Colors of Japan
Brief Overview of Japanese Traditional Color
More Than 1,000 Japanese Traditional Colors
Since ancient time, Japan has its own distinctive sense of color, and it became well-established in Japanese cultures and traditions. It’s collection of colors has been used in Japanese Literature, traditional textiles (such as kimono), Japanese Painting and other Japanese arts and crafts.
It is said that there are more than 1,000 traditional colors in Japan (it is however well acknowledged that there exist many lost or obscure colors in the long history). Most names of colors originate from the names of plants, flowers, and animals that bore or resembled them. The traditional colors of Japan were made by unique color sense of Japanese people which is based on distinctive Japanese religion and culture of animism.
Close Connection Between Japanese Color and Ancient Rank System
Japanese traditional colors were inseparable from ancient Japanese rank system. In “the Twelve Level Cap and Rank System” which was established in 603 AD by Prince Shotoku, rank and social hierarchy were determined and displayed by certain colors. Colors known as “kinjiki” (forbidden colors) were allowed only for the robes of the highest ranking government officials; for example, the color Otan (orange) was used as the color for the robes of royal families and nobles, and prohibited any other lower rank to use. Only colors known as “yurushiiro” (permissible colors) were permitted for use by the common people.
Colorful Scenery of Japan (5:01)