Pre-Edo Sashiko?

This is part of a thread on the SCA Japanese FB page. The original question was whether shibori or sashiko could be pre-Edo period. Shibori certainly was, although called by another name. I’ll do a separate post about that later, since shibori is an area I’m just starting to learn about.

However, I’ve been looking into sashiko. The problem documenting it is that it was a technique used by the poor, and the extant pre-1600 garments that exist are from the upper-class. What we do have is some examples of kesa (the surplice-like garment worn by Japanese Buddhist clergy), which were pieced. That technique existed. Most period paintings/drawings do not have a lot of detail on the poor. Some emaki have depictions of poor people, mainly in line drawings.

So with this lack of resources, you have to look into literature–for example, in a choka poem in the Man’yoshu by Yamanoue no Okura (660?-733?), a destitute man complains of wearing nothing but rags, “a sleeveless jacket not even stuffed with [cotton]” <–translation Steven Carter–I'd need to dig into the text to see the exact wording. While most poetry after Man'yoshu avoided the subject of poverty (until the 17th century poets revisited the subject), there are plenty of tales and writings that have some small bits of description. Padded garments require some supportive stitching, or else the padding eventually slips. Through literature, we can establish that garments were patched.

The decorative sashiko (blue on white) is almost certainly Edo-period, though. But using sashiko stitching as a means of insulation–that might be plausible.

Mistress Saionji no Hana (OL, West Kingdom) posted a link to a discussion on the Tousando Board from some years ago, where there was a discussion about an 8th century example of the kind of stitching used in sashiko. I happen to have a copy of the book mentioned, Jodai-Gire: 7th and 8th Century Textiles in Japan from the Shoso-In and Horyu-Ji by Kaneo Matsumoto and yes, there are a few examples of what looks like sashiko-like stitching. For mending purposes, however, not decorative.

This Old Thing

This was going to be a “Help, fashion emergency, should I wear this old thing or my standby Anglo-Norman garb that everyone has already seen this weekend?” but since the Calontir Coronation got pushed back a week due to the impending Ice-pocalypse, I should have time to finish something else, so I’m just posting these because I have so few pictures of myself in Japanese garb.

At my size, I feel a bit self-conscious wearing it. My body type is 100% Hungarian-American Good Peasant Stock–we’ll live during those famines!–and utterly lacks the narrow-shouldered, slim silhouette common to the Japanese. Which is why I like to make and wear garb of various cultures and not just Japanese. I do look better in European styles.

I’m wearing this as a kosode (“small-sleeved” kimono), but it was originally made as an uchikake (worn open over kosode) some 12 years ago. I’ve gain a lot of weight since then, so it doesn’t fit properly. It should be more baggy, actually, with very wide panels. There are some design things I would do differently now because I know better, but this wasn’t bad for an early work. While the Chinese brocade I’m wearing is modern, it’s not too far off from what might be worn–the Japanese DID import Chinese brocade. Besides, this was on sale and affordable.

I am wearing two kosode underneath–it’s cold here. They wore narrow obi (belts) during that time, just below the waistline, similar to how men wear obi now. This one has some interfacing to stiffen it up a bit, but time has softened it and I need to make a new one.

The wimple-like thing is called a zukin (I’ve written a few times about those–this one is a sode-zukin). My short and modern haircut just doesn’t go with medieval garb (of any country) at all, so I always wear some kind of head covering. Fortunately, it was common for upper-class women to take partial Buddhist vows, so you can wear zukin with fancier garments, although they are much more commonly used with lower-class or monastic garb.


On Matawa 真綿

A question was asked on the SCA Japanese Facebook page: “Padded Uchigi. Is this just, like, quilted? fluffy? Essentially really thick interfacing? I assume they used silk, but I can’t envision what the final product looks like.”

My answer:

真綿 (mawata) is low-quality silk, nowadays mostly used for making handkerchiefs, but was used for padding on winter garments. This page shows what it looks like:

“Was it just stuffed in or how did it stay in place?”

John Marshall actually has a chapter about it in his _Make Your Own Japanese Clothes_, where he discusses the traditional method and then a more modern method better suited towards modern washing using easier to find material (since his book IS about modern clothes). Mawata is sticky, so you basically layer it in place. This webpage shows the process for silk handkerchiefs–it is just on a larger scale for garments.

