In Cravat Club’s new Spring/Summer collection, we feature a host of spring-like pastel shades and beautiful earth tones. We also demonstrate our love for Japanese prints, incorporating some beautiful symbols of this fabulous land, giving you a little elegance and refinement with it. While these designs look fabulous on aesthetics alone, we'd like to dig a little deeper, and give you an idea why these creatures are quite so popular in the art of Japan.
The Koi Carp - Symbols of Prosperity
There is hardly a fish in the world more highly prized than the koi carp. Renowned for its decorative appearance as an aquarium fish, they are synonymous with Japan, where koi is the local word for “carp”. They are said to represent fighting spirit, not giving up, and overcoming seemingly impossible objects.
The old Chinese legend of The Dragon Gate speaks to this - thousands of koi are swimming up the Yellow river, eventually encountering a huge waterfall in their way. As the carp leap, the Gods for their sport make the waterfall higher each time, making it harder and harder for the fish to ascend. Eventually however, one carp makes it all the way up the waterfall, and is turned into a golden dragon as a reward for overcoming the obstacle.
As in the legend, Koi are said to symbolise good luck, ambition, success and prosperity, and as such are regarded as hugely auspicious animals. Koi carp are a way to demonstrate both perseverance and accomplishment. Additionally, when written a different way in Japanese, the word “koi” also means “love”, so these fish can also be used as a symbol of love and romance.
A popular motif in traditional Japanese Irezumi tattoos, koi feature heavily in art all across Asia, and their beautiful patterns are almost artforms in themselves.
The Majestic Crane - Peace and Good Health
The crane (tsuru in Japanese), a beautiful and incredibly delicate bird, has long been regarded as a symbol of purity, longevity and good fortune. They are also used as a symbol of peace, and are a popular theme for the Japanese art of origami. This stems from the belief that a red-crested crane can live for a thousand years, and from the fact that they are monogamous and dedicated to one partner. As well as being loyal and vigilant, they are also said to have the ability to grant wishes in return for an act of self-sacrifice. Known as “the bird of happiness”, it is easy to see why they appear so much in art and textiles all across Asia.
There is also the story of Sadako Sasaki, a girl who survived the bombing of Hiroshima. Though she survived the initial bomb blast, the subsequent radiation caused her to develop leukaemia. She intended to fold 1,000 cranes, one a day, before she died, sadly only reaching the number 644 before she succumbed to the disease. Her brother keeps a foundation dedicated to her memory and her message of peace, in keeping with the deep symbolism of the crane.
Cranes are much used on kimonos and on traditional ceramics, as well as on traditional silk decorations, and can be seen throughout eastern art.
The Mighty Dragon - Wise Water Gods
As is true in a lot of Asia, dragons in Japan are slightly ambivalent characters. While they are mighty and fearsome, and have huge power, they are not the wanton destroyers of European myth, and play different roles in the stories they feature in. For example, the mighty dragon Ryujin, also known as Watatsumi, was said to be the “God of the Sea”, both warden of the oceans and a guardian of the Shinto faith. He was also said to welcome humans into his realm if they were unfortunate enough to fall into the sea.
By contrast, the dragon Hiyume, also known as “The Princess of Purity”, was transformed by her rage into a river dragon, after being jilted by her lover, a handsome priest who had swore never to see her again. As the ferryman took her lover away, she swam out into the river and took her final and terrible shape, consuming him in fiery breath.
Whilst in Chinese myth dragons tend to be good and benevolent creatures, their Japanese counterparts are wilder and more destructive, without necessarily being evil. Rather they seem to represent forces of nature, and while inspiring awe, can either help or hinder humans as they see fit. They are more like Gods than they are good omens, and always possess great wisdom and power.
Dragons are said to bring good luck, prosperity and wealth, as well as success and wisdom. They feature heavily in etchings and paintings, and temples often feature a dragon motif in their decoration. There is hardly a more evocative creature in myth.
Whichever of our designs you choose, you’ll be wearing a silk accessory that is rooted in the culture and history of Japan. Every time you wear your cravat, you can summon up some of the allegorical power of these creatures, and the simple beauty of Japanese prints. Stand apart at your function, party, or at work, and project some of the refinement of the East.
We have no less than 35 brand new cravats with a whole host of designs and colourways for you to choose from. Coming soon, and available to pre-order now!