symbolising the ebb and flow of life 


A pattern of overlapping circles, symbolic of waves and the ebb and flow of life


Represent the pattern on a tortoise shell and signify longevity and good fortune.

River (Kawa)

winding stream represents continuity and the future


An infinitely repeating circular design representing the seven jewels or treasures from the buddhist sutras.

Peacock (kujaku)

This bird is associated with love, good will, nurturing, and a kind heart.

Drum (taiko)

a drum represents joy. ivy growing over a drum (used to warn of war) signifies peace.


Represent learning, knowledge and a cultured life. one of the myriad treasures.


Yama Depict sacred places between heaven and earth. birds flying over mountains signify overcoming life’s challenges.

Bell Flower (Kikyo)

Usually a white, five petal flower it symbolises unchanging love, honesty and obedience

Cherry Blossom 


With its elegance, fragility and short life it symbolises renewal, new beginnings, beauty and the transience of life

Cranes (tsuru) Believed to live for a thousand years and inhabit the land of the immortals. Symbolise longevity and good fortune. a pair represent a happy marriage.



an auspicious symbol of regal beauty, rejuvenation and longevity. Used as the imperial seal of Japan, it also represents autumn and is associated with the chrysanthemum festival (kiku-no-sekku) held on the 9th day of the 9th month.

Iris (Kakitsubata)

 by a running stream evokes the tenth century ‘tale of ise’. a far travelling poet arrives at yatsuhashi, sees irises in full bloom and is struck by such longing for his wife left in far away kyoto that he writes a verse for her beginning each line with a syllable from the flower’s name ‘ka-ki-tsu-ba-ta’. signifies protection from evil spirits.

Paulownia Tree 


a fast growing tree with foxglove-like purple flowers and the only tree the phoenix will alight upon. planted when a baby girl is born, the wood is then used to fashion articles for her dowry. traditional national symbol, often seen in family crests.

Plum Blossom


the first flower to bloom in the spring and is known as the ‘flower of peace’. a protective charm against evil, it also represents longevity, renewal and perseverance. identified by rounded petals.

Peony (Botan)

known as the ‘king of the flowers’ and symbolises good fortune, wealth, high honour (nobility) and ageless beauty.

Pine Tree (Matsu)

symbolises longevity, steadfastness and wisdom in age. associated with winter and new year. sometimes represented by the pine bark diamond pattern.

Wisteria (Fuji)

signifies love and is also used in many Japanese family crests ‘kamon’

Source: ‘Symbols of Japan’ by Merrily Baird ( Rizzoli International publications, inc.)

Japanese Symbols

And Their Meanings