Boy’s kimono

This kind of print is called niko niko (“smile”) kasuri, and refers to printed cloth made to look like kasuri while avoiding its high cost. Niko niko is often brown, as here, or dark red, and often features a repeating cartoon-like image.

In this case, the two images are Urashima Taro and Otohime. In this folk tale, Urashima Taro rescues a turtle being teased by some boys. In return for his kindness, Taro is taken by the turtle to her underwater kingdom.  She then reveals her true identity: she is the sea princess Otohime.

Below, Taro astride the turtle on their way to her kingdom.

Here, Princess Otohime appears in human form, wearing the hand-covering sleeves of the Chinese elite.

The hexagonal shapes scattered throughout are called kikko moyo, or tortoise shell motif. Kikko moyo is popular in Japanese design as a shorthand for the turtle, which was said to live ten thousand years, and so was a symbol of longevity. Here the motif is doubly apt. It is an appropriate motif for a small boy, whose family would want him to live a long life, and at the same time it reinforces the Urashima Taro narrative.