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Motif Information
Motif kikko 01.png
Rōmaji Kikkō
English Tortoise-shell
Kanji 亀甲
Kana きっこう
Season All-Season
Seasonal Exceptions None
Auspicious Yes, due to relation to turtles.
Motif Type Geometric

Also called bekkōgata (鼈甲形). Consists of hexagonal shapes resembling tortoise-shell. Can be found as a single use or tiled repeatedly.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

A geometric motif generally has no season of it's own and thus can be worn throughout the year.

Also used as a kamon.

Motif Variations

  • Bishamon kikkō (毘沙門亀甲, 3 hexagons joined to form a Y shape), kumi-kikkō (組亀甲, braided/plaited hexagons), hanairi kikkō (花入亀甲, flower inside a hexagon)[1]
  • And more: shoukikkō 正亀甲, musubikikkō 結亀甲, tsunodashi kikkō 角出亀甲, yaburekikkō 破亀甲, mitsukikkō 三亀甲 [2]

Auspicious Nature

Indications of longevity (tortoises live a long time and accortding to legend, they live ten thousand years). The shell is also six-pointed, six being an auspicious number[3].

Motif Examples

NOTE: See more relevant images in our corresponding gallery.

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Bishamonten statue at Todaiji; his waist armour has Y-shaped kikkō pattern. Copyright 663highland

Bishamonten (毘沙門天), also called Tamonten, was one of the Shitennō [four guardian/heavenly kings], first illustrated in Japan in the Heian Period. He is based on an Indian deity (Kuvera) and is the god of war, warriors, and wealth. He is the guardian of the North, a protector of Buddhist teachings and the nation, as well as a healer. As he was often depicted wearing armour with hexagons shaped into Y's, this pattern came to be named after him.[4][5]

In the image, look to (your) right hand side of his waist armor to see the Bishamon Kikkō pattern. You may have to click the image to make it larger before the motif is clear.

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

  • None

Image Credits


  1. JAANUS, kikkou
  2. JAANUS, kikkou
  3. Geisha names: Hamako to Kyoko
  4. A-Z Photo Dictionary, Japanese Buddhist Statuary
  5. JAANUS, Bishamonten