Michiyuki (outer coat for kimono)
Crepe silk, paper-backed lacquered thread

The michiyuki is instantly recognizable by its rectangular neckline. The checkerboard design on this fairly modern piece is ancient and widespread, as it is easily achieved by alternating blocks of two colors in warp and weft threads. Generally known as ishidatami (stone pavement) in Japanese, in the 1700s it also became known as ‘Ichimatsu’ when popular Kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu was seen to incorporate it into many of his costumes.

Unlike many Japanese garments, whose identifying tags are cut away from bolts of cloth, this michiyuki features the renowned Mitsukoshi label at the neck.

Mitsukoshi, founded in the 17th century as Echigoya, gained fame and untold fortune by revolutionizing and simplifying the previously complex process of buying fabric and clothing. Below, a Hiroshige print showing the family name, Mitsui, on shop curtains lining both sides of the street.

Close-up of the lacquered threads. Their polish, the movement of the soft cloth, and slight irregularity in the angling of the thread all help reflect small flashes of light when the michiyuki is worn. Note the barely visible seam slightly right of center, and how the tailor has taken care to complete the square – both the size and alignment are exact.