Making Asagao (Japanese Morning Glory) with Tsumami-zaiku

You can find Asagao, the Japanese morning glory, in almost all colors, but it is usually blue, purple, or pink. So today I would like to make a simple blue Asagao tsumami zaiku flower with white stripes.

You’ll be learning new techniques this time! The first is making a corn-shaped base, and the next is turning petals inside out. They may be a little bit hard at first, but don’t worry! You can do it!

You will need:

  • five 1.5 (3.8 cm) inch blue cloth squares 
  • five 1 (2.5 cm) inch white cloth squares 
  • one 1 (2.5 cm) inch round thick paper disc
  • one 1.5 (3.8 cm) inch white cloth square 
  • decorations for the center (see my examples!)
  • glue
  • tweezers
  • wet towel to clean your finger

How to make:

1.Make a base.

a. Slit the paper disc halfway and glue about ¼ of it.

b. Put some glue on the convex side and put 1.5 inch white cloth on.

c. Cut off the excess cloth and glue the cloth inside (concave side).

2. Make 5 petals with blue cloths using Maru-tsumami.

3. Make 5 petals with white cloths using Ken-tsumami.

4. Cut the bottom parts of white petals.

5. Turn the blue petals inside out.

6. Put glue on the disc and place your blue petals evenly.

7. Put some glue on the bottom of your white petals and place them between the blue petals.

8. Put some glue on the sides of blue petals and glue them together with the white petals between each other.

9. Let the glue dry.

10. Put some decorations on the center if you like.

11. Done!

Bonus: Making a Asagao leaf

You will need:

  • one 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) green cloth square
  • two 1 inch (2.5 cm) green cloth squares
  • glue
  • tweezers
  • wet towel to clean your finger

How to make:

1.Make Maru-tsumami with the 1.5 and 1 inch cloths.

2. Put some glue on the side of the peak of the 1.5 inch Maru-tsumami and stick 1 inch Maru-tsumami on each side.

3. Let the glue dry.

4. Done!

Asagao, Japanese Morning Glory

One of the most popular summer flowers in Japan is Asagao,  the Japanese morning glory. We write it with the characters “morning” and “face.” Just like in English, it was named because it only flowers in the morning.

It was brought to Japan around 1200 years ago by Japanese ambassadors returning from China. It was actually cultivated because of its seeds, which were used for medicinal purposes. But because Asagao starts blooming around the Tanabata season, people grew to love the flower itself because of its relation to the star festival’s legend. 

Its Chinese name is “Kengyu,” another name for Hikoboshi, the cattle herder from the Tanabata story. Since “Kengyu” means pulling a cow, and the seed was very valuable as a medicine at that time, a person who was sent the seed visited the sender’s place to thank them by pulling a cow. 

Photo by Julissa Helmuth on

In the Edo era,  people started calling the flower “Asagao Hime” and associated it with Orihime, the weaver from the Tanabata legend. People started thinking that Orihime and Hikoboshi could see each other if the flower bloomed, so the flower became a bringer of good fortune. It became so widely grown that by the end of the Edo era, people had cultivated more than 1,200 breeds. 

Since it’s very easy to grow, modern day Japanese students often grow it for a science project in school—myself included! And since it’s very resilient to the heat, some people grow it like a curtain during summer for shade. Its leaves absorb so much heat that it makes it as cool as standing in the shadow of a tree.

I would like to share “How to Make the  Asagao Flower” in my next post, so see you soon!

Making a Hanabi-like Flowers “Peony” with Tsumami-zaiku

Have you tried making “chrysanthemum” flowers with Tsumami-zaiku? Today I would like to share how to make “peony” flowers. I’m going to use orange and yellow colors again like last time. But you should use whatever your favorites are. Pick 2 or 3 colors that you think will make your hanabi flowers beautiful!

My blog about “Hanabi, Fireworks” link is here!


Photo by Min An on

You will need:

  • eight 0.75 inch (1.9 cm) orange square cloths
  • eight 1 inch (2.5 cm) white square cloths
  • eight 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) yellow square cloths
  • one 1 inch round thick paper disc
  • glue
  • tweezers
  • wet towels to clean your finger

How to make:

1. Make 8 petals of each size of cloth with Maru-tsumami.

2. Put glue on the paper disc and glue on the 0.75 inch square cloth petals evenly.

3. Put the 1 inch petals between the 0.75 inch petals.

4. Put some glue on the 1.5 inch petals’ peak side and slide them between the 1 inch petals.

5. Reshape the flower before the glue dries completely.

6. Put a little glue on the side of 1.5 inch petals and glue them next to each other. 

7. Let glue dry

8. Put some decorations with glue on the center.

9. Done!

Tokyo Olympics 2020 Emblems

Did you notice the emblems from the Tokyo Olympics 2020? The deep blue and white checkered pattern was called “harmonized chequers emblems.” It appears to be a very modern design, but actually has strong influences from Japanese tradition. 

