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Motif Information
Helice tridens (Kohnoura) 2.jpg
Rōmaji Kani
English Crab
Kana かに
Season Summer
Seasonal Exceptions Winter
Auspicious No
Motif Type Fish

Kani means crab. There are several types of crabs native to Japan, including Helice tridens (pictured left), Heikegani (Heikeopsis japonica) and the Japanese spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi).

Kani are associated with the samurai class, perhaps due to their natural armor, and are a popular motif for kamon.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Crabs are harvested in summer and are a summer motif.

Pacific Snow Crab (Chionoecetes opilio) is a delicacy associated with New Year's celebrations and may be paired with other auspicious winter motifs.

Common Motif Pairings

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Detail from "The ghost of Taira Tomomori along with the anchor he drowned with, and heikegani with faces of fallen soldiers" by Utagawa Kuniyoshi


Heikegani (平家蟹, ヘイケガニ) (Heikeopsis japonica) are crabs whose shells resemble a human face. There is a folk belief that they are the reincarnations of Heike warriors drowned at the Battle of Dan-no-ura. Heikegani are a men's motif.

The Crab and the Monkey

Article Notes

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