Traditional Japanese colors

Traditional colors of Japan have a long history dating back to 603 and are used in Japanese art, poetry and in kimono fabrics among other Japanese arts and crafts. Some Japanese colors have names that are imported from English and so they are written in Katakana.

But there are also Japanese ancient colors that are the equivalent to these. But are they the same? Read more to find out. In this blog Japanese teacher Miki Oosawa writes about one of these colors.

You can also listen to Oosawa sensei reading the blog herself. You can learn Japanese listening and also vocabulary and grammar from this audio/visual blog.

Dai-dai iro



 この色は何色ですか?子供の絵本に「だいだい色」と書いてあるのを見つけました。もしだいだい色を説明するなら「オレンジ色だよ」 と言いそうですが、それならオレンジ色と書けばいいのではないかと言う人もいるかもしれません。









To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video.





「オレンジ色(いろ)の花(はな)がきれいだね」や、「オレンジ色(いろ)のシャツを買(か)ったよ」などと言(い)うと、色(いろ)には幅(はば)があるような気(き)がします。一方 (いっぽう)「だいだい色(いろ)」と言(い)うと濃(こ)いオレンジ色(いろ)のイメージが鮮(あざ)やかに浮(う)かんできます


Dai-dai iro

Do you know what this color is? I found it written as ‘Dai-dai iro’ in a chidren’s book. If you have to explain what ‘Dai-dai iro’ then you would say that it is the color orange. In which case, some would probably argue that we should just write it as ‘Orange’.

The first time I found out about ‘Dai-dai iro’ was on a paint tube that I used in Elementary school. And it was written as ‘Dai-dai iro’ and not ‘Orange’.

This ‘Dai-dai’ is a fruit similar to mandarin oranges, which has been used in New Year decorations in Japan since ancient times. It has a strong sour taste and bitter flavor, so we use it to make jam or ponzu sauce. It gives them a dark color.

When we say “That orange flower is beautiful” or “I bought an orange shirt”, it seems to have a wider range of color I feel. Whereas when we say ‘Dai-dai iro’ we vividly visualize a dark orange color.

Although there are many color words that come from English that are written in Katakana, there are also a lot of names of colors that were used in Japan since olden days. You can probably make some discoveries if you look into the meanings of the colors.

色(いろ) color

絵(え)の具(ぐ) paint

果物(くだもの) fruit

酸味(さんみ) sour taste

苦味(にがみ) bitter flavor

濃(こ)い色(いろ) dark color; deep color

幅(はば)がある    have a range

鮮(あざ)やかに vividly

浮(う)かんできます imagine; come to mind

発見(はっけん)がある discover


While all of you may have a different goal, there is one common purpose that you all share, which is to use the Japanese language in order to achieve something. I would be really glad if by learning Japanese here at JOI with me, and with your peers we can help to influence your life – even a little.
When I was a child, I used to perform a musical instrument, and played various kinds of music including pop and jazz. I also love to look at old buildings like temples and shrines and so I often travel. In my class, I would like to introduce some of Japanese culture and the traditions, through learning Japanese, and also introduce some of the characteristics of Japanese people. Lets face our goals together and go for it !

Start 3 Trial FlexLessons for only $9 !