Some Traditional Japanese Clothing

By: Matt Sheridan

Over the years I’ve heard many speculations about where the Karate-gi and Judo-gi came from. And while sometimes these myths and dogmatic teachings come close. Most of them show a general lack of understanding of historical Japanese attire. To help alleviate this problem, I’ve compiled a pretty long list of Japanese clothing

Wafuku (和服)
Literally “Japanese Clothes.” This term came into popularity after the Meiji restoration in order to distinguish Japanese Style Clothing from Western Style Clothing, which is sometimes referred to as just Fuku (服) or Yōfuku (洋服).

Kimono (着物)
Literally “Clothes thing.” Though this is a larger umbrella term, it can also refer to the layered robes that in the past were worn as daily wear but are now often worn as formal wear. It is imporant to remember than, NOT ALL KIMONO ARE FANCY SILK KIMONO!!!

Kosode (小袖)
Literally “little sleeves.” This is an older style of kimono that has sleeves that tappered near the ends.

Furisode (振り袖)
Literally, “waving sleeves.” This refers to long sleeved kimono traditionally worn by non-married women. It is considered formal wear and is often made of silk. It comes in many varieties. Kofurisode (小振袖), which have shorter sleeves, and ōfurisode (大振袖), which have longer sleeves, being the most common.

—Nagajuban (長襦袢)
Literally, “long under clothes.” This is a light weight, full length robe that is worn under the kimono and is often considered part of the kimono itself.

—Hadajuban (肌襦袢)
Literally “skin under clothes.” This is an undershirt worn against the skin. It is worn under the Nagajuban.

—Susoyoke (裾除け)
Literally “bottem edge division.” This is an underskirt, worn along with Hadajuban, under the Nagajuban. Traditionally women didn’t wear underwear that went between the legs, instead wearing a Susoyoke.

—Koshihimo (腰紐)
Literally, “hip string.” When wearing a Kimono or Nagajuban usually at least one Koshihimo is used for each layer. It is tied around the waistline in order to secure the robes in place.

Yukata (浴衣)
Literally, “bath clothes.” The Yukata is a light weight, single layer robe that was originally designed to wear on the walk between the home and bathhouse. Now it is most often worn in the summer, as lounge wear around the house, or when going to festivals.

Karate-gi VS Yukata

Montsuki (紋付)
Literally, “family crest attached.” Montsuki Kimono are mostly worn by men to traditional Japanese weddings and other formal occasions. However Montsuki can refer to any type of traditional clothing which features the family crest and there are different types depending on where the crest is, how many crests adorn the clothes, and even the color. For example Montsuki Kimono (紋付着物) vs Montsuki Haori (紋付羽織), and Kuro Montsuki (黒紋付) vs Iro Montsuki (色紋付).

Samue (作務衣)
Literally, “make-task clothes.” Samu (作務) refers to the chores that buddhist monks would perform around the temple. This included cooking, cleaning, and farming. In order to keep their holy vestments unsoiled they would wear these work clothes instead. Samue were also worn by craftsmen and artisans. They are still used for these purposes today, as well as for both work clothes and lounge wear around the house.

Samue VS Karate-gi

Jinbei (甚平)
Literally “very peaceful.” Jinbei/ Jimbei are a type of summer wear worn by men, women, boys, girls, and even babies. It is most common as lounge wear and at festivals. They are made from a thin fabric and have a separated top and shorts.

Haori (羽織)
Literally, “feathered fabric.” This refers to a formal overcoat worn over a kimono and hakama, but can just be worn informally over just the kimono.

ーHaori Himo (羽織紐)
Haori are not of a crossover design and instead use a short cord (often decorated) to hold the garment closed around chest level.

Men’s Kimono with Haori and Haori Himo

Noragi (野良着)
Literally “farm clothes.” A noragi usually refers to a durable jacket, often worn over just a fundoshi or kohakama.

Noragi can refer to a wide variety of clothing but is generally is referring to a durable jacket.

Happi (法被•半被)
Literally “law cover” or “half cover,” depending on the kanji used. These are short, straight sleeved jackets usually worn for festivals. They usually feature a family or group crest and in the past were commonly worn by household servants. Often they are worn with just fundoshi or kohakama.

Hanten (袢纏•半纏•袢天•半天)
Hanten are short winter coats that contain a lining or cotton stuffing.

-Hikeshibanten (火消し半纏)
This specific type of Hanten was worn by firefighters throughout Japan in the past. Hikeshi (火消し) is what firefighters were called during the Edo period and generally means “extinguish fire.”

Hakama (袴)
Hakama is both the general term for traditional Japanese pants as well as being used for two distinct types: umanori/ bajō (馬乗り•馬上) hakama and andon (行灯) bakama (袴).

—Umanori/ Bajō hakama (馬乗り•馬上), or “horse riding hakama,” are bisected and are often pleated.

At this point I would like to bring to attention that this sort of full attire can simply be called, Kimono. It consists of Hadajuban, Nagajuban, Kimono, Umanori Hakama, Haori, and a few other pieces of garment. However, collectively it is simply Kimono.

—Andon bakama (行灯袴), or “lantern hakama,” are more of a skirt with no individual legs. However when people usually refer to a hakama they are most likely refering to Umanori Hakama. Hakama are worn in formal wear over a kimono, however they weren’t always considered formal wear.

—Nobakama (野袴)
Literally “field pants.” These are full length pants that are tapered down with a snug cuff around the ankle. These were often worn for long walks or journeys to protect the legs and kimono from dirt and damage.

—Kohakama (小袴)
Literally “short pants.” These are shorts which are often hemmed just below the knee. However Umanori Hakama that have been bloused (or tied up) beneath the knee are also occasionally called Kohakama.

Momohiki/ Matahiki/ Nagapachi (股引・長ぱち)
These are a tight fitting pants originally worn by craftsman as work pants, but now are mostly worn to festivals along with a Happi or by Taiko drummers.

Monpe (もんぺ)
Monpe are often referred to as, “women’s work pants.” They are similar to Nobakama but are distinguished from the former.

Fundoshi (褌•ふんどし)

Fundoshi are a collection of undergarments that go around the groin. They were originally men’s undergarments. However in more modern times women often wear/ wore them as well. With most types of Fundoshi you list the specific type along with the word Fundoshi: Ecchu Fundoshi, Mokko Fundoshi, and Rokushaku Fundoshi.

—Ecchu (越中)
Named after a province in Japan this type of fundoshi is closer to what many westerners think of when we say “loin cloth.” It consists of a rectangle of material and a himo that goes around the waist. Once tied a flap will hang down in front.

—Mokko (畚)
Literally a “basket fundoshi.” This fundoshi is names such because it resembles the baskets used by wood cutters to carry wood.

—Rokushaku (六尺)
Literally “six foot fundoshi.” This fundoshi is named such because it is a single piece of cloth that is roughly six foot in length.

—Mawashi (回し)
Literally “round.” Unlike the other types, Mawashi is usually not said as “mawashi fundoshi,” but rather just as “mawashi.” This is the type of garment worn by sumo practitioners, and by some festival goers.

Side Notes:
Sashiko (刺子)- The type of weave on the upper part of Judo-gi, or a type of reinforced stitching which can be either functional or decretive.

Hishisashi (菱刺)- Rhombus or diamond shaped weave.

Boro (襤褸)- A type of patchwork used for Japanese clothing. Both kanji in Boro mean “rags” or “tattered.”

*All photos are being used for educational purposes and the rights go to their perspective owners.

Published by mattskaratecorner

A martial arts student and instructor. A school teacher and researcher. A curmudgeon with a lot on his mind.

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