Friday, November 6, 2020

Traditional Japanese Patterns in Demon Slayer


An old Japanese tradition in a modern manga and anime



Touched off by my last post, I've decided to make this post about the traditional Japanese print designs found in the anime "Kimetsu no Yaiba."

In Japan, the anime Kimetsu no Yaiba (鬼滅の刃, きめつのやいば, AKA "Demon Slayer") is all the rage at the moment. Children and adults wear Japanese print designs on their masks to show their fandom to the world.



But did you know that the prints used in this anime are actually inspired by traditional Japanese prints?

I think that is the beauty of Kimetsu no Yaiba; it's a cool way to introduce traditional Japanese culture to the masses. In a world where Japanese youth and even older generations alike, are losing touch with their Japanese traditions, getting lost in school exam study and being too tired after nights of zangyo. (残業, ざんぎょう, late work)

We've already talked about Nezuko's pink design in my last post, so I'm going to segway right into our next Japanese print design; the black and green checkered pattern belonging to the protagonist Tanjiro.



A two-colored checkered pattern is known a "Ichimatsu" in Japanese. While it's black and green for Tanjiro's clothes, this pattern comes in a variety of other color combinations. It is common woven pattern since ancient times, but it became known as Ichimatsu in the 18th century, when the kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu popularized it by using it on costumes. Readers might be interested to know that this design was used in the logos for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.



Next up is Zenitsu's clothes' pattern.



Zenitsu's clothes' pattern is a variation of a traditional Japanese print design known as "uroko," or "fish scales."

The real design looks like this:



It features symmetrical triangles in two colors, and is said to resemble the scales of snakes or fish. It is said that samurai would wear clothing with the uroko pattern as a talisman to protect themselves from harm.

Next up is the design used on Sabito's clothing.



Sabito's design is a unique variation of the hexagonal "kikko" pattern. I've actually already talked about this pattern in a previous post. (See my post about Kikkoman.)



"Kikko" (亀甲, きっこう, lit. turtle shell) is a design modeled after the hexagonal shapes found on turtle shells.



Traditionally, it is believed that a turtle lives to be 10,000 years, so this is a lucky design representing longevity.

Sabito's design is a variation of the kikko pattern called "Bishamon Kikko."



It is called so because it's often found on the clothes of a deity known as "Bishamonten" (one of the Seven Lucky Gods, by the way).



See the pattern?

Well, that about does it for this post. If you come to Japan, you'll notice people of all ages wearing masks with these patterns on them.

But there are way, way more traditional Japanese print designs than mentioned here. I hope to make a future post featuring some of my favorite.

Relevant Posts:

Kikkoman – What Does It Mean?

A Wonder of Osaka: The JR Tozai Line