Did you know that a checkered pattern is used in traditional Japanese design? Maybe you’ve seen the Japanese anime “Demon Slayer” and have seen how the main character, Tanjirou, wears a green and black checkered jacket?

Ichimatsu pattern with green and black colors

We call this checker pattern “Ichimatsu pattern.” It is named after a handsome kabuki actor from ancient Tokyo, which was named “Edo” about 300 years ago. Ichimatsu Sanogawa wore a hakama (a kind of loose-fitting trousers) with a checkered pattern on stage once, and his pants were a huge hit. From then, people started calling it the “Ichimatsu pattern.” 

An image of a Kabuki actor
Hakama (a kind of loose-fitting trousers)

Prior to Ichimatsu, the pattern was called the “stone path.” The squares repeating continuously symbolizes eternity, a prosperous family, and a business expansion. We consider this pattern to bring good fortune. We use it for gifts, and some families use it in their family emblems. (Yes, Japanese families have traditional emblems!)

Some popular Japanese family emblems

The Tokyo emblems also have another traditional meaning. Its deep blue is called “Ai” in Japanese, which can mean indigo. Cloth dyed in indigo becomes antibacterial, odor eliminating, insect proof, and flame resistant. Because of its many useful properties, it was used widely in daily life—as well as the uniforms of the Edo firefighters. Indigo is sometimes used to represent Japan, and people call it “Japan Blue.” 

Kendo (Japanese style fencing) also uses Ai (indigo)
Edo firefighters

This deep blue color is also called “Kachi-iro.” The sound of “kachi” means victory, so samurai wished for victory by wearing deep blue clothes. By the way, Japan’s national soccer team uses it as their team color, and are called “Samurai Japan.”

This post ended up being a bit different from my normal blog post, but I really wanted to share with you how the 2020 Olympics emblem design represents Japan—particularly Tokyo. Kabuki, woodblock printing, the indigo-wearing samurai and the city’s firefighters, are all closely associated with Edo, ancient Tokyo.

“The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Hokusai Katsushika

I hope you enjoyed this article.

If you are interested in Japanese family emblems, here is a link to “Kamon no Iroha” which means “ABC’s of Japanese family emblems.” This site is in Japanese but you can still enjoy looking at them.

And about Japanese traditional patterns, here is a link to “Dentou Monyou” which means “Traditional (Japanese) Patterns.” This site has English translations.


A yukata is a thin kimono that Japanese wear for summer festivals and events. Nowadays, it has also become a kind of special summer fashion. 

Photo by Quu1ed1c Bu1ea3o on

It began as a garment worn for steam baths during the Heian era. Later, when people started bathing in water, it transitioned to after-bath wear. Being associated with relaxation, people also wore it at home—kind of like how people nowadays wear pajamas around the house. Despite looking similar to a formal kimono, Japanese people actually consider Yukata to be casual clothing.

There are some structural differences between mens’ and womens’ yukata. Women’s yukata have open parts under the armpits called Miyatsu-guchi. Another difference is length. Men’s length depends on their height, but you can fold women’s around the waist to the length you prefer. (The folded part is called ohashori.)

While mens’ and womens’ yukata have differences, there is one thing that both genders absolutely must do. You always need to fold the left side over the right side. It’s very important to remember, because wearing a kimono with the right side on top is how we dress the deceased for funerals. Wearing it like that means that you’re dead! 

A long time ago, making yukata was seen as women’s work. Girls even learned how to make yukata at school until recently. I remember both my grandma and great grandma making yukata for my sister and I when I was still in preschool. It’s one of my happy memories about yukata.

Making Hanabi-like Flowers “Chrysanthemums” with Tsumami-zaiku

In my last post I wrote about how Japanese hanabi (fireworks) are often described as chrysanthemums and peonies. So today I would like to show you how to use a chrysanthemum and peony pattern to make hanabi-like flowers. I love traditional orange and yellow Japanese hanabi, so I’m going to use those colors. But I think you should use whatever your favorites are. (Also, using 2 or 3 colors makes hanabi flowers beautiful!)


