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Motif Information
Motif Oshidori 1.JPG
Rōmaji Oshidori
English Mandarin duck
Kanji 鴛鴦
Kana オシドリ
Season Winter
Seasonal Exceptions All-Season, Auspicious
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Bird

Oshidori refers to the Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata), a medium-sized perching duck. Like most ducks its plumage is dimorphic: the male is a riot of red bill, purple breast, splashes of iridescent green, and orange "sails" while the female is a subtle brown mostly distinguished by her white eye ring and stripe running away from her eye. Depictions of its plumage may vary widely, as it is easy to select for plumage variations in captivity. The most common (and obvious) variation is a white plumage, a case of incomplete albinism, which does appear rarely in the wild. Deforestation and loss of habitat have sharply decreased the number of breeding pairs in mainland Asia, but the species is in no danger in Japan.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Mandarin Ducks in Snow (雪中鴛鴦図, Setchu En-o-zu, 1759) by Itō Jakuchū in the collection of the Imperial Household Agency (宮内庁三の丸尚蔵館)

Oshidori are a winter motif. Most oshidori in Japan are non-migratory, but many oshidori from Asia migrate and overwinter in Japan. However, oshidori can be used out of season in auspicious contexts, especially weddings. A lovely-dovey couple in Japanese would be oshidori fufu (鴛鴦夫婦). [1]

Common Motif Pairings

Auspicious Nature

Oshidori kamon for use on the Imperial Prince's karaginu

Oshidori symbolize marital harmony, as the male returns to his mate after the ducklings are able to leave the nest, unlike other tree nesting ducks. Both males and females aggressively guard their ducklings until they are fledged. Oshidori are also known for huddling together in the winter as they overwinter in Japan.

Oshidori are also a symbol of the imperial house, more specifically the prince, as oshidori is a homynym for "take authority." [2]

Identification & Style Variations

Oshidori are most easily distinguished from other ducks by their colorful plumage and the distinctive "sails" and crest of the male.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Oshidori (1830-5) by Utagawa Hiroshige

In Buddhist tradition oshidori are associated with the Buddha's childhood and later teachings on kindness and consideration. [3]

In Poetry

The use of a lonesome oshidori was often used as a metaphor for being parted from one's friend or lover in Japanese poetry.

Utagawa Hiroshige's humorous poem inscribed on the print of oshidori at right contrasts the oshidori's typical loving image with a pair of quarreling lovers.

おし鳥の Oshidori no Mandarin ducks
わかれも見たり wakare mo mitari you can see also in
朝嵐 asa arashi a morning storm

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions


  1. http://printsofjapan.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/oshidori/
  2. Woven Treasures of Japan's Tawaraya Workshop Gallery Guide. Textile Museum. Washington DC. 2012. p. 11.
  3. http://printsofjapan.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/oshidori/

Image Credits

Images used with permission from and thanks to:

  • IG Members:
    • Cuttlefishlove
    • Muhvi
    • Quat
    • Yohmama-san

Authors & Contributors

Author/s: tzippurah (IG Username)