* Only a portion of the collection is shown.
This is a kosode believed to have been produced in the latter half of the 1670s. By around 1650, the Tokugawa government's power had been consolidated. As the national policies inclined toward civil administration, the standard of living improved. In 1666 (6th year of the Kambun era), a fashion book (Shinsen On-hiinagata) illustrating new kosode patterns was published for the general public. The publication of this type of book indicates that social changes were taking place. The kosode patterns illustrated in the book suggest that T-shaped kosode were treated as a canvas, with patterns arranged on their right half. We do not know why this layout was preferred, but as this kosode pattern arrangement is so unique, we now call it Kambun pattern or Kambun kosode.
This work is an excellent example of a Kambun kosode. The curved wooden bridge is expressed with the kanoko shibori (literally 'fawn spot tie-dyeing') technique, and the cherry blossoms are embroidered. The characters for 'flower' and 'spring' are embroidered with gold thread. The design places a strong emphasis on the cherry blossom; our national symbol as well as a symbol of spring. The creation of such new designs is proof that the kosode became a popular fashion item.
This kosode is believed to have been produced during the Tennna/Jokyo era in the 1680s. The design composition had changed from the Kambun pattern. Although some unpattened sections still remained, the pattern gradually spread across the entire kosode. The roundels of camellias, cherry blossoms, chrysanthemums and daffodils are used as a theme. The lattice motif, reminiscent of a bamboo fence, is arranged in other sections. The circular patterns of flowers were created with embroidery and stenciled fawn spot dyeing (suribitta), and the lattice painted with ink. The suribitta-decorated areas and embroidery thread have discolored to a considerable extent, and in contrast to the boldness of the black lattice, create a disharmonious composition. However, it is believed that when the kosode was first produced, the bright colored silk and gold embroidery thread imbued these circular floral patterns with a boldness that was complemented by the black lattice motif. Floral roundels were included in a 1687 fashion book Joyo-kimmo-zui, and in another published in the following year (Miyako-imayo-Yuzen-hiinagata). This design became the best-known Yuzen dyeing motif. The design was popular during the 1680s and 1690s.
This kosode design composition retains the flavor of the Kambun style. While principally using conventional techniques such as embroidery and suribitta in its expression of motifs, it also incorporates the new technique of painting with ink. This kosode is therefore believed to have been produced immediately before the period when Yuzen dyeing became popular.
This kosode is believed to have been produced during the Genroku era at the end of the 1690s. The Onna Chohoki, published in 1692, indicated that “the fashion cycle has recently become so short that trends in dyeing completely change in five to eight years,” suggesting innovative fashions were being sought during this period. As a result of developments in dyeing methods, multicolored garments became a popular trend. Improved techniques also allowed the creation of elaborate designs.
This kosode illustrates this new trend. The motifs include pine trees and wisteria arranged along rocks, symbolizing good fortune. Pine trees, withstanding severe climatic conditions and remaining evergreen, are considered a symbol of eternal youth. The wisteria, entangled with the pine tree, extends its tendrils in all directions, and has been considered a symbol of strong life. The pattern of rocks follows the Chinese convention of depicting natural rocks. The deformation of the pine trees into multi-petal led flowery patterns, the colored rocks, and the creases which are designed to add a more three-dimensional feel created by using brush work to imitate the wood-grain tie-dyeing (mokume) style, all reflect the trend of the time.
This kosode is believed to have been produced around 1715. Fashion at the end of the 17th century not only benefited from improvements in design and dyeing techniques but also from the development of wide sashes (obi). This caused significant changes in kosode design. The obi was used to separate the kosode design composition into upper and lower halves, with the colors and patterns used above the waist differing from those used below.
This work depicts dynamic waterfalls in the lower half. The upper half is decorated with a fan-shaped window, snow crystal and pine-bark inspired diamond with plum trees. The two halves of the work are coordinated using the common theme of the plum flower. A strong impact is created with the depiction of the plum flower in contrasting colors of red and white, which complement the ground color of deep green. Yet the large, white areas in the upper half soften the intensity of the colors. Pine-bark inspired diamond patterns incorporating fans and snow crystals and diamonds came into fashion from around 1687. It seems that this work was not only designed to create uniquely shaped motifs but also to create an area devoid of patterns, thereby lending serenity to the whole.