Photo by Bud Jenkins on

You will need:

  • ten 0.75 inch (1.9 cm) yellow square cloths
  • ten 1 inch (2.5 cm) white square cloths
  • ten 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) orange square cloths
  • one 1 inch round thick paper disc
  • glue
  • tweezers
  • wet towels to clean your finger

How to make:

1. Make 10 petals of each size of cloth with Ken-tsumami.

2. Put glue on the paper disc and glue on the 0.75 inch square cloth petals evenly.

3. Put the 1 inch petals between the 0.75 inch petals.

4. Put some glue on the 1.5 inch petals’ peak side and slide them between the 1 inch petals.

5. Reshape the flower before the glue dries completely.

6. Let glue dry.

7. Put some decorations with glue on the center.

8. Done!

Hanabi, Fireworks

Summer is here, and one of the most important things about summer in Japan is hanabi! Hanabi means “fireworks” in Japanese. It is written using the characters for “flower” and “fire.” We enjoy watching fireworks at summer festivals, and having fun with sparklers with family and friends.

I love watching fireworks. From a closer distance, it’s a more sensory experience. The boom of the explosion, the sudden brightness, vivid colors, smoke, and crackles as the sparks spread across the night sky! Even the silence takes on a presence once the show comes to an end. 

From far away, the delay between color and sound is like lightning and thunder. The fireworks are smaller, but they blend together with the scenery to highlight the landscape. I think it’s yet another way to enjoy them.

So today, I would like to write about Japanese fireworks.


In Japan, summer fireworks have a deeper meaning than just entertainment. The “Bon” holiday happens in the middle of August. We believe that departed souls return to their family during this holiday, so we build a fire as a beacon to guide their souls back to this world. Once Bon is over, we send them off with prayers as they return to the afterlife. Some people say that fireworks serve this same purpose. There is a story of one shogun who sent off the souls of those who lost their lives to disease and famine with a fireworks display.

Japanese Fireworks

Aesthetically, Japanese appreciate fireworks’ homogeneousness and symmetricalness, so many Japanese fireworks are round like chrysanthemums and peonies. Firework artisans place immense importance on creating round, homogeneous “hoshi.” In Japanese, “hoshi” usually means star, but here it’s used for the explosive parts of the firework. Setting expertly crafted hoshi around a sphere creates a beautiful, flowerlike pattern that is appreciated not only for its colors, but as an expression of the artisan’s skill.

Here is a video from YouTube about Japanese fireworks making. It is in Japanese but you can still see how Japanese fireworks are made, as well as the artisan’s skill. If you watch it, pay particular attention to their motions, as they have honed their technique for years. You can also turn on Youtube’s translations in your language if you’d like.

Fireworks Festivals

During summer, especially July and August, there is a fireworks festival every weekend somewhere in Japan. Many people attend wearing yukata, traditional Japanese clothing for summer. (A yukata is like a thin kimono.) Fireworks festivals usually have many stands with food and games, so you will see people wearing yukata waiting in line for treats like shaved ice, one of the more popular festival eats.

In Japan, people can sponsor fireworks. They “buy the rights” to an individual or a group of fireworks, and an announcer reads a message when they are launched. Some people use them to show their gratitudes to loved ones. Some festivals are even competitions where fireworks artisans compete with each other to create the best display. 

Many festivals have been cancelled recently because of the pandemic. However, if you have a chance to visit Japan in the future, visiting a fireworks festival will be a great experience. Don’t miss the chance to wear a yukata, either!

Tanabata, the Star Festival

Every July 7th is the Star Festival, called “Tanabata” in Japan. The original story came from China and arrived in Japan during the Nara era (710 – 794). 

The story is like this:

A long time ago, there was a girl named Orihime, a daughter of one of the gods and a very good weaver. Her father was searching for a husband for her, and found a boy  named Hikoboshi, a cattle herder. 

They fell in love and got married. However, they became lazy after the marriage and did not work at all. Orihime’s father became furious about their complacency and set each on either side of the Milky Way as punishment. The pair was heartbroken and wept constantly. Feeling compassion for them, Orihime’s father gave the couple permission to see each other once a year on July 7th at night. 

But, it is said that they cannot meet if it rains, so we always wish for no clouds in the sky. 

