Crashing baby blue crested waves. Various-sized red, white, yellow, and baby blue squares. A peaceful but bold black background. Together, these descriptions compose an early 20th-century Japanese woman’s kimono that is on view in the exhibition The Ripple Effect.

As part of the museum’s observance of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Japanese immigrants to Hawai‘i, also known as gannenmono, The Ripple Effect focuses on Japan’s reverence for the element of water. (Makes sense, since life is made possible by water, at least according to those investigating life on Mars, right?) An island nation surrounded by water, Japanese textiles often feature water motifs. In Japanese culture, water is the primary force of nature, and represents the passage of time as an endless flow—one that is fluid, flexible and resilient as well as sacred and pure.

In this kimono’s case, “the constant cycle of waves can signify tranquility as well as ferocity and resilience.” Anyone who has seen or felt the power of the ocean can attest to this sentiment. The large graphic patterns of crested waves, kata-onami, mark both an eternal and ever-changing existence, a testament to nature’s vitality.

This kimono will be on view until September 30. Learn more about The Ripple Effect here.

Woman’s Kimono 
Japan, Second Quarter 20th Century
Silk, plain weave, stencil-printed warp and hand-tie-dyed weft kasuri (ikat)
Purchase, 1999  (9070.1)