Artist: Nakajima Tanjirō 中嶋丹次郎

Title: Hinagata yado no ume  雛形宿之梅(Pattern Book: The Plum Trees of Our Home)

Date: 1730

Medium: Woodblock print, black ink on paper.

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection Box 55 Item 9 (


After two pages of introductory text, this volume features thirty-six kimono designs. The designs range from simple black and white foliate patterns to elaborate imaginary landscapes replete with animals and dense vegetation. These designs continually reiterate motifs of the plum tree and plum blossom, an event associated with early spring. Accompanying the kimono designs are one to two lines of text. This text was rather flexible. It could describe the pattern, be used for an evocative excerpt of poetry, and in some cases dictate to the clothier certain techniques and tools that could best be used to render an elaborate design. Kimono pattern books, or Hinagata-bon, were working documents heavily used by both clothier and customer as cheap and quick reference material for the latest designs. However, the books could also be collected for sheer pleasure; certainly, there was something to be gained by simply perusing the newest styles for the year, ruminating on the elaborate patterns and staying current in the fast-moving world of Tokugawa period fashion.

Although Nakajima Tanjirō is listed as the primary artist of this work, the pages in this volume contain the signatures of three additional artists: Tagagi Kōsuke, Banryuken, and Himekiya Magobei. Additionally, it should be noted that the current edition is merely one volume of the collection; additional volumes could still further complicate an assumption of Nakajima Tanjirō’s authorship. Thus, it may be more appropriate to see these kimono pattern books as piecemeal assemblages that reflect, overall, the haute couture of the era, rather than single authoritative works.

Another copy of this book is at the Ryerson Library in the Art Institute of Chicago


Selected Reading

Hillier, Jack. The Art of the Japanese Book. Vol. 1. 2 vols. London: Sotheby’s, 1987.


Siffert, Betty Y. “‘Hinagata Bon’: The Art Institute of Chicago Collection of Kimono Pattern Books.” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 18, no. 1 (1992): 86–103.


Simmons, Pauline. “Artist Designers of the Tokugawa Period.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 14, no. 6 (1956): 133–48.


Posted by Nick Purgett

May 10th, 2020