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Motif Information
Motif Tonbo 01.jpg
Rōmaji Tonbo (tombo)
English Dragonfly, damselfly
Kanji 蜻蛉
Kana トンボ
Season Summer
Seasonal Exceptions Autumn
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Insect

Tonbo (tombo) means dragonfly. Tonbo breed in shallow water and commonly are found in rice paddies. Both larval and adult tonbo eat other insects, including mosquitoes, which led to them being venerated by farmers and other common people.[1]

One of the classical names for Japan was Akitsushima (秋津島, Dragonfly Island).

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Tonbo are associated with summer and are often found on yukata.

In Japanese poetry tonbo is often a code word for autumn. When paired with one of the seven autumn grasses or a full moon tonbo becomes an autumn motif.

Common Motif Pairings

Auspicious Nature

The sound tonbo make when they fly is "kachi kachi" which is a homophone in Japanese for victory (勝ち). An archaic way of saying tonbo was kachimushi (mushi means insect). Tonbo also always fly forward, never backward, so this motif was particularly popular among samurai.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

In Poetry

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

  • Link to any relevant threads on IG


  1. Shirane, Haruo. Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts. Columbia Press. 2011. p. 17.

Image Credits

  • Bika Bika

Authors & Contributors

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