Kamishimo, a Formal Attire for Samurai Clans

I live in Hoko-cho (鉾町, communities which preserve/maintain floats of Gion Festival and conduct the procession), however, I do not join the procession since women are still banned from it. We just work in the backstage. I help the men in the community to dress in the traditional and formal attire called Kamishimo (裃).

Probably you have seen Kamishimo in Japanese history dramas on TV. It is a set of formal Kimono in the Edo (江戸) period, whose top is sleeveless with a big wide shoulder, and the bottom is Hakama (袴) pants. It was mainly worn by Samurai (侍), however, peasants and merchants wore Kanishimo on their wedding occasions too if they can afford. After Taiseihoukan (大政奉還, the restoration of imperial rule), Kamishimo was banned for public officials to wear, but still today, Kamishimo can be seen on the occasions of traditional art events and ceremonies, such as Gion festival.

In the old days, Kamishimo was made of cotton, but later linen Kamishimo were more commonly used. In addition, high ranked Samurai often wore their order-made Kamishimo made of silk with raised patterns called Ryumon (龍紋). Ones with normal length of Hakama are called Han-Kamishimo (半裃, half Kamishimo) and the ones with three times length are called Naga-Kamishimo (長裃). When wearing Naga-Kamishimo, which is regarded as the highest rank of formal attire, people have to walk with their legs completely contained in the Hakama pants which look like trains.

Kamishimo is also used in Kabuki (歌舞伎) plays today. Since it is a theater play, the length of Hakama is twice long as that of old days, so as to look impressive. Obviously, Kabuki people knew the advent of Instagram.

Click here to see a Blog by a Former Maiko, "Do You Know?"

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