Glossary of terms for pre-Edo-period women’s Japanese clothing and accessories

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Aida-gi (“Middle clothing”): in period, a white kosode worn under an uchikake.

Hitoe (Unlined): an unlined robe worn beneath uchigi as part of a court ensemble, usually white, red or dark green as part of a lady’s kasane no irome arrangement. (There is also a men’s hitoe.)

Karaginu (“Chinese robe”): a short “jacket” of figured silk, worn on top of the kasane layers of the most formal court ensembles.

Karaginu mo: sometimes referred to as “juni-hitoe” (twelve unlined robes, a description from an Edo period story), the formal dress of a member of the Imperial court, dating from the Heian period. From the skin out, it is made up of the following layers:








Kasane no irome (“Layers of color”): a set of robes arranged in a combination of colors that evokes a particular image of nature appropriate to the season or occasion. Worn over a kosode and nagabakama, the kasane consists of a hitoe and as many as five additional uchigi which may be lined or unlined depending on the season. In the early Heian period, kasane might include as many as forty uchigi, however, a sumptuary law passed in 1074 limited the number of uchigi to five.

Kimono (“Thing to wear”): The term starts to become standard usage for kosode in the 19th century as a way to differentiate Japanese clothing from Western dress.

Kosode (“Small sleeves”): A robe with overlapping panels in the front and sleeves with small hand openings and rounded corners. It begins as an undergarment in the Heian period and eventually evolves into middle and outer garments. Precursor of the kimono.

Kosode o kazuku (“Kosode pulled up”, katsugu, kazuki): A light kosode draped over the wearer’s head like a veil. (Edo period kazuki, with the collar dropped several inches forward on the body, often with decoration in the area lying on the head, can only be worn this way.)

Mo: a white, often elaborately decorated train worn as part of a woman’s court formal wear.

Mobakama: A pleated wrap skirt, usually worn over kosode by female retainers.

Nagabakama: a type of hakama worn by women of the court classes, female Shinto clerics and later adopted by men in the high Edo period. Womens’ nagabakama are usually bright or dark red, tie in a half bow at the left side and the legs are long and trailing so the wearer walks on them.

Uchigi: the middle robes of a court ensemble, layered in colorful arrangements known as kasane no irome, having nature themes appropriate to the season or occasion.

Uchikake: A kosode worn open over middle and under-kosode like a coat, often highly decorated. In hot weather, the uchikake may be worn wrapped around the waist to expose the aida-gi for a cooling effect.

Uwagi: A robe, usually of figured silk, worn on top of the uchigi.


Gasa: a generic term for both straw hats and parasols. Parasols should come with a retainer attached.

Geta: sandals carved out of wood, usually with teeth (“ha”) on the bottom. Excellent for negotiating rainy, muddy roads or puddling water in the bath house.

Habaki (see also kyahan): leggings, worn by working women or travelers.

Himo: ties. A strip of fabric used to keep inner robe layers in place.

Hiogi: a ceremonial fan made of thin slats of cypress wood laced together, often elaborately painted. Generally reserved for karaginu mo occasions.

Hirabitai (hair ornament): worn with karaginu mo on formal occasions, a tiara-like metal ornament worn on the top of the head.

Kakemamori: amulet case, usually worn by pilgrims.

Kyahan (see also habaki): leggings.

Mushi no tareginu (“bug hat”): a large traveling hat with gauze veils hanging from the brim. Keeps bugs and prying eyes away.

Obi: Sash. Pre-Edo period obi are fairly narrow and may be tied at the front in a simple knot or bow. By the end of the period, one begins to see back tied obi tied in a half bow.

Nagoya obi: Pre-Edo Nagoya obi are named for the town where the fashion for obi made of thick braided silk cord arose.

Sensu: a folding fan.

Tabi: Split toed socks. Period tabi have ties rather than kohase (hook and eye closures)

Takenaga (hair tie): A ponytail tie made of paper.

Tekko: a sort of handless glove, worn by working women or travelers to protect the forearm from scratches.

Tenugui: towel. Tenugui might be worn by working women as a sort of head wrap.

Waraji: woven straw sandals that tie onto the foot. (Generally worn by peasants, soldiers.)

Zori: woven straw sandals.

Copyright 2015 Lisa A. Joseph

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