This furisode is thought to have been produced between 1728 and 1729. The work is a typical example showing patterns divided at the waist into two completely separate halves. The upper part uses a linear pattern of slanted lattices against a solid colored ground, while the lower section incorporates a wave pattern of overlaid semi-circles, reminiscent of pine bark lozenge motifs. Plum branches complete the design. The lower part employs a combination of Yuzen dyeing, tie-dyeing and embroidery, set in a composition that contrasts with the upper part. The patterns in the upper and lower sections are harmoniously integrated by arranging plum sprays on the sleeves and cherry blossom branches for the crests (date-mon).
The provenance of this kosode is revealed by an ink inscription found on a piece of red silk adhered to the inside back panel of the furisode. A renowned master, Konishi Kizaemon, who lived in Asakusa Mitsuke in Edo (now Tokyo), presented this furisode as a memento from his beloved daughter, who died at the age of 19 in 1730, to his family temple for her memorial service. The inscription enables us to accurately determine the period in which this furisode was produced.
The civil administration policies, which date back to the mid-17th century when Tokugawa Yoshimune became the eight Shogun, came to an end around the time this furisode was produced. Administrative reform was implemented based on a respect for austerity. Yet this beautiful furisode illustrates that despite the reform, the fascination for sumptuously decorated clothing continued.
This kosode is believed to have been produced during the Horeki / Meiwa era, in the second quarter of the 18th century. Although it is not as evident as other works, the composition of this kosode is divided into upper and lower sections in anticipation of the wide obi. Nonetheless, the stream running from the top of the mountain to the field spreading at its foot, the azalea arranged at the shoulder, and the dandelion, thistle, field horsetail and other plants depicted in the lower section project an impression of a mountain landscape in late spring.
Late spring is the nesting season for the pheasant, one of Japan's best-known wild birds. Pheasant meat has long been considered a delicacy to be served on festive occasions, such as at wedding ceremonies. In the saying, 'The mother's heart yearns for her child,' a pheasant's devotion to its young and refusal to abandon the nest, even when a fire is approaching, is compared to a man's deep love for his wife and children. The depiction of a pair of pheasants seems to imply this meaning. The liberated manner in which the flowing stream was created by paste-resist dyeing, and the elaborate coloring and embroidery are all of superb technical quality. It is interesting that the flowing stream is used to create an impression of distance.
This is an excellent piece believed to have been produced in the mid-18th century. The upper half of this beautiful parti-colored kosode is set in a lovely pink and has motifs of fans, snow crystals and pine-bark inspired diamonds arranged in white. Depicted within these motifs are black and white scenes from The Tale of Genji.
The titles of certain chapters from the epic novel ---- 'Hahakigi', 'Utsusemi', 'Wakamurasaki', 'Suetsumuhana', and 'Momijinoga' ---- are embroidered in silk and metallic threads. On the lower half, an elaborate beach landscape is dyed in the Yuzen style, creating a fine contrast with the upper section. Assuming that the landscape has a connection with the design of the upper half, it is believed to represent a scene from 'Akashi', the title of another chapter from The Tale of Genji. This identification is based on the depictions of sailing boats, a hut built from rushes on the beach and a building visible in the mountain.
Kamono Mabuchi and Motoori Norinaga are believed to have advocated the study of Japanese classical literature from around the mid-18th century. As a result, it was from around this time that the study of both classical literature and Japanese poems became more extensive. This period also witnessed the rising popularity of the Utai chanting of Noh, and an increasing number of citizens became interested in Noh.
It was in this setting that this kosode is believed to have been produced.
This kosode is believed to have been produced in the last quarter of the 18th century. The construction of Edo as the headquarters of the Tokugawa shogun began in 1603. At that time, the people of Edo were originally from other parts of Japan. From around the middle of the 18th century their descendants, born and raised in Edo, began to create unique Edo characteristics and culture. Identifiable Edo characteristics were found in clothing preferences and lifestyle during the 1780s and the later Temmei/Kansei era.
