nagabakama - kataginu, hakama  - Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_1783

Nagabakama (long hakama)
Asa, whalebone, koyori (paper thread)
Edo komon (small scale stenciling); pigment, hand painted

For formal occasions, samurai might wear hakama (divided skirt) whose legs were so long as to actually trail behind the wearer. Because of the resulting difficulty of navigation, the effect of the extra length was not only to promote the slow, dignified movement appropriate to a formal occasion, but also to impede possible assassination attempts. In this two piece ensemble, called a kamishimo (literally, upper and lower), the length of the kataginu from neck to waist is approximately 28 inches, while the length of the hakama from waist to hem is 64 inches.

nagabakama - expanded legs  - Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_1792

Above, the legs have been pulled to their widest to give some idea of the volume of fabric. These are close to 20 inches wide.

Below, the kataginu has been lifted in order to better show the length of the hakama. The front of the kataginu (unseen) has light paper reinforcement; the winged shape of the kataginu is maintained by long, thin, flexible material. In some instances bamboo is used; in this case whale bone has been employed.

nagabakama - kataginu lifted  - Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_1791

This angled piece goes against the small of the back. The Edo komon material is wrapped around a light, hard wooden core, probably paulownia. The folds at each side are typical of hakama.

nagabakama - back board - Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_1781

Below is a close-up of the crest on the folded front of the kataginu. Note the fine paint work on the crest.

nagabakama - crest - Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_1775

Here, the fact that the fibers are obscured unevenly by the color indicates that pigment, not dye, has been applied.

nagabakama - pigment - Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_1779

Below, a kabuki actor in the role of a samurai in billowing nagabakama that trail behind him. For an earlier posting on koyori kamishimo, click here.


5 panel wedding futon w 7 treasures  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1272

Wedding futon cover
Cotton (homespun)
Tsutsugaki (rice paste resist), hand painted; dyes and pigments

This very colorful bed cover is decorated with the seven treasures, an auspicious design meant to bring good fortune to the newlywed couple. Pride of place is given to the cape of invisibility, whose filaments are used as a device to unify the scattered treasures.

5 panel wedding futon w 7 treasures  - invisibility cape - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1293

The most detailed artistic work, however, has been lavished on the treasure bag at the bottom. The realism employed, particularly in the shading of the amusing chrysanthemum leaves that form the mouth of the bag, marks this as probably Meiji period.  Its state of preservation is testament to the reverence with which it was treated.  It was probably seldom used.

5 panel wedding futon w 7 treasures  - treasure bag - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1275

The scholar’s scroll:

5 panel wedding futon w 7 treasures  - scholar scroll - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1282

The lucky mallet:

5 panel wedding futon w 7 treasures  - mallet - Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_1286

A highly stylized clove:

5 panel wedding futon w 7 treasures  - clove - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1288

The flaming jewel, or pearl:

5 panel wedding futon w 7 treasures  - flaming jewel - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1280

The family crest:

5 panel wedding futon w 7 treasures  - aoi crest - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1300

A fiber close-up:

5 panel wedding futon w 7 treasures  - fiber close up - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1306

Like other designs, such as the phoenix and paulownia or the shishi and peony, the seven treasures theme can be found on other tsutsugaki, in strikingly similar compositions and color combinations. For example, below is a yogi from New Mexico’s Museum of International Folk Art, which is far more elaborate than the five paneled futon cover seen here. A furoshiki echoing this design, but simplified because of its smaller size, can be seen in Country Textiles of Japan: The Art of Tsutsugaki by Reiko Mochinaga Brandon.

yogi w seven treasures Museum of International Folk Art .org

sodenashi shibori safflower dyed - back - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1732

Sodenashi hanjuban (sleeveless half length underkimono)
Cotton (homespun), chirimen and tsumugi silk
Shibori, kata yuzen, damask weave

This hanjuban is composed of several high quality remnants.

sodenashi shibori safflower dyed - front - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1738

The main body is dyed with safflower and decorated in shibori. Safflower bonds easily with silk, and creates the warm red with undertones of yellow that the Japanese were so fond of. Cotton dyed with safflower generally achieves a shade of pink, such as that seen here.

sodenashi shibori safflower dyed - fiber close up - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1743

