The Attire of Boys of the Kamakura Period (1192 - 1342), Japan

A boy belonging to the upper class of the Kamakura period is represented in the following three pictures. His hair, parted in the middle, and then hanging down back, is tied into one strand with a white fillet (moto-yui) at the nape of the neck. His attire consists of a red outer-garment called “Suikan,” a hakama, and an unlined yellow undergarment. Suikan is so named from its stiffing by the wet-and-dried method, but not by starch. He wears a pair of wooden shallow shoes like the French sabot. A “hi-ogi” or fan of thin wooden strips is in his hand. Light green and white chrysanthemum-like ornaments are attached on the inner and outer sides of the sleeves. They are called kikutoji, originally meant to prevent seams from opening. Besides, both the sleeves are ornamented near the border with white and light green tapes stitched into square or rectangular shapes. This shape is called Kenuki-gata from that of a tiny tool like the modern tweezers, used in olden times for pulling out splinters run into the skin. These tweezer-like ornaments were used mostly for boys under 14. It may be said that the elegant style of the boys of the period can be vividly seen in these illustrations.

T. Ema,
Translated by K. Takigawa

Text and image via Naomi no Kimono Asobi on Flickr.  Photos appear to have been taken during the late 19th or early 20th century

A scene from the work Boki Ekotoba (Illustrated Biography of the Buddhist priest Kakunyo) by Fujiwara no Takaaki, Fujiwara no Takamasa and Fujiwara no Hisanobu. Important Cultural Property, from the Nanboku-chõ period (Period of the Northern and Southern Courts), second year of Kan’o (1351) 

This is from the fifth volume of a ten volume set detailing the life of the Jõdo Shinshū priest Kakunyo of the Nishi Honganji temple in Kyõto

In this scene, the Buddhist priest Kakunyo (in the centre of the group wearing a grey hoi) and some laymen have gathered to compose poems. The vermillion-coloured garment worn by the samurai on the right is termed a suikan. It’s worn with a pair of loose fitting hakama (billowing pants). The noble on the left is wearing a brown kariginu also worn with hakama.

A hunting outfit, kariginu were popular during the Heian period (794-1185). With horseback riding and the drawing of a bow in mind, particular attention was given to the sleeves. The sleeves were attached to the body only at the back and bottom with the top of the shoulder unstitched. The sleeves had a cord at the cuffs to tie them closed for hunting and other activities.

Shorter and less formal than the kariginu was the suikan. The suikan was also worn by lower class people as a formal visiting garment, as a uniform by men who served the nobles, and towards the end of the Heian period as the ceremonial dress of the rising samurai class.

Suikan looks just like kariginu but has one pair of kikutoji knots in front and four pairs on the back. It also has long cords attached to the neckline so that it could be worn as an open neck garment in summer. It also has a cord at the cuffs to tie them closed.

Merchants wore beautifully designed unlined upper garments with broad sleeves, while common people were restricted by law to wear a certain style. Common men wore a suikan with a stand-up collar tied on the right and an early form of short hakama.   

© James Kemlo