Japanese Traditional Color Palettes

For the Japanese people, color has long been an integral part of their lives. Each color has its own historical meaning, such as the origin of the traditional colors and the combination of colors. By knowing the traditional colors, you can learn about the historical culture of Japan. Here is a summary of typical Japanese colors. Please enjoy the beautiful colors and Japanese culture.

What is forbidden color

Since ancient times, the colors of kimonos that can be worn by Japanese people have been determined according to their status. The colors of the kimono that the emperor can wear are called "absolutely prohibited colors" and have a special meaning. At the beginning of the 9th century, Emperor Saga decided that the color of the emperor's official clothing was yellow, and this color was not allowed to be worn by anyone other than the emperor. Yellow Hazome and Ouni are the only special colors that you are not allowed to wear, no matter how much your rank increases.

The “Sokuirei Seiden no Gi” held in May 2019 may be fresh in your memory.
The yellowish-brown costume worn by the Emperor during ceremonies is called "Korozen no Goho," and its precious traditional colors are still preserved today.

Yellow Hazel

R:214 G:106 B:53

The color of the robe worn by the emperor at ceremonies since the early Heian period. Absolutely forbidden colors that can only be used by the emperor. A color that represents radiance and dignity. Due to the complexity and subtleness of the colors, it is said that the colors of the robes of successive emperors are slightly different. Furthermore, it has a dichroism that changes the appearance of the color depending on the light source, and is also called deep red or yellowish red.

yellow red

R:238 G:121 B:72

Ever since it was specified as the color of the crown prince's formal attire in the Shoku Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan Continued) at the end of the 8th century, yellow tan has been used as the color of the royal robe exclusively for the crown prince. A golden top with the color of the emperor's kimono.

Reference "Standard Book Japanese Color Dictionary" Hiroyuki Uchida Qualified Design Institute Co., Ltd. "WEB Color Sample Primary Color Dictionary" https://www.colordic.org/

Traditional colors related to nature

The names of Japanese colors represent the culture of each era, and at first glance they look very complicated. However, when the color names are broken down, in fact, all colors represent 500 proper nouns borrowed from flowers and place names, such as cherry blossoms, persimmons, uguisu, Edo, Kyoto, and Rikyu, and 100 different tones, such as deep, shallow, and dull. It is made up of words put together. At first glance it seems difficult, but the names of colors are composed by simple rules. Introducing traditional colors that are closely related to natural plants.

peony color
button color

R:194 G:77 B:174

Color like a peony flower. Kasane has been used as a color name since the end of the Heian period, but it became established as a color name after the Meiji period when chemical dyes became popular.
Since the Heian period, peony flowers have been appreciated as ``fuki no hana'' under the name ``hotan''.

red plum color
Kobai color

R:242 G:160 B:161

A color like red plum blossoms. Ume was imported from China in the Nara period, but it became popular in the Heian period. Depending on the depth of safflower dyeing, there are variations such as dark red plum, nakakobai, and light red plum.

persimmon color

R:237 G:109 B:61

Persimmons have taken root in our lives since ancient times as the color that represents the harvest of autumn. Depending on the color of the persimmon, there are variations such as terigaki and persimmon astringency.

Apricot color
apricot color

R:247 G:185 B:119

The color of ripe apricot fruit. The apricot itself has been called kara peach since ancient times and appears in the Kokin Wakashu.

Wakana color

R:216 G:230 B:152

The color of newly planted rice seedlings at the time of rice planting. A traditional color name that has been used since the Heian period. Faint dullness. The green color with ``young'' is often associated with the early spring of new shoots.

matcha color
black color

R: 197 G: 197 B: 106

A color like matcha. Matcha is made by steaming and drying high-quality tea leaf sprouts, and grinding only the mesophyll with a mortar. The color of the tea leaves is beautifully preserved. The tea ceremony, which was perfected by Sen no Rikyu, was established as 'tea ceremony' in the Edo period and blossomed as a culture. Matcha color is a color that was born with the spread.

eggplant dark blue

R: 130 G: 72 B: 128

Color like the epidermis of eggplant skin. Deeply dyed navy blue with a strong purple hue. It has a stronger redness than purple navy, which has a similar image.

Fuji color

R: 187 G: 188 B: 222

Mauve color refers to bright colors ranging from bluish purple to close to red. When mauve is lightened, it becomes pale mauve, light mauve, and white mauve, and approaches white.

Reference "Standard Book Japanese Color Dictionary" Hiroyuki Uchida Qualified Design Institute Co., Ltd. "WEB Color Sample Primary Color Dictionary" https://www.colordic.org/

traditional color combination

In the Heian period, women in the court wore layered clothing called junihitoe and competed for the beauty of the color scheme. There are two types of color schemes. “Kasane” is a color scheme that involves layering and bundling, and “Kasane” is a kimono with a lining called “Awase” that enjoys the color combination of the outer material and the lining of the kimono. Such color combinations have long been an essential part of Japanese culture, and have been used differently depending on the season, celebrations, and mourning. Here, we will introduce layered color schemes for spring, summer, autumn and winter.

spring colors

The aristocrats of the Heian period loved plum blossoms, so there are many names with plums in the names of layers. Also, since it is the season when new shoots sprout, there are many combinations of greenery other than plums.


Front / White (#ffffff R:25 G:255 B:255)
Back / Suou (#9e3d3f R:158 G:61 B:63)


Front / Deep red (#a22041 R:162 G:32 B:65)
Back / Koubai (#e44d93 R:228 G:77 B:147)

summer colors

"Uzuki" refers to the fourth month of the lunar calendar, and its name is derived from the blooming of unohana. Since ancient times, it is said that people changed their clothes around Uzuki, which is the beginning of summer. Summer colors have a large number of summer fresh green color combinations.


Table / White (#fcfaf5 R:252 G:250 B:245)
Back / Nakaao (#2d5434 R:45 G:84 B:52)


Front / Medium Blue (#2d5434 R:45 G:84 B:52)
Back / Kokikoubai (#491022 R:73 G:16 B:34)

autumn colors

The Chrysanthemum Festival on September 9th is also known as the Chrysanthemum Festival because the chrysanthemums bloom. People decorated chrysanthemum flowers to ward off evil spirits and wished for longevity, and celebrated by drinking sake with chrysanthemum flowers floating on them. For this reason, there are many color combinations with chrysanthemums.

September chrysanthemum

Table / White (#fcfaf5 R:252 G:250 B:245)
Back / Chuuki (#ffef20 R:255 G:239 B:32)

autumn leaves

Front / Red (#c6001c R:198 G:0 B:28)
Back / dark red (#a41919 R:164 G:25 B:25)

winter colors

During this period, there are many color combinations based on white, and many of them have names such as ice and snow. Since ancient times, Japanese people have used colors to express the coldness and coldness of winter.


Front / White (#fcfaf5 R:250 G250 B:245)
Back / White (#fcfaf5 R:250 G250 B:245)

under the snow

Front / White (#fcfaf5 R:250 G250 B:245)
Back / Nakakoubai (#f98289 R:249 G:130 B:137)

Reference "Color sample and color scheme site - color-sample.com" https://www.color-sample.com/