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That IS Japanese Aesthetics! Introduction of Traditional Japanese Colors – Meaning and Origin –


Hello! I’m a writer of KARAKURIJAPAN, Yonosuke!

Finally, it has become October. It’s about the season to see autumn leaves. When I see something which I can see only in a particular season, I realize that it’s really nice to have been born in Japan.

By the way, what color does the word “autumn leaves” remind you of?

Many people might imagine red. However, if you look carefully at each leaf, you will realize the little difference. Vivid red, red like burnt, or red mixed with yellow.

It’s difficult to express these colors exactly in words, isn’t it? Not only autumn leaves, there should be many “inexpressible colors”.


“Traditional Japanese colors” were often named after nature, plants, and animals. For example, “kitsune-iro(golden brown, literal translation is fox color)”. Kitsune-iro is very one of the traditional Japanese colors.


I’ll introduce these traditional Japanese colors at this time!


What are Traditional Japanese Colors?




What colors do “traditional Japanese colors” mean?


Traditional Japanese colorsmean over thousand colors based on unique color sense to Japanese culture including traditional color names unique to Japan which have sources on previous historical documents.



The reason why there are colors unique to Japan is related to “seasons”.

Japan has four seasons, and nature and plans show various expressions depending on seasons. Former people living in such environment found out delicate rich color world.


I live in Japan where has four seasons. It’s difficult to realize that in daily life, but I live surrounded by rich colors. If you realize that, your usual life will be a little enjoyable.


So, I’ll introduce five of the traditional Japanese colors at this time.


Akane-iro(Madder Red)




Akane-iro is a little dark red. The dusk sky is sometimes called “akane sky” in Japanese.

“Akane(madder)” is originally a kind of vine which grows in fields and mountains, and the roots of it has dark red color. So akane-iro was actually named after plants.


Kaki-iro(Yellowish Brown, Literally Persimmon Color)





Kaki-iro is vivid deep orange color.

This name is, as you can see, from the fruit, persimmon. Japanese persimmon is such a familiar fruit to Japanese people.


Tokiwa-iro(Evergreen Color)





Tokiwa-iro is deeply bluish green. It was named after evergreen trees, such as a pine, and a cedar.

Evergreen trees mean trees which have leaves all year round.


Yamabuki-iro(Bright Yellow, Literally Kerria Color)





Yamabuki-iro is vivid reddish yellow. It is also one of the season words for spring.

Yamabuki(kerria) is a kind of flower which grows all around Japan, and this name has often been used to express yellow. It will take a little more time to see real yamabuki-iro.


Sorairo-nezu(Sky Gray)





Sorairo-nezu is a little bluish gray. It’s like a sky lightly covered with cloud.

Former people who see the cloudy sky expressed exactly in words. This name is filled with the unique aesthetics to Japanese people.


Beautiful Traditional Japanese Colors





How was it? Many of traditional Japanese colors are named after nature such as plants like this.

Now, in changing season, it’s the best to enjoy the changing colors.

There are more traditional colors around us in our life.

When you find an inexpressible color, why don’t you check it up? It might be a traditional color.

If you get to know the color you usually see is a traditional color, your daily life should be a little fun!



Speaking of traditional colors, our KARAKURIJAPAN introduces colored calligraphy, “iro-moji” works.




The iro-moji calligrapher, Ken Nishimoto always writes colorful and fascinating works.

All works are amazing! Please check them out!


>>Watch Iro-Moji Works

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