This kosode has scouring rush and “flowery rabbit” patterns dyed in the Yuzen style, on a figured satin with woven designs of bamboo fencing and chrysanthemums. Although we do not see any rabbits, the birdcage-like object placed between the rushes symbolizes a rabbit. This shape is also found in a silk tea caddy bag, and is known by other names such as Tsukurido. Suminokura kinran (gold brocade textile prized by Suminokura) with designs of a flower and rabbit depicted in this birdcage-like shape, was so well-known that seeing this shape reminds us of the “flower rabbits” patterns, leading us to equate Tsukurido with “flowery rabbit” patterns.
This work is an excellent example of the fashions preferred by the people of Edo.
This kosode is believed to have been produced during the Temmei / Kansei era in the last quarter of the 18th century. As a result of increasing use of a wide obi after the middle of the 18th century, and the gradual shift toward the back when tying the obi, greater importance was placed on the lower half of the garment when designing kosode patterns. The preference for larger hairstyles necessitated more frequent use of ornamental hair pins, and to offset this emphasis the kosode increased in length and consequently trailing skirts became commonplace. This led to the development of patterns at the hem. The back of the kosode became more attractive, with patterns depicted on it, but the front of the kosode became rather simple. A subsequent development was a design composition called Edo-zuma (Edo skirts), in which the pattern at the hem covers the tate-zuma (lower edge of neckband to lower edge of the overlap). During the 1770s and 1780s this style was very popular, and has been handed down to today as a distinctive design composition.
This work demonstrates a typical Edo-zuma kosode. It depicts a scene in which a boat is moving upstream on a river. This gorgeous kosode is an excellent piece of work comprising a pattern entirely reserved in white, which is embellished with delicate ink painting and embroidery with gold thread. It is believed that the under drawing was designed by Katsukawa Shunsho, a renowned Edo ukiyo-e painter.
This katabira (ramie garment for summer wear) is thought to have been produced in the second quarter of the 19th century. It is believed that the term Chaya-zome (Chaya-dyeing) derives from Chaya Sori, the initiator of this technique. Chaya-zome generally refers to cloth made of thin, high quality bast fibers, principally dyed in shades of blue. Chaya-zome is a paste-resist technique characterized by delicate thin lines that produce elaborate depictions of plants, mountains and rivers. The Chaya-zome style katabira was worn in the summer as formal clothing by women in the shogun's inner palace, and by women residing in the mansions of leading feudal lords. This garment was considered something akin to a uniform.
The material and techniques used to produce this piece are no different from those used to produce the more strictly regulated katabira worn by such women. However, the motifs of seasonal flowers and bonsai or dwarfed trees began during the Kamakura period, but it was not until the late Edo period that the word 'bonsai' was recorded and significant development of bonsai techniques was made. Bonsai was popular as a hobby among educated people. A variety of containers were used for different trees. A book published in 1830 (kinjo-jufu) included illustrations of 62 types of pots, indicating the great interest people had in bonsai at that time.
The patterns for this katabira are believed to have been selected by a person interested in bonsai.
This furisode belonged to the wife of a samurai and is thought to have been produced during the Tempo era in the second quarter of the 19th century. Under the feudal system, the clothes worn by the ruling class and by their subjects were distinctly different.
This furisode is a typical uniform worn by women who waited on samurai, particularly by women who lived in the shogun's inner palace or in the mansions of leading feudal lords. The basic design elements are pine, cherry blossom, plum, peony, maple, chrysanthemums, a stream, and a hut constructed of rushes. Particular passages of well-known historic poems, stories and songs are alluded to by the presence of such items as an ox carriage, screen, cypress fan, crown, horse's bit and stirrups. The landscape elements of water and mountains fill in the background. This design, generally called Gosho-doki pattern, comes in two variations: an all-over pattern in which the design covers the entire garment, and a style in which the upper part is left undecorated while the lower section from the waist down is patterned. The difference in these variations reflected differences in social rank.
A person of high rank wore this garment. The design theme is believed to be “Ashikari”, the title of a Noh song, based on the presence of the bamboo hat and bundle of reaped reeds near the ox carriage.
