Japanese traditional design patterns, or “monyo”, are seen in a range of goods and things including textiles, ceramics, papers and buildings. Ordinarily, visitors may find them on boxes and wrapping papers of Japanese sweets, or on the light cotton kimono “yukata” they wear after soaking in hot springs at Japanese inns.
There are countless numbers of these patterns and many of them are said to have come from Asian nations such as China and Korea. The patterns are generally repetitions of geometric shapes designed from plants, animals, natural phenomena, climates and so on. Lots of their motifs are related to something fortunate in association with health, longevity, wealth and growth.
Among the popular patterns are “Seigaiha”, “Kikko” and “Shippo”. “Seigaiha” meaning blue ocean waves describes wave crest patterns with several layers of semicircles. Originally, this pattern was used in the costumes of ancient Japanese court music and dance players.
“Kikko” means tortoise shells. This pattern presents geometric grids of regular hexagons looking like turtle shells. “Kikko” is regarded as one of the most auspicious “monyo” because a turtle is a symbol of longevity in Japan. “Shippo”, the design of repetition of same-sized circles, means the seven treasures described in Buddhist scriptures including gold, silver, coral, agate and lapis lazuli.
Cautious Tokyo visitors may come across “monyo” at a rather unexpected place. The Yurikamome Line, a transit system running in Tokyo’s waterfront areas, highlights “monyo” at each of its stations. A variety of traditional design patterns are painted on its entrances and platform windows among other things.
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