Crest (mon) of facing tortoises
Embroidery; Edo komon stenciling (rice paste resist)

The padded Edo komon chirimen silk kimono from which these crests are taken appears so plain and dark that only the embroidered crests have been photographed. On the indistinct fabric, the three-dimensionality of the the white silk stitches makes a strong impact.

The design is of two traditional facing tortoises. The long strands extending outward are actually seaweed tails, an indication of the animals’ great age. These are usually depicted as swaying gracefully behind the tortoises, but here they are splayed like sun rays so the designer could jam them into the available space. The embroiderer has managed to articulate not only individual plates of the tortoises’ shells, but individual claws and eyes. Note also that most of the embroidery work employs highly twisted thread for a nubby look, and these contrast nicely with the very few untwisted, or barely twisted, threads.

The crest above is taken from a sleeve; the crest below is taken from the center back seam, with the design adjusted slightly to take the seam into account.

The Edo komon design, detailed below, appears to be of three fan papers aligned in a circle. Some of the fans are shown in their entirety; others overlap one another. Double click on the photograph for a better idea of the minute size of the individual dots.