Child’s kimono
Dyed, hand painted

While some infants’ clothes were made from fabrics specifically designed for children, this tiny kimono was almost certainly refashioned from the lining of an adult man’s haori. The hand painted and signed design on the back depicts a scene from Yoro no Taki, a traditional tale of filial piety in which a dutiful son goes in search of sake to fulfill his father’s wish. The parents of the child who dressed their son in this robe were expressing the hope that their son, too, would grow up to be virtuous.

The artist took the time to add barely perceptible white pigment to the filial son’s face and hands. Rather than being cross-hatched by warps and wefts, the young man’s skin appears more realistic with the warps and wefts smoothed over by the pigment. This hand painted fabric includes the artist’s name and seal.

The semamori on the back appears to be two criss-crossing pine needles. The stitch work in the so-called tortoiseshell design that anchors the ties at the back is not merely decorative. According to Japanese mythology, the tortoise is said to live for ten thousand years. Thus, the design is a coded prayer for the child’s long life.