The colors are a message

The Japanese use a 2 colored striped curtain for festivals, special events, and to decorate spaces. If you see this striped curtain, try to imagine what is happening on the other side.



‘Kouhaku-maku,’ for festive events

紅 means red. Red and white are happy colors for the Japanese. Japanese people traditionally eat red and white color steamed buns (Kouhaku-manjyu) for celebrations.
Kouhaku-maku has been used as a decoration for celebrating special events such as weddings, starting school, and graduation ceremonies since the early Showa period.


‘Kujira-maku,’ the origin is from the colors of a whale body

Kujira-maku (Kujira means whale) represents the colors of a whale and during the early Showa period, Japanese funeral homes came up with the idea to use these colors for funerals. Before that, during the Meiji period, the funeral color was white.
In western culture black is used for funerals and during the Meiji Restoration, Japan slowly started to adopt the black color as it’s funeral color.
It seems that funeral colors from western and eastern cultures have joined together through time and have formed today’s common funeral colors. Black is also known as a noble color from ancient times and is used for celebrations at historic shrines and even at the Imperial Household.


Colorful, ‘Goshiki-maku’

Goshiki-maku (Goshiki meaning five colors in Japanese) uses the colors, white, red, yellow, green, and purple. Each of the five colors has it’s own meaning, showing the five wisdoms and body colors of Buddha. Goshiki-maku is used for announcing decorated areas at temples where the teaching of Buddhism is taking place.



The Japanese traditional color, ‘Asagi-maku’

Asagi-maku is a curtain with white and a deeper blue and is used during the Shinto ritual Jichinsai (the Shinto ceremony for purifying a building site) and Muneage-shiki (the framework-raising ceremony). Jichinsai and Muneage-shiki are held when home construction takes place. Before construction, Jichinsai offers the permission to use the land and relieves the mind of the god of the land. During Muneage-shiki, the Japanese pray for safety while building, after the basic structure has been built. Asagi-maku announces that there is a sacred area for these Shinto rituals.

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Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.