This furisode is thought to be from the third quarter of the 19th century. Hemp leaves and cranes were tie-dyed (kanoko-shibori) within the large pine-bark inspired diamonds. Interspersed between these motifs are old plum trees, depicted with embroidery and tie-dyeing. This furisode is thought to have been used for wedding ceremonies as the design includes pine, plums, cranes and hemp leaves, all of which are good luck omens.
The Edo period witnessed the establishment of a class-based society, with family background and social status clearly defined. Bans on wastefulness were often decreed during Edo period to assist in the restructuring of public finances and to maintain the feudal system. This was, in fact, a government attempt to weaken the influence of townspeople who had became an affluent sector of society. With the exception of some feudal lords with particularly large fiefdoms, the economic gap between the samurai and affluent townspeople widened over time. This wealth differential was explicitly demonstrated by the clothes worn by women.
It was compulsory for samurai to follow clothing regulations. Samurai wore high quality clothes, but the townspeople's clothing was more luxurious in terms of design and manufacturing methods. Wedding costumes, despite being worn by townspeople only once, incorporated the best available techniques and designs. This furisode is an excellent example of such high quality work.
This furisode is believed to have been produced in the third quarter of the 19th century. The plum blossom is reserved in white by the stitch-resist method of tie-dyeing (nuishime shibori). Each bunch of blossoms contains 21-24 small plum blossoms, depicted in pale blue, deep purple and light brown created by Yuzen dyeing. The cloth was then dyed a beautiful shade of red with dye extracted from safflower (beni). The quality of the safflower as well as the level of dyeing skill, must have been very high, or the cloth would not have achieved such a deep and clear color. Dyeing tiny plum blossoms in the Yuzen style is a time consuming task.
Furthermore, special attention has been given to areas where the motifs transverse seam lines, to ensure a perfect match. The garment does not look exceptional at first glance, but the need for a careful examination of the material before production, and the technical skill required must have made it an expensive piece. This trend toward less ostentatious but more technically difficult decoration on clothing reflected the feelings of the townspeople who were frustrated with their situation; although they were affluent, they were considered socially inferior to samurai. This piece illustrates how townsperson gained satisfaction by spending lavishly on inconspicuous details.
This furisode is believed to have been produced in the third quarter of the 19th century. It comprises sections of highly ribbed silk crepe dyed in four colors with six types of patterns, which have been sewn together. The method to join irregularly shaped pieces of cloth of different colors and patterns is called nuiawase, kiritsugi or yosegire, all of which means “to sew together”.
The idea of producing a piece of cloth of a particular size by sewing smaller sections together is believed to have developed naturally to supplement shortages of cloth or to utilize left-over pieces. This practical idea developed later, but the nuiawase technique was based on artistic objectives of creating a different pattern by joining pieces of cloth together. The resultant joined pieces of cloth were considered as one complete pattern, and this composition was also used for printed cotton (sarasa) and Yuzen dyeing.
This furisode was produced by someone fascinated with the pattern created by joining together one-meter lengths of cloth. Producing a work like this would probably have entailed considerable work and cost. Although an initial examination might suggest that this garment utilized this technique for economical reasons, the work is actually a very expensive one. It is a precious artifact that appears to illustrate the mentality of wealthy townspeople who were frustrated with their social position in the late Edo period feudal society.
It is believed that this garment was worn by a courtesan (keisei) of Shimabara in Kyoto.
Hitotsumi is Japanese for baby's garment. The name derives from the construction of the garment. The back panel consists of a single width of fabric.
In Japan, baby boys are normally taken to visit Ubusuna, the god of birth on the 31st or 32nd day after birth, and prayers are made for their sound growth. For this special visit, babies are dressed in miya-mairi-gi, or “clothes for visiting shrines”.
This is an example of a baby's garment with Yuzen dyed crests and lovely rabbits pulling a bag of treasure. This garment is made of high-quality silk habutae, and is believed to have been worn for celebratory visits to shrines. It was produced either for a child born in the Chinese horoscope's year of the rabbit or for a beloved child with a connection to the year of the rabbit. The depiction of treasure bags and motifs symbolizing wealth, comfort, and luxury suggest that this garment belonged to a merchant family. This garment was created in the first quarter of the 20th century, and was reportedly designed by Seiko Ueno, a renowned Yuzen designer and man of culture.
