Kamishimo (samurai man’s formal attire)
Silk warps, koyori (paper) wefts, wood
Stenciled (katazome), probably with sumi pigment

The two pieces that comprise a kamishimo are the kataginu (worn at the shoulders) and the hakama (worn below the waist). The character for kamishimo, 裃, describes it perfectly: clothing (left side of the character) – top and bottom (top right and bottom right of the character). Both would be worn over a kimono.

The traditional pattern seen here is known as same (shark) komon, a design identified with the Shimazu clan of the military aristocracy. The term komon refers to a stenciling technique in which designs composed of minute holes are cut into the stencil paper. This piece approaches 200 dots per square inch.

Komon was often dyed in very drab browns and grays. From afar, komon gives the appearance of a modest monochrome. Only when viewed up close does it reveal tiny pleasures for the eye – a sly form of luxury in a society beset by sumptuary restrictions. Below the stenciled face is shown against the blank reverse side.

The paper thread (koyori) used in this garment is so fine as to easily be mistaken for other more widely known fibers. The material is soft, supple and smooth. Paper was not used in clothes as often cotton, silk or bast fiber, but was nevertheless a fully developed industry.

A look at the mon, below.

A close-up of the mon shows the weave is different from the main body. It has been very delicately cut and pasted on to the kataginu.

Interestingly, a look at the reverse side of the central mon on the kataginu shows that it was originally intended to be diamond shaped – that part was left unresisted on the front. Since the dyeing had already been completed, the round mon had to be pasted on, and had to be slightly larger than the original diamond to hide the change.