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Motif Information
Motif azami 01.JPG
Rōmaji Azami
English Thistle
Kana あざみ,アザミ
Season Spring
Seasonal Exceptions Summer
Auspicious No
Motif Type Flower

Azami means thistle and generally refers to the Japanese wild thistle (Cirsium japonicum). Azami are known for their prickly leaves and an enlarged spiny base to their flowers. Azami usually bear purple flowers, but the flowers can also be pink, yellow, or white. The flowers are pollinated by insects, including butterflies.

The young spring leaves and the roots of azami are edible and its rhizomes were used medicinally.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Actor Ichimura Uzaemon as Seikichi the Oni-Azami(鬼おざみの清吉 いちむら羽左衛門, 1865) from the series Thirty-six Inner Flowers (「三十六花艸の内) by Toyohara Kunichika

Azami blooms from May to August depending on the elevation. In chado, it can be used to decorate during furo season and is an exception to the general rule that flowers with thorns are not displayed.[1]

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

Azami is considered a relatively humble flower and is not used as the main motif on formal kimono or obi.[2]

Common Motif Pairings

Identification & Style Variations

Azami is most easily confused with tanpopo (dandelion). Both have serrated leaves, but azami's flowers always have a distinct enlarged base beneath the petals.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Crossbill and Thistle(鵙 小薊, Isuka oni-azami, c.1834) by Katsushika Hokusai in the collection of the British Museum

Azami is associated with Seikichi, a famous thief who was nicknamed Oni-Azami (Demon Thistle). The real Seikichi was executed in 1805, but he remained a popular character in kabuki and ukiyo-e. He is often shown with azami behind him or with an azami tattoo.

In Poetry

Hokusai's woodblock at right is inscribed with the following poem by Tōha (桃坡):

暮るまで  Kureru made The thistle grows
日あたる岸や hi ataru kishi ya on banks bathed in sunshine
花薊 hana azami right until dusk

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions


  1. Sasaki Sanmi. Chado the Way of Tea: A Japanese Tea Master's Almanac. Tuttle Publishing, VT. 2011. p. 27.
  2. Nitanai, Keiko. Kimono Design: An Introduction to Textiles and Patterns. Tuttle Publishing, Vermont. 2017. p.76.

Image Credits

  • Muhvi
  • Tahanala
  • Whitethistle

Authors & Contributors

Author/s: (# (IG Username))