Tameji Ueno produced this furisode in 1933. Ueno was born in 1901, the eldest son of Seiko Ueno. Tameji Ueno aspired to become a painter. He studied Japanese painting, then oil painting and displayed his work at exhibitions such as the Art Exhibition of the Ministry of Education (the Bunten). In 1925, Ueno began to seriously study tegaki Yuzen dyeing from his father. His training included copying of classical costumes. This gave him a great opportunity to master various Yuzen dyeing techniques.
The design for this furisode was based on the classical Omi Hakkei, or Eight Views of Omi. The design composition and choice of colors reveals the originality of the creator, and indicates trends prevalent at that time. The subtle shading of the background landscape and the expression of the mist give a refreshing impression.
Uzan Kimura produced this formal kimono in 1935. He was born in Kanazawa in 1891. At the age of 14 he began to study the technique of dyed pictures, a Kanazawa specialty.
Since the Edo period, Kanazawa had been a center of crafts such as ceramics, laqueware, metalwork and dyeing, as well as other arts, including the tea ceremony and Noh plays. This tradition continued through the Meiji period. In 1921, the Ishikawa Prefectures Industrial Art Promotion Association (the Ishikawa-ken Kogei Shorei-kai) was established to promote and improve the industrial arts and the training of craftspeople. The Industrial Art Promotion Association Exhibition was first held in 1922, enabling craftspeople to compete by exhibiting their creations.
Kimura began to exhibit his work in 1921. He exhibited at the 1926 Ministry of Commerce Art Exhibition (the Shoko-sho Bijutsu-ten) in Tokyo, where his work was selected for special commendations. He continued to present his works in the Ministry of Education's Art Exhibition (the Bunten), the Imperial Art Academy's Exhibition (the Teiten), the Nitten and the Japanese Traditional Industrial Art Exhibition (the Nihon Dento Kogei-ten). In 1955, kimura was designated a holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Asset in Yuzen dyeing.
This work was produced in Kimura's prime, and is very rich in individuality and artistic merit.
This is a formal kimono produced by Tameji Ueno in1936. The dark blue material is covered with a bold design of branches of ripe persimmons. The style was considered extremely innovative at the time, as it combined Yuzen dyeing and gold leaf imprinting to produce a more three dimensional impression. Ueno's avant-garde influences are reflected both in his choice of subject matter, as persimmons had not previously been used, and his use of techniques learned from his study of oil painting.
In 1936, with the February 26 incident and Japan's withdrawal from the London Disarmament Conference, the move to fascism accelerate. Tension in Europe was increasing with the formation of the Berlin-Rome axis. Although the term, 'semi-war structure' became fashionable, the Japanese people were still excited by the 11th Olympic Games held in Berlin, and the successes of such athletes as Naoto Tajima in the triple jump, Kitei Son in the marathon, and Hideko Maehata, Tetsuo Hamuro and Noboru Terada in swimming. This pattern of ripe persimmons seems to symbolize the transitory delight people felt amidst the general anxiety. In this context, this costume has substantial historical significance.
Isojiro Okao, who received top honors at the autumn Bi-ten held by Marubeni in 1936, produced this furisode. The design boldly portrays a cart loaded with beautiful baskets in embroidery and tie-dyeing. As the labor-intensive technique of tie-dyeing completely covers the parts that were not embroidered, Okao took three years to produce this work. This is therefore a valuable object that was produced as war was approaching. Four years later, in 1940, a government order restricted the manufacture and sale of high-quality clothes, which dealt a severe blow to the textile dyeing industry. The importance of this work lies in connection to this background.
Yuzo Matsuo produced this furisode in 1940. That year marked the 2600th year of the accession to the throne of Emperor Jimmu, and many commemorative events were held. The Imperial Rule Assistance Association (the Taisei Yokusan-kai) was formed as part of a new system and regulations were implemented that restricted the manufacture and sale of luxurious items (the Seven/Seven Ban). This made the time-consuming manufacture of luxurious clothes impossible.
Flying in the face of these trends, this work was produced to mark the anniversary of Emperor jimmu's accession. This lovely furisode employs Yuzen dyeing and embroidery to befit the occasion.
