Peacock designs can be found on multiple types of kimonos and related items to it such as obis. It began appearing on garments from the late Meiji period (1868 - 1912) but found more popularity in the early Showa Eta (1926 - 1988), and later had multiple interpretations of both the whole peacock and its feathers in combinations with other motifs from 1955 onwards.
The peacock, which also eats noxious and poisonous insects, is considered a symbol of faith. In esoteric Buddhism, the deity Mahamayuri, who is often depicted riding a peacock, is believed to bestow blessings to remove disasters and distress that plague people.
On this piece, cranes are also found to be a main motif. Cranes are considered mystical birds and are known for their noble elegance. The notion that they have a long life goes back thousands of years. Cranes live by clear water instead of gathering in forests, unlike regular birds, this led to them being referred to as “lords of feathered creatures”. Linking back to China, the characters referring to the Crane express the concept of flying among the clouds, and are used to represent outstanding personalities who have transcended the heights of ordinary people.
Another important motif are the gift boxes, created using embroidery. The tradition of wrapping or “tsutsumu'' takes many forms in Kyoto. Those living in Kyoto have for centuries refrained from directly conveying their true sentiments. Instead, they have refined the art of gift wrapping as a means of subtle communication. As senders honed their skills, recipients became deft at perceiving the thoughts and feelings enclosed. However, this custom was not just a show of gratitude. The packages embrace a sense of the seasons, sympathy, or delight as the recipient opens them.
Japanese embroidery (nihon shishu in Japanese) is an embroidery technique that goes back more than one thousand years. In its early stages Japanese Embroidery was only used for decorating items used during religious ceremonies. Over time, as shishu developed its own unique Japanese qualities and characteristics, it took on a more artistic purpose. According to historians, from the early Heian Period Japanese embroidery was primarily used for decorating the costumes of the Ladies of the Court. During these early stages, shishu was exclusively available to this very select group; only the highest ranks of society could afford such costly work.
Historically, Japan thread embroidery began in China with gold, silver, and copper metalwork. Gold and silver yarns were made by pounding gold and silver stock into extremely thin leaf, which was sliced into very narrow strips and then rolled around a core and twisted into yarn.
Layered with the embroidery, this kimono likely uses Yuzen Dyeing for its intricate designs. The term yuzen is named for the legendary Kyoto-based artist Miyazaki Yuzen Sai (1650-1736), who was a lauded fan painter and the man who came up with the original techniques still seen in traditional kimono dying today.
Likely using the Kyo-Yuzen technique, it hails from Miyazaki Yuzen Sai’s home city of Kyoto. Created for the higher echelons of society, such as members of the imperial court, Kyo yuzen is all about showing off the finer things in life.