Name: kiku (菊) Chrysanthemum
Seasonal Association: Autumn
When To Wear It: All Year
Kiku was introduced from China during the Nara period. They typically bloom in late summer and will last until the first snowfall. Because of their hardiness and medicinal properties, kiku are often associated with longevity. Perhaps because of this, the kiku was adopted by the Japanese imperial family as its crest and the official flower of Japan. The Japanese emperor is said to sit on the chrysanthemum throne and it is the longest uninterrupted line of monarchs in the world making the long-lived kiku a very appropriate symbol.
The crest of the imperial family shows a kiku with 16 petals in the front and 16 almost completely hidden petals in the back. Only the emperor can use the 16 petaled kiku, so kiku found on kimono, official documents, Japanese passports, and the 50 yen coin will all have a different number of petals.
forgive my poor photography skills.
Traditionally, kiku are celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month (according to the old Japanese calendar) during the Choyo Festival, but this tradition has fallen out of favor in modern times. The Choyo Festival was traditionally the signal to change from unlined hitoe kimono to lined awase kimono.
Identification: There are four distinct types of kiku found on kimono.
1: Kiku 菊(Chrysanthemum)
The standard kiku has tightly packed petals that are either round or elongated, but are always smooth around the edge. Kiku with round petals tend to have more than one layer. Kiku with elongated petals tend to have only one layer of petals.
Kiku with elongated petals. The first example has a double layer of petals while the second example only has a single layer.
Kiku with more rounded petals and many layers.
2: Nejigiku 捻じ菊(Twisted chrysanthemum)
This flower resembles a regular kiku with elongated petals, but the petals are twisted around the center.
please note, the flower with five petals is not a kiku but an ume (plum blossom).
3: Koringiku/manjugiku* 万寿菊 (Steamed bun chrysanthemum)
This is a very stylistic depiction. It was first created by the artist Korin Ogata, and took its name from him, but it also resembles a manju (steamed bun) and was given this colloquial name as well. This kiku is very round and has no defined petals.
*manjugiku also means marigold in Japanese.
4: Ragiku 乱菊 (Spider chrysanthemum)
This kiku has clusters of long, narrow petals with a distinctive upwards curl at the end of the petal.