Marshall, John. Make Your Own Japanese Clothes (Tokyo; Kodansha International, 2013 reprint) 978-1568364933. Originally printed in 1988, ISBN 087011865X.

Yamabushi and Sōhei Headwear

This is from the SCA Japanese Facebook community–I was answering a question regarding yamabushi and their headwear. The original question was whether yamabushi would wear the same kind of cowl that sōhei wore into battle, and also if anyone could recommend books/sources on the subject of yamabushi.

[A quick definition: yamabushi 山伏 were/are mountain ascetics, usually solitary monks who adhered to Shugendō, esoteric Buddhism which mostly descends from the Shingon sect, but had other influences as well, including Tendai Buddhism, Shinto, and Daoism. Sōhei 僧兵 were warrior monks that were usually attached to a monastery. Yamabushi would sometimes fight, but they were mostly loners and fought in loose confederations, whereas sōhei were groups attached to monasteries.]

The Teeth and Claws of Buddha by Mikael S. Adolphson is the most thorough book I’ve found on the subject of warrior monks. Osprey has done two books on them, one on the Yamabushi and one on the monasteries. Interesting general reading, but start with Adolphson’s book if you want to go deeper into the subject.

What the sōhei wore on their heads was called kato no kesa 裏頭(か[くわ]とう)の袈裟(けさ), and they were kesa (usually worn on the chest) worn on the head–that is technically what kato no kesa means. The yamabushi would sometimes wear kato no kesa, but the headdress more identified with them is the tokin 頭襟, which looks kinda like a small black box. The Japanese Costume museum has it larger and covering the head, but I’ve seen pictures of it being smaller and worn near the forehead, as it is today. Here is a site that has some description of yamabushi clothing. It starts with doctrine, scroll down to see the parts about clothing.

As to whether a tokin would be worn in battle, I am not sure. The emaki depictions that I’ve seen of yamabushi have often just been of them traveling, and they did wear the tokin at those times.

Here’s a picture of a yamabushi from the Japanese Costume museum. Note the hat:

from the Japanese Costume Museum

Now compare to this modern Yamabushi–these are the small tokin I’ve seen in emaki scrolls:

from the now-defunct homepage of Kannonji Temple, Shiga Prefecture. Photographer unknown.

And this is an example of the kato no kesa that sōhei wore:

From the Taiga Drama, Yoshitsune, scanned by me.

Update and Correction: when questioned by HE Master Ii Katsumori regarding the modern Yamabushi (who I first identified as a reenactor), I dug deeper to find the origin of the picture, which had been uploaded to Pinterest. The picture is from a now-defunct Japanese webpage (the company hosting it closed, but the Wayback Machine caught it) here: I can’t link directly to the Wayback Machine’s page, but that’s the original (defunct) page. Just plug that in the Wayback Machine to see the text (not pictures) of the original.

This used to be the homepage of Kannonji temple. Some more digging showed that the man in the picture is Professor Yoshida Eirie, a professor of Buddhism at Hanazono University in Kyoto and a priest of Kumano Shugendo. Also a martial-arts master of Kukishinden Tenshin Hyoho Ryu. So yes, he IS a modern Yamabushi.

An Examination of Zukin

Here is a link to my Queen’s Prize Entry for 2016, which looks at zukin (hoods), often worn by Buddhist monks and nuns, but also, it turns out, by others, mostly from the lower classes. Format is PDF.

Woman wearing a sode-zukin from the NHK taiga drama “Yoshitsune”.

The paper is at this link: An Examination of Zukin

Zukin again

Battling con crud from Worldcon this week. I’m supposed to be doing a translation for someone, but my brain is so fuzzy that I haven’t been able to concentrate, so I’ve been sewing on part of my Queen’s Prize Project, which is on zukin (hoods). I’m doing the sode-zukin (which is the wimple kind of zukin that I did for that paper I wrote years ago), the zukin from The Maple Viewers (and yes, what those ladies are wearing ARE zukin–I’ve found modern variants), a mousu (which looks like a sode-zukin, but are larger) and if I have time, a kato no kesa 裏頭(か[くわ]とう)の袈裟(けさ), which is what the sohei warrior monks wore. The kanji translates as “a kesa worn on the head”. Kesa is a Buddhist religious garment usually worn over kimono as a kind of apron.


