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Motif Information
Motif chidori photo 01.jpg
Copyright David Dexter
Rōmaji Chidori (also Tidori)
English Plover
Kanji 千鳥
Kana ちどり
Season Winter
Seasonal Exceptions Is commonly featured on Summer items
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Bird

Chidori (English: plover), are small wading birds from the Charadriinae subfamily. While a number of chidori species can be found in Japan such as the Long-billed plover (Ikaru-chidori), Little Ringed Plover (Ko-Chidori), Common Ringled Plover (Hajiro-ko-chidori), Kentish Plover (Shiro-chidori), Lesser Sand Plover (Medai-chidori), Greater Sand Plover (O-medai-chidori), Pacific Golden Plover (Munaguro), and Grey Plover/Black-bellied Plover (Daizen))[1], chidori are not limited to Japan and are found worldwide.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Left two panels of Plover Jewel River in Mutsu Province triptych (陸奥国千鳥のたま河, 1847-8) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi in collection of British Museum
Chidori on lacquered Kamakura era cosmetic box in collection of Tokyo National Museum

Chidori is an interesting motif on kimono and you can be forgiven for being confused by it's seasonal use. Traditionally classed as a winter motif, chidori is most commonly featured on summer items to evoke the coolness of winter.

In order to determine the correct season, type of weight and weave of fabric must be considered along with whether it is lined and any additional motifs.

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

Chidori is seen as a symbol of perseverance as it overcomes strong winds and high waves during its migration.[2]

Auspicious Nature

Due to the chidori's cry of chiyo, which sounds like "1000 generations" (千代), chidori are considered an auspicious motif.[3] Therefore, it would be acceptable to wear chidori out of season to celebratory occasions where you wanted to express your wish of "long life" (i.e: weddings, formal birthday dinners, etc).

Common Motif Pairings

  • Wave - known specifically as Nami no Chidori (winter and summer)
  • Water swirls (winter and summer)
  • Pine (winter)

Identification & Style Variations

Chidori can be highly stylized as seen in the Pontochō kamon (at right).

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Chidori, waves, and full moon (月下の波に千鳥, c.1842) by Utagawa Hiroshige in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Chidori Lantern in Pontochō [4]

Chidori are strongly associated with the Noda River, one of the five poetic Jewel Rivers.

Chidori are also associated with Yamato Takeru, a legendary prince whose story is recorded in the Kojiki and other chronicles, who was said to transform after death into a giant white chidori.[5]

In Poetry

The famous haiku poet, Issa (1763-1828) often referenced chidori in his haiku[6]:

芦火たく ashibi taku Even in the tub
盥の中も tarai no naka mo where reeds are burning...
ちどり哉 chidori kana a plover![7]

村千鳥 mura chidori If I just whisper
そつと申せば sotto moseba the flock of plovers
かつと立 katto tatsu bursts into flight[8]

Utagawa Hiroshige captioned his woodblock (at right) with a haiku of his own about chidori:

友千鳥  Tomo chidori Plovers flocking
けあけの濱に  Keage no hama ni Keake coast
月をまり tsuki o mari Moonlight


The chidori is also the kamon for the geiko hanamachi of Pontochō, with fondness of the plovers on the banks of the Kamogawa.

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions


  1. Shorebirds in Japan
  2. Baird, Merrily. Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design. Rizzoli Press. 2001. p.103.
  3. Jaanus - search "chidori"
  4. Copyright Chie Gondo
  5. Baird, Merrily. Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design. Rizzoli Press. 2001. p.103.
  6. HaikuGuy.com archive of Issa haiku with chidori
  7. Issa haiku about plovers in winter
  8. Issa haiku about plovers

Image Credits

Authors & Contributors

Author/s: Naomi Graham Hormozi (Immortal Geisha (IG Username))

Contributors: tzippurah (IG Username)