Infant’s souvenir kimono
Figured silk

This infant’s kimono is fairly modern but nevertheless interesting as an example of souvenirs for the domestic population, not international tourists. We know it is a souvenir because the calligraphy on the collar reads Kyo Meisho, or “Famous sight of Kyoto”. Instead of a family crest on the back, it has a flaming jewel, a Buddhist symbol, so it was probably connected with a Buddhist temple.

The designs on the skirt make multiple references to gagaku, the official music of the early imperial court. There is a tsuzumi, or drum, a sho, the vertical bamboo pipes, and the ryuteki, a kind of flute, as well as the headgear traditionally worn by gagaku musicians. Outside the court itself, imperial music was only played at high profile temples and shrines. The instruments and headgear are scattered in a field of traditional Japanese flowers – chrysanthemums, bush clover, maple, bell flowers and lilies, among others. This same kind of design theme can sometimes be seen in old kosode of the military aristocracy.

The white ground and the flaming jewel call to mind Japanese ohenro jackets, which were worn by pilgrims who would visit temples and receive a stamp on their plain jacket for each temple visited. This might be a tongue in cheek play on that theme.

Although this is a souvenir, stenciled and made in multiples for the tourist trade, it was printed on figured silk and given a featherlight silk lining, so unusual care was used in its manufacture, and it was expected to be kept and treasured.