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Asagao

Motif Information
Asagao
Rōmaji Asagao (kengoshi)
English Japanese Morning Glory
Kanji 朝顔 (牽牛子)
Kana あさがお (けんごし)
Season Summer
Seasonal Exceptions None
Auspicious No
Motif Type Flower
Pronounciation
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Asagao (English: Japanese morning glory, botanical: Ipomoea nil) is a climbing plant from Convolvulaceae family, with trumpet shaped flowers. It is one of the most popular summer plants in Japan, very often depicted in yukata and other summer wafuku items. The pattern is also known as kengoshi, which usually means the medicinal asagao seeds but can refer to the plant itself[1].

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Detail of Asagao-zu byobu (朝顔図屏風, early 19th century) by Suzuki Kiitsu in collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Roosters, Chicks, and Morning Glories (c.1890) by Watanabe Shōtei in collection of the Walters Art Museum

Summer.

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

According to Yumioka Katsumi, asagao symbolises summer especially in Edo. It was a favorite flower among commoners and was extremely popular in the Bunka era. Asagao blooms splendidly, everywhere at once, but only for a short while.[1]

Common Motif Pairings

Identification & Style Variations

Asagao has trumpet-like, often pink or blue flowers. It has five petals, which create a five-pointed star form inside the flower. This star is a key feature in identifying asagao. It's usually white, but especially in stylised patterns, can be of other colours as well. Unblooming buds are tightly shut, with swirling lines denoting the future trumper-shape. It is a slender climber and the leaves are three-fingeres, shape varying. Asagao flowers are usually seen with the leaves, although they may appear alone.

Asagao in its simplest form is a circle with a thin five-point star inside.

Motif Examples

NOTE: See more relevant images in our corresponding gallery.

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Kaga Chiyo (かが千代, c.1845) from the series Delicate Ladies of Our Country (本朝たおやめ揃の内, Honcho taoyame soroi no uchi) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi in collection of British Museum

Asagao is the title of Chapter 20 in the Tale of Genji, after the eponymous princess Genji tries to woo in it.

In Poetry

Chiyo (福田 千代尼):

朝顔に asagao ni The morning glory
釣瓶とられて tsurube torarete the well-bucket entangled
貰い水 morai mizu I go ask the neighbor for water


Bashô (芭蕉):

あさがほに asagao ni by the morning-glories
我は飯くふ ware wa meshi kuu I am this rice-eating
おとこ哉 otoko kana fellow

Article Notes

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References

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Image Credits

  • Chrissy Yenowine
  • Muhvi

Authors & Contributors

Author/s: Anna Miró (U no Hana (IG Username)), Ulpu Pajari (Peccantis (IG Username))

Contributors: n/a

References