Friday, April 1, 2016

Motif: Asanoha (hemp leaf)

'Broken' Asanoha motif on a han-haba obi.

Asanoha (sometimes seen as: asa-no-ha), or hemp-leaf, is a beautifully versatile motif. Despite it's botanical name, this motif is decidedly geometric and can be worn year-round as it has no specific seasonal connotations. Several sources cite that it is considered an auspicious motif for babies and young children who might be swaddled in blankets with the asanoha motif in the hope that they will grow strong and hearty, like the hemp plant itself.

I love pairing this motif with other, more organic shapes as the intersecting lines make for a pleasing contrast and can hint at plant-life while giving balance to the overall ensemble. It can also be seen not as an all-over motif, but as a complimentary motif, such as on this obi:

This han-haba obi is actually reversable, with the Asanoha pattern as an accent with the kasa, or umbrellas (we'll talk about those in a few days) on one side, and an all-over pattern of asanoha on the reverse.

Because the motif itself is not seasonally limited, you should be sure to consider the color and style of the garment upon which it appears, as well as any other motifs with which it might be paired. In this case, the bright yellow of the obi and the presence of the kasa suggest that this would be best for summer use; the bright yellow creates a pleasing visual spark against a field of cool blue and white, traditional coloring for yukata.

The asanoha is not at all visible in this photo, but ayame are! We'll be talking about that motif later, under I for Iris. This was for San Jose's Obon Odori in July of 2014.
The same is true of the the first obi pictured: the darker green is also a color better suited for late spring and summer, and the fact that it is a han-haba obi means that it is best worn on less formal occasions and with yukata.

Broken asanoha han-haba obi paired with ajisai yukata. We'll be talking about ajisai (hydrangea) later in the month.
You may have noticed that my examples are of han-haba obi featured in casual ensembles, but that is more due to the limits of my personal collection than any restrictions the motif itself imposes. Also to note is that the pattern can be found on other items used in kitsuke, from decorative tabi socks to the hanao on geta. These tend to be very subtle points in an ensemble, but by having a versatile geometric like Asanoha on your hanao, they can be worn in many situations and lend more interest than a solid color might impart.

Tomorrow, our featured motif will be Bats!


  1. Ah, I am so glad you posted. I have become so fabric obsessed as a new quilter.
    Your newest fan - (No. 114 on the list)

  2. Ah... quilting. I have this mad desire to put together a patchwork kimono with all of the indigo blue scraps I somehow managed to acquire.

  3. Wow! How did you get involved in collecting kimonos? And how on earth do you tie the obi by yourself?

    1. The easiest explanation is that my roommates, both kimono aficionados but not as inclined to wear them, are the reason that I have my own collection. As for the obi? That's a very simple knot that I can actually tie in front and then sort of swing around to its proper position in back.