This conventional kimono was made by Yutaka Taniguchi in 1940. Taniguchi used tie-dyeing to express the clouds and kata-yuzen dyeing to depict the cedar trees and the shrine of Nikko Toshogu Shrine. Kata-yuzen usually refers to a stenciled pattern repeat which is executed so that the pattern is depicted right side up, even when the fabric is folded at the shoulder. However, this work adopts a single-directional pattern, and does not have a reverse pattern at the shoulder.
The pattern in this work does not repeat from the shoulder to the hem. In this respect, the technique used to produce this kimono differs from normal kata-yuzen dyeing, and would have required considerable trouble and great skill. The kimono was especially ordered to commemorate the 2600th anniversary of Emperor Jimmu's accession, and in this regard it possesses historical significance.
This Noh robe employs the nuihaku technique and is thought to have been produced in the early 17th century, in the first half of the Edo period. But room for question remains as to whether it was originally produced as a Noh costume. Extant Noh costumes which are believed to have been produced in the Momoyama period in the 16th century are considered to have been everyday clothing worn during this period, such as kosode, uchikake and suo that were adopted to theatrical use. It appears that only a very small number of garments were produced especially for use as Noh costumes.
The lower section of this garment is dyed in alternating bands of red and blue on white silk satin. In the red band, chrysanthemums are embroidered, while in the area dyed blue, crests of paulownia have been embroidered. In the upper half of the garment there are large chrysanthemums and paulownia crests also expressed using embroidery. The use of various colors and large motifs contribute to its bold effect, and it appears at first glance to be a costume designed for the Noh theatre. However, this style reflects the trend for gorgeousness seen in the Momoyama period and is considered to be related to kosode worn by nobles in the early Edo period. The paulownia leaves and flowers embroidered in three different colors, the long floats of embroidery thread, and the three-dimensional effect of the embroidery retain the flavor of the Momoyama period.
The ground of this Noh robe consists of white and red squares, and chrysanthemums and water motifs are woven into this piece with colored silk and metallic thread. This colorful and elegant costume was mainly worn by the principal character of Noh plays representing a noble person.
Chrysanthemums have long been used as medicine in China, and were originally brought to Japan for their medicinal value. At the September ninth Feast of the Chrysanthemum, chrysanthemum sake was taken to dispel evil and to pray for long life. This practice was based on the medical effects of chrysanthemums.
The pursuit of long life led to supernaturalism. Sweet chrysanthemums prospered on both sides of mountain streams in Gangu, in the mountains of Nanyang Dengzhou (now Neixiang, Henan Province). A rumor spread that the water of the stream contained the extract of the chrysanthemums and that drinking it would ensure long life. A Noh play entitled 'Kiku-jido' is based on this story, as is the pattern of chrysanthemums and streams.
A diagonal line divides a square. One triangle is executed with gold thread while the other is expressed in various colored supplementary wefts. This design has great elegance and strength. The strength of the colors is outstanding as are the pattern elements. The design of the work is appropriate for an atsuita karaori costume because it is beautiful but strong and crisp.
This garment incorporates an interesting design approach by contrasting shapes such as the angular ground patterns against the circular chrysanthemums.
Since the Heian period, chrysanthemum plants had been tied to rough-woven fences, and people have always enjoyed viewing these displays. A pattern depicting this type of scene is said to have been most popular during the Kamakura period. This traditional design element has been handed down, and has developed into an established motif. The pattern on this garment is an example of this tradition. This work particularly shows that, depending on the treatment of colors and patterns, traditional motifs can become excellent designs, adapting to the trends of any era.
This is a garment woven in gorgeous colors, with grandiose thick-petalled chrysanthemums alternating with more elegant thin-petalled chrysanthemums. The bold expression of chrysanthemums suggests masculinity, while the beautiful coloring denotes femininity. The design is appropriate for an atsuita karaori costume worn by a noble person.
