to get, go visit a store where the staff can help you pick what you like, as well as what looks good on your skin tone, hair color, and eye color. They can also advise you on what accessories will go well with your yukata!