The very soft purple material at the hips appears to be silk, but on closer inspection turns out to be figured cotton. The very smooth nature of silk makes it more suited to damask weave. Figured cotton is unusual.

sodenashi shibori safflower dyed - figured cotton - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1750

The highly stylized chrysanthemum below looks as though it might date to the first two decades of the twentieth century.

sodenashi shibori safflower dyed - fiber close up  - Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1756

uchishiki from kosode  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_3329

Uchishiki (Buddhist altar cloth)
Figured silk (rinzu), gilt thread, cotton (backing)
Stenciled kanoko shibori, embroidery, couched gilt thread

Originally, this was a kosode, but it was donated to a Buddhist temple, where its panels were unsewn and then resewn into a flat, more or less square shape. The design appears to be the tree of life – a central slim tree that branches out broadly to the perimeters of the cloth – which enjoyed international popularity along the Pacific trade routes. There are three pairs of kanji – four in safflower dyed silk thread, and two in couched gilt thread. One reads ‘age’, one reads ‘joy'; one has proven difficult to decipher.

uchishiki - 2 kanji safflower - upper left corner Daily Japanese Textile IMG_3335

In Kosode: 16th – 19th Century Textiles from the Nomura Collection, Amanda Meyer Stinchecum writes about uchishiki:

Since in feudal society women ranked far lower than men, their clothing was not apt to be … cherished. Commonly when a woman died, one of her garments would be presented to the temple where she had worhipped, in return for prayers for her salvation. Many of these garments were inscribed on the lining with the woman’s posthumous Buddhist name and the date of presentation, but once donated they would be cut up for priests’ vestments (kesa), altar cloths (uchishiki), or temple banners (ban), and in the process the original inscriptions might be lost or separated from the fabric. Even those inscriptions that remained attached tell only the date of death of the garment’s owner; the kosode itself might have been made in her youth or even handed down to her from an earlier generation.”

uchishiki - kanji upper right corner kanji safflower IMG_3333

The four kanji at the top of the uchishiki are likely in their original locations, and were formerly the left and right sleeves, and left and right center panels of the kosode. The lower right red silk kanji is from a separate panel, and may have been the left front sleeve. The integration of kanji into kosode design was notable in the 17th and 18th centuries. Often there was a reference to classical literature in the kanji chosen. This would have been an extremely expensive and time-consuming garment, and would have been worn by a woman of very high social rank.

uchishiki - kanji - center back gold kanji  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_3334

Some of the couched threads have come loose with time, but the safflower dyed threads have all remained in place. Much of the design is rendered in stenciled kanoko, which was meant to mimic shibori kanoko. Stenciled kanoko was less labor-intensive than shibori kanoko, but it is believed that the change to stenciling over time was due to style preferences rather than monetary considerations.

uchishiki - lower right corner kanji gold thread  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_3330

The back of this kosode has no inscription, unfortunately, but interestingly we can see that the couched thread kanji were reinforced on the back, probably to help support the extra weight imposed by the gold threads.

outline of kanji  on reverse  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_3327

Daily Japanese Textile would like to extend the heartiest appreciation to Midori Sato for her reading of the calligraphy.

arm band   Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_4843

Arm band / amulet carrier(?)
Silk velvet, metal (brass?), gilt paper thread

Very little can be said about this arm band with certitude. On the front, it has a beautifully engraved mitsutomoe (three commas) crest.

arm band - front of clasp   Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_4838

On the back is a woman’s name: Shizu. Women were known to sometimes write their names on their belongings.

arm band - back of clasp IMG_4828

In the photo below is the clasp opening. The clasp is puzzle-like. First the tongue must be inserted, then the entire side of the clasp with the tongue must be slid along grooves until it locks into place. When closed, the clasp is hidden. Out of focus in the back of the picture, a sliver of white is visible. That is the opening in the velvet fabric.

arm band - clasp opening  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_4841

When the slit is held open, the armband’s luxurious lining is visible.

arm band - hidden opening   Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_4833

