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Words for colours in Japanese with various shades and colour-related expressions.
Table of contents

  • Using Colors in Japanese.
  • Cast Abroad the Rage of Thy Wrath (Out of the Corrective Darkness Book 2).
  • How to pronounce Japanese colors.
  • Japanese Colors Vocabulary!

As for colors named after animals, the most popular choice seems to be the mouse, or nezumi , which is used to express grey tones. All I can say is Japan must have a really big rat problem. You can see more colors along with the explanations for their names in Japanese here. Now that geography has been taken into consideration, we can look at the internal cultural affairs that have influenced Japan's sense of color. The beginnings of the traditional Japanese color system can be traced back to the year , when Prince Shotoko established the first Twelve Level Cap and Rank System in Japan.

Based on Confucian values and the five Chinese elements, this social ordering system determined rank by merit rather than heritage, and certain colors were used as symbols of rank in society, as below:. Another period noted for its contributions to traditional Japanese color sense is the Heian period. Stretching from the years to , this era is considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and is known for its art, especially in poetry and literature.

It was during this era that many famous works such as The Tale of Genji were written. The poetry and literature of the Heian period is notably expressive, and many color names and descriptions came about from the pages of these traditional pieces. A third influence on the perception of color within a particular group is the impact of interactions with external cultures.

In other words, through the ebb and flow of history, color perceptions are adopted by one culture from another.

Japanese Vocabulary - Colors

In the case of Japan, both China and Korea had heavy influences on the traditional colors of Japan early on in history through religious and political ideas. However, in the Meiji era many new colors were adopted in Japan as chemical dyes were introduced through trade with Western countries. It wasn't long after that a group of entrepreneurial Germans brought the trendy new dye to Japan.

Japanese Colors List

Below is a picture of the boots that started the aniline craze. You can tell aniline red dye from more traditional Japanese reds just by looking at it.

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Traditional Japanese reds were made from natural substances and had the tendency to fade quickly, leaving art historians only able to guess what the original looked like. However, aniline reds stay bright for much longer.

4 Important Colors in Japanese culture – Tadaima Japan

Both the Japanese print above and the one below were dyed with aniline red dye. Can you see how overwhelming the color looks compared to older Japanese prints? It almost looks out of place, if you ask me. If you are interested in the history of aniline red and its presence in Japan, I'd recommend this great post. Of course, there are many more colors now part of the Japanese color system that were adopted from foreign countries.

It seems that many people are stupefied by loaned color words in Japanese and are under the belief that the Japanese didn't have these colors before they were imported. However, it's not that the colors didn't exist. Simply, the names of colors have more to do with their source and the dyes used to produce them, many of which were not present in Japan before the Meiji era. Let's jump back to those four old colors, shall we? As a civilization develops, so does its notion of religion, social classes, job specialization, and the like.

Many cultures have attached meaning to colors that relate to these, and Japan is no different. Red came to be associated with authority and wealth, as attested to by red-sheathed samurai swords and ornamental combs. Have you noticed that three of the four original colors have some link to religion? Blue, however, has strictly secular connotations. One theory is that because the Japanese never worshiped an all-powerful god dwelling in heaven above, blue never became associated with lofty, religious sentiments.

This does not mean, however, that blue has been left out in the cold. Blue also formed the basis for the indigo dyeing industry that flourished in Shikoku during the Edo period. Since we're talking about clothes, traditional Japanese colors have been used in artistic fields for centuries, and kimono is one of the most notable.

The colors displayed on kimono are not random. A piece of clothing so expressive it is considered an art must be thought out very cautiously.

In fact, the color combinations used on kimono over the centuries have become part of Japanese color sense. Although not everyone could afford an array of various colored kimono, geisha had the ability to set the fashion standard with their ever changing style. Below is a list of color combinations worn by geisha according to month:.

Over time, these color combinations have become part of the Japanese color culture and are thought of as being pleasing to the eye. Ten or twenty years ago, most Japanese young people wouldn't have been caught dead wearing something "traditional" oh, the shame!

The Fine Print

However, these days, things are different. Recently many fashion companies in Japan have been working on reviving an interest in traditional Japanese colors and styles. Now, wearing a kimono to work in the right setting is the uber cooliest! Japanese also draws some color names from birds. I expanded and corrected my own knowledge of color in both Japanese and English in the course of researching and writing this article, and can proudly claim to be a little bit more sophisticated for it.

The Oldest Colors

You missed out koniro and shuiro sorry no kana on this interface as far as specifically Japanese colours, those to me are the most japanesey. I studied traditional Japanese tattooing in japan for seven years and those two were by far the most ubiquitous. Thanks for the comment, Adam. I have a question: A few years back I had read on a couple or three different sites that purple was considered a lighter form of black.

Is that so? I thought perhaps I had mistaken it for a feng shui belief, but it looks like the lighter form of black is blue in feng shui black being the more powerful representation of the element water. If you can enlighten me or direct me where I could find more information, I would be most grateful. More posts tagged like this