Kariginu (“hunting cloak”)
Stenciled or block printed (?)

The kariginu was originally part of a hunting costume for the Heian aristocracy. Over the centuries it underwent many variations, and is now relegated to very formal ceremonies and the theater.

This kariginu was probably used for theatrical productions in the countryside, perhaps during festivals. Traditionally, kariginu sleeves were very large, as these are, but as suggested in the photo below, there are visible seams a few inches above the bottom all across the front of both sleeves, showing a lack of material, or unprofessional planning. The very busy pattern prevents those seams from being obtrusive.

The entire garment was hand sewn. This kind of cotton print was called sarasa. Sarasa was originally imported from India and Indonesia, and so was very rare and highly prized in Japan. This sarasa is almost certainly Japanese-made, but its use in the kariginu was probably an indication to the audience that the wearer was a person of rank and wealth who had access to exotic material.

The round neck is completely out of keeping with standard Japanese clothing. The Heian kariginu was modeled after Chinese garments, and closed at the side of the neck. Side closures gave rise to rounded necklines. This simple garment has no closure, but retains the round neck of the original kariginu.

A fiber close-up.

In this small detail, there is a small wedge where the neck seam has come open, and it is possible to compare the original lighter brighter red to the red that has been exposed to the elements for decades.