Usagi (Rabbit)

Usagi (Rabbit) in Japanese traditional motif

Rabbits have been popular with many Japanese people, and their motif has been used on various items such as table wares, kimono, obi and general merchandise. It had also appeared in the “Choujuu-Giga” (in the 12-13 century), we can say it’s the oldest Manga in the world.

Rabbits only drive on forward and don’t step back, so they have been considered lucky as a symbol of advancement.
We have a custom to enjoy the moon in September placing Japanese silver grass and 15 dumplings, which looks the most beautiful in the year.
And we have a legend that rabbits pound mochi on the moon, so the moon and rabbits often come along in many motifs.

Also, the rabbit is a symbol of cleverness and self-devotion, and appears in myths. In old days, it was a symbol of Spring.
Rabbits appears with monkeys and flogs in Cyojugiga, which is the oldest manga in Japan (painted in around 12C – 13C) and represents the social conditions of those days.
(q.v. the above illustration. it’s a part of the long picture scroll.)

*An example of coordination of kimono with rabbits is here.

Nagoya-obi Usagi rabbit design
Nagoya-obi Hana Usagi design

Hana Usagi is one of the Shosoin patterns.
Shosoin is a treasure house where the articles loved by the Emperor Shomu, which were dedicated to Todai-ji Temple during the Nara period (8th century).

The Shosoin patterns are considered to be the oldest classical Japanese pattern and have refined style.

other rabbit designs…

As we Japanese love rabbits, many rabbits are designed in various situations.

usagi design 1
Rabbits, the full moon and the crescent moon
usagi design 2
usagi design 3
usagi design 6
Rabbits made of snow and Nanten