Tag Archive | headwear

More on Kato no Kesa

Detail from the Honen Shonin Eden (Life of the Monk Honen) emaki scroll (around 1307), showing monks wearing kato no kesa.

From a question on the Tousando Board about kato no kesa (someone had directed the questioner to my earlier post on the subject):

Yes, from what I have been able to figure out, kato no kesa are literally kesa worn on the head. The sōhei wore their kesa on their heads rather than on the torso as usual (perhaps for freedom of movement? or disguise?). So yes, as a shortcut you could just use a rectangular cloth tied around your head, but properly, those were kesa, which are sewn in a particular way. Most commonly, the “rice-paddy” pattern is used.

Gojokesa 五条袈裟 or Gojo no kesa 五条の袈裟 is also a term for this garment. From the dictionary definition, it was called that because of it was stitched together from five wide cloths (probably referring to the rice paddy design, which is usually done in five rows, but can be seven or nine, depending on the cloth used and the size of the wearer.

I found a cite for why they used discarded cloth:

“It is difficult to determine what is good and what is evil. Laymen say it is good to wear luxurious silks, embroidered garments, and brocades; and bad to
wear tattered and discarded rags. But in Buddhism it is the opposite: tattered robes are good and pure, richly embroidered garments are evil and soiled. The same applies to all other things as well.

The Madhyam-agama-sutra states, “Virtuous men! Suppose that someone acts purely but speaks and things impurely. If a wise man sees this and becomes angry, it is necessary for him to eliminate his anger. Suppose again that someone acts impurely
but speaks and thinks purely. If a wise man sees this and becomes angry, it is necessary for him to eliminate his anger. How can he do this? Virtuous men! He can do so by following in the footsteps of a solitary monk who picks up discarded cloth to make himself a pãmsula. Like the monk, if he finds the cloth soiled with excreta, urine, nasal mucus or anything else impure, he should pick it up with his left hand
and, stretching it out with his right hand, tear off the unsoiled and holeless parts.”

Yuho Yokoi. Zen Master Dogen (NY, Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1976)pp. 104-105.

As for wearing kesa on the head, it may also have been part of a religious ritual:

“Do-gen Zenji, at the age of twenty-five, was at Tien-tung-shan in China, doing zazen with many monks, when at the end of morning zazen he saw that a monk who sat
next to him held up the okesa with both hands, put it on his head, and with gassho
recited the verse of the okesa:

Great robe of liberation!
Virtuous field far beyond form and emptiness
Wearing the Tathagata’s teaching
We vow to save all beings.

After the monk chanted this verse three times he put on the okesa. Do-gen Zenji had
never seen this great practice before; he was deeply impressed and even shed tears
from a mingled feeling of joy and sorrow.

He talks about this in the last part of the “Kesakudoku,” saying that his robe’s collar was wet from the tears.

“When I was in Japan I read the Ãgama-sutras and found the verse of the kesa; I also found that before one puts on the kesa they should put it on their head. I had not known when and how it correctly was to be done as I had asked my master and friends
but none of them knew. I felt very sorrowful that such a long span of time had passed wastefully without knowing how to handle a kesa in spite of having been at
Hieizan for three years and at Kenninji for nine years. Now, I fortunately could
see and hear with my own eyes and ears the manner in which to wear the kesa
due to good deeds accumulated in previous existences. I was grateful and thankful.
If I had stayed in Japan, I would not have had a chance to see this great
scene. I took pity upon the people in my country because they could not see it”

Eihei Dogen Zenji, Shobogenzo – “Kesakudoku” (The
Merit of Kas´ãya); Shobogenzo -“Den-ne” (The transmission of
the Robe), trans. Yuho Yokoi with Daizen, Victoria.(Weatherhill, 1976).

The Dogen Zenji mentioned is the monk Dogen (1200-1253), founder of the Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism.

What I’m trying to research now is how the construction of the kesa may have changed over time. There are instructions online in English for making kesa (some quite extensive), but as they are concerned with modern religious Buddhist practice, they don’t really go into how the kesa might have evolved. We know that not all kesa were made from toilet rags–some extant pieces are quite fine, and may have been made with donated brocade. These are often seen being worn by wealthy lay-people. Both monks and lay-people (who had taken partial vows) were encouraged to wear kesa as a sign of devotion.

I dunno, just scratched the surface on what is a very rich tradition. It should go without saying–if you want to wear kato no kesa as part of your persona, please remember that it is still part of an ongoing religious tradition, and treat the garment with respect.

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: http://homepage3.nifty.com/huayan/temple/event06.htm. 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.

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.