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Motif Information
Motif taka 01.jpg
Rōmaji Taka
English Hawk
Kana たか
Season Winter, Autumn
Seasonal Exceptions All-Season
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Bird

Taka is the general term for hawk and may refer to any of a variety of species including peregrine falcons, marsh harriers, European sparrowhawks, and Eurasian kestrels.[1]

Takagari (鷹狩, Japanese falconry) has a long history. According to the Nara period record Nihon Shoki (720 CE) takagiri was introduced from Korea in 359 CE (Kofun period).[2] Proof of takagari predating the existence of writing in Japan can be found in Kofun period haniwa (埴輪), clay figures found in tombs. [3]

Although opposed to Buddhist principles, takagiri became increasingly popular with both samurai and nobles during the Kamakura period. Takagari was an expensive pastime and the game caught was often not even eaten, but offered to Hachiman, takagari's patron deity. The height of takagari's popularity was reached in the Edo period and it is during this period that taka became an increasingly popular men's motif across all segments of society.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Detail of hawk in main hall of Zuigan-ji Temple (1620)
Hawk, eggplant, and Mount Fuji by Isoda Koryūsai in the collection of Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Many hawks, especially peregrine falcons, migrate to Japan to overwinter.[4] Hawks massing to migrate or feed on other migrating birds are a common sight in autumn and winter.

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

Taka are especially common on men's juban and haori linings because "...falcons and hawks became natural emblems of the Japanese warrior class due to their keen eyesight, their predatory nature, and their boldness."[5]

Auspicious Nature

Since at least the Edo period, there has been a tradition that to dream of a hawk, eggplant, and Mount Fuji for the first dream of the year, hatsuyume (初夢) is particularly auspicious. This is encapsulated in the saying "ichi-Fuji, ni-taka, san-nasubi (一富士二鷹三茄子)." [6]

Suggestions for the origin of the auspiciousness of this trio vary from each is a kind of superlative of its kind (Fuji-san is the highest mountain, taka are the fiercest bird, nasu is a homophone with nasu (成す) to achieve something great) to all three motifs being associated with Tokugawa Ieyasu. [7] Whatever its origins, when taka appears as part of hatsuyume its connotations are auspicious and its season is winter, specifically the New Year.

Common Motif Pairings

Identification & Style Variations

Takanoha kamon

Takanoha (hawk's feather) is one of the most common crests on modern formal kimono, it serves as an "everyman" crest for rental outfits and people who don't have a mon of their own.

Taka are easily identified as the most common bird of prey motif. Eagles are rarely depicted. Taka have a curved beak and sharp talons. They are often depicted as performing mid-air acrobatic contortions or perched on a pine limb.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Hawk on a Snowy Pine Branch (between 1827-33) by Keisei Eisen in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum

A common Japanese saying is "Tonbi ga taka wo umu (鳶が鷹を産む)," a kite breeding a hawk, meaning an extraordinary child from a humble background. [9]

In Poetry


taka hitotsu mitsukete ureshi Iragosaki

By a singular stroke
Of luck, I saw
A solitary hawk circling
Above the promontory of Irago.

- Matsuo Basho

Translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions


  1. World Kigo Database Article on Taka. Accessed February 10, 2013.
  2. Wikipedia Article on Takagiri. Accessed on February 9, 2013.
  3. An Encounter with Japan`s Traditional Hunters: the hawkers and falconers. Accessed February 9, 2013.
  4. World Kigo Database Article on Taka. Accessed February 10, 2013.
  5. Baird, Merrily. Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design. Rizzoli Press. 2001. p. 108.
  6. JAANUS Article on Ichi-Fuji, ni-taka, san-nasubi. Accessed February 9, 2013.
  7. Wikipedia Article on Hatsuyume. Accessed February 9, 2013.
  8. JAANUS Article on Matsutaka-zu. Accessed February 8, 2013.
  9. Anecdotes, Proverbs from the World Kigo Database. Accessed February 10, 2013.

Image Credits

  • Ainokimono
  • Kokoro
  • Owl
  • Stepan_san
  • Tzippurah

Authors & Contributors

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