Sokutai is the full official dress worn by emperors, aristocrats and courtiers since the Heian Period (794). It is also called Hino-shouzoku.
The word Sokutai, was originally found in the Analects of Confucius, where it meant layered clothes tied with an obi belt and it indicated a full set of dress.
Sokutai consist of a crown, hitoe clothes worn over underwear followed by akome and shitagasane clothes with a long sash called kyo hanging in the back. Crimson under pants and baggy outer trousers are then added and finally, an outer robe called hou, which is tied with a leather belt containing stone decorations called sekitai.
Sokutai, based on the court uniforms worn by the government officials under the ritsuryo codes, became the full official dress of the Imperial Court. Those who were among military officers, civil officials in Nakatsukasasho who oversaw imperial affairs and aristocrats who held the sangi position or higher and who were granted Imperial permission were allowed to wear a sword. As time passed, sokutai has become more ceremonial, only being worn in special occasions.
There are two kind of the hou outer robe: houeki which the civil officials wore and ketteki which allowed more free movement and was worn by military officials.
Sokutai is traditional and elegant full official wear for the emperor as well as aristocratic and government officials.
Tsunaginosato Daimyo’s Procession is a traditional festival handed down in Towa Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture. The festival dates back to 1564, when Kasai Minbunosho, the castellan of Hatooka Castle, restored Hachiman Shrine and dedicated Yabusame (horseback archery) on the festival day.
The procession is performed in the middle of September every year. At 11:00 in the morning, when conch-shell horns are blown and fireworks are set off with loud bangs, the procession leaves the shrine for going through the town.
With the leading men in formal Hakama in the lead, about 120 citizens in total join the parade, performing the roles of Yakko (samurai’s servants), the spearhead troop of cavalrymen, the magistrate of transportation, mikoshi carriers, Chigo (young children) and Ohayashi musicians. This Ohayashi music is mainly composed of Japanese gong sounds in Kyoto style, which creates a graceful atmosphere.
Occasionally, Tengu and Chinese Lion get out of line and pretend to bite children on the head, which is a magical rite for protecting children from diseases. When Yakko stop and toss to exchange the 3 meter long keyari (feather-topped lances)” in a valiant manner, which is called “Otorikae (exchanging),” the spectators along the street erupt into cheers and applause.
It is said that Sendai Chests were created by a local carpenter during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). They are solid, yet elegant chests made of zelkova or chestnut wood. The surface of the wood is finished with kijiro lacquer to create transparent coating to bring out the beauty of the grains.
As Sendai Chests were originally made for warriors, they are contrived to contain long things such as a sword or a hakama (a formal men’s divided long skirt). They are also characterized with elaborate metal fittings on which patterns of dragons, Chinese lions, peony flowers and arabesques are hammered out. About 70 to 80 iron fittings are attached to one chest. This elaborate ironwork adds elegant and artistic flavor to a solid chest for men.
Further improvement has been made in skills and techniques, and products in new styles that fit the modern life have been added to the traditional product line. Going through a history of 500 years, they still keep on changing to add colors to people’s lifestyles.
Hakama is a traditional Japanese clothing to cover the lower part of kimono. It is tied at the waist with attached belt. Until the Edo period it was worn only by men, but since the Meiji period it was also worn as a school uniform of girl-students. Hakama is in many cases worn in formal occasions, but dressing it is rather simple. It used to be daily clothing for samurai and is suitable for active movements. There are several kinds of Hakama; the umanori (horse-riding) type, which is divided like trousers, the andon (portable lantern) type like a skirt, no-bakama (field hakama) with narrowed bottoms, and tattsuke-bakama (with narrow calf coverings). Hakama is still worn on ceremonial occasions and martial arts like Kendo or Kyudo (Japanese archery).
Yoshio Koda was born in 1929. He has been designated as a Living National Treasure for his work in Seigo Sendaihira handwoven silk.
Seigo Sendaihira is a costly thick silk cloth from Sendai. It is made from high-quality raw silk threads that have been kneaded with straw ash, dyed with natural dyes, and which are then woven by hand.
As a boy, Yoshio Koda was apprenticed to his father, Eisuke, (who was designated as a Human National Treasure in 1956), and learned the traditional skill of Seigo Sendaihira.
After his father died in 1965, Yoshio succeeded to the craft. He has been engaged not only in preserving the tradition but in making his original style. Now, he is one of the best weavers in Japan.
Kyo black dyeing with crests is black-dyed formal clothing with crests such as black kimonos for weddings and funerals. The cloth is dyed black with a brush in a technique called ‘three times-black’ and then, a crest is printed on it. It is a very traditional form of handicraft in Kyoto.
The history of black dyeing dates back to the 10th century, but it was at the beginning of the Edo period that the technique of black dyeing with crests was established. After the mid- Edo period, a form of dyeing known as binrouji dyeing, in which dyes are made with indigo, became popular, particularly amongst the samurais who cherished the black formal crested kimono. In the Meiji period, once the crested haori and hakama were designated as the national formal dress (haori is a short jacket and hakama are long pleated culotte-like trousers), kyo black dyeing with crests became more famous. After the Meiji period, techniques were adopted from England, France and Germany, and the less time-consuming technique of ‘black dyeing with brushes’ replace ‘binrouji dyeing’. This age-old technique is now applied to T-shirts and so on, not just formal dress; so many people appreciate it.