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Motif Information
Motif koumori 01.jpg
Japanese House Bat (Pipistrellus abramus)
Courtesy of yokohamayomama
Rōmaji Koumori
English Bat
Kanji 蝙蝠
Kana こうもり
Season Summer
Seasonal Exceptions None
Auspicious No
Motif Type Animal

Koumori means bat. Bats are the only mammal capable of true flight. Bats are nocturnal and navigate by echolocation which allows them to hunt insects. There are 38 species of bats native to Japan, including four species of fruit bats.[1]

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Simplified koumori on yukata in Onsen in the Evening ( いで湯の夕べ, 1912) by Kaburagi Kiyokata
Yasutari Doke Koumori (Eight Famous Plays Performed by Bats, c.1846) by Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi

Koumori are a summer motif. Koumori are easily seen on summer evenings feeding on mosquitoes and other insects near rivers and lakes.

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

Koumori are one of the motifs imported from China along with Chinese textiles. In China, 蝠 is read as fú, a homophone for happiness (福, fú), and bats are considered highly auspicious for this reason. [2] Common Chinese motif pairings include clouds, peaches, and waves.

However, in Japan, koumori is no longer a homophone for happiness and the motif is generally associated with nighttime professions such as prostitution and acting.

Common Motif Pairings

Identification & Style Variations

Koumori are frequently simplified as silhouettes. Modern motif depictions draw on popular western depictions of bats. Rounded wings with the distinctive scalloping bracket the body.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Bats and Willow (c.1910) by Ohara Koson

Koumori mon is the informal crest of the kabuki actor bearing the Ichikawa Danjuro name. [3] Often ukiyo-e of Ichikawa Danjuro will feature him wearing his formal mimasu (三升) mon, three nesting squares, [4] with a bat flying nearby to reference his informal mon.

In Poetry

Bats in poetry are inevitably associated with the nightlife of courtesans and prostitutes.

Bashō's (芭蕉) haiku on bats conjures up images of a wandering priest who has strayed into the pleasure quarters:

蝙蝠も kōmori mo Even bats
出ようき世 ideyo ukiyo no Come out to this floating world
花に鳥 hana ni tori Of blossoms and birds [5]

Kobayashi Issa (小林 一茶) also wrote several haiku about bats, including:

かはほりに kawahori ni Like the bats
夜ほちもそろり yahochi mo sorori Nighthawks (streetwalkers) too
そろり哉 sorori kana Make their slow rounds [6]

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions


  1. Wikipedia article on mammals of Japan. Accessed November 13, 2013.
  2. Prints of Japan article on Chinese Representations of Bats. Accessed November 22, 2013.
  3. Motoji Niwa. Snow, Wave, Pine: Traditional Patterns in Japanese Design. Kodansha International. New York. 2001. p.64.
  4. Wikipedia article on Ichikawa Danjuro. Accessed November 22, 2013.
  5. Kigo Database Article on Koumori. Accessed November 22, 2013.
  6. Kigo Database Article on Koumori. Accessed November 22, 2013.

Image Credits

  • Kokoro

Authors & Contributors

Author/s: tzippurah (IG Username)