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The costume of shirabyoshi

april 24, 2012

The costume I wear in the performance Faller damm, faller regn was given to me by Fumiko Nagai, through my sensei Nishikawa Senrei.
The costume is handmade. I wear very long red hakama pants, called nagabakama. They are so long I have to walk with my feet inside them. I wear some sort of katabira, a white undergarment, and over that I wear suikan.

The long pants were worn by the court women of Heian and Kamakura period.  They show a life where one did not have to work in the rice fields. That work requres short pants! The suikan is a man´s dress. I also wear a sword and a high hat, eboshi, also originally worn by men. To us it is a bit special that women perform dressed like men, but it seems to be a tradition in Japan. A tradition everyone already is familiar with. I am researching this further.

This is a great imayo on the subject (from Ruyojin Hisho, 1179):

Up-to-date fashion in the capital:
eyebrows penciled willow-thin
all sorts of hairdos, hairpieces,
shioyuki, Omi women,
women dressed like men
not a nun without a halberd, none!

To us these long pants show a restriction of movement. A quiet unfree garment. In the Edo period samurai who came to visit shogun had to wear nagabakama in order to prevent them to move and create possible violence in the palace.

I have looked for images of nagabakama to show here, because many people are interested in how they look and why they were worn.

Please have a look:

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at their marriage in 1959

The Empress wears nagabaka and junihitoe, also a traditional garment from Heian period, including many layers of fabric.

A Heian court costume for winter, from Kyoto costume museum

The nagabakama are seen under the junihitoe.

Men´s nagabakama

Nagabakama for daimon

Warrior at kabuki theatre, performing in nagabakama

the poet Koogimi, painted in the 13th century, dressed in the fashion of her time

Two women in nagabakama, painted in 16th century

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