[Kariginu] (Noh costume) Paulownias and square-shaped crests on dark blue ground


[Kariginu] (Noh costume) Paulownias and square-shaped crests on dark blue ground

Textiles / Edo

Edo period, 18th century


Kariginu are costumes worn by actors playing the role of gods in Noh performances. Kariginu were originally worn by Heian-period aristocrats as informal garments for hunting or travelling. Noh developed during the ascendancy of Japan's warrior class. The samurai probably borrowed this aristocratic appearance to represent roles of high standing, namely the gods. It is interesting how these warriors based their image of the nobility on clothes the nobles themselves saw as quite informal. It may not look particularly casual to modern viewers, but this garment is primarily designed for ease of movement, with slits cut in the sleeves and a cord threaded around the wrists so the sleeves can be pulled tighter. Paulownias are symbols of distinction and, as such, are an apt emblem to represent someone of high standing. They are rendered here in gentle curves in a design known as "dancing paulownia", with large, gold thread used to make the design stand out from the stage. The garment exudes a luxuriant air so typical of Noh costumes.

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