Kudamemo, Pear, 2009, Masashi Tentaku / D-Bros. Paper, Adhesive. Image courtesy of D-BROS. Wakanaeiro (Young Rice Seedlings)

The rice field green that influenced Japanese court clothing

Our new book Iro: The Essence of Colour in Japanese Design shows how mother nature inspired acceptable shades for ladies in waiting

Our new book Iro shows how, in some cultures, colour is more than a surface detail. Iro: The Essence of Color in Japanese Design, examines the cultural and botanical influences over pigment choice in Japan. Leaf through these pages and you’ll understand how everything from a yoga mat to an e-bike came to be the colour it is.

The book is written by the Italian scholar of art history, Rossella Menegazzo. In her introduction, Professor Menegazzo quotes the Heian-period novelist Murasaki Shikibu, whose tragic character words, Prince Genji, opines at one point in Shikibu’s book, “quite apart from these weighty hopes of mine, I should like to indulge in the pleasures of the seasons – the blossoms, the autumn leaves, the changing skies.”

To that list of seasonal pleasures, you could also add the view of the spring paddy fields, which inform another pleasant shade within the Japanese colour spectrum, called wakanaeiro, or young rice seedlings.

“This colour name references the green of freshly sprouted rice seedlings, as indicated by the prefix waka- (young, newborn) – which is used to describe many colours referring to plants and trees – and the character for nae (seedlings),” writes Menegazzo. “It is mentioned in the Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji, c.1008) and is included as one of the key summer colours in the Kasane no irome (layered colour combinations deemed appropriate for the Japanese Imperial Court).”

Those old, courtly references are brought right up to date in this book, with a low sideboard, also called Iro, created Tokyo designer Jo Nagasaka for the British firm, Established & Sons, and a pad of sticky notes shaped like a pear, called Kudamemo, made by Masashi Tentaku for the Japanese practice D-Bros (above).

Iro shows the spring shade from the paddy fields that found its way into Japanese court clothing


For many more insights into the vibrant world of Japanese colours, from the past and informing the present, order a copy of Iro here.