Chou | butterflies
Hand painted butterfly with gold thread around the outside, flying towards a pair of chrysanthemums.
Take a look around and you’ll see butterflies flapping their wings around the flowers, though they’re a bit rare on kimonos. Butterflies, known as “chou” (butterfly) in Japanese, represent longevity, beauty, and becoming an adult.
The idea of longevity comes from the name having the same sound as one of the Japanese words for long, and the idea of becoming an adult derived from butterflies is the final stage of metamorphosis. As such, butterflies quite often adorn the sleeves and fronts of furisodes, which are commonly worn for coming-of-age ceremonies and graduations.
Tiny white butterfly among large peonies and tulips.
During the Momoyama period (late 16the century), butterflies began to be used in Noh costumes and on the sleeves of kimonos. Butterflies were also used in “yusoku” (to have a job) patterns during the Heian period. Its use by the samurai and the nobility made it also capture the meaning of immortality.
Just like in real life, the butterflies on the kimonos will flutter around the flowers. Although, this can be a cause for concern for weddings as it could be seen as the bride jumping between multiple men. This thinking has also caused the butterfly pattern to be viewed in a negative light in some time periods and areas of Japan.
That said, the beauty, longevity, and metamorphosis aspects of butterflies also make this common for wedding attire. You really have to check what the thoughts of the family and the region are before selecting which kimono to wear to a wedding.
Retro style repeating pattern of blue, green and gray butterflies and phoenixes of similar colors on a solid off-white background.
Certain types of swallowtail butterflies can also be seen in many formal or aristocratic patterns, such as inner circles. This is because these have a strong appearance and the circle helps to evoke feelings of perfection and immortality.
Butterfly formed using the shibori (tie dye) technique, with spots and lines painted later.
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