In the photograph displaying the clasp, a flash of white can be seen in the opening on the underside of the velvet. If the owner had wanted the slit sewn up, it would have been. The slit was deliberately left open so this paper could be inserted and pulled out at will. The paper is all but illegible, but the triangle in the center seems to point to a talismanic purpose. (Readers who can decipher the writing are encouraged to write in.) Since women did not typically wear arm bands, this may not have been worn, but instead kept in close proximity, perhaps in a handbag or other personal item. In any case, the paper was clearly treated very reverently, wrapped in silk velvet and gilt thread, both expensive materials; and the arm band itself seems to have been very important to the owner.

arm band - talisman inside   Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_4831

yogi w corssed feathers, back  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_0001

Yogi (sleeping coverlet)
Stenciled paste resist; probably dyed with sumi or sumi and indigo

This coverlet originally had a lining, and was stuffed with a thick layer of cotton wadding.

yogi w corssed feathers, front   Daily Japanese Textile IMG_0008

Although shaped like a kimono, with sleeves, it was draped over the bed like a blanket during sleep.

yogi w corssed feathers, fiber detail  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_0003

Below, a drawing of a woman sleeping under a yogi with a popular design of rabbits jumping over waves and a crest of sedge hats. (Drawing from Mingei Arts)

yogi from

green furoshiki with poem  front Daily Japanese Textile IMG_0189

Stenciled paste resist

This small furoshiki is decorated with a poem that is very difficult to read. (Readers who can decipher the furoshiki are highly encouraged to write in.)

green furoshiki with poem  crest  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_0195

The furoshiki is green, a color which did not exist in Japan in a single natural dye. It was necessary to overdye, using blue and yellow. In the crest above, it is possible to see very small places where the two colors do not overlap, and blue and yellow are just barely visible.  (Double click for best results.)

green furoshiki with poem  fiber close up ITOH  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_0196

Below is the reverse side of the furoshiki. The poem is clearly visible, showing that the furoshiki was dyed and resisted on both sides.

green furoshiki with poem  reverse  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_0199

purple kosode  back  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_9778

Silk, cotton (collar lining)
Yuzen, stenciling, hand painting with sumi

This five crested kosode for formal occasions is still unfinished inside the collar, and so appears never to have been worn. Although this is a very subdued piece, it is highly luxurious, and would have been made for a young woman of considerable wealth and social status. The design marks this as a late Edo kosode, when social stratification was still rigidly enforced. Members of the merchant class were placed at the lowest rung of society, yet their wealth made them socially powerful. Mutually beneficial marriages took place between socially elite but financially strapped members of the military aristocracy and wealthy members of the merchant class. Although members of the merchant class were barred from wearing silk by sumptuary laws, these laws were often flouted.

purple kosode  front  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_9785

The theme of large rocky outcroppings was very popular in Edo period yuzen, with shades and indentations in the rocks often embroidered in. Below, the center seam is visible. The left and right panels match up nearly exactly. Most kimono are designed so that left and right panels do not need to match up because of the extra time, labor, skill and cost that would be required.

purple kosode  back detail  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_9781

Here the shades and indentations have been dyed. In this photograph, it’s clear that this is a summer kosode in ro weave. This is a looser, airy weave which allows more air passage during the hot summer months.

purple kosode  rock detail   Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_9783

The feathers on the white plover have been painted in with sumi ink; those on the blue plover have been resisted with very finely drawn paste resist.

purple kosode  plovers  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_9769

This crest bridges the center seam, and so had to be prepared on two separate panels and sewn together, requiring careful coordination for the whole thing to come together, as noted above. Even so, ideally, only one set of gaps would be seen between the leaves, not two.

purple kosode  crest  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_9792

man's shibori yukata back  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_8406

Man’s yukata

The location of the frothing waves, restricted on this yukata to upper right and lower left, indicate that this is probably a festival yukata.

man's shibori yukata  sleeve  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_8394

Frothing waves have a very long design tradition in Japan, with Hokusai’s well known ukiyo-e being the best known of these in the West.

man's shibori yukata fiber close up  Daily Japanese Textile  IMG_8397

hokusai great wave

child's happi w toy horses  back  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1507

Child’s happi
Stenciled, with dyes and pigments

child's happi w toy horses  front  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1513

child's happi w toy horses  crest  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1511

child's happi w toy horses horse head  Daily Japanese Textile IMG_1517


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