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Motif Information
Motif kiku.jpg
Rōmaji Kiku
English Chrysanthemum
Kana きく
Season Autumn
Seasonal Exceptions Nearly all-season
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Flower

Emblematic of fall in Japan, kiku or chrysanthemum is a very common motif on kimono and all related items. In addition to being a very common flower with many variations, it is also the official flower of the Imperial Family of Japan.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

When it comes to kimono, few flowers evoke the feeling of autumn more than the chrysanthemum. It typically blooms in late summer, and the hardy, solid blossoms can keep their shape until the first snow. Because of this, it is a motif that is incredibly common on autumn items, including being the standard hana-kanzashi for maiko during the month of October. This is one flower with universal appeal and overlap, being a common autumn decorative motif in Western culture as well, including being the birth flower for the month of November.

It is worth noting, however, that much like the ume and sakura, the kiku has become such an emblematic and traditional motif of Japan that it often shows up on items intended to be worn in other seasons such as yukata and graduation furisode.

Common Motif Pairings

Auspicious Nature

Kiku is also sometimes called ennenso, longevity plant.[1] Eating or drinking kiku was associated with long life and good health in both China and Japan and a special effort was made to consume it as tea or wine on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month which is celebrated as the Chrysanthemum Festival.[2]

The chrysanthemum is the official flower of Japan, and is used as a symbol of the Imperial Family. As such, it has many positive connotations and may be used in conjunction with other auspicious motifs to display a feeling of patriotism or traditional aesthetic.

Leading up to and during World War II, kiku took on a nationalist meaning and were linked with symbols of modernity to convey imperialist aspirations.[3]


Motif kiku variation 01.jpg
Romaji Kiku
English Standard chysanthemum
Kanji 菊き
Kana きく
Audio Coming Soon
Notes Typically portrayed with multiple layers of tightly packed, elongated petals with rounded tips. Centre of flower may or may not be visible.
Motif kiku variation 02.jpg
Romaji Manjugiku
English "Steamed Bun" chrysanthemum
Kanji 饅頭菊
Kana まんじゅうきく
Audio Coming Soon
Notes Named for its similarity to the soft, puffy, round "manju" dessert, this is generally a more abstract depiction, often without even the detail of individual petals.
Motif kiku variation 03.jpg
Romaji Rangiku
English Spider Chrysanthemum
Kanji 乱菊
Kana らんぎく
Audio Coming Soon
Notes Literally "rebellious" or "disordered" chrysanthemum, these are portrayed as clusters of long, narrow petals with a distinctive upward curl at the of the petal.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage


The Kiku is the official flower of the Imperial House of Japan, and as such is an incredibly prevalent motif on many official and governmental items. The kamon is used as an official seal and is not permitted to be used by anyone unrelated to the Royal House.[4]

The Emperor's seat of power in Japan, both physical and metaphorical, has become known as the Chrysanthemum Throne. This represents both the ornate ceremonial seat and the Emperor himself, when acting in an official capcity. [5]. The throne itself is not specifically ornamented with chrysanthemums (although some may appear on it, they are not the only or the most prevalent motif), the name is more of a reference to the flower itself being intrinsically tied to the Imperial Family.

The highest order one can be awarded in Japan is the Order of the Chrysanthemum. It can awarded at the discretion of the Royal Family for acts of bravery, honour, or cultural merit, similarly to the Order of the British Empire or the French Legion of Honour. The name and the design of the item help to demonstrate the significance imbued by the Japanese people in the Chrysanthemum motif.

In Literature

Mentioned several times in The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon is the Chrysanthemum Festival, to be held on the "ninth day of the ninth month"[6].

In Poetry

The famous poet Matsuo Bashō wrote many verses mentioning the famed chrysanthemum.

For his morning tea
A monk sits down in utter silence-
Confronted by chrysanthemums.

A chrysanthemum drops its dew,
But when I pick it up:
A brood bud

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions


  1. Dusenbury, Mary. Flowers, Dragons, & Pine Trees: Asian Textiles in the Spencer Museum of Art. Hudson Hills Press, New York and Manchester. 2004. p.215.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Atkins, Jacqueline, ed. Wearing Propaganda: Textiles on the Home Front in Japan, Britain, and the United States, 1931-1945. Yale University Press, New Haven and London. 2006. p. 260.
  4. Imperial Seal of Japan on Wikipedia
  5. Chrysanthemum Throne on Wikipedia
  6. Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon at Google Books

Authors & Contributors

Author/s: Diane Quintal (Moonblossom (IG Username))