What is the meaning behind kimono patterns?

Maru/Hanamaru | 丸 花丸 | Circles

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While you might not expect it based on the simple design, circles have a strong meaning in Japanese culture. As there’s no end to a circle, these are seen as being perfect, as signs of endless development and prosperity, and strength or happiness.

In fact, the Japanese flag features the circular sun for this reason. The circle symbolizes the strength of the sun and its everlasting nature.

This is an example of flowers in a circular shape - hanamaru, but not made in a perfect circle.

This pattern is called “maru” in Japanese, with a sub-pattern known as “hanamaru,” which means “flower circle.” Hanamaru bunches flowers together either in a circle or uses flowers to form a circle. This pattern is on many kimonos, as it emphasizes both the flowers and the circle pattern itself.


Animals - and mythical creatures like this dragon - are also depicted in circular form.

As mentioned, the maru pattern will oftentimes be made up of flowers, but it’s also common to see it made up with animals, plants, or anything else the artist could think up. A popular representation is the phoenix (鳳凰/houou) with its wings stretched to the top, forming a circle.

When flowers are depicted in circles, they're usually shown as bundled flowers, without - with few - stems and leaves. This example shows a side angle of the flowering plant instead.

Due to the endless nature of circles, these will oftentimes be features on wedding kimonos – uchikake or kakeshita – and will be thought of as having the meaning of “karma” and “fate,” signifying that the marriage was destined to happen and hoping that good actions in the past will help the marriage be loving and prosperous.

The patterns can take many forms and be in many styles, such as this one that has a bit of an abstract, geometric take on the pattern.

It’s not uncommon to see this circular pattern used as small accenting on larger patterns, especially with tomesode and komon kimonos. Take a close look at the photos on our listings to see if you can spot any unexpected circles.

Find all of our posts on kimono patterns by clicking here.

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