Cruising in the Far East with Holland America Lines: Japan Color

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ABOARD the WESTERDAM — To the Japanese, color is an essential characteristic to express the beauty of their ancient culture. Bold reds, yellows, greens, and blues as well as the distinctive use of black and white are present in their art, architecture, pottery, textiles, and furnishings. Combinations of conflicting color can be seen in temples of the Nara period and in Shinto shrines. Scarlet and black in medieval armor, gold and green in screen paintings, red and white to express auspicious occasions, and dark blue and white in fabrics are all combinations that reflect human sentiment, religious faith, and give form to the use of traditional materials and designs.

KOHAKU

A POPULAR T-SHIRT OF KOHANJI COLORS WITH WORD LOVE IN KANJI

The special combination of red and white is pronounced as one word in Japanese, Kohaku. Their use together signifies happiness and celebration. Red represents life and vitality, blood coursing through the veins and the sun radiating energy. White has long been regarded as a reflection of sacred glory, the pure color of the gods. These two colors combined are a fortuitous symbolic linking of life’s power and everlasting exaltation. Understandably, the red sun rising against a white background is the design used on the national flag of Japan.

AI

Ai, a particular shade of indigo blue, mirrors the color of the vast ocean surrounding the Japanese islands. This beautiful dark blue is reminiscent of the sea as a source of abundant food as well as the avenue on which ancient ancestors arrived, a maternal source. Historically, it is the color of the people.

AI AND KOHAKU COLOR PILLOWS ON A FLOAT CARRIED IN A SHINTO SHRINE FESTIVAL

MODORI

Modori, the word for green is the color for eternal life. Pine, cedar and hinoki are evergreen, never changing from season to season and are the symbol of Japan. These are characteristic of Japanese culture, fusion with nature that is expressed in traditional gardens and residences surrounded by greenery.

AN EXCEPTIONAL TRADITIONAL GARDEN AT ADACHI MUSEUM OF ART NEAR SAKAIMINATO
PINE DECORATION ON FLOAT CARRIED IN SHINTO SHRINE PARADE

SUMI

Sumi is black, the color of mystery; the color of the night. It expresses the unknown and evokes the imagination of a different world. It has long been used by the Japanese as a powerful color, pure carbon, the ingredient to produce India ink for creating calligraphy, drawings, and paintings. It is believed black letters and figures expressed on white paper dramatically reveal mysterious existence different from reality.

RYUKYUAN OF OKINAWA IN TRADITIONAL COSTUME AND WOMEN IN FUKUOKA WEARING STRIKING KIMONO COLORS IN STRIKING CONTRAST WITH BLACK

KIN

AN ANCIENT SCREEN IN GOLD

Kin, the color gold, symbolizes prosperous golden harvests and, of course, the metal gold. Royalty in all cultures adopt it as their symbol of divinity, the color of heaven. In religion it is used for statues of the Buddha in temples and it is extensively used in many Catholic churches as well.

TASAI

Tasai. Is the multiplicity of colors, red and white, green, blue, gold, black, and more, that are prevalent at festivals, in clothing such as kimonos, in exhibitions and at sports events, and in the public spaces of towns and cities. While the clothing of the Japanese in daily life is generally monotonous, special occasions, called matsuri, always bring out a feast of colors.

KIMONO WORN BY WOMAN AT SHINTO SHRINE IN FUKUOKA

Photos © Dennis Cox / WorldViews, All Rights Reserved


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