Gissha (牛車)

A gissha (ox-drawn carriage) is a kind of vehicle drawn by oxen or water buffalo. Some are used only to carry a load, others only for passengers.
There are some dictionaries that call the ones for noble passengers 'gissha' and the ones for carrying a load 'gyusha.'
(Heibonsha Daihyakkajiten (Encyclopedia published by Heibonsha))

During the Heian period, it was a popular vehicle for the aristocracy. In modern Japan, it is sometimes used for tourists or for festivals in Kyoto and other cities.

Although it is no longer seen in Japan apart from sightseeing, in some developing countries in Asia and elsewhere it is still a very common sight.

Various Kinds of Gissha

Karahisashi no kuruma: the highest grade of gissha with a roof shaped like a karahafu (cusped gable) zukuri style. Retired emperors, regents and chancellors used it on formal occasions. Due to its large size, people used 'hashitate' (ladder) when getting in and out of the carriage. The roof and eaves are made from binro (Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis)) leaves, and a red curtain called a 'suo sudare' (red-colored bamboo screen) is hung. This vehicle is shown in the side picture.

Amamayu no kuruma: A simplified version of the karahisashi no kuruma above, used by regents and chancellors when they wore noshi (everyday clothes for nobles). The bamboo blinds were blue, and the shita sudare (silk inner blinds that hung down inside the oxcart) were dyed in ao-susogo (lighter blue at the top, ranging to darker blue at the bottom).

Biroge no kuruma: A carriage with its roof thatched with torn binro leaves. It was used by upper class nobles with at least the rank of Sangi (Consultants), messengers at the Kamo Festival, and nyobo (court ladies) when they entered court service. With suo sudare and shita sudare dyed in aka-susogo (lighter red at the top, ranging to darker red at the bottom).

Itoge no kuruma: Details are unknown. It is said that empresses and crown princes used 'ao-itoge' (carts with blue or green threads), and joro (high rank woman servant in the Imperial Court), kojoro (certain daughters or granddaughters of daijin (the Ministers of State), nagon (the Counselors), and sangi (the Consultants) and other kugyo (senior nobles)), and churo (the middle rank woman servant in the Imperial Court) of nyobo, such as ladies-in-waiting, assistant handmaids, ladies of the handmaid's office, and so on used 'murasaki-itoge' (carts with purple threads).

Hajitomi-guruma: With ajiro (wickerwork) made from cypress attached surrounding the exit, and with hajitomi (lattice shutter) viewing windows designed to open and close. Daijin (ministers) or taisho (general) used it on informal occasions.

Ajiro-guruma: An oxcart that looks like a hajitomi-guruma with the wickerwork painted white to make it look plain. Ministers, counselors, and generals used it everyday, and it was also used by jiju (chamberlains), chujo (middle captains), shosho (major generals), and officials of Shii (the Fourth rank) and Goi (Fifth rank).

Hachiyo no kuruma: An oxcart made with yellowish-green ajiro and painted with kuyosei patterns (also referred as hachiyo: a big circle surrounded by eight small circles). There were two types of this cart, and people distinguished them by the size of the patterns. For general everyday use.

[Original Japanese]