Sode-zukin example from the NHK taiga drama Fuurin Kazan.

I’m really excited about this last one–I kept wondering why I would sometimes see seam lines on what usually looks like just a rectangular white cloth tied around the head. It’s a kesa! And kesa are usually sewn with what is called the rice-field pattern. And THAT explains the seam lines!


From the NHK Drama Yoshitsune, the Warrior Monk Benkei is wearing a Kato no Kesa.

The only thing is I will have to sew like the wind to get the thing done in time and with the pattern, that’s going to be tricky. Plus I still have to write up the information, in a simple format since this is not a literary entry. But I still have almost 3 weeks. I might skip the mousu (which I don’t have as much info about, just an entry from the Japanese Costume Museum) and concentrate on the kato no kesa instead.

Ingibiorg, who also does Japanese poetry here in Calontir, did a poetry exchange with me this summer and asked if she could enter it as an A&S entry for Cattle Raids (an event up in Lincoln, Nebraska where she lives). We each wrote up explanations about our respective poems and how we took elements from each other in the exchange. I think she was going to present the poems on some marbled paper or something? Anyway, no word as to how that turned out. I hope she got some good feedback, since most people tend to ignore poetry entries.

I totally should be sleeping right now

God bless obsessive manga artists who blog about their work and how they are going to draw medieval Buddhist outfits by making little drawings showing how said outfits are put together. Sure, it’s a tertiary source, but given the lack of primary and secondary sources in English (except photos of emaki, paintings, and statues, and some spare descriptions on the Japanese Costume Museum site), I’ll take it. Got a lot of translation to do, though. (PS, I will share the source later once I get some things translated, including the artist/writer’s name, so I can properly credit). (PSS: Won’t be this week, cause Worldcon.) Oh, and those cloth hats the ladies are wearing in The Maple Viewers? So totally zukin. Like I said. *vindication feels like victory*

Katsura Tsutsumi 桂包 かつらづつみ

I was answering a question on the SCA Japan FB page and thought I’d record my answer here as well, since I just spent about an hour translating Japanese webpages.


(I found this image on a Google Search. It is from a Japanese photo blog, looks like someone taking pictures at the 2014 Jidai Matsuri parade. The photographer’s handle is EGACITE and his blog is here.)

According to the Costume Museum’s Japanese website, that particular headgear is called katsura tsutsumi 桂包 (かつらづつみ). Katsura is a village, tsutsumi is a long wrapped cloth. According to legend, the women of Katsura began wrapping their heads this way back when the Empress Jingu conquered the three Han states in Korea–the original wrapping was her belt (literally 腹帯 (ふくたい) fukutai = abdominal band, bellybelt, maternity belt, per WWWJDICT translation). It goes on to say that there is no evidence that the legend is true. Here’s a link to a different translation of the page. And yes, as Mistress Saionji says, it’s a long wrapped rectangular cloth. (Side note: Zukin are a different type of headdress–it literally translates to “hood” and was mostly seen on women who had taken Buddhist religious vows of some type.)

Here is a translation I did off of another Japanese page that was defining the term katsura tsutsumi from the Daijirin 3rd Edition: Wrap the head from behind with a long cloth such as a towel, Knot in front, then pull back the remainder on both sides of the face. This was customarily worn by common women of the Muromachi period. “Katsura” [which can mean wig] comes from the village of Katsura.

And a partial rough translation from the Encyclopedia Nipponica: A woman’s headdress from the late middle ages. Wrap the head like a headband in a long white cloth, tied a bit lower in the front. It is also called “Katsura-maki”. From Katsura Village in the Kyoto Western Suburbs. The custom was supposedly begun by fishwives and candy sellers carrying their wares. Legend claims it was bestowed on the women of Katsura by the Empress Jingu, who conquered the Three Han States (in Korea). Pictorial evidence shows this a custom of common women rather than those of the aristocracy, and there are many depictions of common women so attired.

There’s more, but I have to get back to real life. Didn’t realize there would be so much out there on a simple search. Here’s the webpage where I found the above two definitions.