Japanese suicide pilots (called tokkotai, and later, kamikaze) would paint cherry blossoms on their planes before a mission or take an actual twig of the tree with them, an association evident in the pattern of this rare woman's garment.
2009 was celebrated in Japan as the 70th anniversary of the flight of the Nippon go, the first Japanese plane to circumnavigate the earth. This elegant man's nagajuban (robe) from 1939 shows the plane superimposed over the globe with a map of its route and vignettes and flags of countries around the world. Norman Brosterman Propaganda Kimono Collection.
In this man's garment dating from 1940/1941 when the Tripartite Pact inaugurated the Axis Powers, tiny, precise, images of a visual lexicon of characters from Japanese folklore, including Momotaro ("Peach Boy" - the samurai with his friends, a fox, monkey, and pheasant), and Kintaro, ("Golden Boy" - the plump fellow carrying a bear), are interspersed with the flags of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and military motifs like anchors, bugles, and helmets.
The ways that Japanese artists captured the beauty and power of nature with a simple stylized line or form, as seen [above], inspired artists in the West and informed Western art movements such as Art Nouveau. Woman’s Unlined Kimono (hitoe) with Waves and Dots. Japan, early Shōwa period (1926-89), c. 1935. Photo and caption courtesy Museum Associates/LACMA. Text by Mallika Rao, The Huffington Post, July 8, 2014
Boy's omiyamairi (christening robe) with battleships and tanks, silk, 1930's. Omiyamairi are still used to swaddle 30 day old infants for their naming day at Japanese Shinto shrines. The militaristic imagery on this beautifully made robe could only have been used during the run-up to WWII. Norman Brosterman Propaganda Kimono Collection.
Japanese baby boy's kimono with planes and bombs, rayon, circa 1937. This tiny garment was exhibited in the Fall of 2012 in the Museum of Modern Art's show, Century of the Child, Growing by Design 1900-2000. Norman Brosterman Propaganda Kimono Collection.