There is a Japanese tradition of making decorations and putting them on bamboo branches for Tanabata. People also write their wishes on colorful rectangle papers and set them on the bamboo along with the decorations. Because Orihime was good at weaving, people usually wish to become skilled at something.

Bamboo is important for Tanabata, so today I would like to share how to make bamboo leaves with Tsumami-zaiku. 

By the way, bamboo is a very important plant for Japanese culture in general, not just on (hopefully) starry holidays. It is a bringer of good luck, along with plum and pine plants. We use it with many things like crafts and tools. Bamboo shoots are also a seasonal food eaten in spring.

How to Make Bamboo Leaves

It is very easy!

You will need:

  • three 1 inch (2.5cm) square cloth (green)
  • one ¾ inch (1.9 cm) round paper disc (thick paper is better)
  • glue
  • tweezers (You don’t need tweezers, but it’s much easier with them)
  • wet paper towels for cleaning your fingers

How to make:

1.Make three leaves from the green 1 inch square cloths with Maru-tsumami. (“How to make Maru-tsumami” link here.)

2. Cut the round paper disc into quarters.

3. Glue the bottom of the leaves and place them on the quarter paper disc. This time, place the round side of the leaf up.

4. Reshape the flower before the glue dries.

5. Let it dry completely.

6. Done!

You can make it with two-fold Maru-tsumami too (“How to make twofold Maru-tsumami” is in “Risshun, The First Day of Spring” page).

How to Make a Twofold Ken-tsumami

Last time, we used a twofold Maru-tsumami to make a Japanese plum flower. Today, I’ll show you how to make a twofold Ken-tsumami. Actually, I think this is the easier of the two. I recommend using a thinner fabric for practice until you get used to it. 

You will need:

  • one 1 inch square cloth (orange)
  • one 1 inch square cloth (yellow)
  • glue
  • tweezers (You don’t need tweezers, but it’s much easier with them)
  • wet paper towels for cleaning your fingers


1.Make a single Ken-tsumami with an orange cloth. (“How to make a Ken-tsumami” is here.)

2. Fold a yellow cloth twice like the picture to make a ¼ size triangle.

3.Put the orange Ken-tsumami you made on the yellow ¼ size triangle.

4. Fold the yellow ¼ size triangle in half and sandwich the orange Ken-tsumami inside.

5. Glue the bottom part and let it dry.

6. Done!

“Risshun,” The First Day of Spring

Japan now uses the 12 month Gregorian calendar like the West, but that doesn’t mean our older, more traditional calendars aren’t still extremely important. We inherited the Chinese lunar calendar long ago, and the date of certain special events are still determined by the monthly phases of the moon.

But because the moon’s phases average only about 29 days, we used another Chinese calendar to keep track of the seasons. In Japan, we call it the “Nijushi sekki.” It’s based on the solar cycles, and under it, the first day of spring is called “Risshun.”

Risshun falls on February 3rd this year. Hearing “Risshun” makes Japanese feel like “spring is coming” even though it’s still very cold outside. Around this time, the “ume,” or the Japanese plum flower, also starts blooming. Like I mentioned in another post, ume flowers herald the arrival of spring. (The post about Japanese plum “Ume” is here.)

So in honor of the coming spring, I’m going to show you how to make a twofold Maru-tsumami (how to make single Maru-tsumami is here) so you can make your own ume blossom!

How to make a twofold Ume

You will need:

  • five 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) red square cloths
  • five 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) white square cloths
  • one 1 inch (2.5 cm) round paper disc (thick paper is better)
  • craft flower stamens to decorate the center of the flower
  • glue
  • tweezers (You don’t need tweezers, but it’s much easier with them)
  • wet paper towels for cleaning your fingers


  1. Making a twofold Maru-tsumami

a) First, make a triangle by folding a white square cloth half.

b) Then, fold it in half again to make a smaller triangle. Put aside.

c) Repeat 1 and 2 with a red square cloth.

d) Between the creases of the red cloth, put the white cloth triangle you made just a little bit outside.

e) Fold them in half again, but both ways this time.

f) Glue at the bottom part. You just need a dab.

g) Wait until the glue dries. (It doesn’t need to be completely dry, just enough to keep its shape.)

h) Shape the top round part to make a petal.

2. Make the other 4 petals with twofold Maru-tsumami method.

3. Put glue on the round paper disc and place the petals you made evenly towards the center.

4. Reshape the flower.

5. Let the glue completely dry.

6. Glue the flower stamens and balance them evenly.

7. Let the glue completely dry.

8. Done!