The Mark of Beauty : Edo Komon -the Patterns of Edo

NHK Educational

The traditional designs of Edo remain popular today, including the checkerboard, ocean waves, basketry, and netting patterns.
Point 1 — Repetition
One characteristic of the patterns of Edo is the repetition of a single pattern.  Endless rows of chrysanthemum blossoms. Though the orientation might change, the form and shape comprise a single pattern.
Point 2 — The playful spirit of Edoites
An ukiyoe print depicts the bustle in front of a garment textile emporium in Edo (present day Tokyo).  The technique of stencil dyeing developed during the Edo period (1603–1868), during which time makers competed over the most innovative designs.
The meticulous but whimsical ethos of these Edoites can be seen in their komon (fine patterns).  Edo komon textiles look almost like solid colors from far away, but when viewed up close, they reveal countless tiny dots and shapes.
A checkered kimono with rows of small squares in two colors.
If you look carefully, you see that the small squares are actually comprises of numerous tiny dots. 
A pattern made up of countless fine dots. When you look closely, you see that these dots actually form the Chinese characters meaning "flowers, birds, wind, and moon"—referring to the beauties of nature.
Endless rows of fine dots. When you look closely, you see that ... each is a cherry blossom pedal.  The meticulous character of the people of Edo gave rise to the tiny, intricate patterns known as komon.
Point 3 — Stencils that express particular professions or brands
Over time, Edo komon textiles became integrated into the daily lives of the Edo populace. Edoites began insisting on wearing the same pattern as their colleagues to increase their sense of camaraderie.
At Edo festivals, matching clothing was essential.
A jacket with a particular profession or the name of a store ledt in undyed reserve is called a shirushi hanten (branded jacket).
Edo komon patterns embody the spirit of Edoites.
The Mark of Beauty : NHK Educational
Credits: Story

Takatora shoten
Komiya dyeing factory
Daimatsu dyeing factory
Saotome dyeing factory

Photography by Tadayuki Minamoto

Music by Kazuki Sugawara

Supervised by
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum

Produced by NHK Educational Corporation


Credits: All media
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