The Imperial Palace was adorned with chrysanthemums on September ninth, the Feast of the Chrysanthemum. The emperor offerd chrysanthemum sake to his subjects, and toasted to long life. During the Heian period, the chrysanthemum sake ritual was supplemented by kikuno kisewata, a practice based on an ancient conviction related to long life. Chrysanthemums were covered with wadded silk on the previous night, then the silk, imbued with the dew and scent of chrysanthemums, was used to wipe the body. Chrysanthemum viewing and cultivation became popular during the Edo period. The first chrysanthemum exhibition was held in 1715, at Maruyama, Kyoto. This exhibition subsequently became an annual event where chrysanthemum growers competed in producing new breeds. Kyoto became well-known for its chrysanthemums, especially large ones. This work is also interesting in that it provides a glimpse of cultural history.
This Noh robe, which employs the nuihaku technique, is thought to have been produced in the second quarter of the 19th century, during either the Bunsei or Tempo era. The work uses three different ground colors: red, white and blue arranged in a checked pattern, with swirling water motifs in applied metallic leaf. The gold fans lend considerable elegance and gorgeousness to the work. The fans contain elaborately embroidered depictions of different plant and flower motifs.
This robe gets its name (nuihaku) from the decorative techniques of embroidery (nui) and metallic leaf imprint (haku). Nuihaku is often used for female roles, when it is worn tied around the waist without passing the arms through the sleeves. Beneath the costume the actor wears a garment called a surihaku, while a choken, karaori, or mizu-goromo is worn over nuihaku. Thus, only the hem of the nuihaku would be visible. However, beautiful embroidery and metallic leaf imprint often cover the entire Noh costume, resulting in a beautiful Noh costume, like the karaori and atuita.
This work is one of the best examples of the wonderful heritage of Noh costumes that incorporate elaborate techniques and splendid coloring.
Although choken (literally 'long silk') seems to have originally meant a type of silk textile, during the Muromachi period it referred to a type of costume worn by young boys from senior samurai families. Hitatare, court garments with trouser cuffs trailing behind, and hunting clothes, both of which were made of long lengths of silk material, came to be known simply as choken. Unfortunately, we have not discovered the nature of the 'long silk' material. No costumes of 'long silk' have survived.
It is believed that choken hitatare received from high-ranking samurai was originally used for Noh costumes, and gradually it came to typify Noh costumes.
The most typical choken costume found in Noh plays is made of rokin; silk gauze weaves alternating with three rows of plain weave and patterned with supplementary wefts of gold thread. There are a number of rokin patterns, the best known of which has large, conspicuous crest designs arranged on the center back, center back of both sleeves and on the right and left front chest area, with smaller patterns arranged at the base.
From this perspective, this garment is a typical choken Noh costume. Choken was often used by elegant female characters that danced on stage, and in costumes for elegant, quiet male characters. Choken patterns therefore tend to be elegant. This piece is a good example of this type of garment.
In 1996, Marubeni launched a project to recreate a kimono from a fragment held in its collection*1) of a kosode that is said to have been worn by Lady Yodo, a mistress of Toyotomi Hideyoshi*2). Marubeni enlisted the cooperation of Kyoto Marubeni and top kimono experts in Japan for this project, which was completed after about three and a half years.
The work of restoration was beset with difficulties, as the materials and techniques from the world of silk textiles of 400 years ago, when the kimono in Japan could be said to have attained its highest peak, have not been passed down through the ages in their entirety.
The words “Made to Order for the lady of Fushimi” can be found written in ink inside the upper left seam of the original kosode fragment, which is what leads us to believe that it is part of a kosode belonging to Lady Yodo. It is known that she inhabited Fushimi Castle for six years between 1594 and 1599, and probably was around the age of 30 at the time.
The features that draw the eye afresh when viewing the restored kimono are the strong contrasts in the color scheme and the dynamic design of the large, serpentine willow pattern with the spaces between filled in with diagonal lines of ink. The Momoyama period, with Hideyoshi at its center, was an opulent era both culturally and economically, and it appears that this taste in design was perfectly normal for the times.
*1)Marubeni began originally as a textile trading company and has handled all types of kimono products. For this reason, and for the purpose of handing down to posterity the superior dyeing technology along with research and learning on design, Marubeni began collecting kimono, focusing on Edo period items. Today this collection is one of the foremost of its kind in Japan. Within the collection can be found the fragment of Lady Yodo's kosode, or as it is officially known, “Kosode fragment with design of diamond-lattice patterns and willow trees.”
*2) The master of samurai who brought the turbulent age to an end, and unified the Japan.