Japanese Traditional Colors – Overview

About Japanese Traditional Colors

Here is introduced the fascination of the Japanese traditional colors. You must feel the rich terms of the names and its beautiful color tapestry.
The four seasons and our various customs and cultures have given us such names.

The names are mostly derived from the products of nature or a metaphorical imagery.

RedIn the ancient times, reddish colors were generated by Akane (Rubia akane) or Benibana (Safflower).
Purple is known as the noble color and people who could wear the purple clothes were limited, the reddish colors were also the limited color. Maybe they had a special feeling for red.
Brown & Orange“Daidai” means a bitter orange.
“Cha” of “Chairo” means Japanese green tea, and brownish colors were generated by decocting green tea. Chairo became fashionable and various chairo colors were produced in Edo era.
YellowIn the ancient times, yellowish colors were generated by cape jasmine or chinese corktree. It is not clear why yellow is called “Ki(-iro)”.
GreenMost of the greenish colors were generated by vegetation, and their names were also derived from vegetation as well as birds.
BlueSince ancient times, blue has been liked by the common people while purple has been a noble color.
Especially, “ai-iro” line is one of the representative color of the summer in Japan. It is commonly used for Yukata.
PurpleWe can say purple is the most noble color.* “Edo-murasaki”, “Kyo-murasaki” and “Kodai-murasaki”
Achromatic color
(Black, White and Gray)
The range of achromatic color is very wide. Many grayish colors were expressed as the colors of Japanese ink or mouse and they don’t give a pleasurable impression, but the color variation is very wide. In Edo era, it became fashionable as well as brown.